The Occupy Wall Street platform

Focusing the message will make the difference in next year's elections

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EDITORIAL In New York City, the protesters who started the Occupy Wall Street movement remain camped out in Zuccotti Park. In Washington, DC, President Obama said at an Oct. 6 press conference that he understands the sentiment driving the activists. Yet in San Francisco, Mayor Ed Lee has approved a police crackdown and the confiscation of camping supplies in an effort to debilitate the occupation in front of the Federal Reserve Bank.

The move comes at a time when Lee is doing nothing to crack down on foreclosures that cost the city money, nothing to force the big banks that have the city's deposits to lend more in the community, and nothing to promote local taxes on the wealthy.

While Lee says he supports the First Amendment rights of the protesters, he sent the cops in at 10:30 at night to confiscate their belongings -- using, in part, the sit-lie law (which is only in effect until 11 p.m.)

His approach is just wrong. This city ought to be embracing and supporting the demonstrations. San Francisco makes room for all kinds of public events; this one should be no different. The people at City Hall should be working with the people in the streets to make San Francisco a central part of this growing national movement.

Make no mistake about it: What started as a small-scale, leaderless, somewhat ragtag group in lower Manhattan now has the potential to become a potent political force in this country. Occupy Wall Street has tapped into a deep feeling of frustration that's shared by people in blue states and red states, in cities and towns and rural communities. The feeble economy impacts almost everyone — and this movement has managed to point the finger at the people who caused the problem, who are preventing solutions and who are making big money off the suffering of others.

We realize that at this point, there's no specific focus for Occupy Wall Street. The civil rights movement and the anti-war movements of the 1960s and the antinuclear movement of the 1970s, the demonstrations against free trade agreements in the 1990s and the marches against the Iraq War in the past decade included people with hundreds of ideological agendas, but they had a pretty clear message — and, generally speaking, specific actions that government officials could take to address the issues.

Occupy Wall Street hasn't called for any bills, regulations or policies. It's still a group that is simply calling attention to a basic truth — the very wealthy in general, and the financial sector in particular, are enjoying economic gains at the expense of the rest of us. But that alone is a profound and potent message — if the demonstrators don't have all the solutions, at least they've identified the problem. And that's more than Obama, Congress, or the mainstream news media have done.

There's been plenty of talk of a formal platform — one Occupy Wall Street activist posted a proposed list of 13 demands on the group's website. It's not a bad list (a guaranteed living wage, single-payer health care, free college education, debt forgiveness, a racial and gender equal rights amendment) with a few somewhat random elements (outlaw all credit agencies). Fox News has picked up the list, although the organization, such as it is, has made it clear that there is no consensus on any platform and agenda. And the labor unions that are joining the protests — with the proper respect for the folks who started things — have legislation in mind (a financial transaction tax, for example).

There's a danger that the message becomes so diffuse, and imbued with every possible issue that anyone on the left cares about, that it loses the potential to have an impact on the 2012 elections. Occupy Wall Street could go a long way to providing a populist progressive message to counter the Tea Party (which is funded by and largely organized by billionaires but tries to claim grassroots legitimacy).

Comments

You guys need to realize that this movement isn't just about getting Democrats in office in some election (regardless of how eager people like Van Jones are to co-opt and corral it into that particular direction). Populist change isn't defined by such narrow parameters.

Posted by Matt Stewart on Oct. 16, 2011 @ 6:42 pm

The Occupy movement needs a central theme:
It is Time to Stop the Romance between Corporations and Politicians

"The Supreme Court has given a green light to a new stampede of special interest money in our politics," Obama said in a statement in response to the Supreme Court ruling that stated that Corporations have the same right as individuals to give money to campaigns. He continued to say, "It is a major victory for big oil, Wall Street banks, health insurance companies and the other powerful interests that marshal their power every day in Washington to drown out the voices of everyday Americans." (President Obama Jan 21,2010)

When the Supreme Court completely opened the floodgates on corporate financing for political campaigns in 2010, that is when these Occupy Wall Street protests should have started. It took some time for Americans to wake up to what it really meant to allow unfettered access by corporations to fund political campaigns. This Supreme Court ruling effectively reduced every American individual’s right to participate in the political process. Instead, corporations are making all the decisions for us.

It is no longer a, to paraphrase President Lincoln, a government of the people, by the people, for the people, but rather a government of the corporations, by the corporations, and for the corporations.

American politics have reached a point where they are indeed no longer strongly bi-partisan in the campaign finance arena, both parties are taking millions from Political Action Committees, and corporations.
According to the Center for Responsive Politics, as of September 2011, Goldman Sachs has already funneled $35 million into Washington for this election cycle alone, mostly dumped into Republican campaign coffers, but there are Democrats on the take as well. President Obama accepted $45 K from Goldman Sachs, but even that pales in comparison to the $290 K given to Mitt Romney. (Federal Election Commission Report 2012)

Not that Goldman Sachs is alone. It is one of many that are literally throwing money at politicians, knowing that it will sway policy decisions in their favor. Another big spender is AT&T, which has spent a cool $47 million to see that Washington politicians attend to their best interests. So the question that arises is, how can the needs of the middle class be met, when so much energy is spent making sure that corporations are being coddled?

Second, what have these Corporations gained by their benevolence towards their favored politicians? Quite simply, they gain a government not willing to enforce the tax code so mercilessly pressed upon average American families. They also continue to reap the benefits of dozens of tax loopholes that favor tax evasion and the misrepresentation of taxable income.

To the point, Businesses Against Tax Havens have reported that Goldman Sachs, in 2008,with 29 subsidiaries located in offshore tax havens paid a tax rate of just one percent, which was an amount less than one third what they paid their CEO Lloyd Blankfein ($42.9 million). The end must come to these egregious corporate tax loopholes.

There can be no true economic, political, or social equality without addressing the corruption that has been allowed to take place in our nations capital. Politicians need to be held accountable by the American public that voted them into power in the first place. Publicly financing campaigns, as many other countries do, would take the overwhelming power out of the hands of multi-billion dollar corporations.

We can do this by creating a publicly funded website, television and radio station similar to PBS hybridized with CSPAN. The election website would have pages for each individual campaigner, including their past voting records These media outlets would be in operation for three months prior to November elections, and focus on live political debates on the issues that matter to most Americans. That is all that they would focus on. For voters, the opportunity to tune in to hear their politicians speak would negate the need for rampant corporate-paid advertisements on network and cable television. In fact, it should be illegal to advertise at all. This is the kind of campaign finance reform that would make a real difference in how our government operates, and would free good politicians to stay true to their goal of public service instead of being enslaved to private interests.

Posted by Clean Up Politics on Oct. 17, 2011 @ 12:38 pm

BRAVO! Very well said. Great idea for publicly funded website, radio and TV for elections, too. Thank you.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 04, 2011 @ 11:27 am

OK First of all

For those that keep saying TAX THE TOP 1%.

Maybe you should read an IRS REPORT SOME TIME.
THE TOP 1% already pay over 90% of all TAXES in this COUNTRY!!

HOW MUCH MORE DO YOU WANT TO TAX THEM??? DO you want them to pay 1000000% of the taxes?? (yes I know the number is stupid, but so is the tax the rich call).

Another thing that will happen if you tax the rich, is that they will take thier money and businesses to another country so they don't have to pay so much taxes. HELLO it has already happened in the past with textiles and other similar businesses. Overseas lower costs and taxes.

What will happen if the Billionaires take their companies and monies overeas?? WHere wll those "NEW JOBS" come from?? The Gov't can only provide so many jobs in construction and re-building (also these jobs are only temporary, what happens when the porjects are done??)

OH YEA, just to let you know I am a middle class Public School Employee, so I am not some BIG RICH EXECUTIVE trying to influence you, but I READ AND UNDERSTAND things, I don't just jump on the band wagon and espouse the philosophy of everyone else!!!

Posted by IKE on Nov. 25, 2011 @ 6:19 am

I think you should re-check tax analysis.
The top 1% only pay 37% of the taxes. Not 90%.
This means 99% of the income in this country only accounts for 37% of tax revenue.
This also means 1% of the income in this country accounts for 63% of tax revenue.
I am not counting heads, I am counting income.
Reported by:
National Tax Payers Union.
Heritage Foundation
Wall Street Journal

Concerning the exiting billionaires, I am not willing to pay to have them stay.
Also it undercuts what living in the United States means.

I have never seen analysis showing the richer a billionaire becomes the more jobs he generates. Actually, you can find analysis showing that the richer they become the more they layoff or reduce their workforce.

Curious, why haven't the rich left yet to a country that has zero taxes already?
Your argument is specious.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 29, 2011 @ 3:08 pm

after exploiting loop holes and pursuing evasion strategies, most of those top 1% pay even less.

Posted by anonymous on Nov. 29, 2011 @ 4:29 pm