January 19, 2008

War On Greed: Fight For the Dream

I notice in the recent debates and stump speeches from the political candidates that there is much greater focus on the economy as an election issue. Barack Obama and billionaire Warren Buffet have each noted that most CEOs pay less taxes than their secretaries. Today, we have powerful people and institutions that stand in the way of working Americans realizing their dreams. Among them are leveraged buyout firms like KKR, and multibillionaire Wall Street tycoons like Henry Kravis.

Drumbeats came to our village from the folks at Brave New World about a premiere screening of Robert Greenwald's new short documentary on the leveraged buyout industry taking place on January 20 in Atlanta, GA. They shared the following info:

The buyout industry is bigger than ever, and growing. The top 20 buyout firms today control companies that employ nearly 4 million workers. Last year, buyout firms in the U.S. controlled a $400 billion war chest -- and that’s just cash-on-hand, not even counting the amount that private equity funds are able to leverage. That influence is only rising. Nine of the ten biggest private equity deals of all time took place since 2005. According to CFO.com, 2008 could become the one of the biggest years yet in terms of total deal volume.

Likewise, ever since Accuride was bought (and then sold) by KKR, its workers have faced layoffs, wage freezes, reduced hours, diminished benefits, tightened managerial control, and a complete lack of dignity on the job. Meanwhile, Henry Kravis and other buyout moguls enjoy tax breaks that the average American does not. At least according to his own interpretation of the tax code, the law currently allows Kravis to pay the lower capital gains tax rate of 15% on a majority of his $450,000,000 income rather than the regular income tax rate. Percentage-wise, that means that Kravis pays less tax than teachers, firefighters, police officers, and the majority of Americans.

This is precisely the kind of inequality Dr. King stood against, as "The War on Greed: Fight for the Dream" illustrates. Scheduled to premiere during the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend, "Fight for the Dream" makes the case against the buyout industry in a documentary film format that is broadly accessible to a lay audience. The video tells the story of the workers at Accuride’s Rockford, Illinois plant, and contrasts the exploitation they face with Dr. King’s message of equality and dignity. The video ends by asking viewers to sign a petition urging the presidential candidates to pledge to close the tax loophole for leveraged buyout tycoons.

This YouTube video in the "War on Greed" series was first shown on the sidewalk in front of Kravis’ Park Avenue mansion. In honor of Dr. Martin Luther King's birthday, Brave New Films will escalate their campaign against the buyout industry with a premiere screening of "Fight for the Dream" at a Baptist church in Dr. King's hometown on January 20th. Reverend Timothy McDonald, Reverend Lennox Yearwood and Dr. Charles Steele of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference will speak about Dr. King's message and the dangers that the Wall Street buyout industry poses to working families.

Villagers in the greater Atlanta area are encouraged to attend on Sunday, January 20, 2008 @ 2pm.

The First Iconium Baptist Church
542 Moreland Ave. SE, Fellowship Hall
Atlanta, GA 30316
Pastor: Rev. Tim McDonald

In addition, Brave New Films seeks partnerships with influential Black bloggers and opinion-leaders in an attempt to invite presidential hopefuls to the premiere and pressure candidates into pledging to address the tax loop-holes that so many wealthy corporate CEOs like Henry Kravis enjoy.

Well, Villagers, what say u? Is this an issue that resonates with Black workers and voters?

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