Okay, so now I will write down some things about the political aspects of my visit to Zuccotti Park, Occupy Wall Street, the Occupy folks in general, and stuff in general.
One very common complaint about the Occupy movement is that it doesn’t have a clear program, and isn’t about anything in particular. This, of course, is Just What The Bad Guys Want You To Believe, as amusingly depicted here:
Well, okay, one might respond, but just what is “economic injustice”?
I think most folks would respond that it’s the thing that underlies this:
There’s actually evidence that most folks (and not just most Occupying folks) consider that sort of thing to be economic injustice, and don’t realize just how bad it currently is; see for instance:
So there’s a good candidate for “what’s it actually about?”.
Another question, and this came up in the comments to our last entry, is okay if that’s the issue, what’s the plan? What’s the platform?
I have a couple of thoughts about this:
- The Occupy movement is very much nonhierarchical and led-by-everyone (somewhere on Friday I read something along the lines of “don’t mistake us for a leaderless movement; we are all leaders”, and I like that). So there isn’t going to be a Single Official Platform Approved By Everyone. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing; organized groups don’t necessarily do any better (waves at the Libertarian Party over there across the way). On the other hand, the movement does have some documents and statements that represent a consensus of certain people at a certain time; see for instance the Declaration of Occupation.
- Even if the plan is just “loudly express our concerns”, I personally think that that is a great plan. If nothing else, the Occupy movement has taken the focus away from the Tea Party’s astroturf platform of “give less money to the poor, and deregulate the powerful”, and moved it to something more like “punish criminal behavior by the powerful”. Which I consider to be a Much Better Message. If elected representatives start to see that message and others like it, and decide that there might be votes involved, we may see changes in behavior (I believe that we already have, in fact; I hope this isn’t the last, or the best, change that we see, and I doubt it will be).
There were various single-issue folks at Zuccotti when I was there; a few complaining that “The 1% Wear Fur”, the lady complaining that the college had lost all records of her daughter’s attending, the person with the very long detailed small-print sign about how the government had implanted radios in his teeth so on. There were a couple of cute young people with a sign that just said “Revolution”, getting their picture taken together. But that’s all okay! This is New York City, after all, and a political movement. That happens. While in fact anyone who comes into the Park with an opinion thereby makes that an opinion of the Occupation, I’m pretty sure that there are some opinions held by a more significant fraction of the folks than others.
The other week we listed some possible goals for Occupiers. I’ll reiterate them here, and add a few more.
- Tax income from capital gains just like any other income. For: why favor rich people (who get lots of capital gains income), after all? Con: if we don’t favor rich people, they might take their ball and go home.
- Let the Bush tax cuts expire like they were written to. Gets rid of most of the projected federal deficit with one blow.
- Regulate the shadow banking system about like we regulate the normal banking system. ’cause now we know that otherwise they go crazy.
- Bring back Glass-Steagall since on the whole it appears to have been a good idea after all.
- Announce that the U. S. Government will no longer be bailing out failed financial institutions beyond what’s in the FDIC and so on. “Moral hazard” ain’t just a theory anymore, eh?
- Stop lopsidedly favoring investment over savings in Federal economic policies. Savers are people, too.
- Regulate corporations. I know, kind of general. But as the very interesting The Conservative Nanny State points out (free pdf available), being able to create this fictional construct to shield yourself from liabilities is a huge benefit; government has a perfect right to require a certain amount of good behavior in exchange.
- More specifically, end corporate personhood, at least anything beyond the strictly legal and financial bits of it. In particular, there is no need whatsoever for these fictional entities to have a First Amendment right to freedom of speech, any more than they should have a right to vote. The officers and owners of the corporation can express themselves as they like, using their own resources and money; but the money belonging to the government-created entity should be used only for the legitimate business purposes of the entity, not to (for instance) lobby the government to increase their profits.
- Aggressively prosecute and convict (and get some of the billions back from) the people who ruined the world economy to enrich themselves. Seems like a no-brainer, but apparently not everyone is on board, even with prosecuting the most blatant and obvious parts of it, like fraudulent mortgage foreclosures.
- Remove those administration officials with the most obvious conflicts of interest. The argument that only these people have the skills to clean up the mess is unconvincing; the only skills we know they have are to make the mess in the first place, and to enrich themselves and their friends and firms. Get rid of ’em.
- Abolish private prisons because it leads to stuff like this, which is just pure evil. (How do these people even look at themselves in the mirror?)
- Apply insider-trading rules to Congress just because duh.
The “end corporate personhood” and “abolish private prisons” and “apply insider-trading rules to Congress” ones are the new ones.
I’d be surprised if any significant fraction of Occupy folks would object to any of these, or even call them unimportant side-issues. So to the extent that this category of agenda-item starts to be seen as something that voters actually care about and vote based on, they may tend to get done. And to the extent that the Occupy folks loudly expressing their opinions helps them to be seen that way, they are advancing that agenda.
What else was I going to say?
I don’t actually have anything directly against the wealthiest 1% of the American people (or any other group). If I wear a 99% button, I’m not primarily saying that I’m one of the 99% of people who make less than a certain amount of money. Mostly I mean that I’m one of the 99+% who didn’t fucking steal billions of dollars through financial fraud and then escape prosecution because I own the fucking government, and who don’t fucking pressure and/or bribe the government to put more people in jail, because I run a fucking private jail and get paid per inmate.
Or that sort of (fucking) thing.