From Maine to California, nurses have launched a campaign for a new direction for America to reverse the disastrous course of policies that demand ever more hardship for Main Street, while giving more tax breaks and special favors to Wall Street.
National Nurses United proposes a Main Street Contract for the American People to reclaim an economy premised on good jobs at living wages, health care for all, quality education, good housing, protection from hunger, a safe environment, and a secure retirement for everyone.
It's a program that says we've all had enough of the calls for "shared sacrifice" where all the concessions come from working people while resources continue to be transferred to those who need it the least.
A big rally in Washington in early June near the White House and the Chamber of Commerce, the lobbying arm for big business, kicked off this effort. It will step it up June 22 with a protest on Wall Street in New York (Federal Building, Wall Street, 12 noon) to demand that the high rollers who created the economic crisis pay to rebuild America.
The message is directed to policy makers in Washington and state capitols who push for deeper cuts in jobs, education, health care, retirement plans, housing, and other bedrock programs that are not just a "safety net," they are the foundation of our society.
Our nation of communities and people are enduring unconscionable pain in staggering unemployment. Millions have given up looking for work, have un- payable medical bills that are the main cause of bankruptcy and suffer from overcrowded classrooms and emergency rooms. Soup kitchens, food pantries and food stamps have become the new norm for 49 million households. This at a time when economic wealth is concentrated among a shrinking percentage of the super-rich, and corporations make record profits while nearly 60 percent of U.S. firms paid no taxes for a year or more the past decade.
America has the wealth to end the despair and deprivation; it's just being hoarded by those on Wall Street and corporate board rooms, and the politicians they elect and control to protect their privilege.
To reclaim this nation, that's where we have to start. To make Wall Street pay. A first step, the one nurses and many others in labor and community groups have embraced, is a tax on Wall Street greed and speculation.
It would be a small fee on the buying and selling of stocks, bonds, credit default swaps, derivatives, the speculative activity that brought foreclosures and ruin to so many and brought little in return. Europeans are on the verge of enacting a similar tax, and our June 22 action will be in concert with events across Europe for a financial transaction tax.
The lobbyists and their shills in the media would have us believe the big corporations will leave this country if asked to pay their fair share. We've heard that story before. Corporate America has received an endless stream of tax cuts, bailouts, loopholes, shelters, rollbacks in regulations, and other handouts that have fueled their economic bonanza and lavish lifestyles. But what have they given back in return, other than spiraling unemployment and demands for more and more corporate charity?
It's a sad fact that we have to shake up Wall Street and Washington to persuade the policy makers that the most pressing problem in America is not the debt ceiling, or how much they can slash Medicare or Social Security.
There's a reason so many politicians are unwilling to look beyond their corridors to the wreckage and hurt in our communities. As one congressional aide recently told NNU, "Wall Street runs this place."
But there is an antidote in the collective voices that can ring out from coast to coast, like the ones that have been shaking Madison, Lansing, Columbus and other cities this year.
As part of our Main Street campaign, NNU is asking people to tell us their stories, stories of the economic struggles their families are facing. Read the stories that nurses across the country are sharing. And, please tell us where it hurts.
We'll use these accounts to make the case for change in policies and priorities and for a rebirth of our nation. It's long overdue.
Rose Ann DeMoro is executive director of National Nurses United. Learn more about the NNU proposal for an alternative vision, a Main Street Contract for the American People.