“One Nation” Organizers Should Remember Coxey’s Army


Organizers and participants in the October 2 national ‘One Nation Coming Together’ jobs march are hoping for a historic turnout of participants demanding good jobs and other basic domestic needs.

The planned Washington DC rally and march couldn’t be timelier with 15 million people in the US officially unemployed and another 11 million who’ve stopped looking for work. Millions of others are underemployed. The resulting collective losses of homes, heath and hope have been devastating.

The financial implosion of 2008 worsened but didn’t spark the massive jobs losses. Free trade, tax and corporate policies were earlier factors encouraging the movement of companies abroad and the diversion of investments from real goods and services to “financial products.”

It’s a bit unclear what the labor unions like SEIU and AFL-CIO and community groups such as the NAACP who comprise the main organizers of the “One Nation” event are calling for to remedy the jobs crisis.

The Obama administration’s earlier economic stimulus wasn’t large enough and didn’t focus enough on hiring people. It also added to the debt and deficit.

This has led to charges by some that the event may be a front for the Democratic Party, which is scrambling to energize their base just before the mid-term elections.

A national massive public works program is urgently needed. Rather than robbing Peter to pay Paul by shifting funds from housing or transportation to pay for jobs, some of the more recent peace and anti-war co-sponsors of the event who comprise what’s called the “Peace Table” are calling for shifting funds from the bloated and archaic military/war budget. Ending tax breaks to the super rich would produce funds as well.

Connecting jobs to budget and tax policies makes good sense. Yet it ignores a giant arena that most people, including activists, never pay attention to — monetary policies, specifically government issued money to meet societal needs.

The first DC “jobs march” was led by Jacob Coxey in 1894. It was no simple stroll from one national monument to another one on the mall in DC but rather a long-distance trek from Coxey’s hometown, Massillon Ohio, to the nation’s capital in the month of March – not the best time of the year to weather the weather. Five hundred people participated in the march, what Coxey called a “petition in boots.” Inspired by “Coxey’s Army,” others marched to DC from other communities.

What made the march unique was not simply the long-distance or the numbers or the call for federal intervention – but the marcher’s primary demand. Coxey and his Army demanded that the government directly issue $500 million to employ 4 million people.

Not borrow $500 million from bankers — which has to be paid back with interest and enriching bankers in the process.

Not move $500 million from one part of the federal budget to another — robbing Peter to pay Paul.

But, rather, print $500 million in government money.

Coxey’s Army members were “Greenbackers” – advocates for re-establishing the policy of the Lincoln administration that financed the Civil War with $400 million of government issued money.

Coxey’s Army proposed two bills. The “Good Roads Bill” would help farmers through $500 million issued by the federal government in legal tender notes, or Greenbacks, to construct rural roads. The “Noninterest-Bearing Bonds Bill” would empower state and local governments to issue noninterest-bearing bonds to be used to borrow legal tender notes from the federal treasury. This money would be used for urban public projects such as building libraries, schools, utility plants and marketplaces.

Coxey’s Army understood money and monetary policy far better than most of us today. Monetary history and experiences have been obliterated from our textbooks and activist cultures for many decades.

Greenbackers were not confused by the many monetary falsehoods used to justify and perpetuate the corporate domination of money creation and circulation in our society today, namely that:
1. Money must be based on gold or some other “precious” commodity
2. Banks and bankers, not governments, can be trusted to control the money system.

The Greenback experience of Lincoln was still known to Coxey and his pro-jobs cohorts.

“Money exists,” as Aristotle said, “not by nature but by law.” What gives money value and credibility is it’s anointment by society – be it a piece of wood, metal, or paper. We the People should have the ultimate power to issue and circulate money, not banks or bankers. The issuance of money should be democratized.

Unfortunately, that’s not how it works in the US. Money is privatized/corporatized. The private and misnamed Federal Reserve System and banks issue more than 95% of all money in our nation as credit or debt when loans, be they personal or federal, are issued. Money is created literally “out of thin air” by banks and bankers for their own interest – regardless of the needs of society. In fact, banks can loan out $10 for every $1 they actually have “in reserve.”

The starkest example of this was President Obama recently asking, if not pleading, with banks and bankers to provide more loans to help small businesses. Who exactly is in charge of our monetary policies?

The Great Depression was largely caused by the financial ruling class, encouraged by the private Federal Reserve System, making funds available for financial speculation in stocks instead of homes and business expansion. Once the stock market crashed, the same financial ruling class shut off the financial spigot, delaying recovery for years. The financiers have followed the same pattern during the current Great Recession – investing not in real goods and services but highly speculative hedge funds, derivatives and other bizarre financial “instruments.”

With corporate American and the Fed AWOL on the fiscal and monetary fronts, FDR got it right during the Depression to get America working by creating many government programs. He got it wrong, though, by going into debt to do it. He could have issued government money. There would have been no debt and no increased financial (and political) power of banks and bankers. History shows that when government issues funds to pay for vital economic and social needs, there’s little inflation.

Shifting federal budget and tax priorities away from the military and wealthy toward jobs and socio-economic needs of society are, indeed, part of what “One Nation” marchers should advocate both on October 2 and beyond. But their agenda is incomplete if shifting our monetary policies from the corporatization to the democratization of money creation and circulation is not included.

The “American Monetary Act,” proposed by the American Monetary Institute (AMI, http://www.monetary.org), calls for a three-step plan for just this democratization of money. It includes:
1. Moving the Federal Reserve under the jurisdiction of the Department of the Treasury.
2. Eliminating the 10:1 “fractional reserve system” of banks.
3. Issuing government money and spending it on vital social and economic needs.

The American Society of Civil Engineers estimates that $2.2 trillion is needed to address the nation’s physical infrastructure needs. Spending government money on physical and human needs would both improve the nation’s infrastructure and hire people without adding to the debt or deficit or increasing inflation (as opposed to spending money on not needed socio-economic needs like military warfare and economic casino speculation).

“When society loses control over its money system it loses whatever control it might have had over its destiny,” says AMI Director Stephen Zarlenga.

The US Green Party National Committee recently adopted a Monetary Plank in their 2010 Platform that would “green the dollar” as called for by the AMI.

Democratizing money. Greening money. Whatever the name, the most important feature is to shift money creation from corporations (banks) to We the People.

This should be included in the “One Nation Working Together” demands.

It would be consistent with the demand of the first Coxey Army national jobs march.

It would be a vital step to not only increasing jobs but also increasing self-governance.

It’s a mandatory step to controlling our own destiny.

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