The WikiLeaks truck is being held for ransom by the 1%!
The WikiLeaks truck has gone missing after the NYPD confiscated it. The truck’s owner is working with his lawyer to figure out where it has been taken. In the mean time interweb friends have been having one a big case of the lulz promoting this meme to raise awareness. Where has the Wikileaks truck gone? Pass the meme on…
Excerpts from an article by Dr. Paul Craig Roberts for info wars
The US public debt is rising too rapidly against US GDP, although it is still below the percentages during World War II. The problem that is ignored by the idiots in Washington and the presstitutes is that the debt is rising relative to the economy because the economy is not rising, but war expenditures are.
Why is the economy not rising?
It is not rising, because it has been offshored. What formerly was US GDP produced in Gary, Indiana, St. Louis, Detroit, Silicon Valley, and other US locations is now GDP for
China, India, Indonesia and other countries where manufacturing labor and professional services can be hired below US rates.
What happens with offshoring? The answer is clear. US GDP, consumer income, career opportunities, and tax base leave the country. Corporate profits and bonuses rise due to the lower labor costs.
Who is this good for?
The answer is that it is only good for Wall Street, corporate shareholders, and corporate management. Their incomes go up, and the GDP goes down along with the employment opportunities of Americans and the tax base for government.
The other destroyer of American economic prospects was the deregulation of the financial sector. Economists theorized that markets were self-regulating and created the illusion that greed was never a problem. This was music and dollars to Wall Street’s ears. Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan and the Wall Street-owned US Treasury jumped on board. Those, who like Brooksley Born, were empowered by US law to regulate derivatives, were driven out of office by the Federal Reserve Chairman, the US Treasury Secretary, and the Securities and Exchange Chairman.
Financial institutions freed from Glass-Steagall, freed from capital requirements, and freed from oversight, immediately took debt leverage on highly unrealistic bets to amazing heights. When the schemes collapsed, the Federal Reserve lent US and foreign banks $16.1 trillion dollars, a sum larger than the US national debt and larger than the US GDP.
Where did the Federal Reserve get $16.1 trillion to lend? The Fed created it out of thin air with a stroke of a computer entry.
So in America, the light unto the world, American citizens are thrown out of their homes in order that banks can bulldoze their homes.
Only in America does this makes sense.
And it is not only Americans who are being made homeless by US policies. Afghans, Pakistanis, Iraqis, Yemenis, Somali, Libyans are also consigned to homelessness by American policy. Moreover, America’s wars against these peoples together with the supporting military/security budget account for 75% of the US budget deficit. Indeed, the cost of these wars exceed the planned future budget savings from the debt limit deal.
In other words, the cost of the wars that make millions of foreigners homeless use up revenues that the federal government could have used to keep Americans in their homes and teachers in the schools. As much as many Republicans profess to be concerned about the US public debt, Republicans were not sufficiently concerned to address their issue by cutting back the $1.2 trillion military-security budget or by raising the low tax rates on the mega-rich.
Look at these July 30 headlines, just two days prior to the default deadline, from the online group, Stop NATO:
US Military To Be Based In Australia To Confront China
Call To Expand American Counterinsurgency Operations In Philippines
US Could Upgrade Polish Warships For Baltic Sea
Bulgaria: Pentagon Continues Upgrading Military Bases
US Uses Romanian Air Base To Supply Afghan War
America’s Africa Partnership Station In East Africa
Mongolia: US Leads NATO, Asian NATO Allies In Military Exercise
Libyan War: Over 17,000 NATO Air Missions, Nearly 6,500 Strike Sorti
The Big Picture: War on Libya is War on Africa
What in the world is a country facing bankruptcy and default doing conducting military exercises in Mongolia and Central Asia? What is the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, designed to counter a Soviet thrust into Western Europe, doing in Mongolia?
Why are these military expenditures necessary, but not expenditures to keep America’s homeless population from rising while homes are destroyed?
Why do not the Republicans listen when mega-billionaire Warren Buffett says that the tax rate on his massive income is lower than the tax rate on his secretary’s income?
The answer is that the Republicans have an agenda: War. And Republicans want to fund this war, not by taxing high incomes but by cutting support programs for the down and out.
To cut to the chase: Even if all the cuts actually happen, the weakening economy will result in new deficit projections that will wipe out the expected savings from the debt limit agreement.
What then will the government do?
Until US policymakers comprehend that the economy has been moved offshore and take steps to bring it home, there will be no solution to America’s debt problem or to its unemployment problem.
Dr. Paul Craig Roberts is the father of Reaganomics and the former head of policy at the Department of Treasury. He is a columnist and was previously an editor for the Wall Street Journal. His latest book, “How the Economy Was Lost: The War of the Worlds,” details why America is disintegrating.
Henry Rollins likes to talk, we all know that. And he loves to talk about politics and revolution. This goes back to his days when he was frontman for Black Flag and continues now he is a well established writer, public speaker, and radio show host.
Now in an interview with Pheonix Sun Times in USA the former punk rocker has spoken out in support of the ‘occupy protest movement’ around the world. The cynic within you could point out that Rollins hass just released a book called Occupants and is trying to shore up interest, although it must be pointed out that the book has nothing to do with the protests seen around the world and the name is simply a coincidence.
When asked about his thoughts on Occupy Wall Street, Rollins replied “I’ve been to Occupy DC, Occupy Wall Street, and Occupy Chicago. I’m reading the signs, and I’m talking with people, and their beef, and I’m not trying to distance myself from them by saying “their thing,” but, finally, real issues are being addressed: campaign finance reform, the destruction of Glass-Steagall, bank deregulation, loopholes, the wacky high jinks of credit-default swaps, and all of that -where America got taken to the cleaners, [as did] other good people of the world. A lot of people – say, 99 percent or so – who say, “Screw this.” Finally.”
“[President Barack Obama] should have been calling out – by name – some of these bank people. He gives a lot of bad people a pass, in my opinion. That’s the frustration a lot of people have with Barack Obama. They like the guy, but he doesn’t bring his foot down. You’re like, “Really? Not even on this one?” He won’t get in there and throw his shoulder against any door. You know, you arrest 700 kids on the Brooklyn Bridge, but no bankers have gone to jail for defrauding millions of people? That’s a little odd.”
“So the good part is, people are addressing real issues. The [bad] part – and I want to be wrong about this, but it makes me dismayed – is that, thanks to Fox News and the press and lots of outlets, this protest has been ghettoized and marginalized and turned into a “lefty, left-wing, hippie, patchouli, liberal, progressive thang,” when in my opinion, this is a non-partisan concern. It’s about as partisan as baseball and beer, you know what I mean?”
Rollins also had a few thoughts on the future of the protest saying “Someone asked me, “What do you think?” But, to make this thing really rock, it should be shoulder to shoulder, no room to move, to Midtown. It should be 4 million people, to where Bloomberg can not leave his building. Not for fear of bodily harm, but just because of the humanity on the street. Literally, he can’t get the door open. To where no cars can drive in lower Manhattan. Where’s there’s not enough cops to arrest them, there’s not enough flex ties to cart these people off.”
“The cops, in my opinion, they’ve been breaking the rules. They’ve been violating the First Amendment. People do have the right to peaceably assemble… The cops’ job is to protect and maintain the general welfare of the people, not arrest them… But they are taking orders; they are just kind of the infantry. I’m hoping in 2012, when the snow melts, this thing goes 10 times.”
“American law enforcement is not going to fire on protesters, and protesters aren’t going to be firing Kalashnikovs at law enforcement. It’s not going to come to that. I think you’re going to see some serious tear gas next summer, but someone is going to lose some temper, and something is going to boil over. I think this is really going to rock next year. The snow is going to melt, and everyone is going to bring a friend.”
“I think, around July or August – out of the heat or sheer proximity – the cops are going to act out somewhere, and there will be a massive macing. Or, they might bring out some of that new technology. There’s a new article in Harper’s – five or seven months ago – about the new technology for crowd dispersal. You know, microwaving people… It doesn’t kill you, but like all the sudden you feel like you are cooking alive, and you will go home. These piercing tones – you lose your balance you fall on the ground, you piss your pants. All this is available right now. Made in America.”
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The number of Americans living in poverty reached a record 49.1 million in 2010, according to a new broader measure of poverty released by the U.S. Census Bureau on Monday.
That figure contrasts with an official poverty measure released in September that said there were 46.2 million poor people in the United States.
The new measure is designed to provide a fuller picture of poverty by including the government benefits poor people receive and the expenses they pay. The official benchmark focuses more narrowly on cash wages.
Revised figures show lower poverty rates for children and black people but higher rates for whites, Asians, Hispanics and elderly people with high medical expenses.
The new measure showed the national poverty rate at 16 percent of the total population, compared to the 15.1 percent official rate reported in September.
The latest figures also raise the poverty line to an annual income of $24,343 for a family of two adults and two children, compared $22,113 under the official standard.
Recorded November 3, 2011, 10.15am. The People vs. Goldman Sachs mock trial people’s hearing held at Liberty a/k/a Zuccotti Park with fiery commentary by Dr. Cornel West, eloquence by Chris Hedges, and testimonies from people directly affected by Goldman Sach policies.
This article is adapted from a speech Bill Moyers gave in October at Public Citizen’s fortieth-anniversary gala.
During the prairie revolt that swept the Great Plains in 1890, populist orator Mary Elizabeth Lease exclaimed, “Wall Street owns the country…. Money rules…. Our laws are the output of a system which clothes rascals in robes and honesty in rags. The [political] parties lie to us and the political speakers mislead us.”
She should see us now. John Boehner calls on the bankers, holds out his cup and offers them total obeisance from the House majority if only they fill it. Barack Obama criticizes bankers as “fat cats,” then invites them to dine at a pricey New York restaurant where the tasting menu runs to $195 a person.
That’s now the norm, and they get away with it. The president has raised more money from employees of banks, hedge funds and private equity managers than any Republican candidate, including Mitt Romney. Inch by inch he has conceded ground to them while espousing populist rhetoric that his very actions betray.
Let’s name this for what it is: hypocrisy made worse, the further perversion of democracy. Our politicians are little more than money launderers in the trafficking of power and policy—fewer than six degrees of separation from the spirit and tactics of Tony Soprano.
Why New York’s Zuccotti Park is filled with people is no mystery. Reporters keep scratching their heads and asking, “Why are you here?” But it’s clear they are occupying Wall Street because Wall Street has occupied the country. And that’s why in public places across the nation workaday Americans are standing up in solidarity. Did you see the sign a woman was carrying at a fraternal march in Iowa the other day? It read, I Can’t Afford to Buy a Politician So I Bought This Sign. Americans have learned the hard way that when rich organizations and wealthy individuals shower Washington with millions in campaign contributions, they get what they want.
In his Pulitzer Prize–winning book The Radicalism of the American Revolution, historian Gordon Wood says that our nation discovered its greatness “by creating a prosperous free society belonging to obscure people with their workaday concerns and pecuniary pursuits of happiness.” This democracy, he said, changed the lives of “hitherto neglected and despised masses of common laboring people.”
Those words moved me when I read them. They moved me because Henry and Ruby Moyers were “common laboring people.” My father dropped out of the fourth grade and never returned to school because his family needed him to pick cotton to help make ends meet. Mother managed to finish the eighth grade before she followed him into the fields. They were tenant farmers when the Great Depression knocked them down and almost out. The year I was born my father was making $2 a day working on the highway to Oklahoma City. He never took home more than $100 a week in his working life, and he made that only when he joined the union in the last job he held. I was one of the poorest white kids in town, but in many respects I was the equal of my friend who was the daughter of the richest man in town. I went to good public schools, had the use of a good public library, played sandlot baseball in a good public park and traveled far on good public roads with good public facilities to a good public university. Because these public goods were there for us, I never thought of myself as poor. When I began to piece the story together years later, I came to realize that people like the Moyerses had been included in the American deal. “We, the People” included us.
* * *
It’s heartbreaking to see what has become of that bargain. Nowadays it’s every man for himself. How did this happen? The rise of the money power in our time goes back forty years. We can pinpoint the date. On August 23, 1971, a corporate lawyer named Lewis Powell—a board member of the death-dealing tobacco giant Philip Morris and a future justice of the Supreme Court—released a confidential memorandum for his friends at the US Chamber of Commerce. We look back on it now as a call to arms for class war waged from the top down.
Recall the context of Powell’s memo. Big business was being forced to clean up its act. Even Republicans had signed on. In 1970 President Nixon put his signature on the National Environmental Policy Act and named a White House Council to promote environmental quality. A few months later millions of Americans turned out for Earth Day. Nixon then agreed to create the Environmental Protection Agency. Congress acted swiftly to pass tough amendments to the Clean Air Act, and the EPA announced the first air pollution standards. There were new regulations directed at lead paint and pesticides. Corporations were no longer getting away with murder.
Powell was shocked by what he called an “attack on the American free enterprise system.” Not just from a few “extremists of the left” but also from “perfectly respectable elements of society,” including the media, politicians and leading intellectuals. Fight back and fight back hard, he urged his compatriots. Build a movement. Set speakers loose across the country. Take on prominent institutions of public opinion—especially the universities, the media and the courts. Keep television programs “monitored the same way textbooks should be kept under constant surveillance.” And above all, recognize that political power must be “assiduously [sic] cultivated; and that when necessary, it must be used aggressively and with determination” and “without embarrassment.”
Powell imagined the Chamber of Commerce as a council of war. Since business executives had “little stomach for hard-nosed contest with their critics” and “little skill in effective intellectual and philosophical debate,” they should create think tanks, legal foundations and front groups of every stripe. These groups could, he said, be aligned into a united front through “careful long-range planning and implementation…consistency of action over an indefinite period of years, in the scale of financing available only through joint effort, and in the political power available only through united action and united organizations.”
The public wouldn’t learn of the memo until after Nixon appointed Powell to the Supreme Court that same year, 1971. By then his document had circulated widely in corporate suites. Within two years the board of the Chamber of Commerce had formed a task force of forty business executives—from US Steel, GE, GM, Phillips Petroleum, 3M, Amway, and ABC and CBS (two media companies, we should note). Their assignment was to coordinate the crusade, put Powell’s recommendations into effect and push the corporate agenda. Powell had set in motion a revolt of the rich. As historian Kim Phillips-Fein subsequently wrote, “Many who read the memo cited it afterward as inspiration for their political choices.”
They chose swiftly. The National Association of Manufacturers announced that it was moving its main offices to Washington. In 1971 only 175 firms had registered lobbyists in the capital; by 1982 nearly 2,500 did. Corporate PACs increased from fewer than 300 in 1976 to more than 1,200 by the mid-’80s. From Powell’s impetus came the Business Roundtable, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the Heritage Foundation, the Cato Institute, the Manhattan Institute, Citizens for a Sound Economy (precursor to what we now know as Americans for Prosperity) and other organizations united in pushing back against political equality and shared prosperity. They triggered an economic transformation that would in time touch every aspect of our lives.
The Chamber of Commerce, in response to the memo, doubled its membership, tripled its budget and stepped up its lobbying efforts. It’s going stronger than ever. Most recently, it called in its agents in Congress to kill a bill to provide healthcare to 9/11 first responders for illnesses linked to their duty on that day. The bill would have paid for their medical care by ending a special tax loophole exploited by foreign corporations with business interests in America. The Chamber, along with nearly 1,300 business and trade groups, urged Congress to pass the new tax bill, signed into law just before this past Christmas and filled with all kinds of stocking stuffers, including about fifty tax breaks for businesses. The bill gave some of our biggest banks, financial companies and insurance firms another year’s exemption to shield their foreign profits from being taxed here in the United States; among the beneficiaries were giants Citigroup, Bank of America, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, all of which survived the financial debacle of their own making because taxpayers bailed them out in 2008.
The coalition got another powerful jolt of adrenaline in the late ’70s from the wealthy right-winger who had served as Nixon’s treasury secretary, William Simon. His book A Time for Truth argued that “funds generated by business” must “rush by multimillions” into conservative causes to uproot the institutions and the “heretical strategy” of the New Deal. He called on “men of action in the capitalist world” to mount “a veritable crusade” against progressive America. BusinessWeek (October 12, 1974) somberly explained that “it will be a bitter pill for many Americans to swallow the idea of doing with less so that big business can have more.”
Those “men of action in the capitalist world” were not content with their wealth just to buy more homes, more cars, more planes, more vacations and more gizmos than anyone else. They were determined to buy more democracy than anyone else. And they succeeded beyond their expectations. After their forty-year “veritable crusade” against our institutions, laws and regulations—against the ideas, norms and beliefs that helped to create America’s iconic middle class—the Gilded Age is back with a vengeance.
If you want to see the story pulled together in one compelling narrative, read Winner-Take-All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer and Turned Its Back on the Middle Class, by political scientists Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson. They wanted to know how America had turned into a society starkly divided into winners and losers. They found the culprit: the revolt triggered by Lewis Powell, fired up by William Simon and fueled by rich corporations and wealthy individuals. “Step by step,” they write, “and debate by debate America’s public officials have rewritten the rules of American politics and the American economy in ways that have benefited the few at the expense of the many.”
There you have it. They bought off the gatekeeper, got inside and gamed the system. As the rich and powerful got richer and more powerful, they owned and operated the government, “saddling Americans with greater debt, tearing new holes in the safety net, and imposing broad financial risks on Americans as workers, investors, and taxpayers.” Now, write Hacker and Pierson, the United States is looking more and more like “the capitalist oligarchies, like Brazil, Mexico, and Russia,” where most of the wealth is concentrated at the top while the bottom grows larger and larger with everyone in between just barely getting by.
The revolt of the plutocrats was ratified by the Supreme Court in its notorious Citizens United decision last year. Rarely have so few imposed such damage on so many. When five pro-corporate conservative justices gave “artificial legal entities” the same rights of “free speech” as humans, they told our corporate sovereigns that the sky’s the limit when it comes to their pouring money into political campaigns.
The ink was hardly dry on the Citizens United decision when the Chamber of Commerce organized a covertly funded front and rained cash into the 2010 campaigns. According to the Sunlight Foundation, corporate front groups spent $126 million in the fall of 2010 while hiding the identities of the donors. Another corporate cover group—the American Action Network—spent more than $26 million of undisclosed corporate money in just six Senate races and twenty-six House elections. And Karl Rove’s groups, American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS, seized on Citizens United to raise and spend at least $38 million, which NBC News said came from “a small circle of extremely wealthy Wall Street hedge fund and private equity moguls”—all determined to water down financial reforms that might prevent another collapse of the financial system. Jim Hightower has said it well: today’s proponents of corporate plutocracy “have simply elevated money itself above votes, establishing cold, hard cash as the real coin of political power.”
No wonder so many Americans have felt that sense of political impotence that historian Lawrence Goodwyn described as “the mass resignation” of people who believe in the “dogma of democracy” on a superficial public level but whose hearts no longer burn with the conviction that they are part of the deal. Against such odds, discouragement comes easily. But if the generations before us had given up, slaves would still be waiting on their masters, women would still be turned away from the voting booths on election day and workers would still be committing a crime if they organized.
* * *
So take heart from the past, and don’t ever count the people out. During the last quarter of the nineteenth century, the Industrial Revolution created extraordinary wealth at the top and excruciating misery at the bottom. Embattled citizens rose up. Into their hearts, wrote the progressive Kansas journalist William Allen White, “had come a sense that their civilization needed recasting, that their government had fallen into the hands of self-seekers, that a new relation should be established between the haves and have-nots.” Not content to wring their hands and cry “Woe is us,” everyday citizens researched the issues, organized to educate their neighbors, held rallies, made speeches, petitioned and canvassed, marched and marched again. They plowed the fields and planted the seeds—sometimes on bloody ground—that twentieth-century leaders used to restore “the general welfare” as a pillar of American democracy. They laid down the now-endangered markers of a civilized society: legally ordained minimum wages, child labor laws, workers’ safety and compensation laws, pure foods and safe drugs, Social Security, Medicare and rules that promote competitive markets over monopolies and cartels.
The lesson is clear: Democracy doesn’t begin at the top; it begins at the bottom, when flesh-and-blood human beings fight to rekindle what Arlo Guthrie calls “The Patriot’s Dream.”
Living now here but for fortune Placed by fate’s mysterious schemes Who’d believe that we’re the ones asked To try to rekindle the patriot’s dreams
Arise sweet destiny, time runs short All of your patience has heard their retort Hear us now for alone we can’t seem To try to rekindle the patriot’s dreams
Can you hear the words being whispered All along the American stream Tyrants freed, the just are imprisoned Try to rekindle the patriot’s dreams
Ah but perhaps too much is being asked of too few You and your children with nothing to do Hear us now for alone we can’t seem To try to rekindle the patriot’s dreams
Who, in these cynical times, with democracy on the ropes and America’s body politic pounded again and again by the blows of organized money—who would dream such a radical thing? Look around.
Here’s where we are in the course of human events right now: 14 million Americans are jobless and millions more are underemployed. Those still working have seen wages fall after 30 years of stagnation. The 1 Percent of top wage earners could buy and sell the rest of us without so much as a low balance warning on their checking account apps. The tenth-of-1 Percent earns millions more every year in barely taxed capital gains and derivatives while everyone else struggles to pay down trillions of dollars of debt. Massive, growing income inequality is now belatedly acknowledged by political and media elites, but many of them seem befuddled as to its cause and importance.
It is our belief that many of the problems facing Americans today can be directly connected to the unchecked power and complete unaccountability of the 1 Percent, a group that benefits from every unequal boom of the modern era and escapes each disastrous bust unscathed. The 1 Percent is insulated from the negative effects of its disastrous policies by its paid representatives in government. The elite 1 Percent ensures the slavish loyalty of its political handmaidens by flooding their campaign coffers with money squeezed from the 99 Percent as deposits, fees and interest.
What unites the outraged 99 Percent is that we have all “played by the rules,” only to learn belatedly that the game was rigged. Having been promised modest rewards for working within the system, by taking on debt or voting the party line, we find ourselves, bluntly, shit out of luck. Let the facts be submitted to a candid world:
For the young, higher education was said to be a ticket to class mobility, or at least a secure career. Instead, middle-class students have taken on billions of dollars of inescapable debt during a prolonged jobs crisis. Lower-income students are blatantly ripped off by usurious scam artists working for educationally dubious for-profit schools. Even those seeking to join the professional class, through medical school or law school, find themselves with mountains of debt and dwindling job prospects. The rapidly rising cost of higher education pushes bright students into lucrative but socially destructive fields, like finance. Prestigious universities are still largely the finishing schools of the elite, with the most common and pernicious form of affirmative action being that given to the children of the 1 Percent most likely to write schools the biggest checks.
For progressives, years of working within the political system to elect Democrats led to a congressional majority that was still more responsive to major corporate donors and powerful industry lobbies than to grass-roots liberal activists — or even organized labor, once the party’s most powerful and respected ally. The crimes of the Bush administration remain uninvestigated, the national security state remains unchecked in scope and size, the military-industrial complex ensures that Dwight Eisenhower’s prescient speech remains relevant 60 years later, and the useless tactics of triangulation and one-way bipartisanship remain inexplicably popular among the Democratic Party establishment.
For millions of middle-class and striving blue-collar American families, the promise of homeownership as the world’s safest investment became another money-making bubble for Wall Street that remains Main Street’s intractable mess. Those members of the middle class unfortunate enough to do as an industry of wise men counseled them and invest in the stock market and real estate have seen the fruits of a lifetime’s worth of labor evaporate in multiple busts and crashes that the wise men always escape from economically intact. The mere specter of limited relief for underwater homeowners inspired 1 Percenter rage so all-consuming that they bankrolled a “populist” movement to channel it. Minority homeowners defrauded by unscrupulous lenders are blamed for an international recession sparked by the venal and simply foolish behavior of megabanks.
The 1 Percent aims to exploit a fiscal crisis caused by its own reckless behavior by wiping out pensions earned (and paid into) by public employees and tearing up fairly negotiated union contracts. Meanwhile, they use their media outlets, political foundations and lobbying shops to foment resentment of unionized workers whose crime is benefiting from a system that corporations and conservatives worked to completely dismantle for private employees a generation ago.
The threat that our modest social welfare system for the elderly will be sacrificed to the gods of austerity has already led significant numbers of young people to assume that there will be no Social Security in place by the time they reach what used to be referred to as their retirement years. And that belief is tacitly encouraged by the “moderate” members of the austerity club, who seek to maintain a system of low taxation of the 1 Percent in the face of declining income for the 99 Percent by gradually phasing out the services government provides for the majority. The austerity sages are considered the most serious and wise in all of the nation by our corporate press, which defines “the center” of every national political debate as “whatever the elites want.”
The weight of the 1 Percent upon us has become unbearable and intolerable. We at Salon therefore respectfully submit our own Demands.
In Liberty Plaza in Lower Manhattan, in Oakland’s Oscar Grant Plaza, and at other parks and public squares across the nation (and the world), Occupiers are daily creating the more perfect democracy they’d like to see. As part of that process, groups and individuals and intellectuals and pundits have put forth proposed “demands,” to address the myriad problems laid out above. From Occupy Wall Street’s principles of solidarity to the General Assembly’s proposed New New Deal to Robert Reich’s list of essential progressive reforms to the Working Group of the 99 Percent’s Petition of Grievences, we’ve read the proposals and humbly offer our own, for ways to begin to make the richest nation on the planet fair for those of us who can’t afford a congressman.
Our list is meant to be the beginning of a conversation, not a final product.
1. Debt relief Total household debt in America is $13.3 trillion — 114 percent of after-tax income. That millions of working Americans owe every penny they make to hugely profitable financial institutions is absurd and grotesque.
We demand immediate relief for the 99 Percent, particularly the poor and young students and college graduates. The Debt Jubilee is an ancient idea, and an attractive one in an era of growing economic feudalism, as the poor increasingly devote all their labor to repaying the rich. It is not in the national interest to force the impoverished to become wage slaves to pay off insurmountable debts owned to payday lenders and hugely profitable bankers.
Every other rich nation on earth heavily subsidizes higher education. We force mere kids to mortgage their futures, then ensure that the debt follows them the rest of their lives, regardless of their living circumstances. Student loan debt hurts not just the graduate but everyone else in society, too: The cost of healthcare would surely decrease, and the availability of primary care for disadvantaged populations increase, if new doctors were not regularly graduating school $200,000 in the red.
And real and widespread relief for homeowners in crisis is urgent. Even millions of homeowners who “did everything right” find themselves underwater, or illegally foreclosed upon by banks running roughshod over the rights of homeowners by robo-signing fraudulent foreclosure documents by the thousands. Banks servicing mortgages are (rightfully) more worried about getting sued by the owners of securities made up of Americans’ debt than they are about getting in any sort of trouble for bullying or illegally seizing the homes of regular people. Everyone should get a shot at a renegotiation of their mortgage, at fair rates, and with support from the government.
2. A substantial jobs program Most American cities are filled with beautiful old buildings and monuments and parks dating back to the recovery programs of the New Deal, as well as increasingly decrepit bridges and roads and structures that have been neglected by the last couple of decades of shrinking infrastructure investment. A real, direct jobs program, done in the WPA style, would rebuild our cities and towns in addition to putting thousands of people back to work.
3. A healthcare public option Medicare is probably the single most popular government program in the country, which is no surprise, because government-subsidized healthcare tends to be the most popular government program in every nation that has implemented it.
If a true single-payer system would be too disruptive, we can put the building blocks in place by giving people a public option. Expanding the pool of Medicare recipients to include healthy younger people paying into it would instantly improve the program’s fiscal outlook. Nationalizing the underfunded Medicaid system would instantly reduce the deplorable inequity of our healthcare system, too. If this new Medicare could negotiate drug prices — like the Veterans Administration, our wonderful, totally socialized healthcare program for one group of Americans — it would save even more. (Hey, why not combine the proposal with debt relief for young doctors?)
4. Reregulate Wall Street Taking the “unsophisticated” broad view, it seems painfully obvious that Wall Street deregulation undid the stabilizing effects of 1930s-era Wall Street regulation. We’re on a boom-and-bust cycle, and a shrinking number of growing megabanks now regularly threaten the entire world economy. It’s hard to imagine that we wouldn’t be better off with a worldwide network of small, independent credit unions than massive financial institutions daily innovating new and more arcane methods of shifting vast sums of imaginary capital around, but in lieu of smashing the banks with brickbats why not just reinstate the rules that effectively limited their behavior for 40 years or so? Bring back Glass-Steagall. Pass the Volcker rule, too. Ban banks from trading derivatives. Limit their behavior and tax their earnings.
Today at Occupy Wall Street we are looking across the country to the city of Oakland, where last night our fellow Americans were subjected to violence at the hands of their own government for exercising the constitutional freedoms their government is sworn to protect. Last night police forces violently raided Occupy Oakland, arresting 85 people and brutalizing many peaceful participants, using excessive physical force, tear gas, and dangerous projectile rounds.
Peaceful Protest is An American Birthright, Not a Crime
Among those injured is Scott Olson, a Marine Corps veteran who served in Iraq. Olsen is in the hospital with a fractured skull.
“Scott is in stable but serious condition as the neurologists decide whether to take him into surgery or the ICU,” said Joshua Shepherd, a friend of Olsen’s. “Oakland Police Department fired a tear gas canister at his head, fracturing his skull.”
Video of the incident with Scott Olsen:
It is unconscionable that American government officials would sanction the use of such extreme force against peaceful citizens.
Occupy Oakland has been a public forum, set up on public land, concerned with critical public issues about the nation’s financial crisis, consolidation of wealth and power, and the ability of citizens to meaningfully participate in the democratic process. This brutality carried out on the orders of city government, sends a chilling message to those who want to engage in civic processes to work for social change.
Over a month ago, we went to the doorstep of Wall Street to say “enough!” That message has resonated across the country and around the world. Occupy Wall Street continues to build, and a national movement of peaceful occupations and civic engagement has sprung up in every corner.
Public officials must listen to the grievances of this popular movement. It is absolutely unacceptable to attempt to dissuade civic engagement through the use of brutality, repression and retaliation against movement participants. This is America. All Americans have the freedom to peacefully protest our government. That right defines who we are as a country and a people, and when it is denied, all of America is the poorer for it.
The Mayor of Oakland — and mayors and city governments across the country — should get on the right side of history and honor all Americans’ freedom to peacefully assemble and to civically engage.
We call on all concerned people to send Oakland Mayor Quan a message that the actions she sanctioned are unconscionable. We ask supporters to please sign this petition to Mayor Quan and to forward it:
On Thursday evening, a couple dozen Occupy Wall Street protesters in Zuccotti Park grabbed brooms and buckets and set about sweeping up the site. For the last two days, they had begun to work harder than usual to keep the park clean and attractive, putting their brooms to work, filling up buckets of water at nearby restaurants and even, according to one protester, planting flowers.
Protesters say they are cleaning the park so that the city doesn’t have to do so. On Wednesday, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced that Zuccotti Park would be closed temporarily at the end of the week so that sanitation workers could clean it, which they had not done since the protests began. Many of the protesters said they saw this as a ploy to get them out of the park permanently, and their suspicions were further intensified when Ray Kelly, the commissioner of the NYPD, said Thursday that they would not be able to bring back their sleeping bags and other items after leaving. The city’s clean-up is scheduled for 7:00 a.m. Friday, and many of the protesters have vowed to resist any attempt at evacuation.
In a letter sent to Kelly on Tuesday, Richard B. Clark, the chief executive of Brookfield Properties, the company that owns the park, wrote, “After weeks of occupation, conditions at the park have deteriorated to unsanitary and unsafe levels.”
On behalf of the protestors, a group of New York civil liberties lawyers issued a letter to Clark today in which they wrote that a sanitation group at the site has been addressing the concerns raised in the CEO’s letter “all along” and has “committed itself to carrying out a thorough and complete cleaning” as an extra measure.
"Trash has consistently been bagged and hauled to established collection points and recycling rules have been strictly adhered to," they wrote, adding that the sanitation group "typically has had between one and fifteen people sweeping the Park with brooms at any time."
The lawyers concluded their letter with an offer to meet to resolve the controversy.
Brendan Burke, a protester who lives in Brooklyn, said that he runs “patrols” several times each day, pressing people to keep their spaces clean. Not everyone complies, he said, but overall, the group has been more orderly and respectful than not. Because this is New York, he found it fitting to add that he had yet to see a rat.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is making a cowardly attempt to end Occupy Wall Street, the anchor of a movement that has captured the hearts and minds of the country in just four weeks. Tomorrow at 7 a.m., under Bloomberg’s orders, the NYPD will evict the 99%. Unless we stop that from happening.
We have very little time to act. There are at least three things you can do right now:
SIGN THIS PETITION now. MoveOn.org has started a major petition drive to tell Mayor Bloomberg: “Respect the protesters’ First Amendment rights. Don’t try to evict Occupy Wall Street.” The petition will be put in the hands of the occupiers TONIGHT, and then delivered to the mayor. A massive stack of signatures will show Occupy Wall Street and Bloomberg that the nation stands with the 99%, not the 1%.
Tell everyone you know in the New York area that they should head to Zuccotti Park at 6:00 AM tomorrow (Friday Oct 14) to prevent Bloomberg from evicting the protesters. If enough people literally stand with the protesters, Bloomberg could back down.
Call 311 (if you live in New York City) or 212-NEW-YORK (if you live elsewhere in the US) and demand that Bloomberg back down from interfering with the occupiers’ brave stand on behalf of the 99% of us.
The mayor’s justification for this eviction is a ruse. Bloomberg says authorities need to “clean” the park. Meanwhile, he refuses to acknowledge that Occupy Wall Street has a functioning sanitation detail, just as they’ve self-organized every other aspect of their dignified, intentional community (including a working library).
Bloomberg says the protestors may return after the “cleaning,” but this also is less than honest. Upon returning to the park, occupiers must follow rules that make the occupation impossible: no camping; no sleeping bags; no tents; no lying down; no storage of personal property.
Make no mistake — this is an eviction. Winter is coming, and the occupiers cannot continue without the ability to stay safe, warm, and dry.
This is about more than just one protest. What’s at stake is the very right we have as Americans to speak out when we’ve been wronged, and to peaceably assemble as a community to seek redress from the government.
Occupy Wall Street is resonating with the American people. More than a thousand occupations have sprung up in cities and towns everywhere, following the example set by those in New York City. As Al Gore said, Occupy Wall Street is a “primal scream of American democracy.” This beautiful manifestation of moral clarity and dignified, nonviolent protest must be allowed to continue.