Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Occupy Wall Street Two Months On

I started writing this post in early October, and now, more than a month later, the Occupy movement is continuing along, with some notable success in shifting the public debate. In general, I am quite happy that the Occupy movement is occurring, and support it. I agree with many of the items that they're protesting and am also happy to see something of an active left-wing movement return to America.

Ideally the Occupy movement would be non-partisan as people posting this chart have been promoting, and there are examples of the occasional Republican or Tea Partier supporting the movement. I have written earlier about the Tea Party more than a year ago, and that movement still irritates me to no end despite supposedly having at their core some admirable goals. Sadly, I would still summarize the Tea Party as on-the-whole irrational, right-wing fucks who are happily tearing this country apart.

My hopes are that the Occupy movement can manage to be a general protest of the 99% against economic inequality and corruption in government, but that is a faint hope. This appears to significantly be a leftist movement. Given how I've grown up to idealize much of the 60s political activism, that isn't entirely bad. Even if the movement gets turned into a left-wing version of the Tea Party, good for it shifting the national debate, and I strongly hope it manages to achieve some of its objectives.

When it comes to clearly defining those objectives, there is some cohesiveness and direction in the movement, despite its overall decentralization. The General Assembly in New York has put forward the clearest declaration of objectives I have seen in one place with the The 99 Percent Declaration.

Looking at this declaration, I whole-heartedly agree with several points, am iffy about some, and find others completely irrelevant. They've broken down twenty points. Please go to the page if you want a full accounting. I would do a point-by-point analysis myself, but it has taken me a month to get this much written. The declaration is a mixture of measures that range from attempts to reduce corporate power, inequality, and the impact of  money in politics, which I am very much in support of, to various hand waving wishes to improve the economy, to various left supported issues that though I support seem somewhat off the central message.

Going through the list, I would say that I strongly agree with items 1, 2, 3, 6 and 16. I partly agree with, strongly depending on implementation, points 5, 8, 9, 13 and 19. I agree with, but seem to be off the main track points 7 and 11. Lastly, I somewhat disagree with, or just strike me as crazy hand waving, points 4, 10, 12, 14, 15, 17, 18 and 20.

The general aim of the movement is a protest against corporate power, money corrupting American/global politics, and the growing income and wealth inequality in our society. Those are all goals I support whole-heartedly and achieving any of those alone would be a huge accomplishment. If they intend to stick with that message, I would refine the aims of movement significantly, and focus on those points.

Remove money from the election process by abolishing lobbying, having publicly funded elections, and disallowing politicians from getting jobs in areas they had been regulating. I also support instant runoff voting, non-partisan redistricting and voting holidays that were not even mentioned in the 99 Percent Declaration. Reduce corporate power through reversing Citizens United, abolishing corporate personhood and greater antitrust action. Fix some of the financial messes by reinstating Glass-Steagall. Admittedly financial policy gets hugely complicated and I can barely begin to comment on it without much more research and going on for pages and pages. Similarly, I would like to see a push for tax-reform, and simpler, more progressive taxes, but tax policy is complicated enough I could write about it across a dozen blog-posts.

If those goals alone were achieved, I would be beside myself. Beyond that, yes, you can argue that healthcare implemented through a single-payer system would greatly help the masses, and is being prevented by health-insurance corporations, and should therefore be a part of the Occupy movement. Similarly, I am greatly in favor of increased environmental protections, and much of the environmental damage in this country is caused by laws and tax incentives that feed money into various industries and corporations at the expense of the people. Yet going down that road, I am tempted to throw in every political cause I support, from intellectual property law, to ending the drug war, to foreign policy, to removing religion from politics, and we get a huge, messy progressive wish list.

I believe that the Occupy movement should remain as focused as possible on fighting money in politics, reducing income inequality, reducing corporate power and fixing financial policies that contributed to the economic mess we are in now. Keeping that focus is the best way to achieve these already significant goals, and to attempt to bring in support from across the political spectrum.

As for how the Occupy movement should achieve its goals, continuing to protest and raise awareness is a good first step. If a large public movement can be built, that will we wonderful. Lawrence Lessig and Dylan Ratigan are pushing the United Republic movement, and I hope that succeeds.

If this does remain a leftist, partisan effort, that is not ideal, but I'll take it. In that case, they could learn some lessons from the Tea Party, and influence the nomination process. The elections this year did see several progressive victories, if victory is defined as halting further descent. Hopefully by the time elections happen next year, the movement will have built further political power. Getting Elizabeth Warren and Alan Grayson elected would be a good start. We shall see where the movement goes. At the moment, it's the best sign I've seen for hope in this country in a while.