About 20 IU community members gathered Tuesday in State Room East in the Indiana Memorial Union to view the hour and a half-long teach-in.
The seminar, which took place Tuesday at the Judson Memorial Church in New York City, was also shown live on the Internet.
Twentieth-century American economy, up to as recently as Tuesday’s budget proposal by U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, was discussed at the teach-in.
It primarily focused on the threat to American life, especially that of the middle class, posed by the actions of banks and corporations.
Intellectual and philosopher Cornel West was the first speaker. After explaining that the actions of American corporations today signify “levels of greed that even Dickens would have trouble to depict,” West called the audience to action with the question he felt summarized the afternoon.
“Do we have what it takes to engage in this fight against corporate greed?” West said.
Heather McGhee of the nonpartisan policy center Demos in Washington, D.C., said the average CEO pay has jumped from 25 times that of a low-level employee to 200 times a low-level employee in her lifetime. All of this has happened while salaries have not risen, and many struggle to earn an income to survive, she said.
McGhee said the current generation will be the first to earn less on average than their parents if economic trends persist.
McGhee said neither the light bulb nor the Internet has been America’s greatest invention; the American middle class, created to reward people that work hard with enough comforts to feel free, is America’s greatest achievement.
She said the tax cuts on the wealthy proposed by former President Bush were a war on the middle class, designed to make sure a small population of rich Americans maintained control of their expanding wealth.
“The country is not broke, but the system is broken,” McGhee said.
Before the event concluded with a speech by professor Frances Fox Piven of City University of New York, three presenters were called to tell stories of their own community activism.
Anthony Klug of the Wadleigh Secondary School for Performing & Visual Arts in Harlem, New York City, described the budget cuts facing his school district
“Education is our greatest means to achieve prosperity,” Klug said.
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