On March 6, 2014, we attended a thought-provoking conference put on by our friends at the California Budget Project.
They are a Sacramento-based nonprofit that conducts independent fiscal and policy analysis and public education with the goal of improving public policies that affect the economic and social well-being of low- and middle-income Californians.
The speakers at their conference were phenomenal and we wanted to share with you our top 5 quotes that we’ve been thinking about ever since we left the conference.
1. Ruy Teixeira, senior fellow at The Century Foundation and Center for American Progress on messages that resonate with most voters, not just progressives.
- We need an economy that works for everyone, not just the richest 1%.
- We need more opportunity for those who work hard.
- People in the middle class are the engine our economy. They contribute by working hard, getting education to improve their skills and creating small businesses.
- We must ensure that everyone in this country has a real opportunity to succeed.
- Government is too concerned by what corporations and the wealthy want, instead of helping the middle class.
2012 showed us what’s possible when we organize, educate and give voice to communities of color; but that’s not enough because demographics is not destiny. We need to organize the rising constituency and that requires movement building and power-building. To be successful, we need campaigns that address critical needs. We need policies that motivate, excite and interest these demographics. In essence, we need public policies that are bold and that actually deliver. If people feel that change won’t happen, they won’t come out to vote.
3. Sylvia Allegretto, research economist and co-chair, Center on Wage and Employment Dynamics on origins of inequality.
Income inequality is not an outcome of the free market. The inequality we have today is a function of ever more concentrated power sustained by politics and implemented by policy.
4. Sasha Abramsky, author of The American Way of Poverty: How the Other Half Still Lives on poverty.
Poverty in California is not inevitable. It’s not a product of a natural disaster like the drought or an earthquake. Nor is poverty in 21st century America a tragedy. Because tragedy is something you cry about but then move on from because you can’t do anything about it. Poverty is a predictable consequence of how we create our policies. It’s a consequence of what we choose to invest our common resources in and not invest in. It’s a consequence of what we do in terms of allowing or not allowing collective bargaining rights to workers. It’s a consequence of how we give or not give pensions and other benefits to people.
5. Mark Leno, California’s 11th Senate District on democracy.
Now we have some significant choices in front of us. As U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis said, “We can either have democracy in this country or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.” Right now, 20 wealthiest individuals in the nation have the same amount of wealth as the bottom 50% of the nation. Workers’ wages are growing at the lowest rate relative to corporate profits in history. 65% of people are living paycheck to paycheck.