Episode 101 – Beat Back Better: Organizing in 2021 with Emma Caterine

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Happy New Year!  Welcome to our first episode of 2021. 

Among ourselves, we on the Macro N Cheese team often debate (argue) whether it’s possible to achieve our economic and political goals under the present system. We’re as susceptible to discouragement and despair as anyone else. This is why we love a guest like Emma Caterine whose optimism is rooted in experience and realism. 

Emma’s message for 2021 is “organize!” To begin with, we must address the isolation that people are feeling while in the midst of the most heightened state of class war since the Great Depression. Everyone has lost a source of income – or they know somebody who has. Debt continues to accrue with no end in sight, and while people understand that this is widespread, they all experience it on a visceral, personal level. It’s our job to communicate with them. It’s our job to educate. 

It’s clear we can’t expect much in the way of solutions or relief from the Biden administration. The president-elect has had a lifelong political commitment to the finance industry. He’s a true believer in financial capital. When the government denies relief, that industry does very well; we have nowhere else to turn. Emma describes the provisions in the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act, which Biden co-authored. Class warfare is virtually written into the law. 

The whole point of going over this is to say that the Biden administration is not only ideologically committed to the finance industry, but Biden is so committed to the finance industry that he will actually do things that hurt the economy overall, not just working people, but the economy overall, just to make short term profits for his friends in the industry. 

On a positive note, there are groups doing great work. The Debt Collective initiated student loan strikes, which are a historic, successful attempt to inject class politics into the world of finance and debt. Make the Road NJ and NY, are mobilizing around workers and immigrant rights. During the pandemic, there have been many efforts to cancel rent, without much success. It comes down to the usual suspects: budgetary restrictions and means-testing for what little relief is available. The states are proclaiming their helplessness, but Emma pierces that veil. 

Steve brings up the “moral hazard” argument, which is an all-purpose excuse for federal lawmakers to clutch their pearls and tighten the purse strings. Emma says it’s a term that neoclassical economists love to use. 

The model is all nice and beautiful in its abstract vacuum world that is nothing like the real world that we actually live in. And that’s a really important point, because these austerity politics, they’re not pragmatic. They’re not some kind of cost-cutting realism. It’s an ideological belief that when times get tough, the worst off people should be the ones to shoulder the burden. It’s not a mistake. It’s not a hard reality. It is class warfare. It’s an element of class war. 

As is appropriate for the first episode of 2021, the final part of the interview looks at our goals for the coming year. We need to build on the enthusiasm for the Sanders campaign and the awareness and participation in Black Lives Matter. Emma urges us to focus on recruitment. Let’s not just rely on reaction to events, whether positive (AOC’s election) or negative (police shootings). She shares her experiences as an organizer in the labor movement and Democratic Socialists of America. We have a long way to go, but maybe it’s not impossible. 

Emma Caterine is a lawyer and writer with more than a decade of experience working within economic justice, feminist, LGBTQ, and racial justice movements. Her legal practice and writing are focused on consumer debt and financial regulation. She is a partner at the Law Office of Ahmad Keshavarz. 

emmacaterine.com 

Find her work on Medium emmacaterine.medium.com

Happy New Year!  Welcome to our first episode of 2021. 

Among ourselves, we on the Macro N Cheese team often debate (argue) whether it’s possible to achieve our economic and political goals under the present system. We’re as susceptible to discouragement and despair as anyone else. This is why we love a guest like Emma Caterine whose optimism is rooted in experience and realism. 

Emma’s message for 2021 is “organize!” To begin with, we must address the isolation that people are feeling while in the midst of the most heightened state of class war since the Great Depression. Everyone has lost a source of income – or they know somebody who has. Debt continues to accrue with no end in sight, and while people understand that this is widespread, they all experience it on a visceral, personal level. It’s our job to communicate with them. It’s our job to educate. 

It’s clear we can’t expect much in the way of solutions or relief from the Biden administration. The president-elect has had a lifelong political commitment to the finance industry. He’s a true believer in financial capital. When the government denies relief, that industry does very well; we have nowhere else to turn. Emma describes the provisions in the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act, which Biden co-authored. Class warfare is virtually written into the law. 

The whole point of going over this is to say that the Biden administration is not only ideologically committed to the finance industry, but Biden is so committed to the finance industry that he will actually do things that hurt the economy overall, not just working people, but the economy overall, just to make short term profits for his friends in the industry. 

On a positive note, there are groups doing great work. The Debt Collective initiated student loan strikes, which are a historic, successful attempt to inject class politics into the world of finance and debt. Make the Road NJ and NY, are mobilizing around workers and immigrant rights. During the pandemic, there have been many efforts to cancel rent, without much success. It comes down to the usual suspects: budgetary restrictions and means-testing for what little relief is available. The states are proclaiming their helplessness, but Emma pierces that veil. 

Steve brings up the “moral hazard” argument, which is an all-purpose excuse for federal lawmakers to clutch their pearls and tighten the purse strings. Emma says it’s a term that neoclassical economists love to use. 

The model is all nice and beautiful in its abstract vacuum world that is nothing like the real world that we actually live in. And that’s a really important point, because these austerity politics, they’re not pragmatic. They’re not some kind of cost-cutting realism. It’s an ideological belief that when times get tough, the worst off people should be the ones to shoulder the burden. It’s not a mistake. It’s not a hard reality. It is class warfare. It’s an element of class war. 

As is appropriate for the first episode of 2021, the final part of the interview looks at our goals for the coming year. We need to build on the enthusiasm for the Sanders campaign and the awareness and participation in Black Lives Matter. Emma urges us to focus on recruitment. Let’s not just rely on reaction to events, whether positive (AOC’s election) or negative (police shootings). She shares her experiences as an organizer in the labor movement and Democratic Socialists of America. We have a long way to go, but maybe it’s not impossible. 

Emma Caterine is a lawyer and writer with more than a decade of experience working within economic justice, feminist, LGBTQ, and racial justice movements. Her legal practice and writing are focused on consumer debt and financial regulation. She is a partner at the Law Office of Ahmad Keshavarz. 

emmacaterine.com 

Find her work on Medium emmacaterine.medium.com

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