Economic Democracy is Gaining a Foothold in the United States

It’s Our Economy organized the Economic Democracy Track for the Democracy Convention held in Madison, WI August 24th to 28th.

What is the next evolution of the economy?  How can it be reshaped so that people gain greater control of their lives and greater influence over the economy?  Democratizing the economy would move the United States away from crony capitalism and create an economy where wealth is more equitably shared.  People are already putting in place programs that democratize the economy that we can learn from and build on.

This Economic Democracy Track brought together people who are working on the front lines to:

  • Build sustainable local living economies
  • Democratize the money supply
  • Create publicly owned banks
  • Create worker and consumer owned businesses
  • Develop participatory budget process for government
  • Fight and prevent foreclosures
  • Fight for health care reform and alternative health delivery systems

ItsOurEconomy.US is the principle convener of this conference track.  We plan future conferences that will cover the wide range of issues related to democratizing the economy.  We welcome your input and ideas.

Sessions From the Economic Democracy Track
of the Democracy Convention

Madison Wisconsin, August 24-28, 2011
Organized by
It’s Our Economy

Questions or Comments contact
Kevin Zeese,
KBZeese@gmail.com or
Margaret Flowers,
mdpnhp@gmail.com

Democratizing Money: Creating a Public Monetary System
Many Americans mistakenly believe that we have a public monetary system when in fact we have a privatized system. People think they have money in their pockets created by government.  These must be public dollars – they say “United States of America” on them.  But in fact we have a private system, a corporatized system – there may be no more single odious example of privatization than our money system.  It may be the most oppressive, as it keeps us dependent on Wall Street and the big banks. It is a modern form of servitude, created by the private corporation known as the Federal Reserve which is no more public than Federal Express.

Democratizing Money: Community Banks Are a Great Tool to Take Money From Wall Street, Bring Funds to Your Local Community and Get Control of Your Money
Bill Thorington describes how to work with community banks to develop your community. Democratizing money means giving the power of money to the people.  Putting people back in control of their money is the foundation of participatory democracy.  Those who have our money have control and power over us.  The government is the first large entity that has our money but the government has to deal with other powerful forces like the Federal Reserve, big banks, Wall Street – those are the people who decide where money goes. Their control of money is the opposite of democracy. Community Banks are a tool to democratize money.

Democratizing Money: The Natural Life Cycle of Community Banks
How the Early Death of Community Banks Can Be Avoided.
This is a summary of a presentation given by Bill Thorington who sees community banking as a positive, solution to banking issues.  He describes how community banks are often victims of their own success.  There is a life cycle of community banks.  People get excited, invest in them, bank with them and they grow but 10 to 12 years later how many of those banks are still there? Through mergers and acquisitions they tend to disappear.  Thorington describes how community banks can avoid that life cycle.

Participatory Budgeting for Your Community
Grass roots citizen participation in urban spending.
In this presentation Alderman Joe Moore, Maria Hadden and Brenda K. Konkel describe how participatory budgeting works and the experience in the 49th ward of Chicago where a portion of the municipal budget is being turned over to the people to decide how it should be spent.  The ward is in its third year of the participatory budgeting process where voters decide how to spend $1.3 million annually.  While other jurisdictions are developing participatory budgeting plans, this is the only in the nation to implement it, despite it becoming a common practice throughout the world.

Cooperatives: The Co-op Alternative to Corporate Capitalism
Finance capitalism is collapsing.  We are seeing the failure of corporate capitalism as we have seen the failure of state-socialism.  With the wealthiest 400 Americans having as much wealth as 150 million Americans, we are living in the equivalent of Medieval Times. We need to ask ourselves what it is we want and then find the path to it. There is a lot of experimentation going on regarding worker ownership, democracy in the work place and sharing in the profits of corporations.  A huge amount of various forms of ownership are being developed as people look for alternatives to the current, failing system.  This session focuses on the cooperative as one of those alternatives. The United Nations has declared 2012 as the year of the cooperative so there will be a lot of attention to co-ops in the coming year. Rebecca Kembler, Ole Olson and Gar Alperovitz describe how co-ops work and their growth in the United States.

Democratizing the Electric Grid: Innovative Financing for Local Renewable Energy
Oregon is becoming the leader in creating a broad-based, distributed energy program with the enactment of a five year feed-in tariff (FIT) program to fund solar energy reports Nancy Price of the Alliance for Democracy. This is an adaption of the German FIT program as well as similar programs established in 63 countries. FITs are responsible for approximately 75% of global solar energy and 45% of global wind deployment. Laus Linsenmeier of the Heinrich Boell Foundation describes how the FIT program in Germany has made the country the leader in renewable energy.

Evolution to Cooperation: Life Experiences Lead to Enlightened Economic Views
The Solidarity Community and Triple Bottom Line Business Practices.
These presentations by Jim Tarbell and Paul Linzmeyer describe how their life experiences led them respectively to the Solidarity Community and the Triple Bottom Line for business.  There is synergy in thinking about the triple bottom line and the solidarity community as both put people and the planet at the center of a successful economy.

No One Should Be Forced To Live in the Streets During This Economic Collapse
This is a key note speech at the Democracy Convention by a tireless advocate, Cheri Honkola of the Philidelphia Kensington Welfare Rights League. Her effort to stop foreclosures and evictions during this economic crisis are worthy of our support.

A rEvolution of Cooperation: Transitioning to sustainable communities
Across the world, communities are using the principles of Transition Town to solve their problems locally and transition to vibrant, healthy and sustainable systems that meet their needs. The Transition Town movement started in the UK about 5 years ago. It developed from a permaculture design course and now is spreading throughout the world.

This is what Biodemocracy looks like
In this article, Ronnie Cummins explains why we must transition to organic local farming, how far we have come and what it will require to create food security. We have made significant steps toward increasing local and organic food production and popularity. Currently, 66% of Americans prefer organic food. However, people are not yet buying organic in significant quantities. Organics are only 4% of grocery store sales, equal to $30 billion per year.  Natural food purchases make up another 8% of sales which equals $50 billion per year.

Land Grabs for Food, Flowers and Fuel
This article informs about the history of corporate power and the land grabs for food and fuel. The speakers include Jim Tarbell of the Alliance for Democracy and Jim Goodman of Family Farm Defenders.

Land and Food vs Corporate Rights and Dirty Fuels
In this article, Ronnie Cummins of the Organic Consumers Association, describes how Middle Eastern Oil Chiefdoms, China, India and Russia are buying up land around the world. As the climate crisis becomes manifest, more countries will face food and water shortages. And corporations are taking land or are pushing farmers to produce bio-fuels. What is the environmental impact of this to be?

Single Payer Turns a Libertarian off to Libertarianism, a Progressive Democrat off to the Democratic Party and a Doctor off to the American Medical Association
In the United States we use “improved Medicare for all” as a way to describe the single payer system we want.  It would be a health system that provides wide coverage and paid for through taxes with no co-pays or deductibles.  Everybody would be in from birth to death and nobody would be left out. The single payer movement pushed hard to have single payer on the table during the Obama-led reform debate but this view was kept out of the discussion. The Affordable Care Act, which was passed, did not improve on the current system in any appreciable way. The session featured Margaret Flowers, Laurel Mark, Lex Tinker-Sackett and William Bianchi.

Transference of Community: Learning from Venezuela
Since the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela democratic power for people at the local, community level has been increasing (despite what you may hear in the U.S. corporate media). Mariela G. Alburges describes how people at the grassroots base are given greater control of governance and access to services. Venezuela has developed Community Councils which involve more people in local governance at the neighborhood level. Above the Councils are the Communes these are a collection of Community Councils.

Resisting Foreclosure
There is no uniform foreclosure process.  Some states it is merely the sheriff knocking at the door, entering and the homeowner is asked to leave.  Having a judicial process is the best for homeowner because the court has to be involved.  In non-judicial foreclosure jurisdictions, generally you are notified, but there is an opportunity to go to court only if you have the funds to hire a lawyer and do so. The Legal Services Corporation should be fully funded so people can get help.  Most of the lawyers who take on foreclosure are real estate lawyers who usually do closings for home sales.  They do not usually go to trial and therefore are not very good at defending against foreclosure. Ellen Bernards and David Petrovich describe what homeowners can do to defend against foreclosure.

We need to build an independent nonviolent movement to shift power to the people and to occupy

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