Sunday, November 20, 2011

Occupy Wall Street Isn't About Real Estate

From Reuters, a good summary of the cluelessness of "the haves and the have-mores" who've been catered to and hugely benefited over the past 30 years.

If you think this preferred treatment of the very rich is an illusion or an invention, it was expressed very succinctly and clearly, even arrogantly and jokingly, by George W. Bush when he ran for the presidency in 2000. He might almost have been addressing a frat dinner at Yale. The man oozes privilege. How did America not see this and worry about it? We were carefully instructed otherwise by a media owned and operated by the 1%. Journalists who tried to tell the truth were let go, muzzled, discouraged, suppressed, edited. More systematically they were not given microphones on 24 hour cable news.

Could there be a more cynical, cheerful acknowledgement of what's become of this country?

Nicholas Kristof says something important in today's New York Times: the Occupy movement isn't and needn't be about the real estate. It is and should be about the idea of vast inequality, vast power of the very few vs. powerlessness of the many.

Via MSNBC, a retired Phildelphia police captain worries that the brutal crackdowns in NY, Oakland, Seattle and elsewhere represent corporate America using the police as hired thugs. Hired violence is a chilling throwback to darker periods in our history. Watch the more documentary passages in The Grapes of Wrath and you'll see how police were co-opted by the powerful and the moneyed in a period of economic depression. We don't need to borrow examples from the Nazi era, we have our own.

These evictions also remind me of the violent treatment of the 1932 Bonus Army by Douglas MacArthur, with the encouragement of President Hoover, as explained in the Guardian newspaper.

I also can't help being reminded of the American Revolution. Valley Forge has been mentioned, as the occupiers faced a winter in the open, but the more important comparison is with the strategy Washington used then against overwhelming odds. He didn't confront, he avoided battles that would destroy his smaller force. He used evasive tactics. He and his army endured and eventually won. He won by enduring and keeping the message alive. 99% of Americans need to understand how much wealth and power has been taken from them by the 1% over the past 30 years. This is a fact that Wall Street is working very hard to obscure and disguise.

Here's a good summary of the victory of the 1% written by Nobel economist Joseph Stiglitz.

Here's a very good summary of what the 1% have stolen from all of us, from the New York Review of Books. We should resurrect the term "Robber Barons" first employed by journalists like Mark Twain in the 19th century.

Vigorous regulation of Wall Street has come from both parties in the past. Today, we only see it from the Democrats. (Obama's attempts to get more thorough reform have been thwarted by a lockstep Republican minority in the Senate.) People forget the original opponent of Wall Street power was Theodore Roosevelt, a progressive Republican who would be drummed out of today's GOP.

Many progressives wonder why Obama hasn't waded fully into this Wall Street confrontation. Why hasn't he given a speech like FDR's famous "I welcome their hatred" speech calling out the plutocrats of great wealth? Well, these times are different. Washington is more narrowly divided, and the powers arrayed on the side of Wall Street are more considerable than they were in the 1930s. Here's a very useful discussion of these times vs. those times, by my friend Eric Black.

Prior to the New Deal most old people lived in poverty. FDR eliminated old age poverty, and in some ways helped create what we've come to call The Generation Gap. Much of that gap is a difference in world view between insecure young people and secure old people. The young of today fear they won't have the secure life their grandparents have enjoyed. And it appears their grandparents don't care or don't understand. Lori Sturdevant has a good piece about this in today's StarTribune. The blindness of older Americans to what is happening to their children's and grandchildren's future is downright alarming, and it makes it hard for the White House to be more confrontational. It's not about government debt at all; it's about the impoverishment of the vast majority of working Americans. A new Pew Center report examines this gradual but dramatic trend across age groups; it's summarized in The Atlantic.

The defenders of Big Money have no problem being confrontational. This recently discovered memo from a Wall Street lobbyist lays out their plan to discredit the Occupy movement. They have the lock on cable news and talk radio and the advertising apparatus to do this. A link to the actual memo is enclosed.

Here is a careful backgrounder on one of the counterprotests that's gotten a lot of play. Like the Tea Party movement, there is a bogus element. The Tea Party was funded by billionaires. The Occupy movement is genuine grass roots, with all its variety and occasional anger and shabbiness. It's real.

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