The goals of Occupy Wall Street

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Occupy Wall Street is an easy target -- a group of protesters taking on one of the most powerful institutions in the country, with loose spinoffs in cities all over, and no clear leadership or (many would say) agenda. The Atlantic's business writer, Danile Indiviglio, weighed in Oct 5 with an essay he called "Five Reasons Occupy Wall Street Won't Work." Some of it's your typical musings from a guy in a suit who doesn't understand direct action ("But the Occupy Wall Street movement's anger is directed at bankers. Here's the problem: they really don't care.")

But his main pitch is one that I'm sympathetic to, and so are a lot of other supporters of the growing movement. He says the protesters don't know what they want:

Any protest that hopes to accomplish some goal needs, well, a goal. If a demonstration like this lacks concrete objectives, then its purpose will be limited at best and nonexistent at worst. At this time, all the protest really appears to stand for is a general dislike of Wall Street. But what does that mean?

And that's where I think he's wrong. The occupiers may have started off with only vague objectives, but some tangible, progressive goals are starting to emerge -- and they don't in any way require the bankers to care.

The Wall Street protests are growing -- and some of the people getting involved have a very clear agenda. The most dramatic evidence is the growing role of organized labor in the actions. The nurses marched Oct. 5 -- and they have a very specific platform, well thought-out, that calls for a financial transactions tax. AFSCMA, CWA and the city's transit workers joined the march, too. And the head of the AFL-CIO, Richard Trumka, is now on board. And while Trumka made it clear that labor isn't going to try to dominate the spontaneous protests,

The labor leader was specific as he summarized his demands: make Wall Street invest in creating jobs for Americans, stop foreclosures and write down problem mortgages. Paying for government programs would come from a “very tiny” tax on speculation, he said.

I'm not seeing any kind of political turf war here -- the original Occupy Wall Street folks seem happy to have labor on the team. And once you get tens of thousands of labor activists in the streets -- and using the media and the growing groundswell of support for the protests to push a Congressional agenda -- then something potentially powerful is happening.

 

Comments

So PaulT has morphed into Wanda ? Remarkably quick recovery from gender reassignment surgery. Could be true,'her' few postings have a familiar ring to them, that hollow, empty sound. Hope it's true, I was beginning to miss our punching bag, not nearly as much fun without a crash test dummy to pin to the wall. Time will tell.

Posted by Patrick Monk RN on Oct. 06, 2011 @ 2:29 pm

The agenda of bringing down oppressive governments is easy - i.e. get rid of the guy. The agenda of occupy walls street is hard because we want to maintain stability, but change the way things work. I believe the author is asking the question: "how do you measure success when your goals are vague?" It is good to protest peacefully to vent our frustration, but what do we want to accomplish?

Naomi Klein made this point clear in her speech to the "Occupy Wall Street" crowd when she pointed out her lists of important versus unimportant "things". While it is nice that people don't care what you wear, and do care about your moral compass, these are not the kinds of agenda items that make revolutions or even evolution.

So what are we trying to say here? Since I am not part of the movement, I would like to make some outside suggestions:

1) change the law so that politics become more about the people who vote then the people who have money. This means limitations on corporate donations. This is a very important distinction at a time when the courts are judging law to cover corporate entities. Lets be clear here. Corporations do not have "individual rights" not more that dogs, cats, or monkeys have individual rights under our law. If you dissect the intent of laws, they are to guide societies of moral character. The role of governments is to provide an environment life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Institutions, especially financially driven institutions are fiducially and legally bound to indifference. Their goals are not to pursue happiness, but to maximize profits. This should exempt them from influence over political bodies. Some well meaning individuals will argue that corporations are made of people, and I argue that all those people have the right to vote and donate resources individually.

2) institutional investors should be held to a higher standard than individuals. It is one thing to allow the markets to operate freely. It is another to let institutions that represent the financial wealth of individuals operate without bounds. This is why we find our pensions underfunded and our corporations crippled by fund managers who control the wealth of those corporations. There is a difference between Carl Icaan controlling GM with his own money, and a large pension fund controlling GM with mine.

3) Patent law should encourage innovation, and not put it in the hands of a few oligopolies. The wheeling and dealing of Google, Microsoft, Motorola, Cisco, Apple and others is to cripple competition and reduce the market to only those players who can afford the bargaining chips of an expensive patent portfolio. Using patents to create oligopolies for entire markets do not serve the people or the institutions well.

4) Self funded investment plans such as government pension plans should not be used to balance state or federal budgets. If we didn't skim surpluses or underfund social security or pension plans when times were good, we wouldn't be underfunded when times are bad.

Patent law forces competition into the courts. If you think governments are inefficient, then try understanding how competition is stifled through litigation as a competitive advantage. Right now no one can be successful in the computer, device, or software business without the threat of litigation. Our patent system is broken and we need to fix it.

I personally think that the occupy wall street movement is misguided. Yes the banks brought down the world economy through greed. It will always be hard to regulate markets well enough to prevent innovative individuals from coming up with ways to circumvent regulations. My concerns are with our willingness to expend immense amount of money on military actions with no goals in mind. There will always be egotists with narrow minded views of the world, like DIck Cheney" who will justify expenditures that risk bankrupting the country in the name of security. Without Iraq, the impact of the recent financial collapse would have been easily weathered. If we want to "Occupy wall street" then lets not forget the true source of our financial instability.

Occupying walls street is a noble cause, but lets look for some purpose other than peacefully protesting to vent our feelings.

Posted by Gregg Lebovitz on Oct. 08, 2011 @ 2:49 am

The crooks are in the white house not on wall street...let me explain IMHO:

The feds/government mandated sub prime home loaning as yet another "spread the wealth" program. The banks if left alone would never have participated in this risky business sticking with the tried and true, proving you can afford it, paper work of liquidity/income loan proof. But they had government (you and me) protection.

But the real culprit hid in the housing boom. Unscrupulous (intelligent?) buyers/investors manipulated the market with quick buy/sells that ran up the supposed worth of property to unsustainable levels.

The real estate industry was more than happy to push this agenda with comparable (comp) assessments of over valued property (ridiculous/illegal appraisals) and promises of a quick profit return. America played the game "knowing" this was a risky business (complicit?). This worked well for a few years but caught much of America with its pants down that got into the game late (ponsy/pyramid?).

Then...the bail out. With cash infusions into the banks (by us) from the feds they covered themselves. This is the part I hate. The feds protect the industry profiteering of a few while selling out America to pay for it all. The unrealistic "values and profits" paid for by us.

The worst part is that the bail out put a balloon under the inflation not allowing it to recover to normal levels.

The feds are at the top of the food chain. But when you combine government intervention with bankers and real estate you have a holocaust for the 99. They created the problem and now their favorite tool FEAR has us running to them for protection and bail outs. What a scam.

Was it all a "mistake." Or just another incredibly evil band wagon manipulation staged by the 1% that greedy Americans jumped on? We may never truly know but I smell something and most do not want to look at this truthfully..their may be a reflection in the mirror that looks like us.

But then what do I know...I am a 99%er.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 18, 2011 @ 2:28 pm

Finally someone who gets it, and doesn't think the solution is to take what's not theirs. Blame the politicians who repealed Glass-Steagall (signed by Clinton) Blame the people in congress who demanded that home ownership by extended to everyone with a pulse.

The government defines the framework within which all these markets operate. They changed them to tilt the table toward the financial firms, and still haven't done anything to fix it. That's where the focus ought to be.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 31, 2011 @ 8:03 am

70% of Americans own their own home and were perfectly happy to take out what they thought were better loans. We all encouraged the politicians to loosen the rules and bankers to come up with these products.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 31, 2011 @ 8:15 am

See my other comment 'Nobody Earned That Play Money' for a description of how we actually got in this mess.

And 'we' didn't encourage the politicians to relax rules on finance capital. I certainly don't recall calling my elected representatives and asking them to repeal Glass-Steagle. Anyone else recall that?

Of course not. Because it was Goldman Sachs that engineered the repeal of Glass-Steagal. And now Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley run the White House.

Posted by Eric Brooks on Oct. 31, 2011 @ 9:14 am

Hey I have a question.
(Please don't take any of these questions personally I am just trying to get information for research for a debate.)
I am going to start and ask why? Why are you going to wall street instead of Washington to where the people who are in charge of the country are staying?
Do you think people are there just for a free ride?
What are your goals through this protest?
And finally what do you want to come out of this protest personally?

PLEASE HELP ME

THANK YOU

Posted by Help me to understand on Oct. 20, 2011 @ 5:49 am

This represents the first time that mass protests have been fully and consciously directed at the people who -actually- run our government; multinational financiers and banks on Wall Street.

LIkewise in D.C. protests should be targeted on banks and the ultra-rich, with the U.S. government itself being an important but secondary target.

Posted by Eric Brooks on Oct. 20, 2011 @ 8:20 am

There isn't one rich person who is innocent?

How do you know?

Posted by Guest on Oct. 20, 2011 @ 5:55 pm

Where in the post above does it say what you just claimed It says?

Can you spell it out for me, 'cause I'm not seein' it?

And it's reeaally short.

Posted by 'anonymous' on Oct. 20, 2011 @ 7:36 pm

Because he is to stupid and lazy to form an argument against the statements made by others.
He could open a strawman wholesale company with his never ending supply.

Posted by matlock on Oct. 20, 2011 @ 8:17 pm

The banks did nothing illegal. It's the government that changed the game to allow them to do what they did. Why shouldn't the government be the primary target?

Posted by Guest on Oct. 31, 2011 @ 7:46 am

The banks are the ones who wrote law changes and then coerced politicians to adopt them, via utterly corrupt campaign financing.

So banks and financiers are the spot on target of our actions.

Posted by Eric Brooks on Oct. 31, 2011 @ 8:34 am

Lehman, Bear Stearns, Merrill Lynch, Wachovia and Washington Mutual would not have been allowed to collapse.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 31, 2011 @ 10:17 am

And I am speaking literally. Obama's hand picked leadership team is rife with former Goldman Sachs executives, and his chief of staff is a former Morgan Stanley executive.

Posted by Eric Brooks on Oct. 31, 2011 @ 11:07 am

Dodd-Frank is a huge pain for Banks - there is no way they would have written anything like that if they had any real power.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 31, 2011 @ 10:22 am
Posted by Eric Brooks on Oct. 31, 2011 @ 11:12 am

"The labor leader was specific as he summarized his demands: make Wall Street invest in creating jobs for Americans, stop foreclosures and write down problem mortgages. Paying for government programs would come from a “very tiny” tax on speculation, he said.:

And of course, union pension funds would be exempt from this tax.

And thsi tax would not only be paid by Wall Street, but by every person who is taking the responsibility to save and invest for buying a home, sending kids to college or saving for retirement. But as long as we can take from those who have made something of themselves and give to those who haven't bothered, these guys will be happy.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 31, 2011 @ 7:43 am

Your last paragraph is nonsense. These taxes would be on the purchase and sale of stocks, bonds, commodities, unit trusts, mutual funds, securities, and derivatives such as futures and options, not on home mortgages, college funds, or retirement funds. Financial transactions taxes can of course be tailored to target any sector we want to target, in any way we like.

Which is why pension funds would also be exempt, at least for now, because current dramatic wealth disparities mean we must boost the pay an benefits of workers to give them more leverage against elite capitalists and corporations.

Posted by Eric Brooks on Oct. 31, 2011 @ 8:30 am

pay increased taxes on trades. the fund managers pass those costs onto the fund by deducting them from fund values.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 31, 2011 @ 10:15 am

To paraphrase Elizabeth Warren.....using the infrastructure; highway system, electrical grid, port facilities, etc, that we all paid for. Their workforce was educated and trained in schools that we all paid for, etc.....You T-Party trolls do understand that...don't you.

Posted by Patrick Monk. RN on Oct. 31, 2011 @ 2:30 pm

business, rich or poor, hard worker or not. You just don'y strike me as the type whp appreciates those who add value and bring prosperity to this nation.

You'd rather carp, kvetch and whine in your rent-controlled rathole.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 31, 2011 @ 3:15 pm

Mr. Turpin,
'Crowding together in public places' causes this discourse. Let us focus on the influence of money in politics and not our conditioned ideologies.

"Our aim is not to do away with corporations; on the contrary, these big aggregations are an inevitable development of modern industrialism, and the effort to destroy them would be futile unless accomplished in ways that would work the utmost mischief to the entire body politic. We can do nothing of good in the way of regulating and supervising these corporations until we fix clearly in our minds that we are not attacking the corporations, but endeavoring to do away with any evil in them. We are not hostile to them; we are merely determined that they shall be so handled as to subserve the public good. We draw the line against misconduct, not against wealth." - Teddy Roosevelt. 1902.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 05, 2011 @ 10:19 pm