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Monday, October 31, 2011

Occupy WALL STREET Plank

Ok, so here is the follow up to my earlier post on the Occupy Wall Street movement.

I propose the following:

1.  Raise the Corporate Tax.  Taxes do not have an effect on growth.  Demand has an effect on growth.  Period, end of sentence.  Stop whining.

2.  Close tax loopholes, including taxes on inheritances and capital gains.  The government needs revenue.  It doesn't cost anymore than it did in 2008 to feed a family of four, welfare checks still do more for the economy than tax cuts for the wealthy.

3.  Create an index of companies with high CEO to Entry-Level salary ratios and tax those with the highest ratios.  Funnel the proceeds directly into social services for the middle and lower classes.

4.  Quit watering down the latent Consumer Protection Agency, beef it up

5.  Beef up the SEC, this has, to some extent been done.  But even now, the SEC doesn't go after the big fish.  Only the medium and small fish.

6.  Break up the giant banks

7.  Criminal prosecutions (that the DOJ actually takes seriously) for the participants in the 2007-8 Crisis. No matter how high up they go, even if it means Obama Administration higher-ups. But particularly the previous administration's "King's Men."

Thursday, October 20, 2011


So I had a conversation recently about Occupy WALL STREET, and it made me think.  Also, as a Ravingleftatic, economic egality is one of my niches, so I've been remiss in commenting.

I'm going to divide this post in twain.  The first half will be to rebutt my darling wife's comments.  The second will be to offer a firm plank to the occupiers.

Some of the comments about the occupiers I heard that was that the whole movement was basically a waste of time, with little or no focus, and that people like that make people like us look ridiculous, and that this news has been front page news for three years already.

Waste of Time:  Basically, the argument goes like this: they're bankers, not elected officials.  Why would they care?  Go occupy D.C.

Rebuttal:  It's not what the banker's think so much as the amount of media attention they get.  Having worked in the area, I can tell you: Zucotti Park is small.  A force of 100 protestors would look like a huge crowd.  That's important, small spaces make small protests look good.  And success begets success.  Such that Amy Goodman has now reported "thousands" of protestors, and has respawned in cities around the world.  By the way, the Guardian article linked to above, provides an excellent history on the movement.  D.C. on the otherhand is built for protests, wide open spaces that can swallow a thousand people with no problem.  Another thing?  If she thinks people in D.C. care about protestors...she's got another thing coming.  I went to college there.  There's always a protest.  A protest about a unique group of people in a unique site, is far more inventive and news worthy, than just another protest on the mall.  So the level, and length of media attention devoted to something is an important factor in deciding its effect.  That I'm writing about this now, shows that this movement has staying power, in the words of E. Roger's seminal work on technological innovation, I am a laggard (Early Adopters, Late Majority, etc.).  I get to the party when its ending (which doesn't say much about the occupation--but there it is).  I remember when people began talking about it.  I thought it was a miniscule, small movement that would die out by the next news cycle.  I was wrong.  So already it has had a tremendous effect.  The last point I'd like to make on this is the following:  Banker's aren't elected officials, but they're voters.  And they're vote matters a hell of a lot more than you or I: they vote with their checkbooks.  Obama received more money from Goldman Sach's than from any other group.  So changing their views and their opinion matters.  Will a movement of "dirty hippies" change their minds or serve to further polarize them?  Well--that's a reasonable debate.

No Focus:  The basic argument here is that, if I understand it correctly, they don't have a clear list of demands, a clear leadership, and they all appear to wear different causes. 

Rebuttal:  Having spent four years in D.C. during the worst President in history's first term, I can tell you:  Protests today don't have a lot of focus.  As a rule.  I'm no expert, but I do have some on the ground experience.  One of my favorite things to do as a student, was to wander around D.C. during a protest, and did so on at least six occasions.  I also was at the New York anti-war protests after college.  The people were spectacular.  Dressed (or undressed) they were always charasmatic and inventive.  There were always a lot of them, and they all sported their own causes, gay rights, anti-war, anarchy, anti-torture, to economic injustice and totalitarianism.  I think this focus accusation (which I've heard a lot from the very beginning) is a red herring.  In the 1960s and 1970s, the world, was technologically a very different place.  Information flowed in very different ways, and through very different nodes.  And, as a consequence, people are different.  We all have more than one cause.  And we want people to know that when we get it up to go out and protest.  It's not a repudiation of singularity of purpose, it's a celebration of diversity and a bringing together of diverse causes.  Add to that a well documented fact that people (Ravingleftatics, and Republithugs--alike) have less trust, and less reason to trust their governments than they've EVER had.  So no, not only do I NOT think that Occupy Wall Street is unclear or lacking focus, I believe that their diversity of values is a strength and a badge of honor.

They Make Us Look Ridiculous:  This is a sensitive one for many people.  I understand it, but let's say:  maybe my understanding is based on my own reasons.  It goes like this: Premise:  The Occupiers are kids, college students and career protestors.  They likely don't know much (or anything about finance, the economic collapse, what's been done since, etc.) all they have is their passion, and undereducated passion is dangerous in a democratic society.  Premise 2:  We DO know what we're talking about, lived here during the economic collapse, have alternately worked in the business, known people who have, and have read a lot of material to support our opinions.  Therefore, the people in the park, Park People, the occupiers, make us, temperate, educated, well reasoned people look bad.

Rebuttal:  Having written it out like that, I think the premise and conclusion rebut itself.  We obviously don't know any of these people, we have only news reports of their consistency to go on, and the news coverage has been anti-protest from the get-go.  Making the inference that any of these people are uneducated is unfair, and moreover may be completely untrue.  If they are college students, likely their learning is fresher in their minds than that of the vast majority of us.  If they're career protestors--dirty hippies-- (career protestors definitely exist, I've met them) they spend their long train rides from protest to protest reading material about that which has peaked their interest.  However, it is unequivocally true that the vast majority of them have never worked in finance, or finance related industries.  But then again, that's why we're so mad.  Finance is America's largest industry as a percentage of GDP.  People who actually make things, make nothing, where people who literally divide up piles of nothing, into other piles of nothing, to make more piles of nothing look like bigger piles of nothing get multi-million dollar bonuses.  And in most cases, they're no better educated  or qualified than we are!

Old News:  The old news argument is factually quite true.  The 99% is a well documented fact.  The fact that average and wages have actually decreased in the past forty years is true. 

Rebuttal:  There's nothing new to report here, it's true.  My rebuttal here, is based purely on my own memory and perception of the events of the past decade.  For the vast majority of Americans 2004 to 2007 was no better than 2008 to the present.  Wages didn't go up at all.  They decreased, and healthcare costs have risen geometrically.  As I've said before, most Americans are one epic disease away from the poor house.  What did go up, was the stock market.  For most Americans the only meaningful aspect of that was a commensurate rise in home values.  People's wealth increased, merely because of the housing bubble.  And during that time, people were encouraged, by unethical bankers and loan companies, to refinance the hell out of their homes.  So they took that loaned money, thinking it was theirs and bought new cars, iPods, flat screen, thin screen tvs, Bose stereos, or new homes.  And when the bubble popped, they were underwater.  Ok, talk about old news, Ravingleftatic.  We know all of that.  Why is that important?

It's important because in the past decade I have seen three major groundswells of positive liberal energy.  One: The anti-war movement that swept the 2006 elections and stopped the Republican majority (note that it wasn't a coup, they still had a president and one branch of the legislature--sound familiar?)  Two:  The next year, but particularly the last few months of the 2008 election.  Hope, etc.  And Three:  Occupy Wall Street.  As a consequence of those three bands of energy, 1) we took back congress 2)  we took back the presidency, passed healthcare reform, and a financial reform act.  And 3)  Well?  We'll see.  Get Obama another 4 years, reaffirm our hold in the Senate and take back the House?  Maybe. 

In between these groundswells of liberal energy, cynicism takes hold, and the otherside fights back.  We lost the 2010 mid-terms because people forgot that the state of healthcare in this country is an outrage.  They forgot that the AIG brass received million dollar bonuses of the public's money.  Whether or not they forget it, the media keeps redirecting attenion away.  The myth of the Tea Party is that they were something new, something exciting.  Research has shown that self-identifying Tea Partier's are merely Republicans who can tolerate gays.  The whole movement was made to order by the Koch Brother's funding, and put on for show by the major media outlets because they talked about liberty and wore tri-corner hats!

Sigh.  Let me bring it down a notch, and wind this up, I'll have to save the Plank for another Post.  (ha ha!)  This IS old news.  But the disparity between the 1 and the other 99% hasn't shrunk, it's grown.  Egality, and justice still favor those who can afford to pay for it, not those who deserve it or require it.  So no, it's not old news.  It is the most important news, and it always will be to a Ravingleftatic.