The gap between rich and poor is huge and growing…legislative stalemate paralyzes the country…corporations fight federal regulations…the influence of money in politics is greater than ever…new inventions speed the pace of daily life.
Sound familiar? Those headlines from the early 1900s set the scene for Doris Kearns Goodwin’s new book The Bully Pulpit-a history of the first decade of the Progressive era – a time when courageous journalists and an ambitious president took on the Robber Barons – the 1% of their day – and won.
Goodwin tells the tale through the long friendship of Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft – a relationship that serves both until it ruptures in 1912, when they engage in a brutal fight for the presidential nomination that cripples the progressive wing of the Republican Party and helps elect Woodrow Wilson.
Getting equal billing in her account is the golden age of journalism led by the muckraking press at McClure’s magazine. Together a bold and progressive press and a strong and progressive president served the people of the US rather than the super wealthy and the corporations. What lessons can we learn to help us turn this country around a century later?
Politics and the media have for the most part shown themselves impotent, indifferent, or in cahoots when it comes to confronting and rolling back the takeover of the United States by the super-rich and the super-corporations.
Since the days of Clinton, we’ve been reminding ourselves of the words of FDR to progressives pressing for the New Deal — “Make me do it.” Envying the attention and power granted the tea party. Millions march all over Europe in response to austerity measures that make the people pay for the failures of the financial class. Millions march in the Arab Awakening when hunger, poverty, corruption, and autocracy prove too much to bear and social media connects and informs the people like never before. When will Americans take to the streets?
September 17th, a small group of demonstrators camped out in a downtown New York park and Occupy Wall Street was born. Occupy Los Angeles emerged a week ago, October 1st. Both are alive and well. As of Saturday the Occupy movement has spread to 1,016 cities in the US and abroad. There has been carping in the mainstream media about the movement’s lack of focus, lack of clear message, lack of specific platform or demands. The closest thing to a brand for the movement so far is the claim that, “We are the 99%”. I think this is a wonderful opening. It’s based on cold hard facts. It is inclusive. Even a tea partier knows they are part of the 99%. Inequality is problem #1 in this country. from which all else follows, including a corrupted political system that is not able to meet the challenges we face.
I don’t think anyone knows where this goes…At some level a lot of us have grown so resigned to the dominance of money in our society that I’m not sure too many have a plan how to get from here to where we need to get.
I think we each also have to invent the role we are going to play as this story unfolds.
I’ll be joined by representatives for both Occupy Wall Street — NELINI STAMP (Working Families Party) and MELANIE BUTLER (Code Pink) — and Occupy Los Angeles — LISA CLAPIER (media, Occupy LA) and SHARIF ABDULLAH (Commonway.org). I plan to ask them to tell their individual stories, report what’s happening around them and what they think it means.
ESTHER DUFLO, a Professor of Economics at MIT, has received numerous honors including a John Bates Clark Medal for the best American economist under 40 in 2010, a MacArthur "genius" Fellowship in 2009. She was recognized as one of the best eight young economists by the Economist Magazine, one of the 100 most influential thinkers by Foreign Policy, and one of the "forty under forty" most influential business leaders under forty by Fortune magazine in 2010.
Together with Abhijit Banerjee and Sendhil Mullainathan of Harvard University, she founded the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab in 2003, and authored with Banerjee, the new book, POOR ECONOMICS: A Radical Rethinking of the Way to Fight Global Poverty
Dr. Vandana Shiva is a physicist, ecologist, activist, editor, and author of many books. In India she has established Navdanya, a movement for biodiversity conservation and farmers` rights. She directs the Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Natural Resource Policy. Her books include Biopiracy: The Plunder of Nature and Knowledge, Stolen Harvest: The Hijacking of the Global Food Supply, and her newest, Soil Not Oil: Environmental Justice in an Age of Climate Crisis. Shiva has been awarded several awards for her efforts including the Right Livelihood Award and the United Nations Environment Program [UNEP] Global 500 Award in 1993, and most recently the 2010 City of Sydney Peace Prize.
NICHOLAS KRISTOF, oped columnist at the New York Times, and author with his wife, former Times editor Sheryl WuDunn, of HALF THE SKY: From Oppression to Opportunity for Women Worldwide."
Kristof grew up on a sheep and cherry farm near Yamhill, Oregon. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Harvard College and then studied law at Oxford University on a Rhodes Scholarship, graduating with first class honors. He joined the NY Times in 1984. In 1990 Mr. Kristof and his wife, Sheryl WuDunn, then also a Times journalist, won a Pulitzer Prize for their coverage of China's Tiananmen Square democracy movement. They were the first married couple to win a Pulitzer for journalism. Mr. Kristof won a second Pulitzer in 2006, for commentary for what the judges called "his graphic, deeply reported columns that, at personal risk, focused attention on genocide in Darfur and that gave voice to the voiceless in other parts of the world."
In his column, NICHOLAS KRISTOF was an early opponent of the Iraq war, and among the first to warn that we were losing ground to the Taliban in southern Afghanistan. He was among the first to raise doubts about WMD in Iraq, he was the first to report that President Bush's State of the Union claim about Iraq seeking uranium from Africa was contradicted by the administration's own investigation. His columns have often focused on global health, poverty and gender issues in the developing world. In particular, since 2004 he has written dozens of columns about Darfur and visited the area ten times.
Prior to their newest, HALF THE SKY, Mr. Kristof and Ms. WuDunn are authors of CHINA WAKES: THE STRUGGLE FOR THE SOUL OF A RISING POWER and THUNDER FROM THE EAST: PORTRAIT OF A RISING ASIA.