Last week, the Republican Party and Mitt Romney laid down the gauntlet to the Occupy movement by promoting a “Robin Hood-in-reverse” tax and budget plan that makes income inequality even worse. Congressmember Paul Ryan’s proposal takes
from the 99% to give even more to the 1%, and also privatizes Medicare. The GOP has decided to challenge head on Occupy’s tapping public anger over rising income inequality, doubling down on efforts to convince voters that shifting even more resources from the 99% to the 1% is the best job creation strategy. Fortunately, dozens of progressive groups are mounting their own organizing campaigns. They are joining with Occupy for upcoming activist “Spring Action” trainings
to create a field campaign challenging rising income inequality, as people power battles big money over the nation’s future.
In case you missed it, the Republican Party has unified behind a budget plan that provides massive new tax breaks for the wealthy while cutting student aid, Medicaid, and nearly every federally funded non-military program. Medicare would be privatized to help cover the reduction of the top income tax rate from 35% to 25%. Mitt Romney intends to make this windfall for the 1% the centerpiece of his presidential campaign, contravening convention wisdom and polls showing that Americans support the Occupy movement’s call for less income inequality.
While President Obama and other elected Democrats have condemned the Republican plan, their own complicity in boosting income inequality leaves them less than perfect spokespersons for the 99%. That’s why the long planned Occupy trainings are so timely.
Sponsored by a who’s-who of community, labor and progressive activist organizations, the goal is to get at least 100,000 activists to attend trainings between April 9-15. Those trained will take the message of economic injustice out to campaigns across the country, creating the type of grassroots mobilizing base that has not been seen outside electoral politics for some time.
While not promoting specific candidates or political parties, these activists will be in the field to counter the billions of dollars already being spent on behalf of the 1%’s political agenda. And now that Republicans have staked the entire 2012 election on their economic plan, expect the right wing media machine to go into overdrive convincing working and middle-class voters that their interests are aligned with the very rich.
Controlling the Debate
After Occupy’s emergence last September, Republicans had a choice: address concerns about income inequality by proposing cosmetic reforms, or promote the 1% as “job creators” who grow the economy for all.
The GOP chose the latter.
And as politically nonsensical as it may appear for Republicans to want to give even more to the wealthiest 1%, past history should give progressives pause. Since Ronald Reagan had to rename “trickle down” as “supply side” economics in his 1980 campaign, Republicans have been increasingly public about promoting such a policy.
Support for the very rich did not prevent Republicans from taking the House in 2010, and from coming close to winning the Senate. Now after being stung by Occupy’s criticisms of economic inequality, the GOP figures that by putting all of its eggs into the 1%’s basket it can steamroll opponents for the next decade by winning big in November.
That’s why the Occupy movement’s regeneration is so vital. Many activists want nothing to do with Obama’s 2012 campaign, and Occupy provides the activist vehicle they need to stay involved.
And until electoral activities divert resources come September, Occupy and other groups framing the nation’s problems around economic inequality will be battling the GOP’s billionaire donors to win the hearts and minds of Americans.
The GOP has told Occupy to “Bring it On,” and activists are ready to rumble.
Randy Shaw is author of The Activist’s Handbook.