fresh voices from the front lines of change







Remember a while ago I wrote about my new novel, 2044? 2044 starts where George Orwell’s 1984 left off. The problem isn’t Big Brother and the leviathan government. The problem is Big Brother Inc., and the all-powerful marketplace.

The 2044 story is about water. Giant businesses control the water supply. An entrepreneur who figures out how to take salt out of seawater gets hammered.

Of course, I want you to read my novelized version of corporate domination. But reality is even scarier.

As Arianna Huffington puts it, the lobbyists are “on a roll.” What’s getting rolled? The change we need.

The first roll is over health care reform. The American people want health care reform, and more than three-quarters of them (76 percent) want a public plan option. But the insurance lobby doesn’t, and their lobbyists outnumber elected officials on Capitol Hill by more than three to one. The health care industry spent $267 million on lobbying and campaign contributions last year alone, and they aren’t spending money for nothing.

But oil and gas companies are racing to catch up. They increased spending on lobbying faster than any other industry, according to the Associated Press with data from the Center on Responsive Politics. It’s better for the old fuel industries to keep us hooked on dirty and finite fossil fuels than to explore new sources. And they’re paying to advance their interests. The industry spent $44.5 million lobbying Congress and federal agencies in the first three months of this year, on pace to shatter last year’s record, which itself was up 73 percent from the year before that.

And the bailout on Wall Street continues to consume billions, with virtually no accountability. We give the mega-banks money to make loans, and the banks use our money to buy other banks, reconstructing the house of cards that got us into this mess. The banks are “still the most powerful lobby on Capitol Hill,” lamented Senator Dick Durbin (D-Ill.).” And they frankly own the place.”

Goldman Sachs is set to make record bonus payouts this year. According to the London Guardian, “Staff at Goldman Sachs staff can look forward to the biggest bonus payouts in the firm’s 140-year history after a spectacular first half of the year, sparking concern that the big investment banks which survived the credit crunch will derail financial regulation reforms.”

Record bonus payouts! That’s the reward for (not quite) wrecking the global economy. Or in the words of the stranger watching TV in 2044, “They couldn’t say it if it wasn’t true.”

2044 is a warning. One of many. There’s a lot of work to do.

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