The problem with Empower United

On 12/22, @99_film tweeted:

Is this what being co-opted looks like? WSJ reports on launch of Empower United, a social enterprise for the #99percent

Which lead me to investigate, Empower United (  I started going through all of the promotional material on the site, then hit something that threw me, and stopped.  I sent an e-mail using their feedback link.  To my surprise, I got a response from Patrick Higgins, Co-Founder and Co-CEO of Empower United.  As a result, I finished going through the website, and I stand by my original decision.

I am not sure that I agree with Audrey Ewell & Aaron Aites assessment that it is an attempt to co-opt the movement.  I am, however, convinced that it is one of two things.  Either it is a group of wanna be 1%s who see an opportunity and are trying to co-opt on the OWS movement, or they are sincere, but do not really get it.

I was going through the plan, and it was all sounding pretty okay.  Take advantage of the system.  Use it against itself.  I’m not necessarily opposed to that in the short term.  Still pretty light on the details.  Basically, combining all of the various MyPoints, rewards, Groupon, LivingSocial, type deals out there into one mass plan.  A sort of massive S&H Green stamps organized for the benefit of “the 99%” (only with a stated goal of a starting point of 1,000,000 people).  They’re going to make it free for members and charge companies $50 per employee to join.  In other words, get companies to pay $50 per employee for access to market.  Then, I got to point 5.  And, I stopped.  Cold.

The Plan, Short Term, Point 5

Wait!  What?  Capital One?  Bank of America?  The same Capital One that received $3.56 Billion in bail out funds?  The same Bank of America that received $20 Billion in bailout funds?  Insert screeching halt sound effects here!  uhm, no.  That’s when I hit the Feedback link and sent them some.  I said to them:

You had me intrigued, though admittedly skeptical. I was wondering and never did see the answer whether you would be taking a cut off the top, or if you would be taking an equal share or how that would work. But, I was following along to see how this was going to work.

You lost me at Services point 5. You want to get in bed with the likes of Bank of America? And you think this is the answer for the 99%? Have you been paying attention?

All of what I read sounded like a viable way to move forward. Take back the system from the “too big to fail’ group, which I am in favor of. But, you apparently think that the way to do that is to get in to bed with them?

It was at that point that I am walking away. If you decide you want to do these things without glomping onto the people who caused the crisis, but still saving the system, then count me in. Otherwise, I see you as part of problem, rather than any part of the solution.

Now, at this point, I honestly had no expectation that I would hear anything more from them.  I figured my Empower United experience was done.  I was surprised when I received the aforementioned response from Patrick Higgins.  His response, in full:

Dear Mr.  ████████,
We at Empower United appreciate your feedback regarding the vision of our company. I write to address some of the concerns you expressed in your email. First, all individuals that handle the day to day work at Empower United will be paid on salary. The salaries of all senior management will be strictly controlled by an outside auditor to make sure that no member of Empower United is in line for a “Golden Parachute”. I would ask you to review the section in our business plan titled Transparency for a full explanation.
Secondly, regarding your concern about the use of the co-branded credit and debit cards. In our business it will be imperative that we keep track of the transactions of our members so their accounts are properly credited. We anticipate difficulty in being able to follow cash transactions. In the early stages of this business it will be necessary to work with the credit card industry to accomplish this task. Please look at long term goal number 8 in the services section regarding Banking, but in the early stages we are going to have to rely on existing infrastructure.
Finally, I want to stress to you that this business model will give all U.S. consumers a seat at the table with all other corporations at no cost to the consumer.

Patrick B. Higgins

Co-Founder and Co-CEO
Empower United


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About Just Torch

Author of the SCIAMAGE column a space devoted to American political and social commentary and analysis. It is unabashedly liberal, but makes every effort to present clear, verifiable facts and sound reasoning. It also makes a commitment to clearly distinguish between facts and opinions. View all posts by Just Torch

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