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Seize the Time!

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An essay by Cynthia McKinney
September 19, 2008

We the people must now seize the time! We have always had the capability of
determining our own destiny, but for various reasons, the people failed to elect
the leaders who provided the correct political will. There was always some corporate
or private special interest that stood in the way of the public good. And they
always seemed to have the power of the purse to throw around and influence public
opinion or our elected officials. The very foundation of the U.S. economy is
crumbling underneath our feet. This represents a unique moment in U.S. history
and we must now seize the time for self-determination–for health care, education,
ecological wisdom, justice, and all the policies that will make a difference
in the lives of the people including an end to all wars, including the drug

The crisis was staved off for a time for some of our major finance engines
when they were able to obtain bridge funding from certain sovereign wealth funds.
That option grows increasingly dim as The Federal Reserve is becoming the lender
of last resort. This means that the people are becoming the owners of the primary
instruments of U.S. capital and finance. This now means that the people have
a say in how these instruments are to be used and what their priorities ought
to be. The people should now have more say in how their tax dollars are spent
and what the priorities of government and the public sector must be. We the
people must now set our demands to ensure and promote the public good.

Now, as we ponder the importance of this moment to do good and serve the needs
of the people, some politicians have already figured out their answer for us:
win or steal the next election, prepare for more war, and leave it to others
to try and figure out what to do next. While banks are failing all around us
and the U.S. taxpayer is drenched with news of billion-dollar bailouts for selected
companies, the Congress, which has utterly failed in its twin responsibilities
of setting policy and Executive Branch oversight, plans to adjourn instead of
setting new policies; lessening the impact of the economic freefall on innocent
victims; or stopping war, expansion of war, new war, and occupation.

In a dizzying turn of recent events, we have all witnessed the collapse of
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac mortgage providers, investment banks Lehman Brothers
and Bear Stearns, and insurer American International Group (AIG), and other
companies. So far, at least eleven banks have filed for bankruptcy this year.
The case of the AIG bailout is particularly curious as Merrill Lynch was denied
taxpayer largesse. I wonder if AIG was the selected company for bailout because
of its relationship to the U.S. intelligence community and what others would
discover if AIG’s books were opened in an audit. The last person to get close
to AIG and its shady operations was Eliott Spitzer.

But some more fundamental issues must be explored here, relating to the underlying
assumptions that have guided U.S. political and economic activity, particularly
over the last eight years.

The Bush Administration’s "anything goes, just don’t get caught"
attitude has set the tone for what we are witnessing today. To be sure these
problems didn’t start in January of 2001, but they sure were allowed to accelerate
during the George W. Bush Administration. For example, what tone was set when
the Administration shipped $12 billion to Paul Bremer’s provisional government
in Iraq in cash on wooden pallets for Iraq reconstruction? No wonder $9 billion
of it was "lost." What I’m constantly reminded of is that the money
didn’t just vanish, somebody got it. Now it’s up to us to find out who!

However, the Administration’s blatant disregard for good governance, the rule
of law, standards of moral and ethical conduct, and even etiquette, when coupled
with a laissez-faire, "go-along-to-get-along" attitude from Congress
meant that no holes were barred and no hands were on the deck–a sure prescription
for disaster.

In my reading over the course of the last few years, I had to become somewhat
conversant with the language of the new economy: bundled mortgages, securitization,
SPEs, SIVs, derivatives. But in addition to the old concepts that always seemed
to be with us–predatory lending, redlining, no affordable housing amid "the
housing bubble,"– it soon became clear that basically folks had figured
out a way to make money off of a ticking time bomb. Kind of like prisons for
profit. And even though the Enron scandal was supposed to have cleaned up a
lot of this, unfortunately, even Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac regularly engaged
in some of these practices and that’s why you and I own them today. I believe
it is true that the very foundations of the U.S. economy and conventional political
behavior have been shaken. Now is not the time for business as usual. And although
this is by no ways exhaustive, here are a few things that I think the Democratic-led
Congress could work on now instead of adjourning:

1. enactment of a foreclosure moratorium now before the next phase of ARM
interest rate increases take effect;
2. elimination of all ARM mortgages and their renegotiation into 30- or 40-year
3. establishment of new mortgage lending practices to end predatory and discriminatory
4. establishment of criteria and construction goals for affordable housing;
5. redefinition of credit and regulation of the credit industry so that discriminatory
practices are completely eliminated;
6. full funding for initiatives that eliminate racial and ethnic disparities
in home ownership;
7. recognition of shelter as a right according to the United Nations Declaration
of Human Rights to which the U.S. is a signatory so that no one sleeps on U.S.
8. full funding of a fund designed to cushion the job loss and provide for retraining
of those at the bottom of the income scale as the economy transitions;
9. close all tax loopholes and repeal of the Bush tax cuts for the top 1% of
income earners;
10. fairly tax corporations, denying federal subsidies to those who relocate
jobs overseas repeal NAFTA.

And since the Congress plans to adjourn early and leave these problems to The
Federal Reserve, The Federal Reserve should operate in the interests of the
U.S. taxpayer and not the interests of the private, international bankers that
it currently represents. This, of course means that The Federal Reserve, too,
must undergo a fundamental ownership and mission change.

This crisis does not have to be treated as merely a "market correction,"
or the result of a few rotten apples in an otherwise pristine barrel. This crisis
truly represents the opportunity to introduce fundamental changes in the way
the U.S. economy and its political stewards operate. Responsible political leadership
demands that the pain and suffering being experienced by the innocent today
not be revisited upon them or the next generation tomorrow. But sadly, instead
of affirmative action being taken in this direction, the Bush Administration
ratchets up the drumbeat for war, Republican Party operatives busily remove
duly-registered voters from the voter rolls, and our elected leaders in the
Congress go home to campaign while leaving all of us to fend for ourselves.
For the Administration and the Democrat-led Congress, I declare: MISSION UNACCOMPLISHED.
For the public whose moment this is, I say: Power to the People!

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