Occupy Victory

Media pundits like the New York Times’ Bill Keller continue to fret about the Occupy Movement and their leaderless revolution.

I’m prepared to celebrate when the Occupiers — like the lone hunger artist of India — accomplish something more than organizing their own campsite cleanup, demonstrating their tolerance for tear gas, and distracting the conversation a little from the Tea Party. So far, the main achievement of Occupy Wall Street is showing up.

But to look at the words of the Republican leaders last week, I would say the Occupy Movement has already accomplished its main goal—raising national consciousness of economic inequality.

Income inequality, a cause of liberal economists and pundits, is working its way into the discourse of Republicans on Capitol Hill.

It’s a concept that the Occupy Wall Street movement has virtually owned and spread as its protests expand. Democrats have latched on, too, hammering Republicans for economic policies they say favor only the rich. And the Congressional Budget Office released a major report last week, showing that average household income for the top 1 percent of earners increased 275 percent from 1979 to 2007 while increasing just 18 percent for the bottom 20 percent of earners. So rather than ignore the disparity — and risk looking out of touch — Republicans are acknowledging income inequality. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) is discussing it; House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) has talked about wealth disparity; and rank-and-file Republicans have started to lace the phrase into talks and interviews.

As soon as you have got Eric Cantor and Paul Ryan defending their support of the 1%, the main political dialogue has changed. There is no real way for Republicans to explain how the Reagan and Bush tax cuts for the fat cats have benefited the country as a whole. Here is an example of their lame defense strategy.

“Absolutely, there’s huge income inequality, and it started right here in Washington,” said Rep. Bill Flores (R-Texas). “The way we fix that is getting the government out of the way of the private sector so we can put these people to work.”

Years ago, when Reagan first started cutting taxes for the rich, his advisors put forth the notion of “trickle down economics”, but the new CBO study shows that to be the Big Lie we always thought it was. And as Paul Krugmann points out this morning, there is nothing more hypocritical that Republicans railing against government spending.

Thus Representative Buck McKeon, Republican of California, once attacked the Obama stimulus plan because “more spending is not what California or this country needs.” But two weeks ago, writing in The Wall Street Journal, Mr. McKeon — now the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee — warned that the defense cuts that are scheduled to take place if the supercommittee fails to agree would eliminate jobs and raise the unemployment rate.

The Occupy Movement took much of its inspiration from the Arab Spring revolutions, and now as winter approaches, I think they need to borrow another page from the Arab street—The Friday Protest March. Instead of trying to Occupy Wall Street with a small number of diehards, what is needed is a well organized large march at lunch time every Friday in each one of the main Occupy Cities. They would get all the press coverage and more importantly would widen their network over the coming months. The movement has already changed the national conversation as Ohio Republican Congressman Steve LaTourette acknowledges.

“In all [of] the messages that the president has tested this year, income inequality is probably the one that’s picking up the most steam, at least in my hometown, and so it’s something we’ve got to be aware of,” LaTourette said. “I don’t know if it’s something we need to talk about but … it’s something we need to be aware of.”

Now comes the hard part for the Occupy forces. Sustaining a movement for the next 12 months that will be based on economic justice and rebuilding America instead financing useless weapons of mass destruction.

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26 Responses to Occupy Victory

  1. Alex Bowles says:

    One very solid achievement that Keller is unlikely to acknowledge is degree to which OWS has made him look like a blithering idiot.

    And that’s due to another major accomplishment: yanking Washington and the mainstream media out of the absurd do-loop with deficits, and into a discussion (albeit reluctant) about the catastrophic employment situation – specifically, the way its stubborn persistance gives lie to all the ‘recovery’ nonsense that folks inside the Beltway were peddling.

    Here are some interesting charts illustrating precisely how much the national dialog has shifted thanks to OWS (scroll down for the best one). Of all people to realize how significant this is, you’d think that an actual newspaperman would be among the first to get it, not the last.

    If he decides he’s like a crash course on what’s actually happening, he should plan on being on Oakland on November 2.

  2. JTMcPhee says:

    Alex, links aren’t working. Neither are 16.8%, MOL, of our fellow Americans.

    I hope some smarter folks than me will start fleshing out that single little word, “jobs.” So meaningless, without context. Skidding on the greasetiles behind the McFryLine is a “job,” so is cleaning (and polishing) Lloyd Blankfein’s solid gold crappers. Flesh it out, discuss it, until it has at least as much meaning as “Tippecanoe and Tyler Too.”

  3. Morgan Warstler says:

    The battle is not Big Gov. vs. Big Business.

    They are the same side, the Tea Party and a few smart parts of OWS know this.

    Just as the the solution in politics is devolving power back to the states, the solution in Business are laws that favor SMBs over the Fortune 1000.

    Any laws that trample this reality, and cast Big Gov as the protector against Big Biz, need to be ended and fast.

    OWS claims an interest in leaderless blah blah, but unless their solution is to follow the Tea Party and aim for both distributed capitalism and distributed government, it is going to be 1968-1972 all over again.

  4. Alex Bowles says:

    @JTMcPhee Thanks for the flag. Here are the links.



    And I agree that “jobs, Jobs, JOBS” gets mindless fast. Usually, it goes in hand-in-hand with discussing of government in meaningless terms of “big” vs. “small”, or “more” vs. “less” rather that terms with precise definitions, like “competent”, “trustworthy”, “responsive”, “uncorrupt” and so on.

    But in this context, it’s a clear, strong signal that whatever DC is selling, people aren’t buying, and that’s for the best. The truly amazing thing has just how long the folks inside the Beltway have managed to maintain the state of denial about the broader economic collapse, and the hustle involved with keeping massively insolvent banks on life support.

    And it’s not that the zombies, by themselves, are at the root of the malaise. Bad as they be, we have structural problems that run much deeper. But the oxygen needed to maintain fiction that they aren’t zombies is chocking the life from everything else. We cannot begin to right the ship with this monstrous lie still looming over the proceedings.

    In any case, I agree with JT – the big challenge will be sustaining the push. Ironically, this demands constant change. Because so many people are truly screwed, it’s unlikely that motivation will lag. However, particular avenues – especially the successful ones – are bound to become counterproductive long before the Interregnum is complete.

    Case in point: http://animalnewyork.com/2011/10/are-occupy-wall-street-protesters-their-own-worst-enemies/

    And that’s the thing about movements. They really need to keep moving. Fortunately, they don’t need to solve every problem, or push through a highly-informed agenda composed of wonky yet vital reforms. If the system is question is truly rotten (which I believe it is), then limited change may be all that’s needed to trigger a genuine cascade.

    On that note, see this fantastic piece about the last days of the USSR, run by Foreign Policy a few months ago. The key observation is that change didn’t emerge directly from the most terrifying and repressive phases of Soviet rule, for obvious reasons. Rather, it took place in a phased way, starting when the guys who had lost all moral authority thought they could make some return to a civilized state (while preserving their positions) through a program of limited reform. Instead of normalizing life, these efforts triggered the complete collapse of the regime. And all it took was a hint of reconciliation.


    In that regard, I can understand why Wall Street Banks and their protectors in Washington are so resistant to admitting even the slightest bit of guilt. In the same way that the difference between zero and one can be infinitely larger than the difference between one and two, the mere admission of legislative and regulatory capture – never mind its extent – may be enough to precipitate a tsunami.

    In truth, it’s not at all clear where the next economic framework is going to come from, or how it’s going to be possible to bring actual unemployment below 5% while ensuring that jobs for grown-ups pay at least $18/hr. for 40 hour weeks, before accounting for health care. But it’s safe to say that supporters of shareholder capitalism are completely out of ideas, and that the only thing keeping them out of the cold is their grip on Congress.

    I don’t think OWS is going to change this. But it may change enough minds to set the stage for something that can.

  5. len says:

    “the big challenge will be sustaining the push. ”

    For the push… link snapped for the usual reason: not to clutter. For those people cold in their tents who will not be moved by man or the weather gods…. you are beautiful!

    http://www.you tube.com/watch?v=sQzv0ZyK0to

  6. Roman says:

    For those watching closely, does the OWS meme include indictments, prosecution and jail time for the perps responsible for the world’s largest theft? I haven’t noticed any mention of it, but admittedly, I haven’t been as focused on the “movement” as some.

  7. len says:

    @roman: indirectly. A lot of signs clamor for justice. At the end of that video above, you’ll see one of those. They seem to be deliberately focusing on the broad and not the specifics. But if you are asking if they are aware of all of that, assuredly so.

  8. Roman says:

    The justice angle has been a concern of mine for some time. What’s been most interesting is how this 800-lb gorilla hasn’t been dealt with for the past three years. I mean, it was the largest heist in the history of the world!?!

    It’s understood that both parties drank from its forbidden chalice and know too well how to punish the other if someone suddenly finds a conscience. That’s why, since its outset, I’ve sensed OWS was more a vehicle designed to direct vent/rant (without inflicting any significant damage), than a means to exact justice.

    Disagree? Then why, instead of being considered “indirectly”, isn’t justice at the center of their platform?

  9. len says:

    Because they aver platforms. They refuse to engage the pundits. The movement is the message. That and thousands of cardboard messages.

    A round bouncing ball can be held but not cleaved. They are way smarter about this than we were.

  10. Morgan Warstler says:

    ooof… pitch perfect.

    “In social theory, OWS is best understood not as a populist movement against the bankers, but instead as the breakdown of the New Class into its two increasingly disconnected parts. The upper tier, the bankers-government bankers-super credentialed elites. But also the lower tier, those who saw themselves entitled to a white collar job in the Virtue Industries of government and non-profits — the helping professions, the culture industry, the virtueocracies, the industries of therapeutic social control, as Christopher Lasch pointed out in his final book, The Revolt of the Elites.”


  11. len says:

    So Morgan, Jon Taplin is the new John Bircher? I think not.

    Spin it anyway you like. If those people make it through the winter in those tents, they will have permanently altered the course of modern history. The chickens of financial skullduggery and money for nothing are roosting in Greece as their military chiefs are tendering resignations and their people have to prepare to vote. The Ponzi games of the late twentieth century from the banks to the web hucksters are coming to an end shockingly quickly, or one might say, in Internet time.

    The interesting side show will soon be the attempts by the government agencies who financed and encouraged the web revolution both socially and in technology to control them as the feedback shakes the foundations of their own hegemonies. This will get very weird like turning on the kitchen light to find all the cockroaches that have been hiding in the walls feasting on the floor and trying to scurry for cover as the homeowner reaches for cans of Raid. Context is a bitch.

  12. JTMcPhee says:

    Random thought number Zilch: The Star Trek narrative teaches that the Borg Collective is to be feared, resisted and destroyed if possible. The Borg had telepathic unity, aided by techmagic, driven by the strongest mind (with the unnecessary perky breasts.) “Christians” converting the Muslims, by force and arms, on the way to some unspecified and unknowable goal requiring what, total hegemony and unity? A crystallization of the solubilized volume of humanity?

    OWS has the nascent techmagic (dependent on “somebody” supplying the Cloud and the iThings, isn’t it nice, and maybe even justice, that the WarLords and the Big Hit Profit Seekers combined to Make It All Possible? Can “they” shut it all down, if the “threat” is scary enough, with all the attendant dislocations? ) to effectuate some level of interconnectedness. “We” don’t have the telepathy, yet — the DARPAfuckers are all over linking mind and machine, oooh, because that is so COOL, just like a warsim, and hey, ‘cuz then Stephen Hawking and Shattered Soldiers and kids with CP like one of my young friends could be Made Whole or Maximized or whatever.

    I personally think the Heart of Darkness is the ruling power in humankind, and that the very few with those strong minds will always dominate in aid of satisfying the several lusts (power and sensations and the pleasure of inflicting pain and diminishing so many others.) I’ve not eavesdropped much on all that’s in the wind now, but is it possible, is it maybe even happening, that there’s some little protein folding in our metaminds that might be finally getting expressed, in a form that is nameless for want of naming, something in the way of movement, preference, selected behavior of the kind that is called homeostasis, moving a whole lot of people from bovine states to a knowledge of real good and evil and the choice to comprehend the General Welfare in the broadest kind of awareness? The Goodness Pair? The Golden Rule Allele?

    One hopes that the momentum of the Present can overwhelm, or maybe even better, absorb and re-form and re-direct, the many evil inertias of What Ails The Vast Majority Of Us…

    One hopes.

  13. JTMcPhee says:

    Worgon, watch out for those nanoprobes… Assimilation is coming… Resistance is futile… And by joining the Collective, you get to take part in the drive to achieve Perfection! in a way that is, by force of technology and definition, a lot more satisfying than doing whatever it is you do for Breitbart and in your other pursuits…

  14. Alex Bowles says:

    @Roman Regarding the justice angle – I think that’s the very essence of the 99:1 framing. The entire situation is manifestly unjust.

    Regarding more specific demands for justice (i.e. judges and jails), I suspect that’s less of an issue simply because demands made of a system three years after the fact are testament enough that the system has ceased functioning, and in a way that is truly profound. People are starting to get that. Indeed, that’s what this is really all about. Pointing to the scoreboard in such a single-minded fashion shifts the onus from people who shouldn’t have to demand that their justice system actually do its job to people who are actively frustrating it, while insisting that things are going as well as can be possibly expected, that we’re all in this together, and that it’s best for everyone to just “move on.”

    And to be clear about what we’re being asked to “move on” from, I mean the terrible collateral damage inflicted by the implosion of systemically critical institutions that had been leveraged 35-40:1 on the back on the absolute worst credit risks imaginable – itself an act of staggering recklessness – by pretending that the CDOs coming out of this hustle were AAA stuff. These crimes against humanity were followed by a push from lobbyists hired by the perpetrators and tasked with making damn sure there would be no meaningful regulatory response, let alone criminal prosecution for any of this. In succeeding, these bastards protected themselves from immediate retribution, but only by revealing that the government “of the people, by the people, and for the people” had quietly become a meaningless charade. Over the past three years, we’ve seen fraud within fraud within fraud, all erupting into the light of day with no real Change whatsoever.

    In this situation, demanding ‘justice’ in the traditional sense is a bit like expecting Charles Manson to somehow bring his victims back to life. As desirable as that may be, it just isn’t going to happen. And people know it. So the tactic has shifted to observing the truth, and watching the perpetrators (all of them) squirm as they try to extend the hustle one step further, by convincing people that it’s all just one big misunderstanding, and that – really – everything is going to be fine, given time.

    Lawrence Lessig, who has been considering the most fundamental layer of failure in all this for some time, has got his spiel to a nicely polished state, which you can see here:

    Unfortunately, I think he’s still falling a bit short in the “what can be done” department, but don’t let that diminish the excellent contribution he’s made simply by framing the problem so clearly. In truth, no solution is possible without widespread consensus on the point he makes. And while it’s easy enough to appreciate and support this position once its been articulated, it remains subtle and complex enough to be less-than-obvious to folks looking around the wreckage of their lives and asking “what really went wrong, and what actually needs to be done?”

    The OWS folks – bless their hearts – have taken the essential first step. By calling ‘bullshit’ on the prevailing spin, they’ve created the opportunity for a narrative that actually meshes with reality. I don’t think they take the next step, and provide this themselves. At the same time, the people who can had been totally sidelined until OWS came along. They need to take this fleeting opportunity while it still exists, and run with it as hard and as fast as they possibly can.

    Think Paul Revere.

  15. Alex Bowles says:

    Sorry, I meant “I don’t think they can take this next step…”

    Separately, here’s the Lessig link in clickable form.

    . It’s the better part of an hour, but entirely worthwhile. That said, a decent glass of wine is advisable.

  16. Alex Bowles says:

    I don’t know who Max Berger is, but he has summed up the sentiment better than anyone else I’ve come across.

    Nor was this the first time my generation saw our system fail the test of history: our response to September 11th was belligerent, our response to climate change was negligible, our response to the financial collapse was corrupt and insufficient. As a result of these failures, and countless others, we lost our ability to imagine working together to solve our shared problems.

    The greatest contribution the occupy movement has made thus far has been to inspire us to imagine solutions at the scale of our problems. This is a revolutionary concept. Instead of working towards what we believe is possible, it has called upon us to work backwards from what is necessary.

    Full comment here.

  17. len says:

    A subtle hint as to the degree to which the OWS people get it: they are singing old Carter Family songs, quoting Gandhi, quoting JFK, even making up their own stuff. They aren’t singing Dylan songs or quoting Bill Clinton. They are looking at Obama with a distempered eye. They’ve looked at the left heros culturally and politically and realized they’re frauds. They aren’t buying it anymore.

    They know they’ve been screwed blue. Meanwhile the liberals have decided to take a holiday from the best thing that could possibly have happened to them and headed out to alledge Herman Cain to death. I’m not a fan of Cain but it seems the established left can’t break their own hypocritical habits long enough to see the itinerary or understand they actually aren’t on the train pulling out of the station.

  18. rhbee says:

    You know, Len, a lot of what you say would make a good country song,’specially that train thing.

    A friend said he’d been pre-occupied so long he didn’t know yet if he could make the shift without doing serious damage to his fantasy football team.

  19. Amber in Albuquerque says:

    All this chaos is really confusing and depressing me. It would be really bad if Alex wasn’t so good at sorting it all out and Len & McPhee weren’t so good at the poetry parts.

  20. JTMcPhee says:

    Amber, us old folks with kids might think in terms of midnight diaper changes and 2 am feedings. We were pretty fuddled and maybe even angry and resentful in the middle of the dark times, but hey, the kids seem to maybe have leapsprung from whatever good many of us instilled in them, and whatever Golden Rule genetics that might be present in the most of us, feeling about for a better way. For the sake of my grandkids, who are blessed with wonderful and enlightened parents, I hope they grope successfully.

    Chaos is often order unperceived. Or so I read, somewhere.

  21. len says:

    Interesting thought, rhbee. I don’t do country well though or so I am told. More of a folkie out of place in time. We do what we can.

    Arlo on CNN yesterday preaching to the choir and he gets it. The movement is the message. Eventually the politicization of it will drive some issues to the top. As Jon observes, the Republican talking points are shown to be bareassed lies. The Tea Party has been overwhelmed by superior numbers. People are seeing what the oligarchy controls and how and they don’t like it.

    Now we have to see if the anti-forces can do what they did with the web: co-opt the thought leaders and direct them in ways that eventually dissipate the emotions without affecting any real change or if we co-evolve in a better direction. So I am praying to al Bari, the Evolver.

    When the powers of the ancient nations dissolved, the slaves of the Mediterranean took to ships and ravaged the coastal cities. Those who could moved to the high country and eventually they were living on bare rocks on cliffs so dangerous a mouse couldn’t scale them. This is what is going to happen if the 1 per cent doesn’t come to their senses and start doing something proactive because eventually the police and military they use to protect them won’t be able to resist those marchers and won’t want to. The police in Birminghan at last put down the fire hoses and sat down on the side walks and began to cry. The women in the churches told their husbands to get rid of the robes or sleep in the garage.

    Hearts will rise. The movement is the message.

  22. JTMcPhee says:

    len — “if the 1%$ doesn’t come to their senses”? my bet is a larger scale repeat of “The Death of Sardanapalus.”

    Pretty clearly, for these folks, What Comes After they have their run at personal pleasure don’ t matter at all. And like many “rulers” of yore, they be gonna take the concubines and pooches and their loyal idiot retainers into the night with them. https://encrypted-tbn0.google.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcRdfAharccG9IYp7eAENvf0BFrpPLc_Rz38kfTAD_WdG5x8rs7sdQ

  23. len says:

    The problem of the moment and going forward jtmc, is how to stop the anarchical elements, the ones who want the violence and the procateurs who work with them from taking over the message. Their will to power is strong. A college friend of mine as I’ve mentioned before, was Prince Crazy. The FBI recruited him to pass explosives to the Weathermen so they would do the very thing they did enabling Hoover to bring the hammer down. We know where that thread goes into the future. Even Arlo talking on CNN discussed how the old days were mostly leaderless even though no matter the cause du jour, the same people showed. The problem is some even then will radicalize in a bad way and then they dominate the press and the message. The crazies want violence, the provocateurs help them and the folks trying for consensus get drowned out. In the web lists, if the moderates did not emerge to manage the trolls, the same things would happen. Then the list if supported by a company or consortium had to go private or members only. Some of these groups may find themselves soon in a similar predicament which is why I think they need HQ for the winter and a way to identify each other, but that sort of goes against the spirit of the thing.

    The difference today is FB and other social networks, blogs such as these, etc., where people keep their heads and have a civil discussion. Is it enough? I don’t know. I suspect the Powers that Be are trying to figure out how to water down FB but that’s tough to do without being very obvious and that has a way of chasing people over to Google++. I suppose it depends on whcih agency wants the policing/intel responsibilities the most.

  24. JTMcPhee says:

    Len, I hope the young folks know enough history to remember one prior long winter, somewhat important in the history of American “democracy:” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Valley_Forge

    I look forward to an appropriate period of massive simple leaning against the vector of the Juggernaut, while maybe a few of the more inspired ones sneak around and unscrew the wheel nuts and jam a potato up the exhaust pipe, and start removing useful parts to build something that actually has a purpose…

    And prayers that the freepin’ nihilists and bomb-throwers, who have not a prayer themselves between them, can somehow be absorbed. I do remember a couple of “fiery orators” (is that supposed to be a recommendation? “For they are all HONORABLE men…”) did their damndest to hijack some Quaker peace vigils I took part in. Back when I was…

  25. len says:

    The PTB believes the winter weather will wear out the protests as it did the Cinncinnatti riots in 2001. Meanwhile the day of Move Your Money to Local Credit Unions is being met with ads from the local credit unions inviting people to Come On Down and touting the advantages. You have to admire it when capitalism and movements for saner capitalism meet up potatos in hand.

    “Plannng to protest today? Visit you local Starbucks and have a cup of our new Lose Your Shackles Venti Latte and a We Care Carrot Cake!” Weirdly, that sort of thing works.

    Then there are those waddy investors in Chicago who are throwing McDonald’s applications out of their office windows at the protestors. Potatoes in the tail pipes seem like the right response: “Would you like fries with that, Banker Jones?”

    I saw a reference on FB today to a Yahoo article with the headline the CIA is watching FB and Twitter. I haven’t followed it because it is yet another register to read site, but D’oh. On the flip side, there is a graphic going round on FB that says, “The Government Is Watching Facebook. Good. Maybe they’ll learn something from us.” and that is a good attitude to have in my opinion. Maybe they’ll bring pizza to the party. :)

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