Last night, the Lannan Center Spring Symposium and Literary Festival hosted its first event, proposing a “Blueprint for Accountability” to address the destructive effects of “The Wall Street-Washington Connection.” The event featured a panel of progressive leaders, dramatic readings, and short documentaries that tackled the economic crisis and the relationship of corporate and political power.
The panel was supposed to be moderated by MSNBC host Dylan Ratigan, but due to a last-minute cancellation, MSNBC political analyst Karen Finney led the dialogue. Panelists included former New York governor Eliot Spitzer, Rolling Stone political reporter Matt Taibbi, award-winning journalist and author Ron Suskind, environmental advocate Van Jones, liberal policy advocate Heather McGhee, and Occupy Wall Street protester Jesse LaGreca.
Each topic for the panel was introduced by a short documentary, ranging from “Crash,” which highlighted the causes and effects of the economic crash of 2008, to “Conflict of Interest,” which discussed the tension between Wall Street and Washington and proposed ways to move forward. In addition to the films, actors Anna Khaja (of True Blood), Charles Parnell (All My Children), and Steven Pasquale (Rescue Me) performed dramatic readings during the evening. Khaja theatrically read the story of a woman unable to receive loan modifications in order to pay her mortgage. Pasquale’s performance stressed the importance of voter awareness to understand both sides of the current economic divide.
Parnell’s dramatic reading addressed the issue of poverty, in which he exclaimed:
This is America’s opportunity to help bridge the gap between the haves and have nots, the question is whether America will do it. There is nothing new about poverty. What is new is that we now have the techniques and the resources to get rid of poverty. The real question is whether we have the will.
During the panel discussions, LaGreca, the comedian of the group, compared the idea of Wall Street self-regulation to letting zoo animals regulate themselves. Jones stressed economic justice for both sides and the impact of economic decline on the middle class, stating, “The very pillars that we were told were the pillars we were supposed to use to get out of poverty, to build the middle class, those are the two pillars that are being used to crush us—home ownership and a college education.”
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