A Cooperative form of Capitalism in the U.S.A. is Not Just a Pipe Dream
Those of you who know me are already aware that I seldom if ever write for blogs and dislike pontificating in general, so the following statement is rare for me. I am compelled, however, to write an opinion piece at this time to clarify certain values that I hold dear and which I believe are also consistent with not only Occupy Tacoma’s but also Occupy Wall Street and the worldwide Occupy movement. Please consider the following as a proposed item for adoption by Occupy Tacoma.
NOTE: If you hate reading lengthy articles and already “get it” you can skip to the HOW DO WE FIX THIS
portion of the piece.
The Past as Prologue
It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to figure out that the U.S. is in deep trouble economically and politically as a result of many different factors that you, as readers, are already well-aware of. First there was the systematic deregulation of safeguards put in place on banks and Wall Street after the Great Depression . This, of course, resulted in rampant speculation using ever-more sophisticated “tools” to develop “creative” financializing of our entire economy by Wall Street and the banksters. To make matters worse, our elected officials decided to bail out these banks when they failed, thinking that they could regulate them back into sound fiscal health. They did this on the backs of the general taxpayers (us), and by cutting needed social , education and jobs programs. Then, there was the Supreme Court decision in the case of Citizens’ United, which ruled that corporate dumping of money into campaigns was free speech and just dandy. Well, folks, we all know this is NOT SUSTAINABLE. When the workers cannot buy the products created by capitalism, capitalism fails, miserably.
We see the current model’s values in practice when we look at war profiteering and empire-promotion, the foreclosure epidemic, massive layoffs and the total disregard for protecting our environment from rape. Just look at the Keystone XL Pipeline, Artic drilling, the proposed Coal Train shipments from Montana’s mountaintop removal massacre, fracking to get at the natural gas and on and on. If maximum profits to the absentee shareholders is God, then who cares about the workers or the communities affected by corporate greed? The result is an absolutely rotten system, denial of the fact of global climate change and an increasingly unequal distribution of wealth in our economy. You, readers, know the problems it has created for the 99%: unemployment, homelessness etc. That is not the point of this article, however. The point is:
How do we fix this and what can Occupy Tacoma do?
(1) We need to start now to take power away from openly traded limited liability corporations by refusing to support them financially. We need to “out” the slimiest of them so that everyone knows what not to buy, even with our little dollars. Although our divestment in these corporations doesn’t matter all that much to the big players, sunlight does, and it puts pressure on our elected officials to distance themselves from these corporations. They don’t want to look dirty to the voters.
(2) We need to promote cooperative businesses as a viable form of capitalism. I am talking about cooperative ventures that have written into their mission statements and articles of incorporation such values as: not being able to sell the business without approval of the shareholders who are the workers themselves and valuing the businesses’ contribution to the community in which they are located over maximizing profits. The current corporate model is mandated to maximize profits above all else, which legitimizes mergers, moving companies overseas etc. This current model is NOT the only way to go.
(3) We need to work in Washington State (this is the Occupy Tacoma part) to encourage Olympia to pass legislation that is friendly to cooperative forms of business, whether for communities setting up their own alternative energy companies or for small start-ups. Cooperative ventures are currently at a disadvantage for obtaining loans and for obtaining energy grants because of beaurocratic requirements and the reluctance of banks to make these loans because of an unfriendly banking environment.
(4) Of course we need to support our local credit unions and…
(5) We need to work to convince our legislators that we need a State Bank, dedicated to keeping the money in state and helping cooperative ventures get started.
Nobody said this was going to be easy, but it is doable, is working very well in Spain with their Mondragon cooperative system which employs thousands and is making a profit in hard times. Cooperative businesses are already starting up in hundreds of communities throughout the U.S., such as in Cleveland, Ohio, California and Oregon. Occupy Tacoma, let’s start here, too!
For an informative read, please check out Marjorie Kelly’s book, Owning our Future, which not only is readable to a lay person like myself, but is also succinctly explains the arcane world of economics.