Occupy Movement – an overview 2011

The Occupy Movement – An Overview

Work in progress 10/31/11 – Phyllis Stenerson – www.ProgressiveValues.org © 2011 (posted on website 5/18/13 with apologies for outdated links)

Why?

Something’s Happening Here by Thomas L. Friedman
“…What we now have — most extremely in the U.S. but pretty much everywhere — is the mother of all broken promises…what will not go away is the broad coalition of those to whom the system lied and who have now woken up.

Occupy Wall Street: The Most Important Thing in the World Now by Naomi Klein
“We found each other.” That sentiment captures the beauty of what is being created here. A wide-open space (as well as an idea so big it can’t be contained by any space) for all the people who want a better world to find each other. We are so grateful.
…Only when you stay put can you grow roots. This is crucial…
Being horizontal and deeply democratic is wonderful…
You have committed yourselves to non-violence…
…today everyone can see that the system is deeply unjust and careening out of control. Unfettered greed has trashed the global economy. And it is trashing the natural world as well… The new normal is serial disasters: economic and ecological…
I am talking about changing the underlying values that govern our society.
And here are a few things that do matter.
-Our courage.
-Our moral compass.
-How we treat each other.
… let’s treat each other as if we plan to work side by side in struggle for many, many years to come. Because the task before will demand nothing less. Let’s treat this beautiful movement as if it is most important thing in the world. Because it is. It really is.”

This Time, It Really Is Different By Joe Nocera
[“The Way Forward”] …commissioned by the New America Foundation…
central premise is… this time, it really is different…. the bursting of the debt bubble three years ago was not just a severe example of the ups and downs that are an inevitable part of American capitalism. Rather, it was the ultimate consequence of the modern global economy.
…it is rich in supporting data, deeply nuanced, with as clear-eyed a view of our economic predicament…You can find it at ttp://newamerica.net/publications/policy/the_way_forward.

In Less than a Minute Alan Grayson Explains Occupy Wall Street to the 1% By Jason Easley
They’re complaining that Wall Street wrecked the economy three years ago and nobody’s held responsible for that. Not a single person’s been indicted or convicted for destroying twenty percent of our national net worth accumulated over two centuries. They’re upset about the fact that Wall Street has iron control over the economic policies of this country, and that one party is a wholly owned subsidiary of Wall Street, and the other party caters to them as well.”
…The right and many in the media will continue to make jokes and play dumb, but while they are laughing it up, a movement is growing. They may intentionally not understand the message of Occupy Wall Street, but millions of Americans do, and these people want their democracy back.

How the Legal System Was Deep-Sixed to Serve Elite America and Occupy Wall Street Became Inevitable By Glenn Greenwald
As intense protests spawned by Occupy Wall Street continue to grow, it is worth asking: Why now?…
Income inequality has been growing at rapid rates for three decades…
What changed was the perception of how that wealth was gotten and so of the ensuing inequality as legitimate.
Many Americans who once accepted or even cheered such inequality now see the gains of the richest as ill-gotten, as undeserved, as cheating. Most of all, the legal system that once served as the legitimizing anchor for outcome inequality, the rule of law — that most basic of American ideals, that a common set of rules are equally applied to all — has now become irrevocably corrupted and is seen as such…
Americans understand this implicitly…
It is now clearly understood that, rather than apply the law equally to all, Wall Street tycoons have engaged in egregious criminality — acts which destroyed the economic security of millions of people around the world — without experiencing the slightest legal repercussions…

Why our children’s future no longer looks so bright By Robert J. Samuelson, Washington Post, October 16, 2011
A specter haunts America: downward mobility. Every generation, we believe, should live better than its predecessor…But these expectations could be dashed. For young Americans, the future could be dimmer …Our children’s futures have been heavily mortgaged…The future is never entirely predictable, but downward mobility is not just a scary sound bite. It’s a real possibility.

US Income Disparity, Economic Anxiety Grow
Income for the richest Americans has grown 15 times faster than for the poor since 1979, a government study showed, as a poll out Wednesday highlighted deep anxiety over uneven wealth distribution a year ahead of US elections.
Household income for top 1% more than triples, while middle-class incomes grow by less than 40%.  The income disparity, and concentration of more than 80 percent of US income wealth in the top 20 percent of earners…
From 1979 to 2007, the wealthiest one percent of Americans more than doubled their share of the nation’s income, from nearly eight percent to 17 percent…
For the wealthiest one percent of the population, average after-tax household income grew by 275 percent during the period, compared with just 18 percent for the poorest 20 percent.
It was also a far greater increase than for the six tenths of the population in the middle of the income scale, who saw their average after-tax income grow by just under 40 percent during the same period.
…two thirds of the public believe US wealth should be distributed more evenly.
…28 percent of poll respondents said his [Obama’s] policies favor the rich, compared with 23 percent saying they favor the middle class and 17 percent saying they favor the poor.
By contrast, 69 percent of respondents said Republican policies favor the rich, nine percent said they favor the middle class and two percent said they favor the poor.

How the 99 Percent Really Lost Out – in Far Greater Ways Than the Occupy Protesters Imagine by: Gar Alperovitz, Truthout | Op-Ed, October 29, 2011 

how the top 1 percent really got so rich, and why the 99 percent lost out. The biggest “theft” by the 1 percent has been of the primary source of wealth – knowledge – for its own benefit.

Knowledge? Yes, of course, and increasingly so. The fact is, most of what we call wealth is now known to be overwhelmingly the product of technical, scientific and other knowledge – and most of this innovation derives from socially inherited knowledge, at that. Which means that, except for trivial amounts, it was simply not created by the 1 percent who enjoy the lion’s share of its benefits. Most of it was created, historically, by society – which is to say, minimally, the other 99 percent.

…Many of the advances that have propelled our high-tech economy in recent decades grew directly out of research programs financed and, often, collaboratively developed, by the federal government and paid for by the taxpayer….

Over the last several decades, economic research has begun to pinpoint much more precisely how much of what we call “wealth” society in general derives from long, steady, century-by-century advances in knowledge – and how much any one individual at any point in time can be said to have earned and “deserved.”

The truly central and demanding question is obviously this: If most of what we have today is attributable to knowledge advances that we all inherit in common, why, specifically, should this gift of our collective history not more generously benefit all members of society? The top 1 percent of US households now receives far more income than the bottom 150 million Americans combined. The richest 1 percent of households owns nearly half of all investment assets…If America’s vast wealth is mainly a gift of our common past, how, specifically, can such disparities be justified?

…when what is created by all of society for many centuries gets turned into wealth, and, somehow, directly or indirectly, shunted away from the 99 percent by the 1 percent, much of that process, in fact, is reasonably described as “theft.” The demand of the occupations that this theft stop, that it be reversed, is also right on target – both in what we know about how wealth is created, and, above all, in what we know about how a just society ought to organize its affairs.

How?
10 Ways to Support the Occupy Movement By Sarah van Gelder
1. Show up at the occupied space near you.
2. Start your own occupation.
3. Support those who are occupying.
4. Speak out. Get into the debates and the teach-ins.
5. Share your story.
6. Be the media.
7. Name the meaning of this moment.
8. Insist that public officials treat the occupations with respect.
9. Study and teach nonviolent techniques.
10. Be resilient.
The genie is out of the bottle. People will no longer accept the systematic transfer of wealth and power from we the people to the 1 percent. In this remarkable, leaderless movement, each one of the 99 percent who gets involved helps shape history.

Calling All Liberals: It’s Time to Fight by Benjamin R. Barber
Liberalism’s core values remain strong, persuasive and enduring. Their fighting vitality is apparent in the spreading youth-led protests on Wall Street and across the country. What we lack is a coherent progressive narrative explaining and justifying liberalism’s role in the radically changed circumstances of the twenty-first century…
in a democracy, citizens are government…So to be a liberal today means to fight for more democracy, to fight against the corruption of politics by money and plutocratic special interests that delegitimize it in the eyes of wary citizens. But it also means fighting against that insidious “war on government” being waged by conservatives. Because that war is really a war against “we the people,” against all we share, and hence against democracy itself…. 

A Movement Too Big to Fail by Chris Hedges
…The Occupy Wall Street movement, like all radical movements, has obliterated the narrow political parameters. It proposes something new. It will not make concessions with corrupt systems of corporate power. It holds fast to moral imperatives regardless of the cost. It confronts authority out of a sense of responsibility. It is not interested in formal positions of power. It is not seeking office. It is not trying to get people to vote. It has no resources. It can’t carry suitcases of money to congressional offices or run millions of dollars of advertisements. All it can do is ask us to use our bodies and voices, often at personal risk, to fight back. It has no other way of defying the corporate state. This rebellion creates a real community instead of a managed or virtual one. It affirms our dignity. It permits us to become free and independent human beings…

The four habits of highly successful social movements by Ezra Klein From Rich Yelson
… Whether they will grow larger and sustain themselves beyond these initial street actions will depend upon four things:
the work of skilled organizers;
the success of those organizers in getting people, once these events end, to meet over and over and over again;
whether or not the movement can promote public policy solutions that are organically linked to the quotidian lives of its supporters
the ability of liberalism’s infrastructure of intellectuals, writers, artists and professionals to expend an enormous amount of their cultural capital in support of the movement.
… there’s a big job to explain and defend the Wall Street demonstrators to curious Americans.

Three Rules for Radicals in an Era of Crisis by Jeffery J. Smith
…how do we get the biggest bang for our activist buck? Try these guidelines:
1) work for (not against),  2) get radical (address the radix or root) and
3) follow the money – that’s where the rubber meets the road.

Van Jones on America’s Uprising: It’s Going Be an Epic Battle By Adele M. Stan and Don Hazen
…I think we’re going into a real period of serious experimentation and innovation, and even improvisation … a global phenomenon — of the business model for social change changing, moving away from the hierarchical and more toward the horizontal.
….November 17 is going to be a major protest date……protests must lead to participation…

Inventing New Politics by Shea Howell
…These protests are a reflection of the growing efforts of the majority of people in this country to create a new democracy…
they are moving all of us in a more human, more socially conscious and responsible direction.

Occupy Wall Street has its roots in more than a decade of steady, sure challenges to the excessive greed and destruction wrought by global capital. In 1999 the resistance to the World Trade Organization burst onto the streets of Seattle. The Battle of Seattle held the promise of the first sustained effort to demand public accountability of private capital…The promise of that demonstration faded under the shadow of 9-11 and the decade of war that consumed us…
In all of these processes we are inventing a politics that has never been seen before.
It is a politics emerging out of a global struggle to create a just, sustainable and joyful world.

Finally Making Sense on Wall Street by Mark Bittman
How do we bring about fundamental change?
…the renewed understanding that collective struggle is a key component in meaningful change…could not be more important. A movement that questions everything — from food justice to economic justice — is a fine start…

The Narrative

How Occupy Wall Street’s Moral Vision Can Beat the Disastrous Conservative Worldview By George Lakoff
OWS has a progressive moral vision and view of democracy, and that what it is protesting is the disastrous effects that have come from operating with a conservative moral, economic, and political worldview…
OWS is a moral and patriotic movement. It sees Democracy as flowing from citizens caring about one another as well as themselves, and acting with both personal and social responsibility….
A Warning – This movement could be destroyed by negativity, by calls for revenge, by chaos, or by having nothing positive to say. Be positive about all things and state the moral basis of all suggestions….
Remember: The Tea Party sees itself as stressing only individual responsibility. The Occupation Movement is stressing both individual and social responsibility…
You have to use your own language with your own framing and you have to repeat it over and over for the ideas to sink in…
Above all: Frame yourselves before others frame you.

A Progressive Narrative in One Powerful Phrase by Richard Kirsch
…One of the most common criticisms of progressives is that, unlike the right, we don’t have…a way of telling our story about the roles of the individual, business, and government in creating shared prosperity. The right has a well-developed view, to the point where after several decades it can now be summarized in three brief phrases: free markets, limited government, and individual liberty.
If we as progressives do our job well, we will also get to the point where we have three such phrases that are widely recognized. But that actually takes a long time. (Here are three candidates, but the fact that you may not nod your head readily when you read them is because you can’t shorten the process: shared prosperity, government that works for all of us, and liberty and justice for all.)
For now, I’m celebrating the fact that we now have one phrase that tells much of our story: “We are the 99%.”

Don’t Think of a Pig: Why “Corporate Greed” Is the Wrong Frame By Frances Moore Lappé and Anthony Lappé
Our challenge is to go beyond Occupy Wall Street — we’ve got to Occupy Democracy… Americans also need a positive, do-able vision of where such a movement can take us. That’s why “Take Back the American Dream” seems to be catching fire.
A term that captures what see emerging, and working, because it aligns with who we humans really are, is Living Democracy — democracy no longer as something done to us or for us but a culture of mutual responsibility we are together creating…

One Wave, One Message — Restore Fairness. End Bought Government by Dylan Ratigan
… a massive wave of energy is rebelling against the American government, unified in its intention to reject a system that refuses to defend 99% of its citizens…
We all feel this wave. But how can we harness it together for positive change?
It is a group of shared principles and goals, not mechanics and ideas, centered around this: creating value by working together to solve problems with aligned interests for all. The ultimate goal, then, is to confront and resolve misalignment.

Terms of the Occupation by J.A. Myerson
The first month of a Wall Street occupation that has aspirations toward perpetuity has been a wild one. What started out as a small band of protesters has now spread worldwide…Let us consider these terms so that we might not be afraid to use them openly, smartly and with candor.
Class Warfare…It is incumbent upon us then to be radically honest about what it is that Wall Street has done…
Revolution – Revolution is normally thought of as violent and as aimed at overthrowing a government. Here, it is explicitly nonviolent…and aimed at overthrowing a system…
Capitalism has proven itself excellent at allowing the commission of class warfare right up to the breaking point and then making minor adjustments to keep revolution at bay.

Faith, Values and Art

Open Letter of Support for the Occupy Movement from Unitarian Universalist Service Committee
I stand with people around the country and the world who are calling for economic justice. My values affirm that each person has inherent worth and dignity; that justice, equity, and compassion should be the guiding principles for human relationships; and that all people deserve access to the democratic process.
My recognition of the inherent worth of every person compels me to speak out against policies that privilege the demands of corporations over the human rights of people…Economic oppression is not only a violation of fundamental human rights, it is also a blow to democracy…
I envision a powerful and radically inclusive movement for economic justice. I sign this letter as an expression of gratitude to all who are working for economic justice in the United States and around the world, as an affirmation of my hope for fair and compassionate economic reforms, and as a renewal of my commitment to help make it so.

A Shining City: The Occupy Movement and the American Soul By Elizabeth Drescher
…This is at least one story that religion brings to the Occupy Together demonstrations across the country. Or…it could be if more people of faith—clergy and laypeople alike—supported the demonstrations with their presence, their resources, and their prayers in ways that embodied religious beliefs with regard to economic justice and social action.
These narratives of faith and wealth are the architectures of new dreams—not fantasies, but dreams—of an inclusive wholeness and a common stability.
…in each of the world religions, advocating on behalf of those harmed by oppression, exploitation, illness, or other circumstances that leave ordinary people in the dust is a basic faith practice.
“Justice for all,” as another line from the tattered American Dream goes. That’s what makes the “city on the hill” shine. That’s what, at the end of the day, offers hope for the resurrection not just of the American Dream, but of the American soul.

God Dissolves into the Occupy Movement By Anthea Butler, Elizabeth Drescher, Peter Laarman, Sarah Posner and Nathan Schneider moderated by Religion Dispatches Senior Editor Sarah Posner
…shared their own thoughts about a movement that remains fluid and thrilling—and quite literally indescribable…every moment seemed already so charged with a secret extremity and transcendence—secret, because the rest of the world hadn’t yet become aware of what powerful stuff was happening down there…
rituals, prayers, and other sacramental practices—are not institutionalizing structures per se, but the stuff of both personal and communal spiritual practice…providing a narrative thread that goes beyond the initial narrative of civil disobedience, which is what Martin Luther King and Gandhi did—they recast civil disobedience as spiritual disobedience, allowing for the emergence of movements that were far more than political in their significance.
None of it will be transformational, however, unless a lot more people can be touched by the same spirit of exodus and be actively engaged in some form of active or even symbolic resistance…
The point of the OWS movement is that it is an embodiment not merely of a political ideology or social commentary, but also of an expression that gives the movement what many observe and experience as its spiritual quality…
The OWS movement is now the prevailing cultural conversation in America, redefining how we talk about almost everything else—money, food, politics, war, and, certainly, faith

The Church and Occupy Wall Street by Marilyn Sewell
I’m waiting to see what the religious response will be to OccupyWallStreet, which is a true revolution of the people. It is a cry from people who have been abused far too long by those who hold economic and political power. It is a cry for justice and compassion. It is a demand for responsibility from our elected leaders. What will the established churches say in response?
The OccupyWallStreet phenomenon is a true prophetic moment, and it should be the subject of sermons all over this country…
Churches are not allowed to participate in partisan politics, lest they lost their non-profit status. But they can and should be involved with political issues, because politics determines how the economic pie is divided–and that becomes very much a moral issue…
The church’s proper role is to stand on the side of the disenfranchised and to call out wrongdoing and injustice in our society…occupyWallStreet has given the church an opening, a decisive moment in history…

Occupy Wall Street: A “Work of Art” By Eve Ensler
… What is happening cannot be defined. It is happening. It is a happening. It is a response to injustice and inequity and poverty…. It is a spontaneous uprising that has been building for years in our collective unconscious…
We all know things are terribly wrong in this country. From the death of our rivers, to the bankruptcy of our schools to our failed health care system, something at the center does not hold.
…Occupy Wall Street is a work of art, exploding onto a canvas in search of form, in search of an image, a vision.
…the most repeated theme or desire was connection, how we are all connected, to dissolve the illusions that divide us.

Principles

Constitution is inherently progressive by John Podesta and John Halpin
Progressives disagree strongly with tea party views on government, taxation, public spending, regulations and social welfare policies…
…As progressives, we believe in using the ingenuity of the private sector and the positive power of government to advance common purposes and increase freedom and opportunity…
Coupled with basic beliefs in fair play, openness, cooperation and human dignity, it is this progressive vision that in the past century helped build the strongest economy in history and allowed millions to move out of poverty and into the middle class. It is the basis for American peace and prosperity as well as greater global cooperation in the postwar era…
Our original Constitution was not perfect. It wrote women and minorities out and condoned an abhorrent system of slavery. But the story of America has also been the story of a good nation, conceived in liberty and equality, eventually welcoming every American into the arms of democracy, protecting their freedoms and expanding their economic opportunities…

The Big Picture: A 40-Year Scan of the Right-Wing Corporate Takeover of America By Don Hazen and Colin Greer
…These protests, along with those earlier in Wisconsin, Michigan and Ohio, are signs of revival of a long tradition of popular revolt against excesses of wealth and the corporate class.
The new protests come after a long dark period — specifically the last 11 years of George W. Bush and Barack Obama — during which time conservatives have gained more power and ability to control the national debate than they have in the past 75 years…
Subsequently, the liberal/progressive side of the political equation has lost much of its influence from the period of the 1970s and early ’80s. How this has happened over time is little understood…
beginning of the 1980s…Reagan…responding to the conservative base, changed the ground rules. And with it, labor’s guaranteed negotiating strength ended…
progressive politics became more about winning elections, seeking legislative reform,  and building not-for-profit institutions that represented progressive vision and options. There no longer was a base beyond labor, which was itself shrinking…
end of ’80s, and that was where the Democratic Leadership Council, that Clinton led, emerged strongly and represented the shift to a “new progressive politics” where they made progressive mean something else…
In the electoral arena, in the media, and in the mainstream foundation world, moderate was called left or liberal, and leaders in pursuit of public office more and more have eschewed the liberal label by moving ever so profoundly to the right…
What we are up against is the constant reduction of compassion as the highest priority in how you make public policy and deliver public goods. The right wants to take public space. They want to take public resources. In response, progressives get lost in the message of to trying to re-instill belief in government…It’s about who owns government and what it’s for. Despite the right’s anti-government rhetoric, their practice is pro government. But it is government for them. So we must challenge the principle of who owns government…They want to control and privatize government resources…
We have still to invest psychically, financially and organizationally in rebuilding a shared consciousness for a threshold number of Americans that is characterized in the idea that we want a compassionate society and that government is the best vehicle to deliver that…
It’s time to name what is happening in our country without hysteria, but to be clear that the next elections are part of a struggle for a social and cultural threshold that will determine the quality of life and democracy in this country

People Power or Money Power? Editorial by Phyllis Stenerson
…The Occupy movement is most certainly a phenomenon! It’s incredible in its size, scope, volume, velocity and unity….
Deregulation of the financial industry over the past decades, along with an escalating amount of money being poured into Congressional campaigns and lobbying, have had a profound effect on the power balance in America…
There’s no doubt there are strong feelings for shifting power from the financial elite to the rest of us…
Only time will tell if and how this spontaneous, egalitarian movement will evolve into a force that will influence elections and public policy. Participants and observers are increasingly realizing that passions go much deeper than just economic justice and encompass the very moral values on which American democracy is based…

Elizabeth Warren: Refuting Straw Liberals by E.J. Dionne Jr.
Elizabeth Warren, the consumer champion running for the U.S. Senate in Massachusetts. Warren argued that “there is nobody in this country who got rich on his own,” that thriving entrepreneurs move their goods “on the roads the rest of us paid for” and hire workers “the rest of us paid to educate.” Police and firefighters, also paid for by “the rest of us,” protect the factory owner’s property. As a result, our “underlying social contract” requires this hardworking but fortunate soul to “take a hunk” of his profits “and pay forward for the next kid who comes along.”

Teachable moment: Educators can’t ignore Occupy Wall Street By Willie Hiatt
…What animates Occupy Wall Street is an acute sense of marginalization stemming from growing economic inequality…these are not anarchists who seek the overthrow of the system (they leave that to the Tea Party movement). These are not hippies who want to drop off the grid. On the contrary, these protesters want to see the grid as wired and participatory and full of as many innovative products and creative market forces as possible…
As educators, we must help students untangle the maddening economic collapse and understand Occupy Wall Street’s creative response. The protests are nothing less than dynamic, open-air classrooms…This educational opportunity knows no age limit. 

Strength

Occupy Wall Street easily out-polls Tea Partiers By Steve Benen
A new Time magazine poll asked respondents for their opinion of “the Tea Party movement.” Just 27% had a favorable opinion. Then the poll asked about OWS…
A combined 54% had a favorable impression — exactly double that of the Tea Party.

The same poll went on to ask about a variety of specific OWS-related positions, all of which enjoyed strong support — 68% want the wealthy to pay more taxes; 71% want to see bankers prosecuted for the 2008 crash; 79% believe the gap between rich and poor in the U.S. has grown too large; 86% believe Wall Street and its lobbyists have too much influence.
…The larger point is, the establishment seems to assume Tea Partiers are sensible patriots, worthy of considerable attention, while Occupy Wall Street includes a bunch of hippies, not worth taking seriously. Americans, in general, appear to believe otherwise.

Where The 99 Percent Get Their Power – Why is this protest spreading when others have fizzled? by Sarah van GelderWhatever issue you care to name…the power of the one percent is at the root of the problem. And the power of the 99 percent is key to the solution…
Transforming shame, self-doubt, and isolation into solidarity unleashes enormous power.
But there’s more that makes OccupyWallStreet powerful. It is respectful, inclusive, and egalitarian…
Powerful movements build not on a laundry list of policy demands, but on principles and values. OccupyWallStreet has a moral force that speaks to the urgency of the times. The 99 percent, and our future descendants, are losing out in a world dominated by the 1 percent.
Powerful movements create their own spaces where they can shift the debate, and the culture, to one that better serves. That’s why showing up in person at the occupy sites is so critical to this movement’s success….
The Occupy Wall Street movement, the clarity of their demand for change, and their growing power may be the most important news of our time.

The One Percent

Panic of the Plutocrats By Paul Krugman
…the protests have already elicited a remarkably hysterical reaction from Wall Street, the super-rich in general, and politicians and pundits who reliably serve the interests of the wealthiest hundredth of a percent.
…The way to understand all of this is to realize that it’s part of a broader syndrome, in which wealthy Americans who benefit hugely from a system rigged in their favor react with hysteria to anyone who points out just how rigged the system is.
…Oliver Wendell Holmes’s famous dictum that “Taxes are what we pay for civilized society.”
…Wall Street’s Masters of the Universe realize, deep down, how morally indefensible their position is…
Yet they have paid no price. Their institutions were bailed out by taxpayers, with few strings attached. They continue to benefit from explicit and implicit federal guarantees — basically, they’re still in a game of heads they win, tails taxpayers lose. And they benefit from tax loopholes that in many cases have people with multimillion-dollar incomes paying lower rates than middle-class families.
This special treatment can’t bear close scrutiny — and therefore, as they see it, there must be no close scrutiny. Anyone who points out the obvious, no matter how calmly and moderately, must be demonized and driven from the stage.

The Rise of the Regressive Right and the Reawakening of America by Robert Reich
A fundamental war has been waged in this nation since its founding, between progressive forces pushing us forward and regressive forces pulling us backward.
We are going to battle once again.

Progressives believe in openness, equal opportunity, and tolerance. Progressives assume we’re all in it together…Regressives take the opposite positions.
…today’s Republican right aren’t really conservatives. Their goal isn’t to conserve what we have. It’s to take us backwards…
The regressive right has slowly consolidated power over the last three decades as income and wealth have concentrated at the top. In the late 1970s the richest 1 percent of Americans received 9 percent of total income and held 18 percent of the nation’s wealth; by 2007, they had more than 23 percent of total income and 35 percent of America’s wealth. CEOs of the 1970s were paid 40 times the average worker’s wage; now CEOs receive 300 times the typical workers’ wage.
This concentration of income and wealth has generated the political heft to deregulate Wall Street and halve top tax rates. It has bankrolled the so-called Tea Party movement, and captured the House of Representatives and many state governments. Through a sequence of presidential appointments it has also overtaken the Supreme Court…
Yet the great arc of American history reveals an unmistakable pattern. Whenever privilege and power conspire to pull us backward, the nation eventually rallies and moves forward….regressive forces reignited the progressive ideals on which America is built. The result was fundamental reform.
Perhaps this is what’s beginning to happen again across America.

Losing Their Immunity by Paul Krugman
…financialization of America wasn’t dictated by the invisible hand of the market. What caused the financial industry to grow much faster than the rest of the economy starting around 1980 was a series of deliberate policy choices, in particular a process of deregulation that continued right up to the eve of the 2008 crisis.
Not coincidentally, the era of an ever-growing financial industry was also an era of ever-growing inequality of income and wealth…the same political forces that promoted financial deregulation fostered overall inequality in a variety of ways, undermining organized labor, doing away with the “outrage constraint” that used to limit executive paychecks, and more….taxes on the wealthy were, of course, sharply reduced…
that wonderfulness failed to trickle down to the rest of the nation — and that was true even before the crisis. Median family income, adjusted for inflation, grew only about a fifth as much between 1980 and 2007 as it did in the generation following World War II, even though the postwar economy was marked both by strict financial regulation and by much higher tax rates on the wealthy than anything currently under political discussion.
…Money talks in American politics, and what the financial industry’s money has been saying lately is that it will punish any politician who dares to criticize that industry’s behavior…

Confronting the Malefactors by Paul Krugman
…The protesters’ indictment of Wall Street as a destructive force, economically and politically, is completely right...it has been easy to forget just how outrageous the story of our economic woes really is. So, in case you’ve forgotten, it was a play in three acts.
In the first act, bankers took advantage of deregulation to run wild (and pay themselves princely sums), inflating huge bubbles through reckless lending. In the second act, the bubbles burst — but bankers were bailed out by taxpayers, with remarkably few strings attached, even as ordinary workers continued to suffer the consequences of the bankers’ sins. And, in the third act, bankers showed their gratitude by turning on the people who had saved them, throwing their support — and the wealth they still possessed thanks to the bailouts — behind politicians who promised to keep their taxes low and dismantle the mild regulations erected in the aftermath of the crisis…
It’s clear what kinds of things the Occupy Wall Street demonstrators want, and it’s really the job of policy intellectuals and politicians to fill in the details…
the whole point of the protests is to change that political climate. 

Robert Gates on the GOP’s Breakdown and Failure at “The Basic Functions of Government” By Steve Benen
…The GOP’s hyper-partisan turn after Barack Obama’s victory in 2008 meant 112th Congress was destined to test the limits of dysfunctional governance. But it also happened to coincide with a moment in history when the country needed the government to do better than the bare minimum. Instead, it’s done less. And that’s shaken people who’ve spent their careers steering the ship of state.
 “I do believe that we are now in uncharted waters when it comes to the dysfunction in our political system — and it is no longer a joking matter,” [said] former Defense Secretary Robert Gates…It appears that as a result of several long-building, polarizing trends in American politics and culture, we have lost the ability to execute even the basic functions of government much less solve the most difficult and divisive problems facing the country. Thus, I am more concerned than I have ever been about the state of American governance.”…
We need a new conservatism in our country that is worthy of the name. We need liberals willing to speak out on the threat our daft politics poses to our influence in the world. We need moderates who do more than stick their fingers in the wind to calculate the halfway point between two political poles.
…we need well-intentioned Republicans who care about the national interest to realize something has gone fundamentally wrong with their party, and to work to help bring back.
Some have even begun suggesting it’s part of a larger effort on the part of the radicalized right to deliberately undermine confidence in America’s public institutions and create conditions in which voters give up on government altogether.
If the public considers this unacceptable, they’re going to have to say so.
Rep. Peter King Fears Occupy Wall Street’s Policy Influence, IBTimes Staff Reporter, (audio from Cenk Yugar, Young Turks http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ntt8Ma7Ggqo)
Congressman Peter King (R-N.Y.)…refuses to give the protesters any credence.
“It’s really important for us not to give any legitimacy to these people in the streets,” King said. “I remember what happened in the 1960s when the left-wing took to the streets, and somehow the media glorified them and it ended up shaping policy. We can’t allow that to happen.”

Rescuing America from Wall Street by Harold Meyerson
…Occupy Wall Street…the demonstration against our financial sector’s misrule of the American economy….Planned and unplanned, the groups are coming together. The imminent mixing of largely young and countercultural Wall Street occupiers with more seasoned and hard-nosed unionists and middle-class liberals may produce some clashes of style, but their shared anger at what banks have done to them — to all of us — should be sufficient to cement this nascent coalition…
As finance has become a larger and larger part of the U.S. economy in recent decades, the U.S. economy has grown more and more dysfunctional. At Wall Street’s prompting, the New Deal’s constraints on finance were loosened in the 1980s and ’90s, enabling banks to grow huge by speculating with other people’s money and by restructuring the economy so that it ran on credit and debt.
Once the servant of industry, banking became our dominant industry. It has ceased to serve us. We serve it…

Big Bucks in Anti-Big Government Movement: The Professional Tea Party Cashes In by Kenneth P. Vogel
…Americans for Prosperity, FreedomWorks, Club for Growth, Leadership Institute and Tea Party Express – raised $79 million last year. That’s a 61-percent increase from their haul in 2009, when the tea party first started gaining traction, and an 88 percent increase over their tally in 2008, according to a POLITICO review of campaign reports and newly released tax filings.
And the two biggest groups – Americans for Prosperity and FreedomWorks – tell POLITICO they’re planning to raise and spend a whopping $156 million combined this year and next, laying the groundwork for what could be a massive tea party organizing push against Democrats and the occasional moderate Republican in 2012.
It’s an entirely different story for the rag-tag local groups that form the heart of the tea party, which struggle to raise cash.
The imbalance is worrisome to some grassroots tea party activists, who warn that the movement is at risk of becoming dependent on the type of centralized, top-down political structure that contributed to tea partiers’ distaste for both political parties, as well as Washington’s conservative establishment…Others grumbled that the mega-groups’ spending seems more geared towards supporting Washington’s political industry than boosting the grassroots…
…the large groups spend big bucks on salaries, like the $500,000 that FreedomWorks paid its chairman Dick Armey, endorsements from radio hosts like Glenn Beck and Mark Levin and speaking fees to movement heroes like Sarah Palin and Samuel “Joe the Plumber” Wurzelbacher,not to mention millions more on consultants and ad buys.
Americans for Prosperity, which was founded in 2004 with funding from the billionaire industrialist brothers David and Charles Koch, has seen its fundraising numbers rise steadily from its inception, with increases from $14.5 million in 2008 to $26.7 million in 2009 to $38.6 million last year, according to tax filings released this month, which are not required to reveal the group’s donors….

Frequently Asked Questions

Occupy Wall Street: FAQ by Nathan Schneider

Published on The Nation (http://www.thenation.com), September 29, 2011

Q: I hear that Adbusters organized Occupy Wall Street? Or Anonymous? Or US Day of Rage? Just who put this together anyway?

A: All of the above, and more. Adbusters made the initial call in mid-July, and also produced a very sexy poster with a ballerina posed atop the Charging Bull statue and riot police in the background. US Day of Rage, the mainly internet-based creation of IT strategist Alexa O’Brien, got involved too and did a lot of the early legwork and tweeting. Anonymous—in its various and multiform visages—joined in late August. On the ground in New York, though, most of the planning was done by people involved in the NYC General Assembly, a collection of activists, artists and students first convened by folks who had been involved in New Yorkers Against Budget Cuts. That coalition of students and union workers had just finished a three-week occupation near City Hall called Bloombergville protesting the mayor’s plans for budget cuts and layoffs. They had learned from the experience and were itching to do it again, this time with the hope of having a bigger impact. But no one person or group is running the Wall Street occupation entirely.

So nobody is in charge? How do decisions get made?

The General Assembly has become the de facto decision-making body for the occupation at Liberty Plaza, just a few blocks north of Wall Street. (That was Zuccotti Park’s name before 2006, when the space was rebuilt by Brookfield Properties and renamed after its chairman, John Zuccotti.) Get ready for jargon: the General Assembly is a horizontal, autonomous, leaderless, modified-consensus-based system with roots in anarchist thought, and it’s akin to the assemblies that have been driving recent social movements around the world, in places like Argentina, Egypt’s Tahrir Square, Madrid’s Puerta del Sol and so on. Working toward consensus is really hard, frustrating and slow. But the occupiers are taking their time. When they finally get to consensus on some issue, often after days and days of trying, the feeling is quite incredible. A mighty cheer fills the plaza. It’s hard to describe the experience of being among hundreds of passionate, rebellious, creative people who are all in agreement about something.

Fortunately, though, they don’t need to come to consensus about everything. Working alongside the General Assembly are an ever-growing number of committees and working groups—from Food and Media to Direct Action and Sanitation. Anyone is welcome to join one, and they each do their own thing, working in tacit coordination with the General Assembly as a whole. In the end, the hope is that every individual is empowered to make decisions and act as her or himself, for the good of the group.

What are the demands of the protesters?

Ugh—the zillion-dollar question. Again, the original Adbusters call asked, “What is our one demand?” Technically, there isn’t one yet. In the weeks leading up to September 17, the NYC General Assembly seemed to be veering away from the language of “demands” in the first place, largely because government institutions are already so shot through with corporate money that making specific demands would be pointless until the movement grew stronger politically. Instead, to begin with, they opted to make their demand the occupation itself—and the direct democracy taking place there—which in turn may or may not come up with some specific demand. When you think about it, this act is actually a pretty powerful statement against the corruption that Wall Street has come to represent. But since thinking is often too much to ask of the American mass media, the question of demands has turned into a massive PR challenge.

The General Assembly is currently in the midst of determining how it will come to consensus about unifying demands. It’s a really messy and interesting discussion. But don’t hold your breath.

Everyone in the plaza comes with their own way of thinking about what they’d like to see happen, of course. Along the north end of the plaza, there’s a collage of hundreds of cardboard signs people have made with slogans and demands on them. Bystanders stop and look at them, transfixed, all day long. The messages are all over the place, to be sure, but there’s also a certain coherence to them. That old standby, “People Before Profits,” seems to capture the gist fairly well. But also under discussion are a variety of other issues, ranging from ending the death penalty, to dismantling the military-industrial complex, to affordable healthcare, to more welcoming immigration policies. And more. It can be confusing, but then again these issues are all at some level interconnected.

Some news reports have been painting the protesters as unfocused, or worse, as hopelessly confused and uninformed. Is there any truth to that?

Sure. In a world as complex as ours, we’re all uninformed about most things, even if we know about a few. I remember a police officer remarking of the protesters on the first or second day, “They think they know everything!” That’s how young people generally are. But in this case, noticing the over-concentration of wealth around Wall Street and its outsized influence in politics does not require a detailed grasp of what a hedge fund does or the current selling price of Apple stock. One thing that distinguishes these protesters is precisely their hope that a better world is possible. I might add that, for many Americans, such nonviolent direct action is the only chance of having a political voice, and it deserves to be taken seriously by those of us in the press.

How many people have responded to the Adbusters call? How large is the group? And how large has it ever been?

The original Adbusters call envisioned 20,000 people flooding the Financial District on September 17. A tenth of that probably ended up being there that day. Despite a massive Anonymous-powered online social media blitz, lots of people simply didn’t know about it, and traditional progressive organizations like labor unions and peace groups were uncomfortable signing on to so amorphous an action. Over the course of a difficult first week, with arrests happening just about every day, new faces kept coming, as others filtered out to take a break. The media coverage after last weekend’s mass arrests and alleged police brutality has brought many more. Now, during the day and into the night, one finds 500 or more people in the plaza, and maybe half that sleeping over. At any given time, several thousand people around the world are watching the occupation’s 24/7 livestream [1] online.

Rather than a mass movement from the outset, this occupation has ended up depending on a relatively small number of highly determined, courageous young activists willing to sleep outside and confront police intimidation. But that is changing. As word spreads about it, the crowd has been getting older, more diverse. Already, though, this tactic of a somewhat rowdy occupation has garnered influence far greater than a traditional march would. After all, 20,000 marched on Wall Street on May 12—protesting bank bailouts and budget cuts for state employees—and who remembers that?

What would a “win” look like for the occupation?

Again, that depends on whom you ask. As September 17 approached, the NYC General Assembly really saw its goal, again, not so much as to pass some piece of legislation or start a revolution as to build a new kind of movement. It wanted to foment similar, like-minded assemblies around the city and around the world, which would be a new basis for political organizing in this country, against the overwhelming influence of corporate money. That is starting to happen, as similar occupations are cropping up in dozens of other cities. Another big occupation has been in the making for months, slated to begin on October 6 at Freedom Plaza in Washington, DC, and the organizers of that have been visiting Liberty Plaza on and off, learning all they can from its successes and mistakes.

I’ve heard some people saying, when Liberty Plaza was swamped with TV news cameras, “We’ve already won!” Others think they’ve hardly begun. Both, in some sense, are true.

Are there cops all over the square? How bad has the police brutality been? If I came there, what are the risks?

The police presence is nonstop, and there have been some very scary encounters with them—which also gave occasion for tremendous acts of courage by protesters. The worst incident was last Saturday, of course, but there has been very little trouble since then. A large contingent of protesters has no intention of getting arrested, and almost nobody is interested in taking pointless risks or instigating violence against people or property. The more that ordinary people join the cause—together with celebrity visitors like Susan Sarandon, Cornel West and Michael Moore—the less likely the police will probably be to try to suppress it. As one sign along Broadway says, “Safety in Numbers! Join Us!”

Nonetheless, challenging the powers that be—and doing so impolitely, outside the bounds of a permit—is never going to be 100 percent safe. To the extent that this movement is effective, it will also carry risks. If you take part, it’s not a bad idea to keep the National Lawyers Guild’s phone number written on your arm, just in case.

If I can’t come to Wall Street, what else can I do?

A lot of people are already taking part in important ways from afar—this is the magic of decentralization. Online, you can watch the livestream, make donations [2], retweet on Twitter and encourage your friends to get interested. People with relevant skills have been volunteering to help maintain the movement’s websites and edit video—coordinating through IRC chat rooms and other social media. Soon, the formal discussions about demands will be happening online as well as in the plaza. Offline, you can join the numerous similar occupations that are starting up around the country [3] or start your own.

Finally, you can always take the advice that has become one of the several mantras of the movement, expressed this way by one woman at Tuesday night’s General Assembly meeting: “Occupy your own heart,” she said, “not with fear but with love.”

Source URL: http://www.thenation.com/article/163719/occupy-wall-street-faq
 

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