Saturday, October 22, 2011

Another Occupy Wall Street/Occupy Pittsburgh post

OK, so you are probably sick of hearing about OWS/OP (Occupy Wall Street slash Occupy Pittsburgh) by now. But I am still thinking about it, and here are some of my thoughts...

First, I still want to say that I think that some, perhaps many of the people who are occupying probably volunteered for Barack Obama in 2008. They might not have participated in politics before, but the two wars and collapsing economy got their attention, and the election left them energized. Now a bit over two and half years later, Obama has turned out to be a major conciliator with the Republicans (he did say he wanted to be bipartisan) and not effective at helping the economy. He did keep us from collapsing completely, but we are not making progress towards improving things. So, disillusioned, some Obama supporters and other rather ordinary people have taken to the streets to protest.

Second, I guess I get the hands fluttering thing, certainly the human microphone thing (silly but I suspect rather effective ... OK, Life of Brian). I am conflicted about the requirement for absolute consensus. On the one hand, what planet are these people living on? On the other hand, people who are not authority figures (authority figures being bankers, politicians, pundits, even some self serving bloggers like myself ...) being ignored, their opinions being discounted is part of what got us here in the first place.

I have heard OWS described as democracy in its purest form., perhaps there is something to that. But more important is that apparently this was the only that poorer people could get their voices heard. Maybe we shouldn't care about their method of voting so much as what they are saying.

Third, I read/heard something interesting in the last day or so, I forget where. It might have been Bill Maher's show this week (which I highly recommend) or an article on the "austerity class", those politicians who want to cut government spending. By the way, they not only want to cut spending to zero out the deficit and start to work on the debt, but they also want to cut taxes for rich, so their wealth can trickle down on us (really, the worst metaphor). Anyway, the interesting thing is that war spending, infrastructure, education, unemployment and pollution generally do not get discussed until the "austerity class" sees a way to attack them as reckless spending. Can we believe that the austerity class wants allow more pollution, because that will create more jobs? Krugman does a good job demolishing that argument.

Fourth, I still have to wonder if their is an end game/exit strategy with OWS/OP. Is there a way they can declare victory and allow the people to go home? To me, there are actually eerie parallels to Afghanistan and Iraq. Iraq and Afghanistan had had no recent experience with democracy, but plenty of experience with strong men shoving democratic institutions aside. Plus, the people trying to install democracy, the Bush administration ... not so good at it them selves.

For the OWS people, the problem is that Wall Street is not capable of policing themselves, despite what conservatives would have you believe. It makes me think that we are looking at another endles occupation, like Iraq/Afghanistan. I mean, the inability to police themselves is obvious. Just about exactly ten years after Glass Steagall was repealed, the resulting housing bubble and massive fraud burst, wrecking the economy. We need Glass Steagall back, but I don't know that Congress can, will or even should react to OWS. After all, how many voters from how many districts are camped out in Zuccotti Park?

Fifth, that actually an unfair question brings up a bigger problem. there may be (relatively) few phyical protestors, but a majority of us agree with them. Right now, in my estimate, the problem is the money in politics. Still, in a country where politicians turned a blind eye to the growing bubble because their big donors (business, especially the financial sector) wanted them to, how can we expect these same politicians or any other newly elected politician who has accepted corporate money, to address the too much money in politics. I will say it again, our problem is too much money in politics from corporations, from the 1% or the top 15%. It is the genie let out of the bottle and stuffing the genie back in is probably impossible. But these are the issues that we have to grapple with. Is OWS/OP/Occupy anywhere the tool to do the job? Maybe not, but anyone have a better idea?

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