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What the Lamestream Media has Missed: Occupy Wall Street Is a Memo To Obama And The Establishment

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by Aaron Krowne
Founder, ML-Implode.com

Left, right, or center, most of the mainstream media has been utterly contemptuous of the nascent Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement, as Jon Stewart has just illustrated adroitly with his signature wit. Of course the right-wing pundits cannot be beat for their overt contempt for the protests — it’s all just a bunch of statist, communist, anti-capitalist malcontents, don’t you know! Nothing good wholesome Americans should support, or even pay attention to.

Malcontents, yes, but is this so different than what has been going on with the Tea Party for two years now? Again (in the above show), Jon Stewart deftly illustrates this point by taking a Sean Hannity quote from 2009 out of context; viewers intrinsically understand it to be referring supportively to the OWSers; until Stewart reveals that it actually was said in reference to the Tea Party.   How very illuminating.

Hannity should look again. He could even get a nice Obama jab out of it, if he wasn’t so obtuse.

You see, in my estimation, Occupy Wall Street is the left/progressive-center reaction to the same factors that motivated the Tea Party and caused it to explode onto the scene as real force in politics (surprising the entire establishment).

When that happened, leftists took their turn deriding the popular movement, calling it not popular, funded by self-interested billionaire benefactors (of course that doesn’t happen on the left), or blaming it on “anti-Obama racism.”  Surely there is some of that (maybe a lot of it), especially in the late-comers to the modern movement (which actually began before Obama’s ascent, with Ron Paul), but what they missed in their knee-jerk reaction was that the core concerns of Tea Party were quite valid and rang true to many formerly apathetic Americans. They were not born Tea Partiers; they were only made so by the ills of our polity and most importantly economy, which they were acutely experiencing.

The Tea Partiers may have passed judgment on Obama hastily, but they were right: things have indeed not improved, if not worsened under him. Even those on the left side of the spectrum have long since figured out why: he is quintessentially of the establishment, meaning the big corporate and especially financial power, and does not go against that grain except meekly and utterly symbolically.

So what, then, of Occupy Wall Street? I see it as the left-of-center answer to the Tea Party — except motivated by virtually the exact same core concerns of economic and political rot . It’s effectively a Tea Party movement that all who view themselves as “somewhere else” on the political spectrum can embrace. A useful contrast is the ill-fated “Coffee Party” movement. That went nowhere fast — as I expected — probably because it defined itself as the “anti-Tea Party” rather than anything affirmative. Well, for a winning set of “affirmative” factors, one could always simply re-use the Tea Party’s own. And that’s exactly what Occupy Wall Street has done.

What Obama should take notice of (but probably won’t) is that, because OWS largely consists of people who are (or were) sympathetic to him, if not overt supporters (and I’m not saying all — just most, maybe), they wouldn’t even be out there unless he was a rank failure and a “sell out” to the very interests OWSers are decrying. In a sense, these people waited on Obama for almost three years, perhaps asking themselves “could the Tea Partiers have a point?” And then when Obama failed to rock the apple cart, the answer came in as a resounding “yes”, and they got off their couches (if their couches had not already been repossessed). But they wanted to do it in their own way.

As part of his pandering reflex, Obama will probably make some faux-angry mouth-movements towards Wall Street, maybe push for a symbolic tax increase on the rich (which, whether you support the notion or not, will do little to change our economic crisis), and then, largely, do nothing. I mean, why should he, right? In Obama-world, he already supported Dodd-Frank, which was his grand answer to the financial crisis, so what more could anyone want? If anyone criticizes Dodd-Frank for being ineffective, he can always say it was “watered down”.

That sort of excuse will likely ring hollow with OWSers (and Tea Partiers) who are still very, justifiably sore about “too big to fail”, a notion now formally enshrined in federal law.

So, all you youngsters out there, when you are unable to afford to live after paying towards your six-figure student loan debt (which isn’t dismissible in bankruptcy court, because that would upset JP Morgan Chase), you can rest assured that no mega-banks will be forced to go through the indignity of their owners losing THEIR assets through bankruptcy, or even their golden parachutes, or even their control of the companies they have run into the ground.

What I sincerely hope is that Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Party — which, if they are not best described as actually centrist, are motivated by fundamentally centrist concerns — learn to put their differences aside and work for solutions to the core problems they largely agree on. Roughly speaking, the top issues (as I see them) are :

  • the sclerotic economy (read: depression)
  • lack of opportunity or economic advancement, especially for young people
  • cronyist bail-outs for big banks and corporations which are unacceptable
  • undue influence of big banks and corporations on the government and its policies
  • a broken monetary and banking system (with the Federal reserve at the center)
  • inflation (a stealth tax on “the 99%”, especially young adults and retirees) and official insensitivity to it
  • too much federal waste and power
  • elective wars and too much military-industrial concentration in the economy
  • outsourcing and “hollowing out” of our economy through monetary and trade policies; bad immigration policy
  • domestic distractions like the war on drugs and the usual wedge issues

For my part, I think both of these movements could forge a common platform, with the emphasis on the following general remedies (in rough order of how soon they should, could be implemented):

  1. End the bailouts (including the Fed’s current “zero interest rate” and “quantitative easing” policies, which are just bailouts by another name); force banks to recapitalize or be taken over if they are truly insolvent (probably most of the big banks and 1/3rd of the US banks total);
  2. End the Fed itself (or at least nationalize it and making it totally transparent); I would also eliminate Fannie and Freddie (as these entities proved no better than corrupt banks and destroyed the housing sector even as they were supposed to “help” it);
  3. Refocus the country on savings and capital development (starting with ending the Fed, or at least normalizing interest rate policy) — as opposed to the current focus on debt and credit (national development banks, or especially state banks, could be opened to kick things off if the private markets are still not functioning, but the above moves should unlock the private capital markets as well. Look towards Iceland);
  4. Loosen regulations on small businesses and dramatically scale back (if not eliminate) taxes on them;
  5. Cut back federal regulations dramatically and instead focus on actually enforcing a core set of must-have regulations;
  6. Get the money out of politics and private influence out of regulation (this is tough to do but we could make meaningful steps forward with bans on “the revolving door”, strengthening and expanding whistleblower rights and awards, forcing all legislation to be transparently connected to those who wrote it or made any change to it, limitations or bans of corporate money in national politics — possibly moving to a public funding model which actually admits third parties).

    As an important sub-item to this one, I would recommend purging the top 2-3 levels of all of the federal enforcement bodies (including the SEC), and the Justice Department, and find a way to rout out corrupt federal judges;

  7. End the elective wars and policing the world;
  8. Move government to the most local level possible — where it is actually appropriate and can be both funded AND watched over by its true constituents. Shrink the federal government and return most taxes to the states and the people.

    It’s not about “big government” vs. “no government” — it’s about government functioning properly by being accessible to its own constituents (note that no other democracy exists comparable to our size or larger, except India, which is, tellingly much more local-based. We have the largest monolithic central government in the world for a democracy, and it doesn’t work!)

I was also going to add “balance the budget and stop continually selling Treasuries to foreigners” (as this is what fuels the outsourcing and trade deficit), but I think that would come naturally if we implemented the major steps in the above list.

I find it hard to believe that most Tea Partiers or most OWSers would not agree with most of this program, and I suspect most common-sense Americans would support these sorts of measures, whether or not they count themselves a part in either movement.

The establishment may laugh now, but I suspect most Americans, within or without either of the above movements, will catch on to the necessity of this agenda amidst our economic and political death spiral, and ultimately force such a restructuring so that our civilization can survive. It’s time for a little “regime change” at home!

There Are 20 Responses So Far. »

  1. Well said.
    I will be sharing this widely.

  2. Aaron Krowne for President. Great points.

  3. I agree, and most Americans would to. However, they aren’t given the option. I would add number 9. If you get a FCC license to broadcast then you must broadcast real news (not entertainment) for 30 minutes each day. Even if you lose money for that 30 minutes, it’s part of the cost of the FCC license.

  4. I also think an important ingredient here, or more of a common understanding. This is not necessarily poor/middle vs. rich. It is the many vs. the few. Yes the descriptivism has and always will put the two in opposing corners, but if we need to build the pyramid – and we need it NOW – the workers, the thinkers, the doers, and the believers are more important than Pharaoh.

  5. great post, your grasp of the issues is as good as anyone’s.
    You Obama stuff is spot on… the man really is a fraud and a Wall St stooge to boot
    all the best

  6. Even though you might get the two groups to agree on the end result — the “what they want” — they are diametrically opposed on the “how you get there”. Absolutely central to the core issue for the Tea Party is LOWER taxes and reverse the debt … not after everything else is accomplished, but NOW. Immediately. Core to the Occupy Wall Street crowd is to get the rich and the corporation to pay MORE in taxes and to ‘bailout” the poor and jobless with social programs and debt forgiveness (which would certainly INCREASE the debt, and probably substantially). While I commend your attempt at finding common ground, I do not see how it would be possible for these two groups to get behind the same “platform” and presidential candidate.

  7. bdc: Well, I don’t agree 😉

    I think you’ve made two errors. The first is by understanding the phenomenon as the media’s version of it, rather than actually listening to what people there are saying. I hear people saying the system doesn’t work… not necessarily that “raising taxes on corporations and the rich” would fix it. Certainly there is some of that, but for the first time I am seeing a popular recognition of deeper problems.

    The second error is presuming this is about electing a president. I think that is the case not even in the slightest. In fact I think the essence of both movements is apolitical. The problems are out there in the real world and real economy, and to the extent Washington is involved, it’s utterly a part of the problem. Thus Washington has to be negated. Washington cannot simply keep going on as usual, because that won’t fix the economic problems even in the slightest. Thus I think this is only secondarily about “the political process”.

    It is only political in the sense a revolution is — that of building an entirely new system.

  8. Aaron,

    Are we really selling Treasuries to foreigners or could the tens of trillions in interest rate swaps that exist at every major bank be played in a way to make it look like someone thinks American full faith and credit paper is good investment?

    Seriously, the Chinese cannot be that completely clueless as to believe their capital should go into buying U.S.T.’s instead of supporting mining activities in places like Australia.

  9. chris:

    Well, who can say. Certainly we aren’t selling as many as we used to, that’s what quantitative easing was all about. But I do think it is the case there is major “lock in” forcing foreigners to continue buying Treasuries, otherwise the system will implode, and they will lose more than they want to on their existing Treasuries (and other dollar holdings).

    We’ll see how long it all holds out.

    It has been said that the “full faith and credit” of the US dollar and Treasuries is just a euphemism for gunboats. I certainly think that is the case. Look at Ghaddafi, vs. Saleh in Yemen. Now which one most wanted to challenge the dollar?

  10. I’m in agreement with virtually all you said Aaron. Around the TP’s and OWS’ers getting together, I think there’s a snowball’s chance even thought their interests do crossover to a great extent. We all want the system we live in to work – non-wall street ends up fighting over unfounded ideology while Wall Street Quietly goes about sucking what it can off the top. I notice you missed health care – I’ve advocated for years, the cloning of the VA System and making it available for “cash only” (or insurance or credit card) to anyone at cost. The growth in health care cost is parabolic as is the growth in the financial sector. VA costs are about 30% of public costs and care is about 85th percentile.

  11. jim –

    Yeah, I pretty much agree. I think the biggest thing with TP vs OWS is an image issue. No one wants to be counted with the Tea Party except the Tea Party. But this might not prevent us from working on common solutions … there are a lot of independent groups out there and even some coalitions forming that seem wise to the problems.

    As for health care, I could go on and on about it, but did not have room in this article. I agree it is probably the biggest solvency issue facing this country. Priority should go to breaking the health care-insurance-pharma cartel (the Obama bill did NOT do that). Unfortunately few people recognize that the core problem is a cartel, and failure to recognize this is why the recent legislation was a failure (it largely PROTECTED the cartel).

    A single payor system could be an improvement, but I’m doubtful of further federalization of the “solution” (remember the federal gov is totally captured in the first place). The health care industry is just not going to want to take reductions in its revenue and profits, which are necessary to shrink health care to its “rightful” size in the economy.

    I recommend as the best solution a restoration of a true free market to health care, with a regulatory role that is restricted to ensuring price competition (we could have public rolls as well, but this should not be done in a way that it makes up most of the market). I suggest people look to the example of Japan, where the health care providers are all private, and the insurance can either be nonprofit or private and for-profit, but is independent of employment. Then the government regulates insurance and prices. Over there, they have the opposite problem, of prices being too low!

    Most people don’t realize it but our maximally-screwed-up system was actually produced by the federal government, given the interference of medicare (which got health care providers to mark up all prices 2-4x so they could make full profit on medicare reimbursements) and the tax system, which forces health insurance to be coupled to employment.

  12. Oh, and I should mention, the Obama health care bill has already started failing in terms of its cost limitation promises. The medicare cuts that were supposed to take place were axed because of objections from the health care providers. To me this proves that further federalizing our existing system will not work, because the government is simply not willing to break the cartel and its demands for perpetual price increases.

  13. Thanks Aaron.

    I agree that we will have to wait and see. As for Libya, there are the questions like what happened to the original Libyan Central Banks’s gold and how are Libya’ resources divided up amongst those who assisted in killing Libyans so that Moammar did not kill them.

  14. Excellent points Aaron,

    Particularly the part about ending the contrived polarity among the voting class. The biggest deterent to the power of the people is the division that has been created between us. The real enemy of the people is not “the other party,” it is the ruling class vs the middle (& lower) class, as it has always been in history.

    “This campaign against the American people…is systematic psychological warfare. It is orchestrated by a vast array of interests…the money center banks and multinational corporations, the media, the educational establishment, the entertainment industry, and the large tax-exempt foundations.” — Senator Jesse Helms

    “I believe that if the people of this nation fully understood what Congress has done to them over the last 49 years, they would move on Washington; they would not wait for an election….It adds up to a preconceived plan to destroy the economic and social independence of the United States!” — Senator George W. Malone, (Nevada), speaking before Congress in 1957

    “The real truth of the matter is, as you and I know, that a financial element in the large centers has owned the government ever since the days of Andrew Jackson.” – F.D. Roosevelt, 1933

    Quotes from essay at: http://www.oftwominds.com/journal08/christoffersen8-08.htm

    We the people (of all parties) could make a huge difference if we joined each other against the ruling classes (the financial elite/Wall St. crowd). As they really need the cooperation of the populace slaves for their “casino” to work.

    Thx Aaron!

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  16. Is it me or the outlined ‘common platform’ is essentially Ron Paul’s campaign platform.

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  18. Democrats = upper left
    Republicans = upper right

    Tea Party = lower right
    OWS tends to be lower left

    The Tea Party should join OWS because they share more in common with OWS than they do with the rest of the republicans.
    OWS should support lower right FEDERAL candidates like Ron Paul because he will deliver a good chunk of the reforms at the FEDERAL level, and leave the rest to the voters of the STATES.

    I think a lot of OWS people don’t realise that they can vote for Ron and get the majority of what they want.
    Small federal government, demolition of the status quo, etc etc.

    Though, I’m not entirely sure how the US system works, but here in Australia we had a situation a few years ago where every state was Labor “left” and the federal government was Liberal – right.

  19. bryan1776: Not exactly but there is definitely a lot in common. Ron Paul tends to more speak against government and pro-free market. My point is that all those who are truly looking at the problems and are not hard-core partisans should be able to agree that (1) we do not have free market capitalism, at least, as far as “the 99%” are concerned, and (2) government has been excessively centralized and even if we keep all the same government domestic functions, they should be much more localized so that their constituents can actually control them.

    myne: Interesting perspective and I largely agree.

    I suspect federal governments tend to be more “right” leaning because naturally their constituents end up being the large corporate entities (especially banks), and large special interest groups. The big problem that has arisen is that these groups are NOT good stewards of the general public well-being (or the free market, for that matter… what corporation wants a free market when they can buy themselves legislation that gives them a monopoly or cartel?)

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