Think Local

HoffmanBy Chris Hoffman

(Sherburne, NY – March 2014) Feeling impotent?  Marginalized?  Ignored?  Hopeless?  Like there’s nothing you can do to change what’s wrong with the world or get our representatives in Albany or Washington to hear what’s important to us?  Well, here’s an amazing, inexpensive, easy thing you can do to mitigate that feeling.  But first, a little background.

I watched a film last week called “Inequality for All,” directed by Jacob Kornbluth and narrated by Robert Reich, Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at UC Berkeley and Senior Fellow at the Blum Center for Developing Economies.  Reich served in the administrations of Presidents Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter and was Secretary of Labor under President Bill Clinton from 1993 to 1997.  He was formerly a professor at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government and professor of social and economic policy at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management of Brandeis University.  Time Magazine named him one of the ten most effective cabinet secretaries of the twentieth century.  The film is available on Netflix in DVD or streaming format.

According to, in 1983 the poorest 47 percent of America had $15,000 per family, or 2.5 percent of the nation’s wealth.  In 2009 the poorest 47 percent of America owned ZERO PERCENT of the nation’s wealth (their debt exceeded their assets).  At the other extreme, the 400 wealthiest Americans own as much wealth as 80 million families – 62 percent of America.  The reason is the stock market, which is now 93 percent owned by the richest quintile of Americans.

Most of this wealth is created by the financial sector, which makes nothing of value to society as a whole and creates no jobs.  Profits go to the salaries of top executives, and those salaries are not only taxed less than what you and I earn, but much of the money doesn’t even stay in this country.  Much of the money is also used to influence politicians and elections, through lobbying, so that laws get passed that favor corporate interests rather than the interests of ordinary people.

According to Reich, “the three most important economic lessons learned in the 30 years following World War II are:  (1) America’s real job creators are consumers, whose rising wages generate jobs and growth.  If average people don’t have decent wages there can be no real recovery and no sustained growth.  (2) The rich do better with a smaller share of a rapidly-growing economy than they do with a large share of an economy that’s barely growing at all.  (3) Higher taxes on the wealthy to finance public investments – better roads, bridges, public transportation, basic research, world-class K-12 education, and affordable higher education – improve the future productivity of America.  All of us gain from these investments, including the wealthy.  We learned that broadly-shared prosperity isn’t just compatible with a healthy economy that benefits everyone — it’s essential to it.  But then we forgot these lessons. For the last three decades the American economy has continued to grow but most peoples’ earnings have gone nowhere.  Since the start of the recovery in 2009, 95 percent of the gains have gone to the top 1 percent.”

After watching the film and exploring the website, I learned about the campaign I mentioned above:  The Stamp Stampede (  tens of thousands of Americans stamping messages on U.S. currency to get money out of politics and draw attention to the growing movement to pass the 28th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Since the Supreme Court decision in Citizens United, which ruled that corporations are people and money is free speech, money from billionaires and corporations has poured into elections:  $6 billion in the 2012 election (according to the Center for Responsive Politics).  The 28th Amendment would declare that corporations are not people and money is not free speech.  Sixteen states, 500 municipalities, 150 Congressmen, and 80 percent of American citizens support the 28th Amendment.

The Stampede provides a way to get the message out every day.  You can choose your message:  Not to Be Used for Bribing Politicians; Stamp Money Out of Politics; Corporations are Not People; or Not to Be Used for Buying Elections.  You can buy your stamp at the Stampede website, just click on the “Store” tab.  It’s legal.  It’s easy.  It’s fun.   The average dollar bill is seen by 875 people.  If 1,000 people stamped one dollar per day for a year, the message would be seen by over 3 million people.

I plan to stamp every single piece of currency that passes through my hands.

Chris Hoffman lives in the village of Sherburne in her 150+ year-old house where she caters to the demands of her four cats, attempts to grow heirloom tomatoes and herbs and reads voraciously. She passionately pursues various avenues with like-minded friends to preserve and protect a sustainable rural lifestyle for everyone in Central New York. 


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