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Forum Post: Why Elections Still Matter, Except When They Don't

Posted 3 years ago on July 13, 2014, 9:29 p.m. EST by LeoYo (5909)
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Why Elections Still Matter, Except When They Don't

Thursday, 10 July 2014 10:40
By Bruce A. Dixon, Black Agenda Report | Op-Ed


Martin Luther King once talked about how a black person in the south was unable to vote, while one in the north had nothing to vote for. 50 years later, the south as become the north too. The two capitalist parties have gamed and subverted the electoral process to exclude real opposition and to make it meaningless, except for bestowing legitimacy upon their stooges. So why and when to elections still matter for the left, and when not?

Two years ago, I wrote a piece called “How to Waste Your Vote in 2012” in which I said:

Your vote really is your voice, and in the modern era, every government on earth claims to rule with the consent of the people. This bestows upon the vote a unique kind of legal and symbolic power. The gap, however, between this legal, this symbolic power of the vote and any real ability to change things for the better is a vast one. The authorities rightly fear the people's voice, and so have contrived law and custom to ensure that we are seldom heard and almost never heeded.

They would never dream of allowing us to vote on the price of gas, food, housing, credit or college tuition. But they don't mind at all letting us choose between corporate-funded Republicans and corporate-funded Democrats. The powers that rule our economy, our media and our politics won't let us vote on whether to bring the troops home from 140 countries and the seven seas, or whether to continue spending more on weapons of death and destruction than the other 95% of humanity combined. But they will let us choose between an ignorant, crazy or racist Republican who promises to give banksters, polluters and corporate criminals a free pass, and a sane, smart, level-headed free market liberal Democrat who does exactly the same thing, no matter what he promised.

The authorities won't let us vote on whether the broadcast spectrum should be privatized, whether we should have the right to start and join unions, whether to create millions of good-paying green jobs. They won't allow voters to decide whether corporations deserve more rights than flesh and blood people, or whether the president should be able to kidnap, torture, imprison and murder people without trials or even charges. But they will let us choose between a white guy and a black guy. As long as it's their white guy, and their black one as well.

All that is still true, and much, much more. The terrain of electoral politics is nothing like a level playing field. It's more like a briar patch, inside a labyrinth, built over a minefield.

Democrats and Republicans Have Created Ballot Access Hurdles

In states like Georgia where I live, third party candidates face incredible obstacles to even getting a candidate on the ballot. A Green congressional candidate for example, has to get 20-25,000 signatures on a nominating petition to appear on the ballot, and a statewide candidate needs more than 60,000, distributed in a complicated formula among several score counties, while Republicans and Democrats simply pay a nominal fee. These are laws passed on the state level by Democrats and Republicans working together.

Access to Media is Limited by Private Owners of Print, Broadcast, Cable Networks.

Cable networks are laid and maintained beneath public streets and roads, with massive public subsidies and gobs of corporate welfare, but privately owned by a handful of greedy corporations. Broadcast spectrum wasn't invented by any clever engineer working for a corporation, it's a property of the physical universe, like sunlight. But the same handful of greedy telecoms own that too, along with most of the print newspapers.

The private owners of these public resources have decreed that the only candidates and causes who can afford campaign commercials are those bankrolled by wealthy individuals and greedy corporations, often with legally anonymous cash. With no interest in an informed public, the billionaires who own print, cable and broadcast outlets have been firing reporters and spending less every year on journalism for several decades. Reporters refuse to cover third party candidates in partisan elections, lest their careers end prematurely. In nominally “nonpartisan” races like mayor in most medium and large cities, the owners of media all but refuse to cover the existence of candidacies not endorsed by local elites.

Legal Obstacles to Registration and the Vote.

Since 1992, when I was one of three field organizers in an Illinois voter registration drive that signed up 133,000 in the 4 months preceding the November election, rules in many jurisdictions across the country have been tweaked to prevent this kind of thing from happening again. Florida is one of several states that made clerical and procedural errors on the part of registration organizers into felony vote fraud, thus causing outfits like the League of Women Voters to stop doing registration drives.

More recently many states have adopted voter ID laws specifically crafted to lower the number of eligible voters among the populations they'd rather not see at the polls, and felony disenfranchisement has always been a potent tool for declaring hundreds of thousands outside the electorate.

Without a constitutional amendment guaranteeing the right to vote, registration and eligibility and how candidates are placed on the ballot and the votes counted are in the hands of 2,000 counties and hundreds of cities, each with the authority to make its own rules.

And There's Black Box Voting, Caging, and Official Manipulation of Turnouts and Results

And if you do organize a grassroots campaign, register your voters, perform a canvass that counts and identifies them before election day, and chase them out to those effectively, the last 25 years have seen the advent of unaccountable, faith-based computerized voting systems without paper trails which make the outright falsification of election results trivially easy.



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[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 3 years ago

So Why Bother?

So why bother with a an electoral process that's compromised from top to bottom, a maze full of dead ends, trap doors, toll booths, and rules that change at the whim of your well-entrenched opponents?

The answer is that a politics of transformation has to transform people and their understandings. It has to bring people together to understand that what neoliberalism, what capitalism want us to see as individual problems, like the inability of families to secure decent incomes, jobs, education, health care or housing, like the ruin inflicted by savage policing and the prison state, like the availability of more funds for war but none to make life better for ordinary people, that all these are collective problems with collective solutions, solutions that we must begin to construct from the bottom up.

Electoral campaigns are seasons in which people expect to be engaged on what problems really are collective ones, and how these will be addressed. Democrats and Republicans want desperately for the left to stay the hell out of those public conversations, and no, the terms “left” and “right” are neither meaningless nor obsolete, and no, Democrats are certainly NOT on the left, though they sometimes pretend to be.

Campaigns are Times to Raise the Questions Neither Dems Nor Repubs Can Answer

Repubs and Dems need to exclude Green and left parties from the public conversation in campaign seasons because they fear the questions we, our campaigns and candidates ask, questions for which they have no answers.

Why are stadiums and gentrification the only models for urban economic development? Why are we closing thousands of public schools and privatizing public education?

Why are we paying water bills in a world that's two-thirds water?

Why does the failed 40 years war on drugs still continue, and why can't we roll back the prison state that eats the heart of our families and communities?

Why can't we join unions, raise wages, shorten the work week, and run corporations from the bottom up instead of the top down?

Why can't we stop climate change by getting off fossil fuels?

Why can't we deliver health care, not just health insurance for everybody?

Why isn't college tuition and day care free, and why can't everybody who wants a job get one?

Why are US troops in 140 countries and why do we spend more on arms and war than the other 95% of humanity put together?

Campaigns and elections are our chance to bring these and similar questions which the two capitalist parties are utterly unable to answer before audiences. This is vitally important because the neoliberal order under which we live trains people not to even think such things, or if they do, to censor themselves.

Campaigns and elections ONLY make a difference when we use them to raise the questions that capitalism will not and cannot answer, but which absolutely must be asked for people to begin to think outside the matrix, to visualize the world that we have to build.

Can Electoral Campaigns Morph into Social Movements

The short answer is no. We have to avoid and actively argue against the delusion that electoral campaigns build social movements. They don't. I used to believe that under some circumstances they could. But I've seen twenty or more campaigns close up, in many of which some or the key participants hoped to morph into permanent bottom-up organizations capable of running themselves and holding candidates accountable. For reasons that require a book chapter to explain, it almost never works. I think I've seen it happen, sort of, once in my entire political life.

Electoral campaigns have been the graveyard of social movements, not once, but many, many times.

Wisconsin's state capital was on the verge of a general strike over the machinations of the state's governor and legislators, but instead they were directed into an electoral campaign to recall the governor and defeat a handful of state senators, in which huge sums of money were raised, countless volunteer hours expended, organizers deployed, and they lost, leaving few or no new permanent organized formations behind not beholden to the folks that sent them down the electoral road in the first place.

What if just a fraction of the money spent on Wisconsin's futile recall effort had gone to pay organizers' salaries and support for two years, and for ten or twenty photocopiers, with two year service agreements, available to grassroots organizations across the state? The movement in Wisconsin would be a lot broader, deeper, more diverse and more established. After electoral campaigns, win or lose, everyone pretty much goes home.

When Campaigns are a Good Idea, When They're Not.

At the very least, your social movements should already be well constituted and in conscious motion before and outside of electoral politics before you enter into a campaign, or else the campaign will swallow them. The campaigns and candidates have to persistently pose the kinds of questions Democrats and Republicans dare not ask, let alone answer. Crucially they must raise up candidates from their own ranks who are loyal enough to the organization and its principles to resist the institutional pull of elected office and the elevated status our political tradition accords even to candidates for office. When you get a candidate on the ballot, that person becomes your spokesperson. If she is NOT with the program, won't ask the questions that challenge capitalism, you've been a party to your own carjacking.

If you can do all those things, AND run a competent campaign, which is no small chore, it's worth it. If you can't, it's not. Supporting Democrats and so-called “fusion” efforts are never worthwhile. Your volunteers ultimately become theirs, or disillusioned, and your efforts lend unearned credibility to the same old folks, who really need your new bottom-up enthusiasm every two years a lot more than you need them.

Campaigns that don't ask the questions Repubs and Democrats shy away from aren't worth mounting and their candidates not worth voting for. If you're only demanding what the consultants say might actually get through the legislature in this or the next session, you're not demanding enough, and if you do get it, your establishment allies will get the credit, not you. But if you demand five times above and beyond what they're willing to give, asking the questions they dare not, any victory you win is yours.

Only fools dream that the establishment will allow us to vote them out of power. That will never happen. But until they're willing to break down our doors, put bags over our heads and frog march us off to solitary somewhere our obligation is to make the most of open work with all the tools available. Completely eschewing campaigns and elections makes no sense.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.

[-] 1 points by LeoYo (5909) 3 years ago

An Exceptional Decline for the Exceptional Country?

Monday, 14 July 2014 10:26
By Tom Engelhardt, Tom Dispatch | Op-Ed


For America’s national security state, this is the age of impunity. Nothing it does -- torture, kidnapping, assassination, illegal surveillance, you name it -- will ever be brought to court. For none of its beyond-the-boundaries acts will anyone be held accountable. The only crimes that can now be committed in official Washington are by those foolish enough to believe that a government of the people, by the people, and for the people shall not perish from this earth. I’m speaking of the various whistleblowers and leakers who have had an urge to let Americans know what deeds and misdeeds their government is committing in their name but without their knowledge. They continue to pay a price in accountability for their acts that should, by comparison, stun us all.

As June ended, the New York Times front-paged an account of an act of corporate impunity that may, however, be unique in the post-9/11 era (though potentially a harbinger of things to come). In 2007, as journalist James Risen tells it, Daniel Carroll, the top manager in Iraq for the rent-a-gun company Blackwater, one of the warrior corporations that accompanied the U.S. military to war in the twenty-first century, threatened Jean Richter, a government investigator sent to Baghdad to look into accounts of corporate wrongdoing.

Here, according to Risen, is Richter’s version of what happened when he, another government investigator, and Carroll met to discuss Blackwater’s potential misdeeds in that war zone:

“Mr. Carroll said ‘that he could kill me at that very moment and no one could or would do anything about it as we were in Iraq,’ Mr. Richter wrote in a memo to senior State Department officials in Washington. He noted that Mr. Carroll had formerly served with Navy SEAL Team 6, an elite unit. ‘Mr. Carroll’s statement was made in a low, even tone of voice, his head was slightly lowered; his eyes were fixed on mine,’ Mr. Richter stated in his memo. ‘I took Mr. Carroll’s threat seriously. We were in a combat zone where things can happen quite unexpectedly, especially when issues involve potentially negative impacts on a lucrative security contract.’”

When officials at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, the largest in the world, heard what had happened, they acted promptly. They sided with the Blackwater manager, ordering Richter and the investigator who witnessed the scene out of the country (with their inquiry incomplete). And though a death threat against an American official might, under other circumstances, have led a CIA team or a set of special ops guys to snatch the culprit off the streets of Baghdad, deposit him on a Navy ship for interrogation, and then leave him idling in Guantanamo or in jail in the United States awaiting trial, in this case no further action was taken.

[-] 1 points by LeoYo (5909) 3 years ago

Power Centers But No Power to Act

Think of the response of those embassy officials as a get-out-of-jail-free pass in honor of a new age. For the various rent-a-gun companies, construction and supply outfits, and weapons makers that have been the beneficiaries of the wholesale privatization of American war since 9/11, impunity has become the new reality. Pull back the lens further and the same might be said more generally about America’s corporate sector and its financial outfits. There was, after all, no accountability for the economic meltdown of 2007-2008. Not a single significant figure went to jail for bringing the American economy to its knees. (And many such figures made out like proverbial bandits in the government bailout and revival of their businesses that followed.)

Meanwhile, in these years, the corporation itself was let loose to run riot. Long a “person” in the legal world, it became ever more person-like, benefitting from a series of Supreme Court decisions that hobbled unions and ordinary Americans even as it gave the corporation ever more of the rights and attributes of a citizen on the loose. Post-9/11, the corporate world gained freedom of expression, the freedom of the purse, as well as the various freedoms that staggering inequality and hoards of money offer. Corporate entities gained, among other things, the right to flood the political system with money, and most recently, at least in a modest way, freedom of religion.

In other words, two great power centers have been engorging themselves in twenty-first-century America: there was an ever-expanding national security state, ever less accountable to anyone, ever less overseen by anyone, ever more deeply enveloped in secrecy, ever more able to see others and less transparent itself, ever more empowered by a secret court system and a body of secret law whose judgments no one else could be privy to; and there was an increasingly militarized corporate state, ever less accountable to anyone, ever less overseen by outside forces, ever more sure that the law was its possession. These two power centers are now triumphant in our world. They command the landscape against what may be less effective opposition than at any moment in our history.

In both cases, no matter how you tote it up, it’s been an era of triumphalism. Measure it any way you want: by the rising Dow Jones Industrial Average or the expanding low-wage economy, by the power of “dark money” to determine American politics in 1% elections or the rising wages of CEOs and the stagnating wages of their workers, by the power of billionaires and the growth of poverty, by the penumbra of secrecy and classification spreading across government operations and the lessening ability of the citizen to know what’s going on, or by the growing power of both the national security state and the corporation to turn your life into an open book. Look anywhere and some version of the same story presents itself -- of ascendant power in the boardrooms and the backrooms, and of a sense of impunity that accompanies it.

Whether you’re considering the power of the national security state or the corporate sector, their moment is now. And what a moment it is -- for them. Their success seems almost complete. And yet that only begins to tell the strange tale of our American times, because if that power is ascendant, it seems incapable of being translated into classic American power. The more successful those two sectors become, the less the U.S. seems capable of wielding its power effectively in any traditional sense, domestically or abroad.

Anyone can feel it, hence the recent Pew Research Center poll indicating a striking diminution in recent years of Americans who think the U.S. is exceptional, the greatest of all nations. By 2011, only 38% of Americans thought that; today, the figure has dropped to 28%, and -- a harbinger of future American attitudes -- just 15% among 18-to-29-year-olds. And no wonder. By many measures the U.S. may remain the wealthiest, most powerful nation on the planet, but in recent years its ability to accomplish anything, no less achieve national or imperial success, has shrunk drastically.

The power centers remain, but in some still-hard-to-grasp way, the power to accomplish anything seems to be draining from a country that was once the great can-do nation on the planet. On this, the record is both dismal and clear. To say that the American political system is in a kind of gridlock or paralysis from which -- given electoral prospects in 2014 and 2016 -- there can be no escape is to say the obvious. It’s a commonplace of news reports to suggest, for example, that in this midterm election year Congress and the president will be capable of accomplishing nothing together (except perhaps avoiding another actual government shutdown). Nada, zip, zero.

The president acts in relatively minimalist ways by executive order, Congress threatens to sue over his use of those orders, and (as novelist Kurt Vonnegut would once have said) so it goes. In the meantime, Congress has proven itself unable to act even when it comes to what once would have been the no-brainers of American life. It has, for instance, been struggling simply to fund a highway bill that would allow for ordinary repair work on the nation's system of roads, even though the fund for such work is running dry and jobs will be lost.

This sort of thing is but a symptom in a country of immense wealth whose infrastructure is crumbling and which lacks a single mile of high-speed rail. In all of this, in the rise of poverty and a minimum-wage economy, in a loss -- particularly for minorities -- of the wealth that went with home ownership, what can be seen is the untracked rise of a Third World country inside a First World one, a powerless America inside the putative global superpower.

An Exceptional Kind of Decline

And speaking of the “sole superpower,” it remains true that no combination of other militaries can compare with the U.S. military or the moneys the country continues to put into it and into the research and development of weaponry of the most futuristic sort. The U.S. national security budget remains a Ripley’s-Believe-It-Or-Not-style infusion of tax dollars into the national security state, something no other combination of major countries comes close to matching.

In addition, the U.S. still maintains hundreds of military bases and outposts across the planet (including, in recent years, ever more bases for our latest techno-wonder weapon, the drone). In 2014, it still garrisons the planet in a way that no other imperial power has ever done. In fact, it continues to sport all the trappings of a great empire, with an army impressive enough that our last two presidents have regularly resorted to one unembarrassed image to describe it: “the finest fighting force that the world has ever known.”

And yet, recent history is clear: that military has proven incapable of winning its wars against minor (and minority) insurgencies globally, just as Washington, for all its firepower, military and economic, has had a remarkably difficult time imposing its desires just about anywhere on the planet. Though it may still look like a superpower and though the power of its national security state may still be growing, Washington seems to have lost the ability to translate that power into anything resembling success.

Today, the U.S. looks less like a functioning and effective empire than an imperial basket case, unable to bring its massive power to bear effectively from Germany to Syria, Iraq to Afghanistan, Libya to the South China Sea, the Crimea to Africa. And stranger yet, this remains true even though it has no imperial competitors to challenge it. Russia is a rickety energy state, capable of achieving its version of imperial success only along its own borders, and China, clearly the rising economic power on the planet, though flexing its military muscles locally in disputed oil-rich waters, visibly has no wish to challenge the U.S. military anywhere far from home.

All in all, the situation is puzzling indeed. Despite much talk about the rise of a multi-polar world, this still remains in many ways a unipolar one, which perhaps means that the wounds Washington has suffered on numerous fronts in these last years are self-inflicted.

Just what kind of decline this represents remains to be seen. What does seem clearer today is that the rise of the national security state and the triumphalism of the corporate sector (along with the much publicized growth of great wealth and striking inequality in the country) has been accompanied by a decided diminution in the power of the government to function domestically and of the imperial state to impose its will anywhere on Earth.

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[-] 1 points by LeoYo (5909) 3 years ago

Fun Accounting and the Export-Import Bank

Monday, 14 July 2014 10:30
By Dean Baker, Truthout | Op-Ed


The establishment types in Washington have become really worried in recent weeks because one of their major troughs, the Export-Import Bank, may not be reauthorized by Congress. The Ex-Im Bank has long been a favored source of below market loans for Boeing, General Electric, and other major companies. If these companies have to pay market interest rates on their loans, it will cost them tens of billions of dollars in profits over the next decade.

The problem became serious after Republican majority leader Eric Cantor's surprise defeat in a Republican primary. As a close ally of big business, Cantor could be counted on to push through re-authorization of the Bank before the September 30 deadline for the current authorization. However his replacement as majority leader, Kevin McCarthy, is more likely to give in to Tea Party demands to end this subsidy to big business.

This prospect prompted the most hysteria among the Washington elite since the financial crisis threatened to lay waste to Wall Street following the collapse of Lehman. As we know, when major companies have their profits on the line, the pundits get worried and truth goes flying out the window.

We had panicked pieces pressing the urgency of reauthorization from ordinarily level-headed columnists like Joe Nocera and Neil Irwin, the latter of whom told us, "we are all crony capitalists." They warned us that our exports will collapse without the subsidies provided by the bank.

Even my friend Paul Krugman got into the act, arguing for re-authorization of the bank on the more honest grounds that any spending in the current economy will create jobs and boost growth. This is true, but the same argument could justify appropriating billions to pay people to dig holes and fill them up again, since in a time of mass unemployment even paying people to do pointless tasks will create jobs.

The basic story is a simple one. The Ex-Im bank subsidizes politically connected firms by providing them with below market loans. This can boost exports, but the bank also subsidizes imports, leaving its direct impact on the trade balance uncertain. As any graduate of Econ 101 knows, the subsidies provided by the bank effectively raise the cost of capital to other firms. When the higher interest rates paid by less well connected firms are factored in the bank would likely be a net loser of jobs and detriment to growth.

If you need to be convinced of this point, suppose that we had a government policy of just providing a flat subsidy of 10 percent to selected exporters. No economist would argue that in normal times (not the depressed economy we see now) such a subsidy would lead to additional jobs and growth. The Ex-Im Bank is such a subsidy, but it takes the form of a loan at below market interest rates, nonetheless it amounts to the same thing and everyone with any background in economics knows it.

But the best part of the debate is the silly stuff that serious people have to say to promote the bank. Perhaps the best line in this category is that 80 percent of the loans supported by the bank are for small businesses. We should have great sympathy for any political figure/policy type who is forced to say this line since they know it is complete garbage.

What matters is the percent of the money, not the percent of the loans. If the bank backs $80 billion in loans for Boeing, General Electric, or Enron (a favorite in past days), and $20 billion for small businesses, it doesn't matter that the $20 billion in small business loans accounted for the bulk of the transactions. Most of the money went to big businesses. That is what matters and everyone touting the share of small business loans knows it.

The other area for fun accounting is the claim that we make money on the bank. This is true in a literal sense, but not in a way that any economist/policy type would take seriously under other circumstances. The federal government is one of the lowest cost borrowers in the world. By splitting the difference between the cost of borrowing to the federal government and the cost to private companies, the government can virtually always guarantee itself a profit.

This is a simple and widely understood form of arbitrage. The government could also make money by lending billions of dollars to Dean Baker's Brilliant Hedge Fund, which would invest in a broad stock index and pay the government an interest rate 0.25 percentage points more than its borrowing costs.

Needless to say, the Ex-Im supporters will not back loans to Dean Baker's Brilliant Hedge Fund, even though the profit to the government would be as assured as with the Ex-Im Bank. The point is that it would be allocating capital in ways that serve no obvious economic purpose and likely are worse than the market allocation.

This was essentially the same story as the widely touted profit on TARP and related Fed lending. In the middle of a financial crisis, we made vast amounts of money available to favored banks at far below market interest rates. Since the lending pit was essentially bottomless -- there would be no more Lehmans in the words of Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner -- it was pretty much in evitable that the banks would survive and the money would be repaid. But the end of the story is that the otherwise bankrupt Wall Street bankers are rich, and the rest of the economy is still in recession.

Anyhow, the Ex-Im battle is a brief foray back into TARP land. There is much less at stake in this one, but it is still striking to see how the establishment types are willing to throw out all their rules and principles in order to secure re-authorization. Given their power, they will almost certainly win, but the rest of us should at least enjoy the show.

Copyright, Truthout.

[-] 1 points by LeoYo (5909) 3 years ago

Why Do Banksters Get Help but Not Homeowners?

Monday, 14 July 2014 14:35
By The Daily Take Team, The Thom Hartmann Program | Op-Ed


It's time to start helping the people, and stop helping Wall Street.

According to an agreement announced earlier today, big bank Citigroup will pay $7 billion to settle a Department of Justice investigation into that bank's involvement with risky subprime mortgages.

The agreement stems from Citigroup's role in the trading of subprime mortgage securities, which helped to cause the 2007 financial collapse and Great Recession.

Of the $7 billion total settlement, $4 billion will be in the form of a civil monetary payment to the Department of Justice, $500 million will go to state attorney's general and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, and an additional $2.5 billion will go towards "consumer relief."

But make no mistake about it. This agreement is another win for the big banks.

Under the agreement, Citigroup will most likely get a $500 million tax write-off. And in pre-market trading on Monday, Citigroup stocks rose by nearly 4 percent, despite the $7 billion agreement.

This is nothing more than a slap on the wrist for Citigroup; basically a cost of doing business.

And as for the mere $2.5 billion in consumer relief, while it will be going towards loan modifications, principal reduction and refinancing for distressed homeowners, it's nowhere near enough. And there are no guarantees it will make its way into the hands of the people Citigroup victimized, either.

If the Department of Justice was serious about holding Citigroup accountable for its actions, and helping the American people and economy recover from the Great Recession, then it would be taking a heck of a lot more than $7 billion, and giving that money directly to the American people.

It would be helping out American homeowners, instead of continuing to protect the big banks.

After all, it's consumers buying things like houses who drive demand and grow the economy. Not the big banks on Wall Street.

Directly helping out American homeowners after a crisis isn't some sort of radical idea or new thing we have to look at Sweden or Iceland to figure out, either.

We've done this sort of thing before, right here in the United States, and it worked very well.

Back in 1933, in the wake of the Great Depression, FDR signed into law the Home Owners' Loan Act of 1933, which created the Home Owners' Loan Corporation (HOLC).

The HOLC's main goal was to help refinance home mortgages that were in default or at risk of foreclosure because of the 1929 stock market crash and the previous collapse of the housing industry.

It did that by buying up old mortgages from the banks using government bonds - borrowed money.

In a statement released after the act was signed into law, FDR said that, "In signing the 'Home Owners Loan Act of 1933,' I feel that we have taken another important step toward the ending of deflation which was rapidly depriving many millions of farm and home owners from the title and equity to their property."

By the mid-1930's, the HOLC had helped to refinance nearly 20 percent of urban homes in America.

And by 1936, the final year that the HOLC was buying mortgages, it had helped to provide Americans with over one million new mortgages, and had lent out nearly $750 billion in today's dollars.

That's right; $750 billion in today's dollars. That makes the $2.5 billion from the Citigroup agreement going towards consumer relief seem like nothing.

To this day, the HOLC is credited with relieving the financial burdens of millions of Americans, and helping to right the American economy.

If we're serious about rebuilding the American economy, and helping out the millions of Americans who still struggle to keep a roof over their heads, then we need to be doing a lot more than just forcing one bank to handle $2.5 billion in consumer relief and trusting the bank to distribute it responsibly.

We need to stop caring so much about the well-being of Wall Street, and start caring about the American people and economy.

No American should have to go to bed tonight worrying if they're going to become homeless tomorrow.

This article was first published on Truthout and any reprint or reproduction on any other website must acknowledge Truthout as the original site of publication.