The "Occupy Wall Street" movement is moving to Main Streets across the globe. It's about time. But I fear that the movement will be captured by the far left, just as the TEA party movement has been captured by the far right. If Occupy Wall Street will evolve to represent the case of the 99% against the 1% we will have a chance for needed social/institutional change here in the US.
'Occupy Wall Street/Main Street' made it to my home base Ogden, UT last weekend. As I've argued here before, it is past time that people protest the growing US-led kleptocracy (a corrupt form of government where governing bodies aid in the transfer of wealth from ordinary citizens to the upper class). I went to the rally, adding one small voice to this important issue.
I found a little 4-minute video (embedded below) that captures the essence of the problem. It is titled "Why Occupy Wall Street? Four Reasons," by D.C. Douglas (hat tip: Sam Glover: The Cycle of Financial Crisis). Below are my four reasons to protest the oligarchic dominance of the American economy and politics. You can boil them down to Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis' timeless admonition: "We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both."
My Four Reasons to Occupy Wall Street
- The Robber Barons (Wikipedia) are back, but must NOT be allowed to stay in power! The distribution of wealth in the US is now as skewed toward the top 1% even beyond where it stood in 1929. One percent of this country now owns 40% of the wealth.
- The rich are NOT entitled to take everything, in a democracy underwritten by publicly-financed education, transportation, defense, and much more. A recent Congressional Budget Office report show that "for the 1 percent of the population with the highest income, average real after-tax household income grew by 275 percent between 1979 and 2007." Add this: "In the 1970s, corporate chief executives earned 30 times as much as the average worker. Ten years ago, CEO compensation was 116 times the average. CEOs now earn close to 300 times as much as the average worker."
- The rich are NOT entitled to buy elections. A recent Supreme Court ruling "Citizens United" allows the rich to buy elections. The Koch brothers are rumored to be planning to spend $250000000 (one quarter BILLION) of their personal money on political agendas in 2012. How much influence will that buy?
- Houses of Finance big and small will NOT self-govern in the interest of either their shareholders or in the public interest. Large financial organizations need to be governed by effective regulation—a 21st century "Glass Steagall", among other regulatory apparatus.
I shared Jared Diamond's warnings against kleptocracy some years back. They are worth a relook. One snip:
The difference between a kleptocrat and a wise statesman, between a robber baron and a public benefactor, is merely one of degree: a matter of just how large a percentage of the tribute extracted from producers is retained by the elite, and how much the commoners like the public uses to which the redistributed tribute is put.
Finally here is the Why Occupy Wall Street video, featuring Elizabeth Warren, among others:
The video suggests four resolutions that differ at wee bit from mine:
- Reinstate Glass-Steagall
- Audit the Fed
- Reverse "Citizens United"
- Overhaul the Corporate Tax Code
I'm in favor of better disclosure from the Fed. So is Ben Bernanke. I too support reversing "Citizens United" by Legislative action, most likely by publicly financing all elections. Of course, such financing would not only disallow super-PAC election manipulation, but would also disallow billionaires from manipulation elections with their own money. Finally, like 99.9% of US citizens, I support overhauling the entire US Tax Code, simplifying it, and restructuring it for economic fairness in part by requiring the wealthy few to shoulder more of the tax burden.