What do you do when the economy goes south? Try to escape it by watching more movies? Save every penny? Brush up your resume and contacts in case you get a pink slip?
One thing that probably hasn’t occurred to you is striking. We Americans don’t make a habit of it the way they do in some other countries. Instead, we historically keep to ourselves as things crumble around us. Even the early years of the Great Depression saw a docile, rather than aggravated, American population.
For Americans, a strike is an option of last resort. So when we do start talking about striking, it’s safe to say the situation has gotten really bad.
To Kevin Maloney, things are bad indeed. Maloney, a City of New York worker with a blue-collar background, says that both Republicans and Democrats have consistently failed the American population, leading to the current crisis. He wants to hold Washington accountable for its failures. And we can do it, he says, through something called National Strike Day, which takes place on May 10, 2010.
When I heard about National Strike Day, I wanted to learn more about how this independent, grassroots effort would work, what brought it about, and what it could accomplish. Here’s what Kevin had to say.
(Note: This isn’t the same National Strike Day that the Tea Party people came up with last December. When I asked Kevin about that other National Strike Day, he said that “they appear to be preaching an irrationally anti-Democratic Party philosophy that borders on paranoia. They are completely missing the point by painting the Democrats as the villains and the Republicans as the good guys. It is obviously one-sided and biased. Our site tries to criticize everyone who is to blame equally.”)
BP: Could you give me a little more background information about who you are, what group you’re involved with, your background, that kind of thing?
KM: I work with the City of New York. I have a blue collar background. I’m married, and my wife works in one of the Big 4 accounting firms in New York. I organized this event with a few coworkers of mine and members of my family. After watching the whole financial crisis phenomenon, we realized that a lot of people were misled. And the more research we did, the more we came up with the facts that Republicans and Democrats are not who they pretend to be.
BP: You’re independent?
KM:Yes, it’s an independent movement. We’re trying to get disaffected Republicans and Democrats together.
BP: Why do you think the government isn’t listening to people?
KM:To me it goes back part of the way to 1974, when they changed the political contribution law. They made it possible for you to spend your own money, so there’s no limit to the amount of money you could spend on your campaign. To me, this has led to is a ruling class, a financial elite that seems to be monopolizing the government. There are 237 millionaires in Congress right now. I don’t really think they’re in touch with the average American. If I’m a millionaire, of course I’m going to have different problems than 90% of the rest of Americans.
Politics itself has also become isolated from the average American. It’s not really part of mainstream America. Here’s one example. Can you imagine a haberdasher being elected president today? It wouldn’t happen. But Harry Truman was a hatmaker, and he was elected President. Nowadays something like that simply couldn’t happen.
The amount of money that is spent on campaigns is so huge now that it eliminates people from even considering politics. Politics is big business right now.
BP: What would have to happen in terms of protests in order to change our situation?
KM:Here’s the thing. We’re not advocating a massive disruptive strike in the country. The economic situation is so poor right now that we don’t expect anybody to endanger their jobs for any political cause.
What we do advocate is that if at all possible, don’t go to work that day. Take a vacation day. If you’re a college student, boycott classes that day. If you’re a parent, keep your kids home that day.
Instead, stay home and write a letter to your Congressperson, Senator or the President. Do some research on the Internet and see what’s caused all these problems. Try to break this partisan hold that’s overtaken the American people. Many Americans don’t look at the facts, they just hold blind allegiance to their party.
BP: Do you think that if this thing gets enough publicity, it might be co-opted by one of the political parties, kind of like the Tea Parties were?
KM:The Tea Parties…I actually felt bad for some of these people. If you look at the facts, there’s no way some of these people should be joining the Tea Parties.
The Republicans took it over mainly because of their hatred of the Democratic party, whether Obama or anybody else. The Tea Parties were co-opted. To me, the Republicans took advantage of a lot of people who I’m sure had the best intentions by protesting. But I think those people were misled.
Who would co-opt us, I don’t know, because we’re independent, we don’t have any party affiliation. We’re trying to bring together blue collar, white collar, Democrats, Independents, Republicans. There are a lot of disaffected, angry people out there. Hopefully we’re not going to be co-opted, but I don’t see who would want to get involved.
BP: You say on your website that a small group of people is basically running this country with unlimited resources. Who are those people? How did they get into such a position of power? Can you give me an example of how they’re abusing their power?
KM:The country has 300 million people. The number of people who control the majority of finance and government is actually very small. For example, Goldman Sachs should not have such a close relationship with the current administration.
There’s has also almost a monopoly on different aspects of the media. Rupert Murdoch, for instance, or George Soros. These aren’t elected people, but the amount of money these people have buys a lot of influence.
I have a quote from a Republican National Committee spokesperson, Christine Iverson. She said that George Soros has purchased the Democratic Party. He’s donated like $6 billion to liberal causes since 1979.
Another thing. The age of objectivity in journalism is gone. There’s no such thing as objectivity anymore in a lot of what you read and watch on TV. You have different networks overtly parroting party lines. A lot of people don’t realize that what they’re getting are slanted views. So that’s what I mean about abuse of power.
There’s also patronage. There has always been a political patronage. Years ago, it would be like my brother-in-law needs a job, can you put him in the government. But now everything’s so big, it’s not like the brother-in-law needs a job, it’s a billion-dollar pharmaceutical company that needs help. It’s political patronage, but exponentially larger.
BP: What would the ideal outcome of National Strike Day be?
KM:Make Washington aware that Americans are demanding change. What kind of change? I think we need a larger, more influential middle class, which is shrinking now. I think lower taxes and a smaller government.
At this point, we need more regulation on big businesses, even though technically, if you’re for a small government, you would want less regulations. Right now, things with big business are so bad that we need some kind of legislation to keep things in order.
Repeal the Gramm-Leach-Bliley bill, which allowed investment banks, commercial banks, and insurance companies to exist in the same company. Reform bankruptcy laws, because the last bankruptcy laws were basically written for the credit card companies.
Reform credit card laws and lower interest rates on credit cards. I think it’s outrageous that the last time we tried to cap interest rates at 15%, it was voted down by Democrats and Republicans. If you’re really representing your constituency, why would you vote against that?
More separation between banks and government. We’re becoming a country of haves and have-nots. The country will not prosper in that case.
We’re basically just trying to disseminate information. It’s not a workers-vs.-management movement. We’re not advocating a massive strike. We’re trying to point out that both parties have let us down.
Learn more about National Strike Day here.