Grand Bargains, Friedman, and the Problem with Moderates

Thomas Friedman, I suppose, thinks of himself as a moderate.  Maybe like Matt Miller from KCRW’s Left,Right, and Center who advocates for “radcial centricism” (or something like that).  This species of thinking imagines that the “left” and “right” can only be correct up to a point.  Hence, the one good path towards progress must, by definition, be some thing “in between.”  Friedman, especially, excels at taking what seem like irreconcilable differences and with his wise words, turn them into new consensuses that if only the irrationally passionate partisans of left and right would accept would lead us into a shiny tomorrow.

Friedman’s recent op-ed in the New York Times is a classic.  He argues that the great debate of our times is over “which capitalism?” instead of “which -ism?” Fair enough.  In this context, he defines “American Capitalism” as- that’s right- the perfectly moderate mix of opposites, of public and private.  I suppose that European “safety-net” socialism is unbalanced by inference from his argument.

To regain our American mojo we need to rebalance public and private. Hence, he calls for a series of “grand compromises.”  Between cutting the federal budget and raising taxes.  Between paying  for “nursery schools and nursing homes.” (Nice line).  Between labor and management.  Between environmentalists and extractive industries.  And so on.  Between Dogs and Cats.  Yankees and Red Sox.  No, not the last two.

I find this seductive.  Yes, let us come together and find common ground.  What a story: can we not have politicians who can use language, influence, guile, and all their dark arts to bring these differing parties to Friedman’s round table of Grand Compromises?  I want to be in that story!

But I am afraid it is a fairy tale.  Continue reading

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Europe’s Debt Crisis Deepens

by Richard D. Wolff
Over the weekend, Fitch — the major rating company that, with its fellow majors, Moody’s and Standard and Poor’s, dominate the business of assessing the riskiness of debt instruments — took a highly publicized step.  It downgraded the credit-worthiness of the sovereign debts of many European countries.  What a spectacle!  These rating companies were distinguished by their laughably inaccurate (to be extremely polite) assessments of the risks associated with asset-backed securities.  Those assessments contributed to the economic crisis we are living through.  Now the world is supposed to hang on — rather than laugh at — their credit reports.
Europe’s debts — and social tensions swirling around them — are clearly problems.  Governments collapsing in Greece, Italy, and Spain show that, among other signs of the obvious.  The rating companies’ downgrades of European debt are rather like downgrading the likelihood of good weather while the rest of us are already rushing to close the windows against pouring rain.
Still worse are the usual media reports and discussions of the Fitch action.  They are once again full of eerie references to steps European governments must take “to satisfy the markets.”  This strange metaphorical abstraction — “the markets” — is portrayed as some sort of Frankenstein monster threatening to eat Europe’s children unless the parents support government austerity programs.  Those austerity programs are, of course, already making those parents and their children suffer.
Let’s take a momentary step back from what is an ideological — or better said, propagandistic — usage of the term.  “The markets” is a conceptual device that serves to hide and disguise those particular corporations that stand behind and work those markets to pursue their interests.  The politicians’ and mass media’s language makes it seem as if self-interested pursuit by those corporations were the machine-like operations of some unalterable, fixed institution.  We need to remember that markets, like all other institutions, are human inventions filled with a mix of positive and negative aspects and open to change.  After all, the mixed effects of markets have made them objects of deep suspicion and skepticism at least since Plato and Aristotle profoundly criticized markets as enemies of community thousands of years ago.
The chief creditors of European governments today are banks, insurance companies, large corporations, pension funds, some other (mostly non-European) governments, and wealthy individuals.  When politicians and media speak of the need for European governments to “satisfy the markets,” what they mean is to satisfy those creditors.  The chief influences among those creditors are the major banks that represent and/or advise all or most of the rest of them.  The major European banks were and are the chief recipients of the costly bailouts by those European governments since 2008.  Indeed, those bailouts sharply increased the indebtedness of European governments because the latter paid for those bailouts by borrowing.
The bailouts worked in Europe much as they did in the US.  Banks had speculated badly in asset-backed securities and their associated derivatives leading up to late 2008.  When borrowers (e.g., mortgagors in the US) increasingly defaulted on the loans comprising those asset-backed securities, the values of the latter collapsed.  Banks stopped trusting one another to repay loans between them — central to the global credit system — because all banks knew that they all held huge amounts of asset-backed securities whose values had collapsed.  Each major bank feared that others — like itself – might have to default on its debts.
Bank transactions with one another stopped and thereby produced a credit “freeze” or “crunch.”  In modern capitalist economies, businesses, governments, and consumers have all become more credit-dependent than ever.  Such a freeze or crunch therefore threatened wholesale economic non-functioning (collapse).

The solution was for governments to intervene massively to unfreeze the credit system.  They did this on multiple fronts simultaneously, so serious was the crisis.  First, governments lent freely to the major banks that could not borrow from each other.  Second, governments guaranteed various sorts of loans and debts so banks that had feared to lend would resume lending.  Thirdly, governments borrowed massively so private lenders — especially banks — would have a safe and profitable outlet for their loanable funds.  In these ways, as agent of the people, European governments unfroze and rebooted a collapsed private credit system at enormous public expense.  They thereby enabled the survival and continued profitability of the banks and their major clients.
Over the last year or so, those banks and their clients — freed by government bailouts from worrying about loans to one another — have begun to worry about their loans to European governments.  They fear one thing: aroused and angry publics.  People in the streets may not permit their governments to impose “austerity.”  The people may not accept government cuts in basic public employment and services to save money and to pay off creditors that were bailed out at public expense just a short while ago.
So the creditors are now pressing governments to ensure the safety of the national debt (to themselves).  The Fitch downgrade is part of that pressure.  The references to “satisfying the markets” simply disguise the whole outrageous process.  The crisis drama deepens: creditors’ pressure on governments increases austerity policies that increase mass opposition that frightens creditors who increase their pressure on governments. . . .
The contradictions driving this vicious cycle agitate all of European society and the global economy interlinked with Europe.  European governments fear the creditors and fear their rising domestic oppositions to austerity.  They express irritation against Fitch and the other rating companies for making their dilemma worse.  They have no solution, bend toward “satisfying the markets,” and thus pursue austerity in fits, starts, and retreats.  Like animals frozen in the headlights of oncoming disaster, the players in this absurd European drama issue redundant credit reports (Fitch), hold endless and fruitless conferences and summits (Sarkozy, Merkel, et al.), and twitch with anxiety as general strikes proliferate and governments teeter and fall.  Meanwhile, phantoms like “the markets” haunt the media analyses and politicians’ statements, serving mostly to fragment and obscure what is happening.

Richard D. Wolff is Professor Emeritus at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst and also a Visiting Professor at the Graduate Program in International Affairs of the New School University in New York.   He is the author of New Departures in Marxian Theory (Routledge, 2006) among many other publications.  Check out Richard D. Wolff’s documentary film on the current economic crisis, Capitalism Hits the Fan, atwww.capitalismhitsthefan.com.  Visit Wolff’s Web site at www.rdwolff.com, and order a copy of his new book Capitalism Hits the Fan: The Global Economic Meltdown and What to Do about It.  His weekly radio program, “Economic Update,” broadcasts on WBAI, 99.5 FM in New York City every Saturday at noon for an hour; it can also be heard live and in podcast archive on wbai.org.

How to Deal with the Money Changers

Submitted by Charles Sackrey; Dedicated to Karl Patten

We all know now that the money changers have ruined a good part of the world economy, brought millions to our knees and many more to the streets.   Yet, on the bright side these blue suited, repeat offenders have forced us to ask a crucial question:  Is our worship of capitalism simply another fantastic dream about a pie in the sky that was never there?

And, if so, two other questions:  “What is to be done?  And, just whose advice should we follow?”   We will all have our favorite words of wisdom in these matters, ranging from the soft and resolute murmurs of the advocates of non-violence to the shouts of those demanding that we raid Goldman Sachs amd the home office of the Koch Brothers’ empire, and capture the felons as they try to slither their way to safety.

About these questions, I have found myself lately thinking about two of my own mentors who most usefully to me now about how to unseat these corporate criminals.  Well, first off, there’s Jesus, who led my family to raise me as a Southern Baptist and made me come to believe that you had to worry about the fellow down the road who was in trouble.  I’ll say more about Jesus in a minute.

Second, when I went to college in Texas, I was inspired and radicalized by left wing professors and I became in a predictable order first a communist, then an anarchist, then the democratic socialist that I am now.  That path meant that along the way I would gather wisdom and inspiration from Joe Hill, the most famous member of the Industrial Workers of the World, the Wobblies.  The Wobblies were anti-capitalist unionists who, began in the early 1900s to wage a mighty class war with the bosses.  This is one war you should read about if you haven’t already.  The Wobblies were crushed in 1917 by the federal government for their opposition to capitalism and to World War I, only to rise again to organize farm workers in the 1920s and 30s.  And, they still exist on a much smaller scale.

Joe Hill, an immigrant from Sweden, was an active organizer, speaker, and troubadour for the Wobblies from 1910 to 1915.  Then in 1915 he was executed on trumped up murder charges by the state of Utah. He was enormously popular within the union, and famous for many of his songs and great courage in organizing.  He is especially famous for a comment to a friend just before he was executed.  He said, “I will die like a true blue rebel. Don’t waste any time in mourning. Organize.”  He also added, “Could you arrange to have my body hauled to the state line to be buried? I don’t want to be found dead in Utah.”

The Wobblies believed in resisting the bosses in every way possible, but the weapon they considered the most powerful was the general strike.  In such a strike, the workers – knowing that they are the ones who produce the output — simply would lay down their tools.  The Wobblies knew that without their wage slaves, the capitalist bosses could not produce anything, and the system would stall and become vulnerable to being overthrown.  In my anarchist days, I, too, used to dream about the general strike, and once again it seems to me a promising weapon in the war with the corporate bosses.

Given these views, I see the Occupy Wall Street movement as at least in part, a fabulous reincarnation of the spirit of Joe Hill and the Wobblies. And, I know that many of the older ones are being urged forward by remembering Joan Baez, or someone else, singing “ I Dreamed I Saw Joe Hill Last Night. Alive as You and Me.”   My hat is off to those in this movement, in my town and in all the others around the world, because they switched from being complainers to being organizers.  Now, I dream happily that they and I will become worthy ancestors of the Wobblies.  And, as they talk among themselves about short and long strategies, surely the idea of a general strike somewhere down the road will find its way into their discussions.

So, what about my second mentor, Jesus, himself, And, here, I’m not talking about the one who claimed his to be the son of God, and whose followers claimed he healed the sick, and could turn water into wine, among other miracles.  The Jesus that most influenced me after I grew up was the rabble rouser who loved the poor and loathed their oppressors. Like many radicals, my favorite story about Jesus is the one, told by his disciple, John, and confirmed by many other witnesses. According to John, this is how Jesus answered the question, “What is to be done?” Just before Passover, Jesus went to the Jerusalem Temple and found men selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. So he made a whip out of cords, and drove the men and animals from the temple area.  He scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables.

Jesus apparently was particularly perturbed about the burden of Temple commerce on widows and their children.  Given this story,  and whether we are faithful followers of Christ’s sacred word, or just an admirer of the parts of Jesus that were like Joe Hill, we might see this story as a mandate to do something like this:  we organize a caravan and go to the offices of Goldman Sachs and of the Koch Brothers where, armed with whips made from cords, we demand that they follow us to the jailhouse where they can begin to pay for their crimes against humanity and democracy.    

It is also interesting that, according to his disciples and other witness, the fracas as the temple was the only time they ever saw Jesus really angry.  In fact, if you didn’t’ know this story, you might think Jesus spent most of time talking about love, grace, forgiveness and how awful things would get for us if we didn’t behave. I think we can all understand at this point why it was the bankers of his time who helped to push Jesus over the line into violence.

If I were a money changer, or a political hack in their pay, I would be worried about the collective rage now building about their actions. What they have done and are doing is likely to cause many of us to cross all sorts of lines in our struggle to regain the power they have seized.

A final note here is about a wonderful irony.  While Jesus was the founder of Christianity, and Joe Hill was an atheist with a deep contempt for the church, they were as one in their unfettered anger for the money changers. And, as the Baptists in my family would put it, they were also both great witnesses for the good.

Let’s get the Government off our Backs

The government interferes with free enterprise by creating red tape, wasting hard-earned tax- payer money and undermining market incentives.  The solution is to shrink government.  Fortunately we have managed to elect a number of representatives to Congress to ensure that we get the government off our backs.  It is important to support their efforts in order to achieve maximum prosperity.  Here are three reasons to support their efforts and what you can do to help.

 

First, we must keep in mind that there are two ways to make money.  One is by building new and better products that meet real social needs and generate much needed work for citizens.  The other is by taking advantage of people by developing financial instruments that generate wealth through speculation and the drain resources and eliminate jobs in the those parts of our economy that are productive.  Lately the latter types of investments have been much more profitable.  Eliminating government oversight makes it much easier to develop fraudulent financial instruments and to generate the fast money associated with speculative investment.

 

Second, all production generates waste and stresses the environment.  Profits are enhanced when the social costs of production are borne by others and the private gains are concentrated in the hands of a few.  Government oversight of the environmental impact of business makes it much more difficult to avoid paying the social costs associated with production.  By shrinking the EPA and by gutting State and local environmental regulations, we can more easily pass off the environmental cost of production while enhancing the corporate bottom line.

 

Third.  We all know competition is bad for business.  When we compete for markets we inevitably drive prices down, bid up wages and are forced to innovate to create better products.  All of this activity reduces profits.  Our bottom line is enhanced when we can erect obstacles to prevent competitors from entering markets.   Fortunately, once monopoly conditions are created, our monopolies create profits, profits that enable us to establish effective barriers to entry in industry, permitting us to gouge consumers and use the obscene profits to underwrite public relations, “think” tanks and journalists that celebrate the invisible hand of the market.  Governments are the main means by which monopolies are undermined and so government efforts to destroy monopoly need to be nipped in the bud.

 

What can you do to support our efforts?  Just keep buying the line that we are doing this for your benefit.  Keep voting for congress people we are financing – representatives that will help us to disassemble and disable government oversight of business.  After all, our interests are your interests, are they not?  Let’s all work together to get the government off of our backs.

Let’s Occupy Together

(Originally Posted Nov. 5th, 2011)

I’m not sure why the media are having such trouble figuring out the demands of Occupy Wall St.  Recently, a seven-year-old girl, Celia Cooley, went down to Zuccotti Park and, posing as a reporter, she asked people why they were there (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x12iOQYY0w8).  What they said was quite consistent and quite reasonable and quite comprehensible to this young girl.  They said: We want our democracy back.

Anyone who is confused about what the protesters want has probably been listening to too much corporate news.  Corporate news stations present themselves as trustworthy and unbiased, but they are owned by large multinational corporations like General Electric and Westinghouse, and these are the folks that are benefitting from the policies that the protesters decry.

These news outlets don’t want the message of Occupy Wall St. to be heard.  They don’t want the protesters portrayed as ordinary Americans who have been bilked of their savings and booted out of the middle class and who are justifiably demanding that things change. If you’ve been watching corporate news and you are confused, the first thing to do is to broaden your sources of information.  Go to the non-commercial news sites on the Internet and listen to the chorus of ordinary Americans who are saying very clearly what’s wrong and who are making sensible suggestions about how to go about fixing it.

Here is some of what you will learn.

The economic crisis did not start because suddenly poor people started taking out mortgages on homes they couldn’t afford to pay for.  It didn’t start because of some corporate bad apples. Think about it.  The job of a lender is to determine if a person is credit worthy.  The reason loans were given to people who couldn’t afford them was simply that banks no longer had an incentive to find out if people were credit worthy.  Why?  Because banks were permitted to sell the mortgages to other companies for a profit, rather than waiting to collect on the loan.  The big banks pushed loans on people because they were making profit, hand over fist, from selling these loans to investors.

Why were the investors buying bad mortgages? Because they were permitted to bundle them together with other loans to look like safe investments.  Why did these investments look safe, because the folks in the rating agencies, who were supposed to rate these investments, were not sufficiently regulated and worked in cahoots with the big banks.

The problem, in short, was not individual behavior; the problem was that the system was jury-rigged.  Corporate lobbyists took over Congress and rewrote the banking laws in their favor.  As long as home prices went up, banks made a killing.  When the music stopped, instead of taking their consequences, big banks got their insiders at the Fed and the Treasury Department in D.C. to bail them out.  Then they got their friends their in corporate media affiliates to point their fingers at the borrowers ( the ones who are now homeless) and at big government (for wasting taxpayer money).  Meanwhile, Wall St. banks go on their merry way, paying out bonus, rewarding failure, avoiding the consequences of their actions, and continuing to use our Congress as their personal playground.

That’s just wrong.  That’s why folks are on the streets.

If you are in the Tea Party, you probably believe many of the same things that Occupy Wall St. supporters believe.  People should play by the rules.  People should be punished when they do something wrong.  If you reward people for cheating, they are likely to continue to misbehave.  Like supporters of OWS, you probably believe that our government should be accountable to us, we the people, and that the government should not collude with powerful elites to deprive people of the right to a livelihood, or to kick them out of their homes.  You probably believe that government shouldn’t write laws that favor powerful interests in order to raise enough money to get re-elected.

I support Occupy Wall St.  You and I may have our differences, but I think we share a commitment to restoring the integrity of this democracy.  I think we can agree that when a government no longer is responsive to the desires of the citizens, that it is the responsibility of citizens to act together.  The government itself is not the problem; the problem is that the government has been taken over by wealthy elites who do not have our interests at heart.  It is time for us to stand together, shoulder-to-shoulder, Republican and Democrat, on the streets of this great country and take our democracy back.

Turn off the corporate news, talk to your fellow Americans, one by one, until you decide for yourself whether what I am saying is true.  That’s what Celia is doing.  There is no other test in a democracy but that of the ability of ideas to stand the test of evidence and reason.  The values that our forbearers fought and died for are at stake.  Nothing less.

I am the Spokesperson for #OWS and These are Our Demands

The general assemblies of New York, Oakland, Chicago, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Dallas and 350 communities across the United States have appointed me spokesperson for the Occupy Wall St. movement.  I am hereby empowered to submit the following demands:

1. We demand free and fair elections based upon open discussion and debate and support of the majority.  To this end we demand that all elections be publicly financed, that candidates qualify for public financing by collecting signatures supporting their campaign, and that television stations be required to devote a percentage of prime-time viewing to candidates for the purposes of promoting their positions.  Elections will be run by instant run-off, permitting multiple candidates to express divergent views on economic and social policies.

2. In order to ensure public discourse is not co-opted by the corporate press, we demand that media companies be owned and managed by their staff – that no outside financial interest be permitted to own or influence the content of the news so that journalists can perform their democratic duty of informing citizens on the events of the day.   Citizens will receive a tax reduction of up to $200 to permit them to support media outlets with editorial views they support.

3. We demand citizen boards be empowered to decide on the regulation of large corporations.  These citizen boards, acting like juries, will hear testimony of the industry experts along with testimony of those affected by the enterprises’ activities.  These boards will make democratic decisions concerning what regulations are needed and how they are to be enforced, in order to prevent the types of abuses we see in the finance, energy, defense and pharmaceutical industries.

4. We demand the immediate expropriation of the health insurance industry, which holds American working people hostage to a system that systematically deprives a significant portion of the population access to vital health care services when they  need them.

5. We demand the immediate review of our constitutional rights and the emergency powers adopted under the Patriot Act and enforced by the Department of Homeland Security in order to protect the civil rights of all.

6. We demand the immediate institution of publicly funded zero-interest student loans and the gradual implementation of a publicly funded pre- and post-secondary education system in order to provide equal opportunity to education across lines of race, gender and class and to end the systematic debt peonage of young people.

7. We demand the restoration of the social safety net including eldercare, childcare, and parental leave so that we fully support the elderly, the young, the infirm and their caretakers and so that those suffering from mental illness and the men and women reeling from the post-traumatic effects of war need not live on the streets of our country to our collective shame.

8. We demand an end to imperialist wars that inflict untold damage on working people at home and abroad, that reinforce a cycle of violence that ends up making all of us less safe and that severs the bonds of international cooperation on which our survival as a species now depends.

9. We demand that private corporations producing goods and services be required to create an employee ownership plan that contributes a percentage of corporate profits into a fund to purchase shares in the corporations to be held by workers.  Over a 10 -12 year period this fund would become a majority stake in the company at which point elected representatives of the workforce will replace the managers and board of directors and any existing outside ownership of the enterprise will be purchased at fair market value by the workers.

10. We demand an immediate public investigation of the financial industry, with the purpose of punishing those responsible for willfully profiting by committing fraud on American homeowners and disabling small businesses by denying credit.  We demand that these financial industries be immediately broken up and replaced by institutions that are publicly-owned, worker managed and devoted to providing access to credit to home-owners and businesses, not to the maximization of profit for shareholders.

11.  In short, we demand an economy and political system that works for the 99%, that respects and incorporates the values of direct and representative democracy – the idea that people have a right to a say in decisions that directly affect them and the right to a government of, by and for the people.

So there they are, the demands of the Occupy Wall St. movement.  How do we best proceed?

Do we hand them over to the radical right, the Limbaughs and the Becks and the Koch brother lackeys, who can’t wait for the chance to ridicule and demean them?  Can’t wait because they know they control the bully-pulpit of the commercial media, that any sensible set of demands, demands that really get at the dark heart of the shameful domination of ordinary American’s by the corporate elite, indeed any demands Occupy Wall St. makes, can be painted pink, jeered at, confounded and distorted.

Isn’t that the function of the right-wing media – to take off the table any set of ideas that actually represent the will of the people, to keep the debate well to the right of what working American’s believe and value; to keep the moneyed interests of their wealthy funders safe from scrutiny; and to keep reasoned, well-intentioned, and compassionate voices from informing our public policy?

Please don’t imagine that the so-called ‘liberal media,’ the New York Times and NPR, are the answer.  The truth is that our commercial media system is a pale reflection of what a democracy requires of its press.  On the issues that count, issues central to our working and civic lives, these media outlets fail ordinary working Americans, again and again, by giving a pass to the corporate interests who have disemboweled our democracy, made off with our collective wealth, and left the middle class and working class in tatters.

Part of our work is to re-imagine our media system, to take it out of the hands of the 1%, and to begin to build a real, lasting and inclusive democracy that extends beyond the ballot box into the places where we sweat and toil to provide for ourselves and for our families.  Until we do that, no set of demands can be honestly considered.

But no, these are not the official demands of Occupy Wall St. and I am not its official spokesperson.  But these are real proposals, embodying the values of our democratic tradition, which have been imagined, fought for, and, in many cases, implemented in an ongoing attempt to reign in the reckless gluttony of high finance and the corporate elite.

Demand #1, for free and fair elections, has been partially implemented in Maine where it is now possible for an elected representative to actually legislate on behalf of those who elected her, rather than on behalf of her corporate supporters.

Demand #2 is based on the struggle that occurred in the 1930’s and that eventually resulted in the institution of public media, here and abroad.  It is based on efforts to return our public media to its proper place, as an independent source of investigative journalism and not a corporate-sponsored and therefore toothless imitation.

Demand #3 is based on developments in regulatory reform in Belgium intended to ensure that industry insiders do not capture regulatory boards, a solution which is sorely needed here in the U.S. in this era of regulatory capture.

Demand #4 is widely practiced in the area of health insurance in all other industrialized economies whose citizens widely support the view that private interests should not be permitted to profit by denying health care to those who need it.

Demand #5 is based upon broad-based support for reviewing the powers granted to the government by the Patriot Act and for protecting the civil liberties enshrined in our constitution and bill of rights.

Demand #6 has been widely practiced in most industrial countries in the post-war WWII era in order to provide equal access to education as a condition for meaningful participation in a representative democracy; in order to provide a basis for equal opportunity for positions of authority in the economy and in politics, and in order to prevent those most vulnerable in our society from experiencing poverty and destitution.

Demand #7 is prevalent in many industrialized countries and reflects the belief that those most vulnerable should not be pushed to the margins of our society and that the work of caring for others, be they young, old, infirm or otherwise dependent ought to be recognized and valued.  It reflects the belief that our veterans, young and working class, do not receive the treatment and care they deserve when they are ruined by war.

Demand #8 inspired ten million to take to the streets across the globe to protest the “shock and awe” bombing of innocent civilians in Iraq.  Ending these wasteful and immoral wars is a necessary precondition for building international solidarity to respond effectively and immediately to the threat of global warming.

Demand #9 is based on the Meidner plan, that came close to being implemented in Sweden in the 1970’s until it was derailed by corporate interests.  It is based on the belief that democratic participation ought to be extended to decisions affecting the work lives of individuals; that the corporate capitalist system disenfranchises workers who have a right to participate in decisions concerning the value they create.

Demand #10 is a response to the continued arrogance and hubris of an industry that has not demonstrated the ability to contribute to economic wellbeing, has arguably done more harm to the fortunes of American working families than any foreign threat, and that does not deserve the immunity from crime that has be granted it by the Obama Administration, this Congress or the Securities and Exchange Commission who’s mission is to uphold and enforce the law as it pertains to Wall St brokers, the banks and hedge funds who have made off with our national wealth.

Demand #11 is a summary statement of the purpose of Occupy Wall St. – to open a space, literal and figurative for the discussion of the ideas that the media have pushed to the margins, and that the corporate elites in this country, those who own and control the means by which we obtain our livelihoods, are afraid to acknowledge because they are afraid to openly debate and discuss the moral legitimacy of plutocracy.

What happens when the elites in a country are afraid to permit discussion of the underlying justification of the economy and political institutions?

That’s easy; the citizens take to the streets, rise up and demand to be included.  After all, when you are excluded from participating in meaningful public debate, excluding from decisions about how corporations are owned, operated, regulated and held accountable, excluded from discussions of whether and how real reforms might be undertaken; when you have no hope of intervening in a political system in which free speech has all been bought and paid for, what do you do?

You occupy.

That’s what’s happening now, and that’s why the corporate media keeps asking who is the spokesperson and what are the demands.

They don’t actually want to hear the demands; they just want us all to go away.

Let’s disappoint them, shall we?

Let’s Occupy Together

I’m not sure why the media are having such trouble figuring out the demands of Occupy Wall St.  Recently, a seven-year-old girl, Celia Cooley, went down to Zuccotti Park and, posing as a reporter, she asked people why they were there (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x12iOQYY0w8).  What they said was quite consistent and quite reasonable and quite comprehensible to this young girl.  They said: We want our democracy back.

Anyone who is confused about what the protesters want has probably been listening to too much corporate news.  Corporate news stations present themselves as trustworthy and unbiased, but they are owned by large multinational corporations like General Electric and Westinghouse, and these are the folks that are benefitting from the policies that the protesters decry.

These news outlets don’t want the message of Occupy Wall St. to be heard.  They don’t want the protesters portrayed as ordinary Americans who have been bilked of their savings and booted out of the middle class and who are justifiably demanding that things change. If you’ve been watching corporate news and you are confused, the first thing to do is to broaden your sources of information.  Go to the non-commercial news sites on the Internet and listen to the chorus of ordinary Americans who are saying very clearly what’s wrong and who are making sensible suggestions about how to go about fixing it.

Here is some of what you will learn.

The economic crisis did not start because suddenly poor people started taking out mortgages on homes they couldn’t afford to pay for.  It didn’t start because of some corporate bad apples. Think about it.  The job of a lender is to determine if a person is credit worthy.  The reason loans were given to people who couldn’t afford them was simply that banks no longer had an incentive to find out if people were credit worthy.  Why?  Because banks were permitted to sell the mortgages to other companies for a profit, rather than waiting to collect on the loan.  The big banks pushed loans on people because they were making profit, hand over fist, from selling these loans to investors.

Why were the investors buying bad mortgages? Because they were permitted to bundle them together with other loans to look like safe investments.  Why did these investments look safe, because the folks in the rating agencies, who were supposed to rate these investments, were not sufficiently regulated and worked in cahoots with the big banks.

The problem, in short, was not individual behavior; the problem was that the system was jury-rigged.  Corporate lobbyists took over Congress and rewrote the banking laws in their favor.  As long as home prices went up, banks made a killing.  When the music stopped, instead of taking their consequences, big banks got their insiders at the Fed and the Treasury Department in D.C. to bail them out.  Then they got their friends their in corporate media affiliates to point their fingers at the borrowers ( the ones who are now homeless) and at big government (for wasting taxpayer money).  Meanwhile, Wall St. banks go on their merry way, paying out bonus, rewarding failure, avoiding the consequences of their actions, and continuing to use our Congress as their personal playground.

That’s just wrong.  That’s why folks are on the streets.

If you are in the Tea Party, you probably believe many of the same things that Occupy Wall St. supporters believe.  People should play by the rules.  People should be punished when they do something wrong.  If you reward people for cheating, they are likely to continue to misbehave.  Like supporters of OWS, you probably believe that our government should be accountable to us, we the people, and that the government should not collude with powerful elites to deprive people of the right to a livelihood, or to kick them out of their homes.  You probably believe that government shouldn’t write laws that favor powerful interests in order to raise enough money to get re-elected.

I support Occupy Wall St.  You and I may have our differences, but I think we share a commitment to restoring the integrity of this democracy.  I think we can agree that when a government no longer is responsive to the desires of the citizens, that it is the responsibility of citizens to act together.  The government itself is not the problem; the problem is that the government has been taken over by wealthy elites who do not have our interests at heart.  It is time for us to stand together, shoulder-to-shoulder, Republican and Democrat, on the streets of this great country and take our democracy back.

Turn off the corporate news, talk to your fellow Americans, one by one, until you decide for yourself whether what I am saying is true.  That’s what Celia is doing.  There is no other test in a democracy but that of the ability of ideas to stand the test of evidence and reason.  The values that our forbearers fought and died for are at stake.  Nothing less.