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Hip-Hop Legend Russell Simmons, Member of the 1%, on Why He Supports the 99% and OWS

StoryNovember 18, 2011
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Two months ago, legendary hip-hop entrepreneur Russell Simmons was one of the first high-profile public supporters to come to the Occupy Wall Street encampment at Zuccotti Park in Lower Manhattan. Thursday morning, he was there again to speak to Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman. "We don’t want Wall Street to control our future, and that’s why we’re on Wall Street. And what we’d like is for the people to control their future," Simmons said, describing the constitutional amendment he is supporting that would ban private donations for U.S. politicians running for federal office. "We want to believe that the politicians are making decisions on the part of the people who elected them. And that’s what’s the flaw, fundamental flaw, in our democracy." [includes rush transcript]


TRANSCRIPT
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Two months ago, legendary hip-hop entrepreneur Russell Simmons was one of the first high-profile public supporters to come to the Occupy encampment at Zuccotti Park. Well, Thursday morning, he was there again.

RUSSELL SIMMONS: I’m Russell Simmons, and I’m here because I believe in the work that these people are doing. And this whole education process is really amazing. In such a short amount of time, so many people are talking about the inequalities. And two days ago, I introduced a constitutional amendment, written by a senior member of Congress. And we’ve got to wait until we have good bipartisan support for it, but the interesting thing about that amendment, it would never have been discussed, if not for the work that’s being done here.

AMY GOODMAN: What’s the constitutional amendment?

RUSSELL SIMMONS: Oh, it’s simple: get the money out of Washington. All of it. You know, and that’s a simple idea, and it makes perfect sense. And it’s what the core of everybody’s demand is down here, isn’t it? We don’t want Wall Street to control our future, and that’s why we’re on Wall Street. And what we’d like is for the people to control their future. We would—no Republican wants to send someone to Congress and know that they work for a pharmaceutical company and that’s why you don’t have healthcare. No Republican wants to believe—and there’s a discussion on how we go to war, what companies supported it, made it happen. No Republican or Democrat wants to believe that the reason the prison-industrial complex is so successful and people are getting locked up for such long periods of time for such small crimes—no one wants to believe that the reason that they’re going to jail like that is because the prison-industrial complex paid the politician. No one wants to believe that jobs are offshore. No one wants to believe that my tax break is so big, that I get such big tax breaks, because we have influence, because the 1 percent can push the agenda. So, we want to believe that the politicians are making decisions on the part of the people who elected them. And that’s what’s the flaw, fundamental flaw, in our democracy.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you think of yourself as one of the 1 percent who’s speaking out for the 99 percent?

RUSSELL SIMMONS: I think most of the 1 percent, whatever that means, most of the people who are considered the 1 percent, want America to be better. There’s a small percentage in this country who want to continue to pay off politicians. A politician should talk to people about business, maybe be educated on a business before he legislates on it, but the person who educates him should not be able to pay him. Just shouldn’t be able to pay him. That’s ridiculous. That’s the fundamental flaw in our democracy, and that has to stop.

AMY GOODMAN: And what about the Democrats? I mean, President Obama says they’re going to be raising a billion dollars for the campaign.

RUSSELL SIMMONS: Well, you know, everybody has to operate in the climate they’re in. And that’s the real problem. Even Republicans would all be more friendly to the people, and Democrats, as well, would be more friendly to the people, if the people were the people they had to report to. If they had to report to Wall Street in order to stay afloat—98 percent, or 96 percent, I think it is, of all elections are won by people who have the most money.

AMY GOODMAN: Voices of protest, two months into the Occupy Wall Street encampment and protests around the city and country. That was legendary hip-hop entrepreneur Russell Simmons. We’ll have more after break.

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