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If It Is Broke/Let Us Fix It

The past several months has seen multiple blows struck against an already struggling American people: the elimination of most pandemic support from the government, including the child tax-credit; ongoing inflation eliminating the wage gainsby the majority of labor; and a housing market slipping ever further out of reach. Simultaneously to this economic squeeze, curtailing of our fundamental civil rights have been successfully enacted by the courts and state legislative bodies. The deeply conservative court system has allowed the equally reactionary politicians in dozens of states to pass laws infringing upon the rights to vote, to an abortion, and even to be openly gay or trans. These deeply bigoted, hateful, and anti-democratic actions are the results of decades long campaigns by powerful, socially reactionary forces. Unfortunately, they are not the only groups working to steal our rights. Over the past few decades, corporations have managed to strip us of not just economic power and financial stability, but the very notion of ownership itself. Many of our possessions are no longer even owned by us, instead we pay companies to rent access to everything from entertainment, to cars and houses. Amazingly, this lack of ownership can even apply in cases where one has actually bought the item. Where once there was an understanding of the right to repair, and even tinker, with the goods one had purchased, now corporations fight tooth and nail to prevent access to the tools, parts, and schematics of their goods. The inability to repair your phone might seem a frustrating, if low-stakes, inconvenience, but when a farmer can’t repair his tractor if it breaks down during harvest season without a licensed company technician, entire livelihoods can be at stake. Even with consumer electronics, independent repair shops, and consumers with lighter wallets can struggle. While this situation is a legal, dystopian, nightmare, the American people, thankfully, remain unconvinced and want change: To what extent do you support or oppose legislation that requires technology/equipment manufacturers to make parts, tools and documentation publicly available so consumers can repair products from these manufacturers by themselves? This would apply to products including electronics, medical equipment, motor vehicles and agricultural equipment.

There are some glimmers of hope that these concerns could actually be addressed even though bipartisan support from the people is rarely enough to create movement in Congress. The recent policy statement from The Federal Trade Commission signaled support for the right to repair and their willingness to pursue antitrust action, citing higher costs, more electronic waste and longer wait times for repairs. This regulatory body can only be expected to pursue action as vigorously as Biden allows, leaving prospects of real actions somewhat dubious.

Despite promising rhetoric from Biden, and a compelling economic interest for Americans, the overwhelming greed of the capitalist, donor-class will likely stymie meaningful action. As always to get the political class to move beyond rhetoric, it takes concerted economic power. Currently that power is wielded by the donor-class, and so everything from the right to repair, to the right to an abortion is decided by these oligarchs. If we are to create a society of equals, not of servant and master, it will take a united, sustained movement with economic clout to stand-up to the ruling elite. So, join us each Tuesday in building our collective, economic cudgel!

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