Now, it’s true that some of the protesters are oddly dressed or have silly-sounding slogans, which is inevitable given the open character of the events. But so what? I, at least, am a lot more offended by the sight of exquisitely tailored plutocrats, who owe their continued wealth to government guarantees, whining that President Obama has said mean things about them than I am by the sight of ragtag young people denouncing consumerism.
Bear in mind, too, that experience has made it painfully clear that men in suits not only don’t have any monopoly on wisdom, they have very little wisdom to offer. When talking heads on, say, CNBC mock the protesters as unserious, remember how many serious people assured us that there was no housing bubble, that Alan Greenspan was an oracle and that budget deficits would send interest rates soaring.
A better critique of the protests is the absence of specific policy demands. It would probably be helpful if protesters could agree on at least a few main policy changes they would like to see enacted. But we shouldn’t make too much of the lack of specifics. It’s clear what kinds of things the Occupy Wall Street demonstrators want, and it’s really the job of policy intellectuals and politicians to fill in the details.
Rich Yeselson, a veteran organizer and historian of social movements, has suggested that debt relief for working Americans become a central plank of the protests. I’ll second that, because such relief, in addition to serving economic justice, could do a lot to help the economy recover. I’d suggest that protesters also demand infrastructure investment — not more tax cuts — to help create jobs. Neither proposal is going to become law in the current political climate, but the whole point of the protests is to change that political climate.
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Dear web publishers,
I know you think it’s a great idea to raise your page counts by putting only one paragraph per page to get readers to click on the next, but I’m not doing it. In fact, I’m making it a point to unsubscribe from every single newsletter that does it.
It’s a very inconsiderate thing to do, considering the numbers of people out there with repetitive motion injuries. Thanks for trying to add to the damage!
Your former reader
Word is going around Minneapolis that the FBI is looking for a few good spies to break up the dangerous world of vegan potlucks. That’s right — the nation’s newest terrorist threat is not from explosives or Al Qaeda — you should be worrying about the imminent threat of soy dogs and tasteless, overly dry chocolate cake.
The FBI is actually looking for moles to infiltrate the not-so-shady world ofbicycle enthusiasts and vegetarians to learn more about protests planned for the2008 Republican National Convention. The problem with this infiltration is that they aren’t just seeking to disrupt crime, they are trying to stop the protests altogether. At the 2004 RNC convention in New York, the police cracked down on political speech, protest, and dissent. The NYCLU has tons of great documents that chronicle how the NYPD went about using fear over “terrorism” to justify squashing free speech. This summer’s conventions, in Minneapolis and Denver, are shaping up to be a redux of the 2004 debacle — anyone else remember the “free speech zone” cages? —where the FBI used the guise of Joint Terrorism Task Forces to suppress speech.
Think about this: Suppose your credit rating was based, not on your own actual assets and credit history, but rather on your rich parents’ continued willingness to bail you out.
Here. Sounds like he’s as big a mensch as he appears…
In every major-league press box, before every baseball game, an announcement is made to the effect that, “This is a working press box.” In other words, no cheering in the press box. I am continuously astounded by the extent to which this rule is soaked in kerosene and lit afire by the people who report on Wall Street. Most of them missed the whole thing when the system crashed in 2008, after spending two decades cheering the philosophy behind the creation of the economic land mines that nearly brought it down. Imagine the appeal to these people of a storyline of the Embattled Wealthy, prisoners in their own offices, just trying to be Job Creators while the unwashed hordes screech at them from below. Now that’s entertainment.
And, sadly, I suspect that the rest of the media may well fall in line. They’ve spent years ignoring the yawning income inequality that is swallowing the middle class. (Forget the actual poor. They might as well be living on Mars.) They’ve spent years dodging the question of why that came about. They’ve spent years balancing themselves on the head of a pin rather than admit that they’ve helped enable the politicians that created this mess and who are today standing athwart any serious effort to solve it.
But something is shifting in the country, which makes even Geithner’s strange bemusement worth noting. Before taking the Hill today, he said this:
And they react to what is pretty modest, common-sense observations about the system as if they’re deep affronts to the dignity of their profession. And I don’t understand why they’re so sensitive.
I suspect he’s bullshitting here just a tad. He knows good and well “why they’re so sensitive.” He spent several frantic weeks in 2008 jawboning these same people into not letting the entire world economy slide into the abyss. He knows their greed. He knows their arrogance. He knows better than most people the Masters-of-the-Universe mentality that pervades the industry that now sees itself under assault from the lesser beings who are just trying to get by. Hell, he probably has had moments in his life where it overcame him. And he knows good and goddamn well that the flip side of that arrogance is opulent self-pity, and a well-cosseted disregard for any real sense of accountability. (The foreclosure fraud industry itself is enough to make an intemperate mind yearn for a general adoption of the ancient Japanese solution for criminal failure.) Their solution for the problem of what happened when they broke the rules is to take enough money from the rest of us so that they can break the rules again. This is because the rules are not for them. Better than most people, even better than most of the people sleeping in the park, or waking this morning in a cell with the Mace still stinging in their eyes, Timothy Geithner knows the names of the criminals and the nature of their crimes. His little talk yesterday, followed by some pretty honest talk before the House and Senate today, sounds like the first baby-steps of public self-awareness. Whether he keeps moving along that road, and whether the president he serves follows him, will be the ultimate measure of both men. Which side are you on is not a question idly answered.
I have to say, Portland really sounds like the worst place to protest. Philly, on the other hand, is cooperating with the protesters. (I’m not sure I trust them, but for now, okay.) The mayor says he wants to help (and not in that Mike Bloomberg kind of way) and the police commissioner is out there talking to the kids.
So we’ll see how it ends.
That originally referred to the biblical “Jubilee” year, when debt was forgiven. Some economists say we should do it again.