Occupy: Let's Talk Turkey

Occupy: Let's Talk Turkey

First and foremost thanks to Move On for providing me with great material to add to my Thanksgiving blog and for my readers to arm themselves for Turkey Day family and friend dinners. Guess who's coming to dinner? A republican perhaps?  Democrat who doesn't understand Occupy? Someone who only watches Fox News?

Recently I was in a meeting with some really sharp professional people whom I admire. Prior to beginning our board meeting the topic of Occupy came up. One of the board members asked with a puzzled look, what the whole occupy thing was about? This was followed by the statement that there didn’t seem to be a coherent message. This is not the first time I have heard this query. The response I have provided to all who have submitted the question to me has been as follows:
Most corporations are set up to make profits, the bigger the profits the better. Big profits mean larger amounts of influence on the electoral process, i.e. lobbyists, campaign financing and so forth. All of this equals loud voices in government speaking on behalf of big business. For the mathematically inclined:
$$Corporate + $$ Donated for Campaign Finance = Corporations run government. Lest we forget the Supreme Court has decided that corporations are people which mean those “people” can ante up as much as they wish.

This last point is particularly interesting to me since it seems to fly in the face of the intentions of the founding fathers. Corporations were viewed with skepticism at best and as villainous most of the time. In fact, we (Americans) fought for our independence from England in response to corporate-political malfeasance.  Our beef (excuse the pun since this is turkey day) led to some of the following:

  • Corporations were forbidden from attempting to influence elections, public policy, and other realms of civic society. Some of the restrictions placed on corporations by patriarchs are still on the books.
  • Corporate charters (licenses to exist) were granted for a limited time and could be revoked promptly for violating laws.
  • Corporations could engage only in activities necessary to fulfill their chartered purpose.
  • Corporations could not own stock in other corporations nor own any property that was not essential to fulfilling their chartered purpose.
  • Corporations were often terminated if they exceeded their authority or caused public harm.
  • Owners and managers were responsible for criminal acts committed on the job.
  • Corporations could not make any political or charitable contributions nor spend money to influence law-making.

How we arrived at a Supreme Court ruling giving corporations “personhood” is explained at Personhood debate. It’s a fascinating read. It can be summed up in just about the same way as the overall message behind Occupy Wall Street, Occupy the ‘hood, Occupy Chicago and every other “occupy”. Money talks. It’s just too bad it doesn’t seem to speak for the 99%.

So forewarned is forearmed.  Here's your armor for dinner debates.

MYTH #1: The congressional Super Committee failed because both sides refuse to compromise.

REALITY: The Super Committee failed because Republicans' number one, non-negotiable priority is to protect millionaires and billionaires from paying even one more penny in taxes.1 Democrats repeatedly offered to make deep spending cuts—far deeper than most progressives would like—in exchange for raising taxes on the wealthy and closing corporate loopholes, only to be refused again and again.2 So even though the vast majority of Americans say they want to protect Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid benefits, and raise taxes on the rich and corporations,3that won't happen until Republicans put aside their extremist stance.

MYTH #2: Nobody knows what Occupy Wall Street is about.

REALITY: Occupy Wall Street may not have a formal list of demands, but anyone who's been paying attention understands the core problems that occupiers are protesting—that corporations have far too much power in our political system, that Wall Street banks crashed our economy but were never held accountable, and that the richest 400 Americans have more wealth than half of all Americans—156 million people—combined.4

MYTH #3: Occupiers should stop protesting and just get a job.

REALITY: As anybody who's looked for a job in the last few years knows, there just aren't jobs out there. That's a big part of why occupiers are protesting. In September, there were four times as many unemployed people as job openings.5 And for those who are lucky enough to find a job, median wages today are lower than they were a decade ago.6

MYTH #4: Occupy Wall Street is intent on provoking violence, especially against banks and the police.

REALITY: Occupations across the country have committed themselves to nonviolent protest, in the greatest traditions of protest movements. Some of their protests have been met with acts of police violence—tear gas, pepper spray, rubber bullets7—but in many cases, protesters have reminded police that the police officers are part of the 99%, too.8 And in the few cases when people have shown up at Occupy demonstrations and committed acts of vandalism, other protesters have even repaired their acts of vandalism.9

MYTH #5: The biggest crisis facing our country is out of control government spending.

REALITY: The two biggest drivers of our deficit—by far—are the economic crash and the Bush tax cuts.10 We have millions of people out of work, corporations hoarding cash, and factories sitting idle. If we put all those people back to work—rebuilding infrastructure, educating our children, and researching new technologies—it'll shrink the deficit and make our economy stronger for the long haul. And we can easily afford it if we make sure the rich—who are taking home a larger percentage of income than any time since 191711—pay their fair share.

1. "No, 'both sides' aren't equally to blame for supercommittee failure," The Washington Post,November 21, 2011

2. "Wonkbook: In supercommittee, Dems moved right and Republicans moved righter," The Washington Post, November 22, 2011

3. "CNN Poll: What The Super Committee Produced Is...Exactly What We Don't Want," Talking Points Memo, November 21, 2011

"Medicare, Social Security & The Deficit," National Committee to Preserve Social Security & Medicare, September 2011

4. "Michael Moore says 400 Americans have more wealth than half of all Americans combined," PolitifactWisconsin, March 10, 2011

5. "Fact: 4 job seekers per opening in U.S.," CNN, September 12, 2011

6. "Median household income," Wikipedia, Accessed November 22, 2011

7. "Occupy movement: police reaction in pictures," The Guardian, November 21, 2011

8. "Occupy Demonstrators Mark Two Months of Protests," NPR, November 17, 2011

9. "Occupy Oakland protesters assist in cleanup efforts," News 10 ABC, November 3, 2011

10. "Economic Downturn and Bush Policies Continue to Drive Large Projected Deficits," Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, May 10, 2011

11. "Income Inequality Is At An All-Time High: STUDY," The Huffington Post, September 14, 2009

http://youtu.be/DxvVZe2fnvI (animation to explain 99%)


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  • 1. Government spending has gotten out of control. The government now accounts for 26% of the GDP. The most government has been able to collect out of the economy (on a sustained basis) is about 19% of GDP. We can't tax our way to prosperity.

    2. Actually the various OWS groups have made demands. One in our area demanded the XL pipeline be cancelled. The number of demands within the subgroups was confusing, as polling has confirmed.

    3. Jobs are harder to get, but not impossible. The job climate is rough but several members of my family have gotten new job within the last year.

    4. You're smoking crack if you think that the protests have non-violent. We've seen several cops assaulted in our city and it's been one of the more peaceful locations. Rocks, bottles, and homemade morters are not peaceful. Dozens of cops have been hurt around the country at these protests. Five went to the hospital during the OWS cleanup in New York. Also, don't forget the violence the protestors perpetrated on each other - assaults, sexual assualts and rapes were reported in several cities.

    5. 26% of the economy now and our grandchildren are paying for it. Obama's first economic adviser, Christina Romer (UC- Berkeley), actually published a study on taxation and it's effect on GDP. She reported that every dollar in increased taxes reduced GDP, by three dollars. Still think raising taxes will make us prosperous? As for who pays, now the top 1% pays 40% of all personal income taxes and the bottom 47% pay nothing. Our tax collections have actually never been more progressive.

    Aside from the muddled message, the biggest problem with OWS is that it calls for revolution and an end to our system of a representative government. The populace wants our government fixed, not replaced.

  • In reply to ironytag:

    I firmly agree that our government spending is out of control. I do use "our" very loosely. Most of us are not included in the "our". It should more aptly state "the corporations that hold the purse strings that run the government"

    We have how many millions, billions, trillions of dollars that went into war and stayed off the books? Let us not forget the hordes of money made by the companies heavily invested in "our" government like Halliburton. Audits conducted by the Pentagon's Defense Contract Audit Agency determined that KBR (division of Halliburton) had $1 billion in "questioned" expenses (i.e. expenses which military auditors consider "unreasonable") and $442 million in "unsupported" expenses (i.e. expenses which military auditors have determined contain no receipt or any explanation on how the expenses were disbursed).
    In all this questionable book keeping, it's difficult to say that government spending has gone toward the benefit of the majority. It really looks like whatever dollars were spent on government oversight and regulations was not nearly enough. We, the American people have been bled dry.

    As far as violence and the Occupy movements around the world, I don't have statistics on how many violent episodes can or have been attributed to Occupiers. It is a shame that ANY violence has crept into the movement. I think we can all state that it started not with those occupying but with those ordered to remove them and prevent them from practicing the right of peaceful assembly.

    On this Thanksgiving day let us all hope for peace. I know I am praying for corporations to be kicked out of government so that we, the people, actually have representation in D. C.

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