With the star-studded accompaniment of Shepard Fairey and The Roots, activist Van Jones kicked off the “American Dream Movement” campaign with an event that was one part TED Talk and one part concert.
Presented with help from MoveOn.org and other organizations, the event was billed as an attempt to bring together the progressive movement under a united front.
Jones’s message centered on the economy and the dangerous rhetoric coming from the American right.
“We are being lied to” Jones said. “We know that we cannot solve the problems our country is facing while continually and continuously being lied.”
Jones, the former Special Advisor for Green Jobs to the Obama White House, drove home the message that misinformation is preventing America from rebuilding the economy, and that confronting these lies is paramount to moving forward.
Jones focused on what he called the four big lies. Lie number one: America is broke.
“We are not broke and we are not alone,” Jones said. “If we’re still the richest country in the world, why are so many American suffering right now?”
Jones, backed by a large-screen presentation, took the audience through America’s economy, the financial collapse, and the aftermath.
He likened telling America that it is broke to telling people in a burning building that all the exits are locked when they’re not.
Jones pulled no punches in addressing the need to hold Wall Street and America’s richest citizens accountable for their share of taxes, but stressed the need to make sure that any plans encourage jog growth.
“Nothing stops a job like a bullet,” Jones said.
Jones moved on to lie number two: Asking the super rich to pay taxes hurts the economy.
“You do well in America, you should do well by America,” Jones said.
He also stressed that he was not anti-business, but targeting multi-national corporations that paid no taxes but constantly asked for more from the American people and the US government.
“Corporate America would be the worst boyfriend ever,” he said.
As part of the presentation, the audience was shown a brief clip of millionaires who support increased taxes, which can be found at www.patrioticmillionaires.org.
The legacy of the post-depression generation, which helped build a strong middle class through good government, good employers, and good citizens, was his next topic: “We let them down,” Jones said.
Next, lie number three: Hating America’s government and wrecking America’s infrastructure is patriotic. Jones directly addressed the work of the Tea Party and the Rand Paul budget.
“Real patriotism is defending our infrastructure from all enemies – foreign and domestic,” he said. “We need right now a movement for a patriotism deeper than that.”
Lastly, lie number four: That we’re helpless.
Jones noted that while the Tea Party was able to rally 150,000 people in Washington DC, there were 150,000 people in the streets of Madison alone, along with marches in New York and other parts of the country.
Although Jones did not address his former boss by name, he did discuss some frustrations that progressives have had with President Obama. “Our slogan was never ‘Yes he can,’” Jones said. “It is ‘Yes we can.’”
Jones wrapped up his talk by proposing a series of measures aimed at the economy, and discussing the details of the Contract for the American Dream.
The first proposition was what Jones called a “gambling tax on Wall Street,” which would take 1/10 of one cent for each stock trade. With a tremendous amount of modern stock trading being done through computers, Jones lauded this as an easy way to tax Wall Street while not actively discouraging business.
“How do you discourage an algorithm?” Jones joked.
He added that he is seeking a rollback of the Bush tax cuts, the recall of US troops in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the elimination of oil subsidies.
But Jones saved his most ambitious plan for last. Starting on July 5th, RebuildtheDream.com will be asking American to suggest their ideas to help restore the American Dream. This will be followed by meetings on June 16th and 17th in every congressional district to discuss the submitted ideas and put forward the best.
From these ideas, Jones hopes to make a “Contract for the American Dream,” which will be the cornerstone of the “American Dream Movement.”
The event was broadcast live across the internet, including on AlterNet and various other sites. You can find more information at www.rebuildthedream.com.