A few days after print publication, Knight's syndicated newspaper column, which moves twice a week, will be posted. The most recent will appear at the top.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

‘Populist majority’ could spur progress

Bill Knight column for Thurs., Fri., or Sat., April 24, 25 or 26

Americans are generally more fair-minded than either political party, much less the plutocrats, oligarchs or whatever label is slapped on the 1 percent, and, specifically, the nation is also more progressive about a wide range of issues, polls show.

“Most Americans don't want less government” writes Bob Burnett, a Berkeley writer and retired Silicon Valley businessman. “Instead, they want government to work for all the people, not just the rich and powerful.

“Populists – egalitarian [small-D] democrats -- believe what benefits the 99 percent strengthens the country; who believe power should be shared by all the people,” he continued. “Fairness begins with the assertion the economy must work for all the people. Justice requires that Americans be treated equally regardless of class, race, ethnicity, age, or sexual persuasion.”

So where do citizens go to achieve what they want society – the future – to be?

And how does the country get there?

First: more background, and more numbers.

Specifically, according to a recent Reason-Rupe poll, 43 percent of people wish neither major political party was controlling Congress; 58 percent support more funding for solar, wind and hydrogen energy (compared to 31 percent favoring subsidizing oil, gas and coal companies); and more than 70 percent say politicians are corrupted by campaign contributions and use their power to help their friends and hurt their foes (which bothers people more than sensational personal issues, respondents said).

Support for raising the minimum wage is 67 percent.

Other polls agree. The Campaign for America’s Future cites a USA Today poll showing 69 percent support for raising the minimum wage and Robert Creamer, author of “Stand Up Straight: How Progressives Can Win,” also finds widespread support for raising the minimum wage – plus for the Affordable Care Act (which had 8 million Americans sign up) and for background checks on gun sales, as well as opposition to climate-change deniers and the Republican/Tea Party shutdown of government.

The Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) just launched its “Populist Majority” initiative, and the nonprofit group points to public opinion that the rules are rigged for the rich (69 percent agree); the rich are too powerful (63 percent); income inequality is a problem (69 percent); corporations and hedge-fund managers should pay their fair share of the costs of government (68 percent); and stronger anti-corruption measures are needed (97 percent!).

Further, 86 percent back helping society’s most vulnerable citizens; 69 percent support strengthening public education; and, generally, that Congress should represent everyday people and reflect the needs and dreams of their districts.

“Republicans gerrymandered their way to winning a 34-seat majority in the House of Representatives in 2012, despite losing [nationwide] by over a million votes,” wrote CAF co-director Roger Hickey. “This isn’t about Right or Left. It’s about a determined few, driven by ideology, trying to drown out the voice of the many.”

So, again, what can happen?

Hickey says popular sentiment against big banks, support for fortifying Social Security and championing a living wage all point to a dozen issues he suggests the grassroots embrace to press for real reform:

Creating jobs, rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure, addressing income inequality, organizing the increasingly diverse U.S. society, supporting schools, protecting Social Security and health care, requiring the wealthy – individuals and businesses alike – to pay their fair share, promoting fair trade instead of corporate-friendly “free” trade, reviving financial regulations, boosting energy technologies, trimming Pentagon spending, and strengthening democracy by empowering voters.

“Millions of Americans have come to realize that much of our democratic system is now owned by moneyed elites who use their power to resist real change and to manipulate the economy for their own financial gain,” Hickey said. “The New Populism is on the move.”

[PICTURED: Brian Duffy cartoon from]

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