Wednesday Mar 21

The Occupy movement and its one-percenter logic did much more than to upset decorum with disruptions in New York and hundreds of other cities. The forceful arguments also challenged the standard way of ignoring vast extensions of inequality and the multiple social and economic damages that result. Those who wish to protect the status quo of privilege with poverty have been forced to turn to more
and more specious argumentation, turning, as Peter Marcuse says, “what should be wine into water.”19

Regarding food inequality, Congressman Paul Ryan, the 2012 vice presidential candidate appointed chairman of the powerful Ways and Means Committee for 2015, and subsequently elected Speaker of the House, asserted when he chaired the Budget Committee that the nation cannot afford its SNAP (food stamp) bills and that federal and state governments should stop encouraging participation in the program (which both the Bush and Obama administrations and many governors encouraged). He also argued, contrary to the data, that SNAP is a work disincentive and that waste, fraud, and abuse are rampant. Ryan proposed turning SNAP from an entitlement into block grants to states, to reduce benefits further.20 These selfish and (à la Brandeis) antidemocratic ideas leave those who are most vulnerable at the mercy of their poverty, their usually poor neighbors, and whatever charity they can find. These ideas are a throwback to less democratic times. They are being challenged in cities.

For centuries the ideas (and the practices) of citizenship and democracy, if they existed at all, were restricted to highly exclusive councils of landowning elites. Starting in the eighteenth century, many cities and nations began to consider broader ideas of citizenship, from time to time responding to pressure to include larger portions of the population in the franchise. The U.S. Constitution, in practice, gave the vote to property-owning adult white males. The franchise later grew, at least on paper, to include such groups as non–property owners, persons freed from slavery, women, and younger adults. In some cities in several other countries today, most adult residents, including noncitizens, can register and vote in local elections. But formal democracy has strict limits in the United States. In the U.S. presidential election of 2012, Barack Obama received only 27 percent of the potential vote. Mitt Romney received 25 percent. Nearly half of voting-age citizens, 48 percent, cast no vote at all.21 A cynic thinks that Congressman Ryan has carefully counted votes and is still gambling.

Fortunately, in the United States as elsewhere, ideas and practices of citizenship and informal democracy have spread beyond the act of voting to include a whole array of human and civil rights. Often these rights are instituted to protect individuals and groups, whether disadvantaged
majorities such as women or nationally oppressed populations, or even smaller classes of people, such as those who are physically disabled. Rights may protect against the imposition of majority preferences or privileges as well.

Along another dimension, beyond voting and civil rights, and beyond human rights, ideas and practices of citizenship and democracy have spread into the realm of the economy. Democracy seen in this broader sense has developed to require that public bodies take on more responsibility to deliver goods and services. Over the long term, wage earners have won recognition as well as various rights versus the private firms for which they work and also versus the state. Today in the United States one can legitimately demand, for example, that laws be invoked to protect workers against retribution during organizing drives for unions, and that the state set and enforce health and safety standards in workplaces, though these matters are hardly settled. The eight-hour day is a legislative reality in all industrially advanced democracies, at least for most jobs in the formal sec- tor, and often the workweek is set at fewer than forty hours, though this limit provides little help for those who must hold two or three jobs. Minimum wages are legislated nearly everywhere, even if their level is open to dispute and in the United States they do not yet guarantee a living wage.

During the years from the New Deal until the mid-1970s, these sorts of more inclusive ideas and practices dominated U.S. politics and powerfully influenced art, literature, and public discussion. People growing up in those generations came to consider it normal to expect and to win expanded rights of citizenship and ever more ample practices of democracy in politics, education, civil society, social life, and the economy. People did recognize the always provisional nature of gains, and they knew that even long-standing achievements were contested and could be rolled back. They knew improvements had been won only through political organizing, labor strife, and social movements, and that there would perhaps always be a long ways to go. But optimism was the proven rule, and people mostly thought that despite hard-to-bypass blockades and painful setbacks, they, their children, and their fellow citizens, including immigrants, would win progress.

That optimistic period lasted about four decades, and for the generations then emerging, those were formative years. As urban populations swelled throughout the twentieth century, even political representation, which at first almost ignored cities, finally moved toward fairness. Although the Senate deprives metropolitan areas (and populous states) of equal representation, after the Warren Court’s “one person, one vote” Reynolds rule in 1964, city (and suburban) voters had their say.

When the positive trajectory ended, sometime in the late 1970s, it took a while for the change to be clear. Was the new arrangement the real normal, a time when the odds stack up heavily against progress, a time when the rich get richer, when one percenters run things without so much trouble from the bottom 60 percent? Is the real normal a time when politics, social practices, and economics operate so as to maintain or exacerbate divisions by race, gender, and social background? Is it a time when presidential elections can be altered by five right-wing Supreme Court justices who them- selves decide how the vote will be counted? Is it a time when the Republic suffers as the empire grows? As Paul Krugman has suggested, it has been a time when the austerians rule.

Market societies generate inequality, so reformers need always to anticipate a series of struggles, against the odds but never futile, for social trans- formation and persistent stepwise gains. Our best hopes, I think, may be for an endless repetition of two steps forward, and one step back. Most of the forward steps will be taken in cities. Taken most likely after external damages are reduced.

Historical Optimism

Historical precedents help us see into the future. On the balance of forces that may help or hinder cities, neighborhoods, and residents to deal with austerity budgeting, schools, food, and drugs, I am optimistic. Although the problems are not new, and in many ways they have become worse over the past thirty years, and especially over the past decade, still there are grounds for optimism. There is much evidence of positive response— from those who resist, who want to improve their status and that of their neighborhoods, and also from those who manage parts of the system but are either sensitive to the plight of others or worry about the corrosive effects of inequality and exclusion on the system overall.

Perhaps a fitting conclusion is to point to the long tradition in American politics of progressive reform, even of the influence of ideas from socialism and social democracy. In a political world in which right-wing ideological manipulators have turned American liberalism into an epithet, it is strange to suggest that ideas from socialism will be useful. But in fact many of the things Americans like best about their country operate in
collective ways—good public schools, the National Parks, public water supplies, public libraries, municipal and state parks and recreation programs, even our streets and sidewalks. We collect taxes, and public authorities provide the services without fees or inexpensively. It works well, and, for the most part, we like it. These services, as well as socialized retirement benefits and socialized medicine for the elderly and the poor, were expanded quite dramatically through the twentieth century under presidential administrations that were (in limited ways) progressive— Teddy Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower, John Kennedy, and Lyndon Johnson.22

In the first decade of the twenty-first century, even during years mostly under conservative Republican leadership, these democratic, redistributive programs have once again expanded, many of them because of entitlements still tied to rising needs as the economy turned sour. Federal transfer payments to individuals and families have grown tremendously, to the point where for the average family, transfers amount to almost one-fifth of income. Between 2000 and 2009, after adjusting for the effect of inflation, the per capita federal transfer payment had risen by 69 percent. The largest chunks are for Social Security, Medicare, and food stamps. These programs, as well as special transfer programs to support children, soften the blow of unemployment, and they help veterans.The programs were created to fight poverty, and to a considerable extent, they do. More and more, however, they have shifted from helping the poorest, to supporting people struggling to stay in the middle class.

A study by the Congressional Budget Office shows that the poorest fifth of households, those in the lowest quintile, received just over one-third (36 percent) of transfer payments in 2007, way down from the more than half (54 percent) they received almost thirty years earlier, in 1979.23 A growing portion of benefits has been delivered to those who consider themselves as “self-sufficient members of the American middle class” and
who oppose public spending, who may even belong to the Tea Party, but whose declining economic status makes them needy and also makes them eligible. One such recipient is the owner of an apparel shop in the small city of Lindstrom, Minnesota, whose annual income is about $39,000, who “wants you to know that he does not need any help from the federal government” and who says “too many Americans lean on taxpayers rather than living within their means.” But for four years, and continuing, this middle-class shop owner himself received several thousand dollars of federal EITC payments, and he signed up his three younger children for free school breakfast and lunch programs, funded also by federal transfers. His mother, who is eighty-eight, twice relied on Medicare to pay for hip surgery.24

It is sometimes hard to believe today that these “collectivized” activities and various other elements of modern “social democracy” occur in the United States. Since the Reagan presidency, there has been almost deafening ideological noise from the austerian Right,25 screaming that government per se is evil and that—as Margaret Thatcher asserted—society does not exist. Perhaps because of the political constraints in this ideological climate, up to the 2014 midterm election President Obama operated as though he believed—in John Nichols’s words, “that everything public is inferior to everything private, that corporations are always good and unions always bad, that progressive taxation is inherently evil,” and that the economy should be set up so the wealthy gain and the rest get only trickle-down.26 After all, writes Nichols, the president who promised change later gave up on single-payer health care, saved the auto industry by funding GM and Chrysler but let them lay off thousands and relocate dozens of plants overseas, and left the Deep Horizon recovery in the Gulf of Mexico in the hands of “the corporation that had lied about the extent of the spill, had made decisions based on its bottom line rather than environmental and human needs, and had failed at even the most basic tasks.”27 There are better options, and they come from American history. Better options have been coming again recently from the nation’s cities. It is high time to reexamine these options and to provide the conditions in which cities can thrive.

We can start by making the improvements suggested here. They can be the first steps in a larger effort to bring about another era when cities and their inhabitants can once more prosper.

William W. Goldsmith is Professor Emeritus of City and Regional Planning at Cornell University. His book is available from Cornell University Press at


Each of us faces a moment of truth when we have a chance to take a risk for something larger than ourselves. Sometimes the knock at our door
asking us to stand up, get involved, speak out, take leadership, do something is so faint we miss it. Other times we hear the knock but aren’t sure how to respond. Is it really for me? Am I the right person? Won’t someone else step forward?

Stand Up! is a guide to answering the knock at your door asking you to join other people to change the world. It’s about finding your life’s purpose in social change.

The knock at Mario Sepulveda’s door was unmistakable. It came as a deafening explosion of falling rocks. On August 5, 2010, Mario was operating a front-end loader, deep in a one hundred-year-old copper mine in Northern Chile. After years of neglect—which had led to scores of workers losing limbs and lives—the mine finally collapsed, trapping Mario and thirty-two other miners two thousand feet underground.

In the minutes that followed the collapse, some men ran to a small reinforced shelter near the bottom of the mine. Without thinking ahead, they broke into an emergency food supply cabinet and began eating the meager supply of food meant to keep two dozen miners fed for just two days. Other miners went searching for their comrades. Once the mine settled, a small group, including Mario, explored narrow passageways looking fruitlessly for a way out. The shift supervisor took off his white hard hat and told the others that he was no longer their boss. Now they were all in charge.

Amid the fear and confusion, Mario began organizing the other miners. He’d seen the massive slab of rock blocking their escape. Later, he told Héctor Tobar, author of Deep Down Dark: The Untold Stories of 33 Men Buried in a Chilean Mine, and the Miracle That Set Them Free, “At that moment I put death in my head and decided I would live with it.” Mario told the men (women weren’t allowed to work in the mine) that they might be underground for weeks. They needed to ration their cookies and condensed milk. Once they accounted for all thirty-three miners, he reminded them that that number was the age at which Jesus was crucified, a sign that they were meant to live. He encouraged them to organize daily prayer meetings, which brought the men closer and helped them overcome the frictions of being buried alive with little hope of rescue.

Mario was not alone in taking leadership. One of the most important actions that he and the shift supervisor took was to give every man a role—from setting up lighting to mimic day and night, to carting water and caring for the sick. The men organized daily meetings where they debated and voted on life-and-death decisions about rationing their food and organizing their living space. Above ground, their mothers, sisters, and wives organized to put pressure on the Chilean government, which dragged its feet before mounting a full-scale rescue. The miners’ survival was a team effort.

Yet Mario’s decision to stand up on the first day likely saved his own and the other men’s lives. By carefully rationing their meager supply of food, they were able to survive for weeks on daily crumbs. As important, by organizing themselves, they preserved their humanity. They sustained the belief that they would ultimately escape their underground tomb. When some men gave up hope, others pushed them to keep fighting to stay alive.

Few of us will experience the extreme deprivation faced by the Chilean miners during their sixty-nine days underground. Yet the challenges they overcame—finding a way to share scarce resources, keeping hope alive despite repeated setbacks, not lashing out at the people around them—are similar to those we grapple with in our own lives. And, like the miners, we all ultimately depend on one another for our survival.

Humans can be shortsighted and cruel. Like the men who ripped open packets of cookies they’d need for weeks, we act without thinking through the consequences. We put the mighty dollar above the value of human life—allowing people to work in a death trap to keep profits flowing. We allow problems to fester, prejudice to divide us from people whose fate we share. Yet at our best we’re social beings wired to work together to solve problems. We feel in our bones the need to look out for one another. As Pope Francis has said, “For all our limitations, gestures of generosity, solidarity and care cannot but well up within us, since we were made for love.”

Martin Luther King, Jr., captured this tension in our humanity in his sermon on Luke 11:5-13. A man knocks at his neighbor’s door at midnight asking for three loaves of bread. The man wants the bread to feed a hungry traveler who’s arrived at his home. The neighbor with the bread says, “Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.” When it’s clear that the man seeking the bread won’t stop knocking, the neighbor relents. King says that midnight is a time of despair. The traveler is seeking not just the sustenance of bread but the hope that dawn will come. Like us, the characters in the parable are interdependent. But they must still choose whether to respond or to retreat. The hungry traveler brings to the surface a battle between selfishness and solidarity, which simmers inside all our hearts and comes to a boil at moments of crisis.

A Guide to Surviving a World on Fire

Today, in one way or another, almost all our lives are being made less secure by three inter-connected crises— growing economic inequality, hardening racism, and accelerating climate change. These are the equivalent of the falling rocks and darkness that put the Chilean miners
to the test. Like the mine collapse, the changes that are pulling our society and planet apart are not simply the result of unfortunate accidents. They flow from decades of disinvestment from people and communities. They are the result of intentional political decisions that have pitted us against each other and concentrated wealth and power in the hands of a small number of people at the expense of our safety and well-being.

Just as the miners had to face the reality that there was no simple way out of the mine (one of the many safety violations found was the lack of ladders for miners to climb up ventilation shafts), we need to recognize that conditions are not going to get better by themselves. No one is coming to save us. There’ll be no hero on a white horse. There is no app, no high-tech solution. All we have to fall back on is one another, our human capacity to organize ourselves to create a better society. As with Mario Sepulveda and the three men in the parable, the first choice that each of us must make at this moment of truth is whether to engage in the world or retreat into our private lives. On this question hinges the quality of our lives and the future of humanity.

In their book Hillbilly Nationalists, Urban Race Rebels, and Black Power: Community Organizing in Radical Times, Amy Sonnie and James Tracy tell a story about Jean Tepperman, who at eighteen years old attended the famous 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Years later—after a lifetime spent organizing—Jean remembered that she hesitated for a moment when a speaker asked people to take a step forward if they were willing to commit their lives to the struggle for racial justice. “Could she really make that promise? She recall[ed] the color and texture of the pavement under her feet as she paused, then stepped forward.”

Stepping into social change—for a moment or a lifetime—is never simple. It’s hard to give up on the idea that we can take care of things by ourselves, without making waves or being vulnerable to other people. Many of us, especially men, have been taught that living a good life means being self-sufficient, that we should aim for control and accept our fate. But if we’re smart, we learn to depend on other people —not just family and friends but strangers. We grow as humans by trusting others and feeling the love that follows. We’re like a driver stuck on the median as cars whiz by. We must put our life in other people’s hands to make our way forward in the world. That’s why Mario had to face his own mortality and dependence on his brother miners before he could lead.

Once we decide to stand up and speak out, we’re entering a world of wolves, of powerful forces that want us to keep quiet or disappear. They will not give up their privilege without a fight. We need to bring all the wisdom we have about how to make change. We cannot rely on good intentions or use Band-Aids to treat the symptoms but not the sickness. We need to bring people who are on the sidelines into public life so we have enough people power to win. We need organizations and movements with leverage to negotiate changes in the laws and policies that shape our lives. We need to be able to govern the communities, states, and countriesin which we live. That political work can be aided by technology. But it succeeds only if it’s rooted in the kind of face-to-face relationships that have sustained every social movement in history.

We have all the power we need to create a just and fair society. People who profit off misery tell us to suck it up. “This is just the way it is. You can’t fight city hall. Your voice is irrelevant.” What those in power are telling us is a lie, no truer than the idea that some people are worth more than others. There is almost nothing we cannot change—if we choose to get involved, if we open our hearts to others, if we see that this isn’t about helping another person, but about our own liberation, if we don’t try to do it alone, if we learn from those who’ve risked their lives to fight oppression, if we have the courage to confront people in power even when we’re uncertain or scared.

Beyond Cynicism

To shift the balance of power in our society, many more people need to let go of the idea that nothing can be done or that they have nothing to  offer. When we hesitate to engage in politics as more than dissatisfied voters, we end up handing our power to those who are already powerful. We live in a society that tells us that we’re on our own, even as a small number of corporate executives exercise outsized control over our lives. Over the past forty years, the people who run the largest companies in the world have succeeded in depressing wages for most workers, increasing profits, and shrinking government as a safety net in hard times. These changes have caused great suffering and shorter life spans. They’ve also cut us adrift from each other. We distrust not only big institutions but also one another and ourselves. We seek community but doubt it exists. We want our voices to be heard but question if anything can change. We hear how money has corrupted politics, but that just reinforces our disgust with the system.

We have to view our engagement with the world— with all its problems—as how we live out our purpose in life. When we organize, we act as our best selves. We experience being an agent of change rather than an object of someone else’s imagination. We overcome division and despair. We solve problems that need not exist. This is about more than just being good people. It’s about our survival. In a society where wealth is ever more concentrated and the planet is at risk, opting out is not an option. If we don’t act now, our lives and those of our children and their children will be immeasurably diminished. It will become increasingly hard to afford higher education, find stable work, and walk the streets without fear of violence.

Ella Baker—the organizing conscience of the civil rights movement—said about her work, “My basic sense of it has always been to get people to understand that in the long run they themselves are the only protection they have against violence and injustice.” That means nurturing people’s capacity to lead their own organizations. As she said, “Strong people do not need strong leaders.”

Five Conversations That Can Change the World—and Our Lives

There are five conversations that can help people build and lead powerful organizations. Our capacity to talk with one another is the most reliable tool we have for changing the world. We all know the difference between a lecture and a conversation. When we talk at people rather than with them, most people will take a pass. Some may show up again or respond to the action we asked them to take, but their commitment is unlikely to grow. Any results will probably be short-lived. We need to engage in dialogue with people if we want to see them develop into leaders or to build organizations that can persist against powerful foes.

Conversations take time and can be difficult. They’re powerful because they create a “pool of shared meaning” that makes it possible for people to think together. The choices we make about strategy and tactics are better when they stem from dialogue. People feel a sense of ownership and responsibility for them. Social change boils down to building durable human relationships that make it possible for large numbers of people to act with power and purpose.

The five conversations are meant to make us better leaders, more aware of our emotions (purpose), clearer about the experiences and values that drive our choices (story), able to build closer relationships across difference (team), more powerful in the world (base) and more courageous and effective in confronting oppression (power). These are habits of the heart. They help us become better people, with greater awareness and consciousness in the world. The conversations and the practices that flow from them are not magic solutions though; they’re things we already know instinctively, but don’t always do under stress. That’s why they need to be practiced and repeated (wash, rinse, repeat) so they become who we are and what other people expect from us.

Gordon Whitman has worked as a community organizer and social change strategist and coach for the past twenty-five years. He first learned organizing in Santiago, Chile, and helped found successful grassroots organizing groups in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Flint, Michigan. As the deputy director of Faith in Action (formerly PICO National Network), the county’s largest faith-based community organizing network, he has coached hundreds of organizers, clergy, and grassroots leaders. Gordon’s book, Stand Up!, is forthcoming and available from Berrett-Koehler Press.


Facebook, alongside Twitter, and Google were called to the Senate to respond to their role in the spread of misinformation during the 2016 election. During her opening statement, California Senator Dianne Feinstein outlined how the Russian government used modern technology to impact the election results via cyber-attacks and the generation and distribution of false information through Twitter and Facebook.

As part of the hearing, all three companies provided documentation on the number of accounts with ties to Russia and their overall reach:

• The Internet Research Agency, a group described by Senator Feinstein professional trolls reportedly financed by a close Putin Ally created 470 Facebook accounts and 2752 Twitter accounts
• Twitter alone had over 37,000 Russian-linked accounts auto-generating content
• Over 3000 Facebook ads were purchased targeting conservative and progressive audiences. In a blog post they also shared that those ads were purchased for around $100,000
• Facebook also acknowledged that over a 2 year period, posts from accounts tied to Russia targeted millions of US citizens.

While this hearing might have been the most politicized setting in which Facebook was asked to explain its role in the distribution of misinformation during the 2016 this is not the first time they have been asked to take responsibility for their role in the 2016 election results.

To their credit, they are now putting in a public effort to understand how their platform was able to be misused so easily and what measures can be put in place to prevent this from taking place again in the future.

On November, in a blog post called ‘Continuing Transparency on Russian Activity’ Facebook announced the launch of a portal to be able to identify if they had liked or followed any pages or Instagram account created by the Internet Research Agency between January 2015 to August 2017 which is expected to launch at the end of 2018.

In addition to the portal, Facebook has also hired new employees to identify and remove fake accounts and posts and creating stronger policies
to prevent fake ads from being re-shared. They are also investing in improving their machine learning to better identify these false ads as they are created.

Facebook has made changes to their newsfeed in an effort to reduce the number of false stories shared through a Facebook. A common tactic of getting someone to click on a link is adding a fake video play button which takes the user to a static image and a false news article. Facebook is now preventing tactics like this to reduce space and false information.

The election and this highly-politicized time has changed the way people use Facebook entirely. Political discussions, debates on hot button issues, and of course news and information are shared, posted, liked, and commented on. Facebook can better facilitate this type of activity by ensuring its content is accurate and is created and developed in an authentic non-politically motivated way.

This is a great responsibility Mark Zuckerberg likely did not anticipate or ask for in its early early development but now that Facebook has grown and become a mainstay in our digital culture, the only thing we can ask is that it does better.

Noorin Ladhani is a freelance writer in Toronto. She blogs about travel and technology at and writes about Canadian start-ups and tech news at Follow her on Twitter at @NoorinLadhani.

The world according to Trump is one of grievances and victimhood. During the presidential campaign he got a lot of mileage by appearing to empathize with the travails of the white working class and promising to be their champion in fighting against the impact of globalization and economic restructuring. At times he even seemed to be adopting traditional left-wing positions by criticizing big banks and big pharma.

Over the course of 2017 that stance steadily changed, and now the transformation is starkly evident. Trump is still obsessed with victimhood, but the focus on the legitimate economic grievances of white workers has been replaced by a preoccupation with the bogus grievances of large corporations. He would have us believe that today’s most oppressed group is Corporate America.

The desire to come to the rescue of big business is, when all the distracting tweets are put aside, at the core of the mission that Trump shares with Congressional Republicans: dismantling regulation and slashing corporate taxes.

It’s difficult to know whether this is what Trump planned all along and cynically manipulated his supporters or if he was turned by the Washington swamp he unconvincingly vowed to drain. In either event, his administration is engaging in one of the most egregious betrayals in American history.

Trump is not only neglecting the economic interests of his core supporters; he is siding with those who prey on them. This is playing out in many ways -- from promoting anti-worker policies at the Labor Department to going easy on the drug companies responsible for the opioid epidemic -- but one of the most revealing situations has taken place at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, an agency that was courageous and unrelenting in its enforcement actions against predatory financial firms.

The CFPB’s sin, from the point of view of the White House and Congressional Republicans, was that it was doing its job too well. One of the dirty little secrets of Washington is that most regulatory agencies are in the pocket of the corporations they are supposed to police. Oversight is usually friendly or at least not onerous.

The CFPB was designed to, and in practice did, break that mold. It was not chummy with the banks, payday lenders, mortgage brokers and credit agencies. As shown in Violation Tracker, since 2012 the CFPB has brought more than 100 enforcement actions and imposed more than $7 billion in penalties.

After he was named to take over the agency following the resignation of founding director Richard Cordray, Mick Mulvaney, who had long advocated its dismantlement, was quoted as saying that President Trump wanted him to get the CFPB “back to the point where it can protect people without trampling on capitalism.” The very thinly veiled message was that CFPB would cease to be an aggressive advocate for consumers, allowing banks and other financial companies to breathe easier.

Mulvaney was giving what amounted to a moral reprieve for all those companies pursued by the CFPB, including: Wells Fargo, which was the target of one of the CFPB’s highest profile enforcement actions: the $100 million penalty imposed on the bank for secretly creating millions of extra accounts not requested by customers, in order to generate illicit fees.

Mortgage loan servicer Ocwen Financial, which the CFPB ordered to provide $2 billion in principal reduction to underwater borrowers, many of whom had been forced into foreclosure by Ocwen’s abusive practices.

Bank of America and FIA Card Services, which the CFPB ordered to provide $747 million in relief to card customers harmed by deceptive marketing of add-on products.

Corinthian Colleges Inc., the operator of dubious for-profit schools that was sued by the CFPB and ended up going out of business amid charges that it lured students into taking out private loans to cover expensive tuition costs by advertising bogus job prospects and career services.

Colfax Capital (also known as Rome Finance), which the CFPB ordered to pay $92 million in debt relief to some 17,000 members of the U.S. armed forces who had been harmed by the company’s predatory lending practices.

Or smaller operators such as Reverse Mortgage Solutions, which the CFPB fined for falsely telling customers, mainly seniors, that there was no risk of losing their home.

The Trump Administration has come to the rescue of financial scammers such as these by moving to defang the CFPB and restore the proper order of things in which it is not capitalists but rather consumers and workers who get trampled.

Philip Mattera heads the Corporate Research Project in Washington, DC, and writes the blog Dirt Diggers Digest.

Last month the Federal NDP elected ACORN’s Remittance Justice champion, the young and stylish Jagmeet Singh, to be Federal leader, and did so on the first ballot. The ease of the victory for Singh came as a surprise to most party members and observers, but not so much to the Singh campaign itself. The campaign signed up 47,000 members during a 13 week campaign, demolishing the numbers of their rivals.

The victory brings some firsts. First non-white leader of any Canadian party. First suburban leader of the NDP. First time an NDP leader focused a leadership campaign on singing up members instead of appealing to existing ones. First time the NDP has been led by anyone who has ever been called cool or hip.

The victory also keeps some level of status quo for the NDP. This was not an anti-establishment leadership bid like Corbyn in the United Kingdom or Sanders in the USA. While led by younger people - Singh himself is 38, his campaign manager Michal Hay around the same age - the party establishment was behind Singh. The same downtown Toronto people (elite?) who supported the late Jack Layton also supported Singh. Singh’s policies are not different in any tangible way.

The most significant change is that the Singh win forces the party establishment to understand it needs to win in suburbia to win overall. Be less urban, and in the end be less white. And, I think they have come around to that idea.

One thing is for certain is that Jagmeet’s focus on membership sign-ups will change how all NDP leadership campaigns are done moving forward.

The NDP historically used a convention system to elect its leader. Every local riding association was given certain number of delegates to attend the convention. So, signing up new members was a less rewarding task for leadership candidates. The winning strategy was to tour the country visiting the local riding associations and winning their support. This is what the other candidates did in this campaign, and they got embarrassed because of it.

To her credit, Niki Ashton attempted to run as the left candidate with hopes of catching lightning in a bottle much like Sanders had in the states. Problem is she still had to sign up members. While Singh was signing up an NDP member on every fourth door in Brampton, running a strong and well-organized field program, Ashton was not. Apparently, the strategy behind the Ashton campaign revolved around online sign-ups, hoping for a surge in populist support. In the end it was too much hoping, and not enough organizing.

Jagmeet signed up most of his members in Peel region, adjoining Toronto, and to a lesser extent in Surrey, a suburb of Vancouver. Canadians of Sikh heritage are dominant in these areas, and part of Jagmeet’s success is due to their wanting a familiar face in power.

Ashton, even if she did run a real field program, was at a geographical disadvantage. Jagmeet could map where to go for memberships and blitz the neighbourhoods with canvassers, follow up with phone calls, texts, emails, and so on. Where was Ashton going to do that? She represents Churchill, Manitoba and the vast tundra on the Hudson Bay shores.

To put the NDP leadership campaign in perspective a friend of mine pointed out that if Jagmeet Singh had run in the Conservative leadership race he would have finished middle of the pack. The conservatives signed up 150,000 new members during their leadership campaign, dwarfing the NDP numbers.

The NDP was well served by Signh’s campaign schooling everyone on how to sign-up a lot of members, but the Conservatives already know how, and can do it better. Sad!

John Anderson is the Head Organizer of Toronto ACORN. Since 2004 John has helped to develop the ACORN Canada operations in Toronto, Ontario, and British Columbia. He is a graduate of the University of Winnipeg.

Subscriber Login

Latest Issue


Joomla! Debug Console


Profile Information

Memory Usage

Database Queries