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?
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?