Faced with spiralling social, economic and environmental problems, many people are turning to economic democracy for solutions. But what shape should this democracy take? And how can it establish an effective process for the distribution of wealth?
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OVER the next decade millions of business owners born during the baby boom will retire. Many, with no obvious succession strategy, will simply sell their companies, the backbone of Main Street economies across the country, to large corporations. All too often the result will be consolidations, plant closures and lost jobs for the people who helped build and sustain their companies for decades.
The boomers should think again: selling to their employees is often a far better way to go — for both moral and economic reasons.
Take New Belgium Brewing, based in Fort Collins, Colo., which its chief executive and co-founder, Kim Jordan, sold late last year to its 400-plus employees through what’s called an employee stock ownership plan. “There are few times in life where you get to make choices that will have multigenerational impact,” she said. “This is one of those times.”
Time for the European left to return to its roots and rediscover the alternative models that are a nearly-forgotten part of its heritage.
Shocker: Republicans Fight Obama Plan to Privatize the Hugely Popular, Cheap Energy Source of the TVA
Obama's scheme to sell off the Tennessee Valley Authority gets push-back from Tennessee Republicans who know the benefits of a publicly-owned facility.
On April 24th, The Democracy Collaborative’s Executive Director Ted Howard presented testimony before Illinois’ Governor’s Task Force on Social Innovation, Entrepreneurship, and Enterprise. His presentation and companion brief outlined low-cost, high-return steps that could be implemented in Illinois to help build stronger communities.
America's infrastructure is in disrepair, but the Obama administration's proposed solution emphasizes public-private partnerships with all the risks they entail. Instead, a true partner for rebuilding America can be found in the untapped potential of workers' vast pension fund assets. Such an approach could create important institutional alliances of state and local governments, public workers and labor unions, and lay the basis for a very different pattern of political economy capable of reversing spiraling inequality and displacing corporate power.
“I’m a free market guy. But I’m not gonna let this economy crater in order to preserve the free market system” – George W. Bush, December 17, 2008
At the heart of the present debate on how to address the continuing political stalemate and economic decay in America are some fundamental misconceptions about the nature and operation of the current system. Many Americans—and not just avowed conservatives—have been led to believe that it is possible to have a “free market” economy, and that the quest to reach it will generate greater prosperity and better social outcomes. Both beliefs are false.
Study after study tell us that socioeconomic factors contribute more greatly to overall health than lack of access to healthcare. And few statistics are more powerful than the fact the zip code you live in is a better determinant of your life expectancy than your genetic code. When eight-and-a-half miles can result in a difference in life expectancy of more than 20 years, the local hospital’s quality of care is not at fault. Instead, the culprit is the lack of community wealth in the poorest neighborhoods.
This working paper, by The Democracy Collaborative‘s Gar Alperovitz and Steve Dubb, examines how “new strategies of worker ownership within a community framework can function as the linchpin of an approach capable of uniting economic justice organizers, progressives, labor, and environmental activists.”
Study after study demonstrates that poverty is a powerful driver of poor health. Many of America's leading hospitals exist in poor communities. Could these powerful institutions (in economic as well as medical terms) help overcome the deeper sources of failing health among the 46 million Americans living in poverty?
A little-known provision of Obamacare provides an unexpected opening.
Marjorie Kelly's Yes! Magazine article examines "how cooperatives are leading the way to empowered workers and healthy communities."
In Truthout, Democracy Collaborative Co-founder Gar Alperovitz pointed out how President Obama’s visit to Youngstown overlooked the fact that this older industrial city was the inspirational home of the modern US worker-ownership movement that began more than 30 years ago.
Social democracy is at an impasse, bereft of an economic programme, but history is on the march. Democratic wealth-holding can give social democrats a new set of economic institutions and political power bases.
Co-founder Gar Alperovitz argues that progressives at the state, county and municipal levels can further democratize wealth and power using a “checkerboard strategy.”
Ted Howard contributed this essay to Investing in What Works for America’s Communities, a book published by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco and the Low Income Investment Fund that calls on leaders from the public, private, and nonprofit sectors to build on what we know is working to move the needle on poverty.
THE Barclays interest-rate scandal, HSBC’s openness to money laundering by Mexican drug traffickers, the epic blunders at JPMorgan Chase — at this point, four years after Wall Street wrecked the global economy, does anyone really believe we can regulate the big banks? And if we broke them up, would they really stay broken up?
Most liberals in Washington — President Obama included — keep hoping the banks can be more tightly controlled but otherwise left as is. That’s the theory behind the two-year-old Dodd-Frank law, which Republicans and Wall Street are still working to eviscerate.
Worker and Social Equity in Food and Agriculture: Practices at the 100 largest and most influential U.S. companies
Hey, look it over—public ownership is the most effective way to fix America’s economy.
It’s time to put the taboo subject of public ownership back on the progressive agenda. It is the only way to solve some of the most serious problems facing the nation. We contend that it is possible not only to talk about this once forbidden subject but to begin to build a serious politics that can do what needs to be done in key sectors.
Proposals for public ownership will of course be attacked as “socialism,” but conservatives call any progressive program—to say nothing of the modest economic policies of the Obama administration—“socialist.” However, many Americans are increasingly skeptical about the claims made for the corporate-dominated “free” enterprise system by its propagandists. A recent Pew Research Center poll found that a majority of Americans have an unfavorable view of corporations—a significant shift from only twelve years ago, when nearly three-quarters held a favorable view. At the same time, two recent Rasmussen surveys found Americans under 30—the people who will build the next politics—almost equally divided as to whether capitalism or socialism is preferable. Another Pew survey found that 18- to 29-year-olds have a favorable reaction to the term “socialism” by a margin of 49 to 43 percent.
City finances have long been under pressure, but the Great Recession and steady attacks on federal and state spending have compounded local financial difficulties. The National League of Cities' annual research brief, City Fiscal Conditions, documents rapid deterioration. Reported revenue declines of 2.5 percent in 2009 and 3.2 percent in 2010 were unprecedented in severity in the 25-year history of the survey. In 2010, 79 percent of cities reported cutting personnel, 44 percent cut services, 25 percent cut public safety spending, and 17 percent cut current employees' health benefits. Expectations going forward are even more downbeat.
Hard times call for new thinking. We are going through a systemic crisis, not simply a political crisis, and the assumptions of the last three decades about the relationship among politics, social and economic programs, and the economy are now obsolete. Cities everywhere can find surprising answers to fiscal difficulties by looking to scores of little-known innovative strategies under way in diverse communities across the nation.
Democratic wealth-holding can give social democracy a new set of economic institutions and political power bases.
THE Occupy Wall Street protests have come and mostly gone, and whether they continue to have an impact or not, they have brought an astounding fact to the public’s attention: a mere 1 percent of Americans own just under half of the country’s financial assets and other investments. America, it would seem, is less equitable than ever, thanks to our no-holds-barred capitalist system.
But at another level, something different has been quietly brewing in recent decades: more and more Americans are involved in co-ops, worker-owned companies and other alternatives to the traditional capitalist model. We may, in fact, be moving toward a hybrid system, something different from both traditional capitalism and socialism, without anyone even noticing.