In addition to McCain, thirty impressive conference speakers came to TNP to "Seek the truth, endure the consequences." The list included former Senator Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Trnn.), David Rubenstein (Carlyle Group, Council on Foreign Relations), activist writer Eve Ensler, New York Times financial columnist Andrew Ross Sorkin, Soviet journalist Vladimir Pozner, Pat Mitchell (Paley Center for Media), Hardball host Chris Matthews, Stefan Weitz (Bing), AOL CEO Bob Lord, and many others.
One reason I attended TNP was to learn from those who set the rules and control our resources, but also because I want to know if there is a valuable place for voices like mine in setting such a powerful agenda? Do my standards and values reflect or influence those of the wealthy and powerful?
So why are the Republicans still pushing for shut down? McCain acknowledged that Americans are angry at their leaders for not listening to them, and blamed in part the Supreme Court's decision in Citizens United as the "Worst decision in the history of the Supreme Court." McCain called for campaign contribution reform because he knows that the American people's frustration will be followed by major action and changes in the political arena, but he wants it to be productive reform instead of business as usual.
McCain is correct in some respects. Perhaps the reason why the public is so angry with Congress and the banking industry is that in order to have their voices heard, Occupy Wall Street had to set up tents, mass protests on the lawns of CEO's and government offices across the country. Obviously, Congress needs to begin consulting with sponsors and constituents who don't work on Wall Street, and Wall Street's leadership needs to broaden the pool of consultants and leaders who define the "success" of their corporations.
What makes the American family most qualified to participate in this discussion is the fact that we may look the same as the unethical leaders who benefitted from the economic collapse, we may have attended the same elite schools and work in the same professions, but most Americans are different from these leaders in one fundamental way. Most of us do not have employees or children who have gone to jail for stealing from the elderly, and we would not cover for someone who did. We pay our share of taxes and know the difference between plunder and charity. We understand that real "philanthropists" don't make a fortune looting pension funds, retirement accounts, and mortgages, then get brownie points for repackaging their acquired spoils as a nonprofit venture to solve the problem of poverty they helped fester.
Whether or not the government shuts down, Congress will still get a paycheck--even with a 12 percent job approval rating. The Republican Party has produced demands and legislation using means that would make an organized crime ring proud. In defunding America, the Republicans not only refuse to defend the struggling Americans who elected them, but will extort these families into becoming Democrats in 2014. We may not have jobs and money, but we always will have our votes.
TNP recognizes the fact that American families may be powerless to have our voices heard today, but tomorrow our children will staff and take leadership roles in the dishonest public offices and the companies buying our elections. For certain, the next generation will never forget the manner in which we were treated today.
Stevenson is a Boston-based Policy Consultant and Journalist.