This is cross-posted from DoGoodBiz
Press Associates, Inc. (PAI) — 3/12/2010 REVIEW: NEW EASY-TO-READ BOOK COVERS ECONOMIC CHAOS, PUTS FORTH SOLUTIONS
By Mark Gruenberg PAI Staff Writer
WASHINGTON (PAI)–Your job is endangered. Your pension is gone. Your health care costs are rising out of sight. And the economy’s in the tank. Ever wonder why? Veteran organizer Stewart Acuff and economist Dr. Richard Levins provide you with an easy-to-read explanation, stitching all those ills together — and suggesting what to do about them.
Their new book, Getting America Back to Work, due out in early April, lays out in kitchen-table English how the nation’s wealthy accumulated power and brought the economy to its knees and brought the middle class to the verge of poverty.
“We must begin by recognizing that our economic problems are the result of intentional, sustained, strategic public policy (their emphasis),” Stewart Acuff and Dr. Richard Levins write. It’s “bad public policy cooked up by the Financial Elite and their henchmen.
“The good news is in a democracy people can change public policy. That’s what this book is about — how we change public policy to get people back to productive work and get America’s economy working for working families,” they declare.
Meanwhile, Stewart Acuff and Levins warn: “Money talks….Every time you get whacked with an overdraft fee, gouged by a credit card, soaked at the gas pump, or bankrupted by a medical bill, you give the Financial Elite money that will be used against you.”
The book discusses a maze of economic problems, from declining incomes to disappearing jobs, to vanished pensions to the (very slight) imbalance in Social Security over the next 75 years, and more. They’re all linked together by the power of the Financial Elite. None will be fixed unless the system is changed, the authors add.
Stewart Acuff and Dr. Richard Levins trace the problems all back to the huge disparities of wealth now in the U.S. — eerie parallels to the wealth inequality that existed before the Great Depression. With that wealth, they said, comes power. And that financial power wants to preserve that great economy for them and the lousy status quo for the rest of us.
“We can fix the problem” of “too much money being hoarded” by the rich “only if we fix income distribution first,” the two authors write.
There are ways to make that fix, Acuff, who served from 2001-2008 as the AFL-CIO’s Organizing Director, told Press Associates Union News Service. The best solution is to raise incomes of the rest of us. And ways to do that are in the book.
“A big part of my mission for the last 20 of the 30 years I’ve been an organizer is to convince people that what’s happened to them is not their fault,” he says. “Indeed, the whole idea behind the Employee Free Choice Act” — one big way to right the wealth imbalance — “is to turn private problems” workers have with firms “into a public crisis.”
Other big solutions to righting the wealth imbalance, Stewart Acuff says, are restoring the manufacturing economy to generate well-paying jobs — a theme the labor movement has pushed for years — and to organize, organize, organize. The book devotes multiple chapters to both topics, including factories making “green” goods. But organizing can’t be just in and for unions, Stewart Acuff says, though unions are the main organizing vehicle.
“It’s what we proved was successful, at the AFL-CIO,” he muses. “It takes collective action building organizations and institutions to combat the power of wealth, with the power of individuals organizing together.”
That means “helping unions develop organizing capacity, running larger and larger bargaining campaigns, engaging workers globally just as employers engage globally” and always discussing concentration of wealth and economic power.
Stewart Acuff wants to spread that message beyond the labor movement to religious institutions, civic groups, civil rights groups, community groups and even parts of the Tea Party movement.
“Some of them are racists,” he says of the Tea Partiers. “But others are people who know the country is on the wrong track, but not who to blame or what to blame.” The book provides those answers for the Tea Partiers’ rage, Stewart Acuff says.
That economic message also must resonate politically, and that’s where Stewart Acuff faults the Obama campaign, though the book doesn’t explicitly say so. “The failure to take the political movement that helped elect Barack Obama and turn it into a social movement is a big cause of the gridlock” in D.C. that benefits the rich, he comments.
A good author always leaves readers hungering for more, and Stewart Acuff and Dr. Richard Levins do so. Having said the Employee Free Choice Act would immensely aid organizing, and that organizing — on the labor, community, civic and political levels — is the key to reclaiming the country from the Financial Elite, the next step is a how-to manual.
That would give real-life lessons to organizers, telling of the potholes, pitfalls, resistance and rewards — and how to overcome the former to achieve the latter. That’s been Stewart Acuff ’s career. “That’s the next book,” he says with a smile.
Stewart Acuff is America’s best-known and foremost labor organizer. He is the former organizing Director of the AFL-CIO. Acuff has also written two books: Playing Bigger Than You Are: A Life in Organizing, and Getting America Back to Work, coauthored by Dr. Richard Levins.Tags: acuff, Dick Levins, dr richard levins, Getting America Back To Work, levins, levins publishing, news, prounion, Richard Levins, stewart acuff, stewartacuff, Union, union book, union jobs