The largely peaceful revolution in Cairo and Americans' celebration of it raises the question:
What would it take to mount a peaceful revolution in America against the Wall Street and corporate powerhouses that have turned the government against the best interests of our people?
In America, the corporation is king and the abuses of corporate power are the subject of our people's greatest grievances.
The 2008 election was supposed to settle the score with Wall Street and the corporate elite that have ransomed, ransacked and run over the average American. The change never came, and it's even less likely in 2012.
At Consumer Watchdog we build populist revolutions one spark at a time where the public has spoken but the rich and powerful won't listen. While our work cannot compare to the heroism of the Egyptian people, we are inspired by their example.
The revolution in Cairo showed the power of online platforms like Twitter and Facebook to authentically air outrage and connect change makers. In Washington, DC, Consumer Watchdog is fighting to protect individuals' freedom online, which is being threatened in the name of greater profit, by some of the very corporate innovators that created these platforms.
On Friday, the "Do Not Track Me Online" revolution began with the introduction of legislation by Congressional Rep. Jackie Speier (HR 654) to force corporations to respect our right to keep personal information and online habits private. You can weigh in with your Congressional Representative to pass the legislation here.
Our freedom to be revolutionaries in America depends on how well we can maintain the online commons as free, open, and in the service of the individual, and our privacy needs, rather than the corporation and its commercial needs. This is an American battlefield that begins with online privacy, the right not to tracked online, extends to net neutrality and evolves to the greater notion that online technology should be in the service of individuals not corporate robots (in spirit of the teaching of Jaron Lanier's You Are Not A Gadget.
If there is a nonpartisan street revolt brewing in America today it is against the staggering health insurance premium increases that insurance companies are foisting on Americans. I was in the streets against Blue Shield's 59% rate hike two weeks ago with angry patients and the California Nurses Association. Blue Shield actually agreed to delay the hike when we showed up.
Consistent premium hikes and the pending mandatory health insurance law to take effect in 2014 are bound to continue a growing rebellion.
Health insurance companies like Blue Shield and Anthem Blue Cross thumb their noses at our democracy daily. They hijacked health reform to give themselves a guaranteed market, even as they fight daily to erode the consumer protections in the new federal law. Consumer Watchdog is working with regulators to force the health insurance companies to live by the new rules and with California legislators for "Do Not Gouge Me" legislation -- giving government the right to stop unnecessary premium hikes. (You can weigh in for AB 52, if you have not already, here. )
Ultimately, the 24 states with ballot initiative processes will be a vehicle to get the people what Congress will not deliver - a public insurance alternative to the private market. Consumer Watchdog is already drafting such a ballot measure for California.
What happens after a revolt is as important as the uprising itself. Insurance companies like Mercury Insurance, Allstate and Farmers have been fighting for two decades against the ballot box revolution of insurance reform Proposition 103. Consumer Watchdog's lawyers fight back daily to protect and further that voter revolt, which has saved motorists $62 billion on their auto insurance, and to show that even the biggest and most powerful companies have to respect the people's will.
Revolutions in America today take place in the corporate suites, not the streets. CEOs are generally the ones deposed, not presidents, which is the first clue to who really holds the power in our nation... But if a governmental revolution were to come, how would it unfold?
Bob Herbert in his New York Times column Saturday artfully makes the case of the price we have paid for the sins of Wall Street and self-serving interest of those at the very top of the economy. America will never be the same, nor will our schools, parks, colleges, social programs and deficit, without a major re-rewrite of how our government works to divorce it from the state of corporate capture that is its numbing existence.
Elections are not tools of revolutions in America anymore. What will it take to get Americans in the streets?
Higher prices for everything coming with growing inflation, higher unemployment, no jobs for our youth, the closing down of public services and public assistance?
The powerful in America have too much to lose and usually buckle when they smell the whiff of a revolution. That's why it's worth putting that smell in the air and in the streets again when the moment calls for it.
Dramatic changes in ideas and practices are the results of long, hard marches toward freedom and accountability. We need to start marching together in America again.