Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr., founder and president of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, unveiled a 10-point plan Thursday to address problems created by the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.
Rev. Jackson, a former top aide to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., noted, “Dr. King would celebrate this season of change by urging us to establish a floor beneath which no American falls. When the rest of the bailout funds are distributed, we must make certain that they are adequate, distributed equitably and transparently, with stringent oversight.”
RAINBOW PUSH COALITION TEN POINT PLAN FOR ECONOMIC RECOVERY January 2009
Eight years of the Bush Administration’s failed and disastrous policies have left our economy in the worst crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930’s. The sub-prime mortgage tsunami now threatens some 2 million homeowners and has undermined the tax base and budgets of cities and states around the nation. We have witnessed the stunning collapse of Wall Street giants Bear Stearns, Merrill Lynch and Lehman Brothers, and the loss of over 1 million jobs in the last two months. The Bush Administration has turned a record surplus in 2000 into record projected deficits of over $2 trillion.
The Federal Reserve has distributed almost $350 billion in bailout funds to banks and other institutions with no strings attached. The recent Congressional panel criticized the TARP program for gaps in monitoring and oversight of how funds have been used, and the panel uncovered no evidence that the billions in funds granted to banks were being used to mitigate home foreclosures or open up lending to small businesses.
The financial markets are STILL on the brink of global melt-down. Millions of homeowners STILL face the prospect of foreclosure. Businesses and consumers STILL cannot get financing and the credit markets are STILL frozen. The stock market is STILL experiencing radical swings.
As President Obama prepares to take the oath of office, formulating and passing a viable Economic Recovery Plan is the number one priority facing his administration. It must be transparent and equitable, with targeted investment. It must focus on the “least of these” and focus on real job training, employment, and broad based economic and community development. It must reinvest in America’s infrastructure and put America back to work. It must reverse the pattern of catering to the financial institutions and the wealthy.
l. TRANSFORM THE ECONOMY--DON’T JUST MAKE A TEMPORARY FIX
We need a restructured economy, not just a return to the old status quo of deepening inequality, low wages, outsourced jobs and tax cuts for the rich. We need to think about what we want--not just what are against--with an emphasis on equality, sustainability and fairness. We need to democratize the economy and initiate a fundamental restructuring of trade, import/export, and industrial manufacturing policy, with more bottom up participation, not just top-down decision-making.
2. MANDATE CRITERIA AND GOALS, AND STRENGTHEN REGULATION AND OVERSIGHT FOR RECIPIENTS OF TAX PAYER BAILOUT FUNDS
The first $350 billion of bailout funds have been issued to financial institutitons with few, if any, restrictions or mandates on how the public funds are to be used, allowing banks to use the public funds for any purpose. There has been inadequate or no regulation, transparency, accountability, or oversight regarding how funds have been used. The Federal Reserve and Congress did not require specific reporting, and banks are refusing to make public how they are using funds.
Regulation, transparency, accountability, and oversight must be restored as pre-conditions for the issuance of the second $350 billion of bailout funds.
We need to strengthen financial regulation so that we all play by the same rules. We need full reporting and accountability, transparency, and disclosure on how taxpayer funds are being spent.
We need to monitor compliance with clearly defined goals and obligations. Firms receiving funds must disclose where all the money is going and not use it for acquisitions or executive bonuses.
3. HELP FOR THOSE THAT NEED HELP THE MOST
We need clearer priorities and TARGETED INVESTMENT so that the people in the most need get help. The Economic Recovery Plan must include TARGETED INVESTMENTS that require institutions to restructure loans and not repossess homes. We need at least a one-year moratorium on all foreclosures, as was done in the 1930’s.
The Economic Recovery Plan must make it easier for distressed families and businesses to get a “second chance” under new bankruptcy protections. It must empower and enable bankruptcy judges to restructure and modify mortgages so families can keep their homes.
4. LOWER STUDENT LOAN INTEREST RATE TO 1%
The Federal Reserve lowered loan rates for banks to1%. Students need even greater relief to continue and complete their college educations and not be saddled for life with student loan payments (some now with interest rates as high as 20%). If banks can get loans at 1%, students should too.
5. UNFREEZE THE CREDIT MARKETS
The Economic Recovery Plan must require financial institutions to “unfreeze the credit markets” and expand their lending, credit, and financing to small and medium size businesses to enable them to finance their operations or finance deals to expand their businesses through acquisitions.
6. ROLL BACK CREDIT CARD INTEREST, CHARGES, AND FEES
Thirty-six million families are maxed out or about to be maxed out on credit cards which often charge usurious interest rates and fees. The government is putting money into credit card companies to stabilize them. Those companies must be required to roll back outrageous fees and charges, and extend time periods for payments. (England now has ruled that card customers will have 60 days to pay, not 30.)
7. STRENGTHEN COMMUNITY LENDING INSTITUTIONS
Strengthen and encourage not for profit credit unions and community banks to engage in targeted lending. Assist cooperatives and encourage barter and exchange programs so that people in need can help each other.
8. COMMIT TO COMMUNITY JOB PROGRAMS, INFRASTRUCTURE
CONSTRUCTION, AND A GREEN ECONOMY
To stem the escalating loss of jobs--over 1 million in the past two months--an Economic Recovery Plan should include “an immediate extension of unemployment benefits, a greater investment in summer jobs for at-risk youth, job training for disadvantaged workers, and a workforce development initiative to train and employ minority workers in the growing green jobs industry.” (National Urban League)
We need to employ people at the community level and on all levels where cutbacks are decimating community services, including education and the arts. We must commit to renewing our decaying infrastructure, creating a range of well-paying jobs in the process. We also need to create green jobs and green businesses, and support organizations providing green solutions to protect our environment.
9. SUPPORT THE EMPLOYEE FREE CHOICE ACT
We must urge Congress to protect the right to organize by immediately passing the Employee Free Choice Act legislation. The Act evens the playing field for employees seeking to join unions and for unions seeking to organize nonunion workers.
10. INVESTIGATE THE CRIMES BEHIND THE CRISIS
The Madoff affair is just the tip of the iceberg. We need a national Blue Ribbon Presidential Commission, with subpoena power, to investigate the pervasive fraud and manipulations behind the crisis. The commission must make recommendations to the Justice Department to strengthen weakened laws and prosecute wrongdoers. We need a jail-out as well as a bailout.
CONTINUING THE CONVERSATION: Rainbow Push is committed to launching a national organizing campaign on behalf of these and other goals. We will reach out to allies, churches, unions and educators to organize regional forums so that these and other ideas can be discussed, debated and form the basis for a NATIONAL PEOPLE’S CAMPAIGN TO RESTORE THE ECONOMY ON A JUST BASIS.
The Rainbow PUSH Coalition is a progressive organization protecting, defending and expanding civil rights to improve economic and educational opportunity For more information about the conference, please visit the organization's website www.wallstreetproject2009.org or call (212) 425-7874. To interview Rev. Jackson, please contact the media office at (773) 256-2714.