Alternately known as the American Dream Movement (ADM), Rebuild The Dream (RTD) was formally launched by Van Jones at a June 23, 2011 New York City rally that was co-sponsored by MoveOn.org. For details about the sequence of events that led to RTD’s founding, click here.
Created to serve as a “progressive” counterweight to the Tea Party movement, RTD vowed to “stand up to say ‘No’ to right-wing attacks on the middle class”—attacks that allegedly had placed “the American Dream … under siege.” “Instead of investing in our shared future,” RTD charged, conservative politicians were “giving tax breaks to the rich,” “slashing vital services families depend on,” and “trying to gut workers’ rights.”
As evidence of the foregoing trends, RTD cited the example of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s February 2011 “power grab”—a reference to Walker’s request that state workers in Wisconsin, who earned significantly more (in salaries and benefits) than their private-sector counterparts, should begin to contribute a small percentage toward their own pension and healthcare costs in order to help keep the state’s financially ravaged economy solvent. To Jones and RTD, the governor’s suggestion was both extreme and unreasonable.
Claiming that “the American Dream is under threat” because of “the rampant greed and deliberate manipulation of our democracy and our economy by a tiny minority in the 1%”—most notably “the big banks”—the fledgling RTD lamented that “the present economy has left 99% of Americans behind.” To address this problem, RTD aimed to serve as “a platform for bottom-up, people-powered innovations to help fix the U.S. economy” by “creating pathways to prosperity for those who are locked out of it.”
RTD uses the term “The American Dream” to signify a desire for entitlement programs, state-enforced social engineering, public spending projects, and socialism—as evidenced by its Contract for the American Dream, which enumerates the following “10 most critical steps to get our economy back on track”:
I. Invest in America’s Infrastructure: “Rebuild our crumbling bridges, dams, levees, ports, water and sewer lines, railways, roads, and public transit…. [I]nvest in high-speed Internet and a modern, energy-saving electric grid.”
II. Create 21st Century Energy Jobs: “We should invest in … wind turbines, solar panels, geothermal systems, hybrid and electric cars, and next-generation batteries…. We can create good, green jobs in America, address the climate crisis, and build the clean energy economy.”
III. Invest in Public Education: “A high-quality education system, from universal preschool to vocational training and affordable higher education, is critical for our future and can create badly needed jobs now.”
IV. Offer Medicare for All: “We should expand Medicare so it’s available to all Americans…. The Affordable Care Act is a good start … but it’s not enough.”
V. Make Work Pay: “Americans have a right to fair minimum and living wages, to organize and collectively bargain, to enjoy equal opportunity, and to earn equal pay for equal work. Corporate assaults on these rights … must be outlawed.”
VI. Secure Social Security: “Keep Social Security sound.… Pay for it by removing the cap on the Social Security tax, so that upper-income people pay into Social Security on all they make…”
VII. Return to Fairer Tax Rates: “End, once and for all, the Bush-era tax giveaways for the rich … Also, we must outlaw corporate tax havens and tax breaks for shipping jobs overseas. Lastly … we should add new [higher] tax brackets for those making more than $1 million each year.”
VIII. End the Wars and Invest at Home: “We’re sending $3 billion each week overseas that we should be investing to rebuild America.”
IX. Tax Wall Street Speculation: “A tiny fee of a twentieth of 1% on each Wall Street trade could raise tens of billions of dollars annually with little impact on actual investment.”
X. Strengthen Democracy: “We must … slam shut the lobbyists’ revolving door in D.C., and publicly finance elections. Immigrants who want to join in our democracy deserve a clear path to citizenship. We must stop giving corporations the rights of people when it comes to our elections.”
RTD promotes the foregoing ideals by mobilizing its 600,000-plus members via teach-ins, online petitions, email campaigns, rallies, viral digital projects, and traditional media. As of April 2012, RTD had 84 partner organizations with which it had collaborated to build a grassroots network in all 435 U.S. Congressional Districts. One of those partners, the Institute for Policy Studies, describes RTD as “a new movement-in-the-making to challenge power, to reach out to new allies, to build bridges instead of walls.” To view a list of RTD’s partners, click here.
Rejecting the notion that America’s 2008 financial meltdown was created by ill-advised government policies, unrestrained deficit spending, and ballooning entitlement programs, RTD maintains not only that America is “not broke,” but that it remains, to this day, “the wealthiest nation ever.” The major problem facing the U.S., says RTD, is that “too many at the top are grabbing the gains,” particularly “the super-rich” who do not pay their fair share in taxes. Such wealthy individuals were excoriated during RTD’s National Teach-In Day (November 9, 2011), when more than 375 local RTD leaders spoke publicly on the theme of: “How the 1% Crashed the Economy—And What the 99% Can Do About It.” In an effort to channel its members’ anger over the transgressions of bankers, RTD in 2011 waged a “Move Your Money” campaign which drew pledges to close more than 80,000 accounts at multinational banks.
Another noteworthy RTD initiative was its October 2011 “Take Back the American Dream” conference, which was held in partnership with the Campaign for America’s Future and was attended by some 2,000 activists representing 200 organizations.
In 2012, RTD planned a campaign “to free college graduates from the crushing burden of student loans, which can be almost impossible to repay under present economic conditions.” This was reminiscent of Occupy Wall Street activist Stephen Lerner‘s call for college graduates to initiate a “debt strike” so as to “destabilize the folks that are in power and start to rebuild a movement.”
In early April 2012, RTD held more than 900 protest-training sessions across the United States, to teach American activists how to combat “corporate power, Wall Street greed, and the political corruption of the 1 percent.” The goal of this initiative was to set the stage for a “99 Percent Spring” movement in the U.S.—to be modeled on the Arab Spring of 2011, which, according to RTD, “stood up to totalitarian governments and inspired the Occupy movement here in America.”
Tax-deductible contributions to RTD can be made through its sister charity, the Rebuild The Dream Innovation Fund, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that uses the Oakland, California-based Movement Strategy Center as its fiscal sponsor. The Center, in turn, has been funded by such entities as the Ben & Jerry’s Foundation, the Ford Foundation, George Soros’s Open Society Institute and his Foundation to Promote Open Society, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the Surdna Foundation, and the Tides Foundation.