Last week, the Move Your Money campaign was launched by a coalition of folks including the Roosevelt Institute and Institutional Risk Analytics. It’s an important step in creating a coalition capable of standing up to the money interests that run DC. Thus it’s expected to hear people questioning its value, as most people in this country feel completely politically disenfranchised. However, other opposition clearly comes from defenders of the status quo and listening to their arguments against, can provide some lessons on how to move an effort for reforming our political economy to the next level.
Case and point was the Post piece yesterday arguing for citizen futility. It comes out of the Post’s internet magazine Slate. Now, if you know the history of Slate, you can understand from where the piece comes. Slate represents a warning to all who value the Internet as a democratic revitalizing tool. It can be used just as well to continue the status quo. Founded by Microsoft and then sold to the Washington Post, Slate is the political class on-line. Cleverness, cynicism, and effete elitism pass for astute political analysis, the piece entitled “Ordinary Citizens Lack the Power to Hurt Big Banks” drips with all three.
The second paragraph brings our political class’ favorite belittlement of all economic reform — it’s populist. It then goes through a bunch of circular arguments that the banking system runs one way, and you can’t change it, because, well, it wouldn’t run that way anymore. I worked in the energy world for many years and this was a favorite argument of the utilities. “Well you can’t do that, this is how the system operates.” Umm yeah, that’s why it’s called changed. It seems an obvious point, but I’ve found it needs repeating endlessly, the only way you get change is by changing.
But the highlight of the piece is referencing Bloomberg’s Felix Salmon that changing your bank is just too hard. It’s downright inconvenient. Which reminds of that great story from World War II, where General Bradley walks into Ike’s office a couple days before D-Day and says, “Well General, I’ve been talking to the men about this plan, and well they think this storming the beach thing, well…it’s just damn inconvenient. Better, they think, staying here in England, throwing back a few beers, and getting that new Betty Grable movie.”
Oh America! When did it become, “Give me convenience or give me death?”
Now the real insidiousness of this piece, call it propaganda, is it feeds the general feeling of dis-empowerment and disenfranchisement drowning the American body politic. I can’t more highly recommend Lawrence Goodwyn’s “Breaking the Barrier” about Poland’s Solidarity movement, for an understanding of the difficulties for political action when general disenfranchisement pervades a society. It becomes the greatest barrier to enacting political change. That is where we stand, or more appropriately sit, in America today.
Move Your Money is one example of a campaign that can start breaking the barrier. Chris Whalen of IRA will tell you the big banks remain very weak, and thus much more susceptible to pressure from actions of this sort. Move your money and get five friends to move theirs, it will be the first step to standing up and reclaiming your citizen power. It will provide the organizational impetus for a movement that can then demand reform. Understand one point, despite the propaganda of the political class, change will be gained no other way.