Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage from

Art that calls the fiscal cliff's bluff

By Van Jones, CNN Contributor
March 8, 2013 -- Updated 0230 GMT (1030 HKT)
 A partial view of "Don't Punish Our Future. Make the Rich Pay" by Ernesto Yerena A partial view of "Don't Punish Our Future. Make the Rich Pay" by Ernesto Yerena
HIDE CAPTION
Works from ARTSTRIKE
Works from ARTSTRIKE
Works from ARTSTRIKE
Works from ARTSTRIKE
Works from ARTSTRIKE
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Van Jones: After Newtown, it is hard to stomach an artificial crisis like the fiscal cliff
  • Jones: Artists' works expose fiscal cliff as a bluff to cut essential programs
  • Jones: We need a return to higher taxes, lower defense spending of Clinton years
  • Listen to artists, he says. They are in the forefront of many social movements

Editor's note: Van Jones, a CNN contributor, is president and founder of Rebuild the Dream, an online platform for political innovation focused on policy, economics and media. He was President Obama's green jobs adviser in 2009. He is also founder of Green for All, a national organization working to build a green economy strong enough to lift people out of poverty.

(CNN) -- Even as America reels from the horrific massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, the clock continues to count down toward the so-called "fiscal cliff."

In the face of a legitimate crisis, it is harder to stomach manufactured ones. And that's exactly what the so-called fiscal cliff is.

In fact, every time I hear the term, I want to slam my head on the table. Luckily, I'm not alone. Today, December 19, a collection of artists are coming together to expose the "fiscal cliff" as a "fiscal bluff," and remind progressives of the power of culture in helping to win the long-term war of ideas.

Van Jones
Van Jones

My organization, Rebuild the Dream, is joining artist groups CultureStrike and 5D Stories on a special project: "ARTSTRIKE: America's Not Broke, America is Being Robbed." On Wednesday, with the help of Rebuild the Dream's members and partners, millions of people will see works of art that convey what is at stake in the big budget fight.

Some of the artwork takes the form of arresting and powerful visuals with a fierce message. Other works explain what is happening in Washington, or graphically depict the choice our nation faces. There are songs and videos touching on issues from student debt to long-ignored poverty.

Not every piece frames the debate exactly as I would, and I may not share every artist's exact view. But that's not the point of a project like this. I believe this project conveys a message that policymakers need to hear. And it couldn't come at a more urgent moment than now, as reports indicate President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner could be nearing a deal that slashes Social Security, cuts benefits for veterans and raises taxes on the poor and middle class to pay for the Bush wars, tax cuts and bailouts.

Obama, Boehner close to fiscal deal?
Canada and the fiscal cliff
GOP offers fiscal cliff 'Plan B'

Our country is in the midst of a massive jobs crisis, the next generation is saddled in debt, the climate crisis is rapidly approaching a point of no return and now unspeakable gun violence shatters the heart of our nation. Instead of tackling these problems, some of our nation's leaders are apparently contemplating putting Social Security, and maybe Medicare, on the chopping block in a panic move -- all to avoid an artificially contrived deadline.

We can make a huge dent in the rest of the deficit just by returning to the higher taxes and lower defense spending of the Clinton boom years, asking those who do well in America to do well by America. Washington should also deal with spending by cutting wasteful subsidies to oil companies, defense contractors and agribusinesses that do little but line CEOs' pockets with our tax dollars.

The main part of the cliff that worries me is taxes going up on poor and middle-class Americans. The House of Representatives could fix that with one vote to extend the current low rates.

We need to spread the word, and I am glad that artists are leading the way. Artists have been at the forefront of all great modern social movements. They inspire people to dream bigger, force us to imagine a different world and confront people with new ideas. We must embrace the power of art to better protect the American Dream for generations to come.

We should never allow Washington politicians to stampede the American people into supporting cuts they otherwise would never accept.

They're bluffing -- and hoping we fold. It's not a fiscal cliff, it's a fiscal bluff. And as our nation struggles to deal with real emergencies, I am glad that America's artists are calling them on it.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions in this commentary are solely those of Van Jones.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
December 25, 2014 -- Updated 0633 GMT (1433 HKT)
Danny Cevallos says the legislature didn't have to get involved in regulating how people greet each other
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 2312 GMT (0712 HKT)
Marc Harrold suggests a way to move forward after the deaths of NYPD officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos.
December 24, 2014 -- Updated 1336 GMT (2136 HKT)
Simon Moya-Smith says Mah-hi-vist Goodblanket, who was killed by law enforcement officers, deserves justice.
December 24, 2014 -- Updated 1914 GMT (0314 HKT)
Val Lauder says that for 1,700 years, people have been debating when, and how, to celebrate Christmas
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 2027 GMT (0427 HKT)
Raphael Sperry says architects should change their ethics code to ban involvement in designing torture chambers
December 24, 2014 -- Updated 0335 GMT (1135 HKT)
Paul Callan says Sony is right to call for blocking the tweeting of private emails stolen by hackers
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 1257 GMT (2057 HKT)
As Christmas arrives, eyes turn naturally toward Bethlehem. But have we got our history of Christmas right? Jay Parini explores.
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 0429 GMT (1229 HKT)
The late Joe Cocker somehow found himself among the rock 'n' roll aristocracy who showed up in Woodstock to help administer a collective blessing upon a generation.
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 2115 GMT (0515 HKT)
History may not judge Obama kindly on Syria or even Iraq. But for a lame duck president, he seems to have quacking left to do, says Aaron Miller.
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 1811 GMT (0211 HKT)
Terrorism and WMD -- it's easy to understand why these consistently make the headlines. But small arms can be devastating too, says Rachel Stohl.
December 22, 2014 -- Updated 1808 GMT (0208 HKT)
Ever since "Bridge-gate" threatened to derail Chris Christie's chances for 2016, Jeb Bush has been hinting he might run. Julian Zelizer looks at why he could win.
December 20, 2014 -- Updated 1853 GMT (0253 HKT)
New York's decision to ban hydraulic fracturing was more about politics than good environmental policy, argues Jeremy Carl.
December 20, 2014 -- Updated 2019 GMT (0419 HKT)
On perhaps this year's most compelling drama, the credits have yet to roll. But we still need to learn some cyber lessons to protect America, suggest John McCain.
December 22, 2014 -- Updated 2239 GMT (0639 HKT)
Conservatives know easing the trade embargo with Cuba is good for America. They should just admit it, says Fareed Zakaria.
December 20, 2014 -- Updated 0112 GMT (0912 HKT)
We're a world away from Pakistan in geography, but not in sentiment, writes Donna Brazile.
December 19, 2014 -- Updated 1709 GMT (0109 HKT)
How about a world where we have murderers but no murders? The police still chase down criminals who commit murder, we have trials and justice is handed out...but no one dies.
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 2345 GMT (0745 HKT)
The U.S. must respond to North Korea's alleged hacking of Sony, says Christian Whiton. Failing to do so will only embolden it.
December 19, 2014 -- Updated 2134 GMT (0534 HKT)
President Obama has been flexing his executive muscles lately despite Democrat's losses, writes Gloria Borger
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 1951 GMT (0351 HKT)
Jeff Yang says the film industry's surrender will have lasting implications.
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 2113 GMT (0513 HKT)
Newt Gingrich: No one should underestimate the historic importance of the collapse of American defenses in the Sony Pictures attack.
December 10, 2014 -- Updated 1255 GMT (2055 HKT)
Dean Obeidallah asks how the genuine Stephen Colbert will do, compared to "Stephen Colbert"
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 1734 GMT (0134 HKT)
Some GOP politicians want drug tests for welfare recipients; Eric Liu says bailed-out execs should get equal treatment
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 1342 GMT (2142 HKT)
Louis Perez: Obama introduced a long-absent element of lucidity into U.S. policy on Cuba.
December 16, 2014 -- Updated 1740 GMT (0140 HKT)
The slaughter of more than 130 children by the Pakistani Taliban may prove as pivotal to Pakistan's security policy as the 9/11 attacks were for the U.S., says Peter Bergen.
ADVERTISEMENT