Occupy Wall Street Not Our Arab Awakening
A meme is emerging that the Occupy Wall Street protests are America's version of the Arab Awakening. That meme must die.
A meme is emerging that the Occupy Wall Street protests are America’s version of the Arab Awakening. That meme must die.
NYT columnist Charles Blow (“Hippies and Hipsters Exhale“) seems to have started it:
Ever since the Arab Spring, many people here have been pining for an American Autumn.
The closest we’ve gotten so far is Occupy Wall Street.
For two weeks, a “leaderless resistance movement” of a couple hundred people (depending on whom you ask) have camped out and sat-in at a tiny park in Lower Manhattan to protest greed and corruption, among other things. The protests were first called for in July by the magazine Adbusters, which calls itself “a global network of culture jammers and creatives.”
His colleague Nicholas Kristof (“The Bankers and the Revolutionaries“) piles on:
The “Occupy Wall Street” movement has taken over a park in Manhattan’s financial district and turned it into a revolutionary camp. Hundreds of young people chant slogans against “banksters” or corporate tycoons. Occasionally, a few even pull off their clothes, which always draws news cameras.
“Occupy Wall Street” was initially treated as a joke, but after a couple of weeks it’s gaining traction. The crowds are still tiny by protest standards — mostly in the hundreds, swelling during periodic marches — but similar occupations are bubbling up in Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Washington. David Paterson, the former New York governor, dropped by, and labor unions are lending increasing support.
I tweeted that the protest reminded me a bit of Tahrir Square in Cairo, and that raised eyebrows. True, no bullets are whizzing around, and the movement won’t unseat any dictators. But there is the same cohort of alienated young people, and the same savvy use of Twitter and other social media to recruit more participants. Most of all, there’s a similar tide of youthful frustration with a political and economic system that protesters regard as broken, corrupt, unresponsive and unaccountable.
“This was absolutely inspired by Tahrir Square, by the Arab Spring movement,” said Tyler Combelic, 27, a Web designer from Brooklyn who is a spokesman for the occupiers. “Enough is enough!”
Micah Sifrey (“#OccupyWallStreet: There’s Something Happening Here, Mr. Jones“) joins in:
America is about to experience the same youth-driven, hyper-networked wave of grassroots protests against economic inequality and political oligarchy that have been rocking countries as disparate as Tunisia, Egypt, Israel, Greece and Spain. The occupation of the Wisconsin state legislature last winter was a harbinger, but now all kinds of previously disconnected individuals, loosely centered on a core of beautiful-style troublemakers and inspired by events and methods honed overseas, are linking up and showing up to occupy symbolically important centers in their cities, from near Wall Street in downtown Manhattan 15 days ago, next to Chicago a week ago, to an explosion of events all over major cities across America this weekend, including at the Federal Reserve building in Boston, MacPherson Square in Washington, DC, to city hall in Los Angeles, plus more than 100 others. This thing is growing in Internet time and no wonder, for it is built on networked culture.
The protest, or occupation, is now in its third week, and in addition to a steadily increasing level of media coverage, this coming Wednesday a range of local unions and progressive groups are planning to rally their members to join in. Stubborn resilience plus some outraged media attention to police brutality seems to have been enough to light the spark, but beneath that, credit must go to the horizontal adhocracy running the occupation downtown, which has developed its own infrastructure for internal and external communication and social support. And it’s doing this without obvious leaders (who could be arrested and held to suppress the movement) or institutional backers (who could be pressured), and with a wide array of networked support that is being marshaled via Internet Relay Chat, blogs, Facebook pages, Twitter, livestreaming, online video and street theatre.
What these movements have in common: frustrated youth loosely organized using social media. What differentiates these movements: size, political climate, and consequences.
In cities all the Arab world, disaffected youth are rising up in mass form against brutal dictators at the peril of being gunned down in the streets. In cities all around America–but mainly New York City–the usual suspects are showing up in small numbers to protest often contradictory things only tangentially related to their democratic political system, facing the peril of being detained for a few hours and issued a misdemeanor citation for disturbing the peace or impeding traffic. It’s simply insulting to compare the two.
Indeed, all three of the columns acknowledge as much.
Blow notes that “it feels like a festival of frustrations, a collective venting session with little edge or urgency, highlighting just how far away downtown Manhattan is from Damascus — the hyper-aggressiveness of the police not withstanding.”
Where the movement falters is in its demands: It doesn’t really have any. The participants pursue causes that are sometimes quixotic — like the protester who calls for removing Andrew Jackson from the $20 bill because of his brutality to American Indians. So let me try to help.
I don’t share the antimarket sentiments of many of the protesters. Banks are invaluable institutions that, when functioning properly, move capital to its best use and raise living standards. But it’s also true that soaring leverage not only nurtured soaring bank profits in good years, but also soaring risks for the public in bad years.
Much of the sloganeering at “Occupy Wall Street” is pretty silly — but so is the self-righteous sloganeering of Wall Street itself. And if a ragtag band of youthful protesters can help bring a dose of accountability and equity to our financial system, more power to them.
Sifry is more sympathetic but, still:
The notion of “taking” Wall Street didn’t make physical sense: as a longtime New Yorker who has been down there at protests, I knew that the police would never let protesters get anywhere close to shutting down the Stock Exchange. Nor did it seem likely that you could get enough people to mass in the area to effectively stop business as usual. There are obviously lots of people who are hurting in today’s economy, but the larger immediate environment of Manhattan is hardly representative of the rest of America; we’re floating on a bubble of rich people who makes their homes here, plus tons of tourists, and many of the ordinary people who live or work near downtown make their money from Wall Street’s trickle down. Sure, we have many struggling folks in New York, but many of them choose to be here because they’re seeking their fortune in one of the city’s many glittering industries. Without real roots in the outer borough (and outer suburb) working communities–where the cops, firefighters, teachers, construction workers, health service workers and small business operators mostly live–and with a seeming surplus of misfits and the usual Hollywood liberals showing up to send their off-putting signals to the rest of the country, Occupy Wall Street seemed ill-suited to strike the chord of American discontent with the economy and see its message resonate.
Still, Blow pleads, “While it lacks the clarity and size — at least so far — of other protests we’ve seen in this country, let alone in other countries, it does highlight a growing sense of disillusionment among Americans and the failures and ineffectiveness they feel from the current government in addressing their concerns.” He points to findings from some recent polling:
• 81 percent of Americans said they were dissatisfied with the way the country is being governed.
• Confidence in Congress reached a new low last month.
• Americans’ confidence in the people who run for or serve in office is also at a new low.
• The 15 percent of Americans approving of Congress in the September poll is just 2 percentage points above the all-time low recorded twice in the past year.
• At 43 percent, fewer Americans today than at any time in the past four decades said they have a great deal or fair amount of trust in the federal government to handle domestic problems.
• Americans’ sense that the federal government poses an immediate threat to individuals’ rights and freedoms is also at a new high.
• Americans are more than twice as likely to say President Obama and the current Congress are doing a poor job as a good job of dealing with the nation’s most important problems. Most even believe that they’re doing worse than their predecessors.
But Occupy Wall Street isn’t addressed at any of these issues. They should be occupying Capitol Hill, not Wall Street, if these are their concerns.
Indeed, Blow seems to agree:
But even with high levels of unhappiness and star power involved, there is something about Occupy Wall Street that feels like a spark set down on wet grass: It’s just hard to see how it truly catches fire. (Some of the city’s largest labor unions and liberal groups are expected to join the protest next week. Maybe that will help.)
This has less to do with what began as a mission — after all, it’s hard to argue with the idea of fighting greed and corruption — than with the fact that it has nowhere to go.
While many Americans are feeling the pain from this financial crisis and our leaders’ at-times-wrongheaded-at-other-times-heartless attempts to deal with it, many of the most adversely affected have yet to find a way to funnel their pain into political passion. Many still don’t seem to see the fight the way that many activists frame it: as a zero-sum game of taxation or belt-tightening between the haves and have-nots.
Although the protest is framed as a partyless movement, New York Magazine said in its preview that one of the organizers essentially said that Occupy Wall Street was meant as a “rebuke of ‘neoliberal economics,’ and a youth-driven lefty answer to the Tea Party.”
But the Tea Party has a specific political agenda. This protest does not. The Tea Party did a great job of channeling anger into electoral outcomes and shifting electoral sentiment.
There’s a lot of frustration out there, much of it legitimate. While I’m less sympathetic to the protesters than these columnists, I opposed the bailouts of the big financial companies and the whole notion of Too Big To Fail.
Random protests years after the fact are a bizarre reaction to all that in a representative democracy. If there’s really a movement out there to change the way we do business, then organize that effort into a political movement and get into the arena rather than clogging up the Brooklyn Bridge.
I think it’s time to recognize that we’re no longer in a what veteran activist Myles Horton would have called an organizational phase of political activity, where meetings have walls around them, messages have managers, advocacy is centrally paid for and done by professional lobbyists, marches have beginnings and endings, and the story line goes neatly gives from petition to legislation to reform.
Instead, in America we’re now entering into a third wave of movement politics (the first being the rise of the “netroots” within the Democratic party after its leadership collapse between 2000-2003; and the second being the rise of the Tea Party after the conservative losses of 2006 and 2008). I don’t pretend to know where the “Occupy” movement is going to go, though its main purpose appears to be to show first of all that it is here to stay, and to force a different perspective into a national discourse that up until now has marginalized and ignored grassroots anti-corporate social justice advocacy. By putting their bodies down at the figurative center of power in America and refusing to leave, the Occupy Wall Street protestors are inventing a new way to gain voice in the national political process. In the coming days, we will see whether this rising new movement is listened to, or if the same people who gave us the Washington Consensus will, despite their failings and their need for an American spring, choose to close their ears and call in the cops in force.
Mob rule is a poor substitute for democracy. A few hundred–or even a few thousand–angry people in the streets is not representative of 310 million people. The last thing we need in America is to increase the level of rancor and noise.
Indeed. There was a good column a week or so ago in the NYTimes pointing out the distinctly antidemocratic tenor to the protests: “we can’t win at the ballot box, so we’ll win through coercion.”
I agree that the comparison is overblown–American inequality is not functionally equivalent to dictatorship, and pepper spray is not gunfire–but I do think the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations have thicker roots and are potentially more significant than you’re allowing. It’s also worth noting that columnists aren’t the only ones imagining a connection between OWS and uprisings in the Middle East. Participants on both sides of the ocean made than linkage explicit in a statement issued several days ago.
700 is in the grand scheme of things, nutthin’
Other than that I expect some hair-splitting on this. Many of the folk who want to hate the “hippies” also want to protest Wall Street bailouts and sweetheart deals themselves.
Heh, they want the issue to be theirs, and to have their enemies drop it.
Of course they are. It’s good PR. I don’t think anyone doubts that the protesters are trying to legitimize their protest through that connection, nor is it terribly relevant to the merits.
@Jay Ulfelder I agree with @jpe that the statement is self-serving rather than indication of a real connection. It legitimates Occupy Wall Street and makes the Arab Awakening seem like something global.
With rare exception, street demonstrations in a democracy are a futile, bizarre effort.
I’d also note that while the Tea Party has protested Wall Street bailouts in the past, and these people protest Wall Street power now … Obama and Romney are competing not on “clean up” but on who can collect the most Wall Street contributions.
I mean, WTF is important here, that these hipsters walked down the wrong lane?
@James Joyner: You guys are completely ignoring that unions have already begun to swell the protesters’ ranks. If the Occupy Wall Street protests spread across the nation and join forces with the unions (as is intended), then will you recognize it as legitimate a form of protest as the Arab uprising? How about the addition of violence? Will that give it more legitimacy?
Unfortunately this is polarizing faster than it is finding common ground. Now that Michael Moore has shown up, the Tea Party will be forced to pivot 180 degrees, and become the party OF Wall Street.
To be fair, that has already started. They were against bailouts, before they were for tax privileges. They’ve probably been half co-opted, and half played.
A lot of us are fed up with a brutal corporatorcy that vales stock options for the C-Suite occupants and devalues workers, the environment and, frankly, democracy. It’s become clear as the Koch brothers and other extreme wielders of wealth, via the stunningly anti-democracy decision in Citizens United, have corrupted the American system such that the American Dream of the 1950s is dead. Totally sucked away by the top 1% who think that it’s OK to pay themselves $10, $25, $50 million a year in options + salary + and bloated benefits, while the dwindling workforce earns not $50/hr, nor $25/hr, often not even $10/hr.
The disparity in wealth and income between the top tier and the massive former middle class cannot be ignored much longer. Finding ways that this movement is not like other global movements to resist oppression may seem clever, but misses the point. Americans are becoming desperate in ways the elite such as you, Mr. Joyner, seem unable to fathom.
No health care, no relief from crushing student debt taken on because the elite system demands a degree for the most basic of jobs now, mortgages that remain underwater while banks got off with massive Federal gifts.
These things cannot be ignored or waived off with a silly comparison.
So you people are protesting because of your student loans? What’s next, a hunger strike because Starbucks raised their prices?
The extent to which you don’t understand the true oppression that gave rise to the Arab Spring, the 2009 protests in Iran, Tiananmen Square, and the protests that brought down government in Eastern Europe in the late 80s is really quite astounding
@John Persona “the Tea Party will be forced to pivot 180 degrees, and become the party OF Wall Street.”
The utter absence of the Tea Party from any activity questioning the antics of Wall Street for well over a year now shows me, and a lot of other people, that the Tea Party sold out to mainstream GOP corporatists interests some time ago.
There’s plenty to make one think that the whole Tea Party thing was a very smart, top-down right-wing way of channeling the legitimate anti-Wall Street anger into being anti-D.C. in stead…that serves the elite interest better, keeps the conservative angry mobs looking elsewhere, and very conveniently kept tax rates at historic lows for the ultra-rich. Brilliant. Awful.
It might actually be a demographic.
But by all means, trivialize that.
@Doug Mataconis: I spend several days each week working with low-income people from the African American community who have been sold the dream that getting an education is the way to make it in the US, people who are not liberal middle class white Starbucks-sippers at all. People, hundreds of thousands of them in this recession alone, have gone into debt that is many times their annual income based on a dream that has evaporated with the jobs (but not the profits) of American corporations.
To dismiss student debt as a problem of privilege suggest a significant level of disconnect between you and people in the bottom 1/2 of America’s income ladder. These are the people who’s parents had decent but perhaps uninteresting blue- and pink- collar jobs that are gone now. Their kids see the pressure to have a degree, pile on $40K of debt, get out and face working at Starbucks, not sipping their products.
Get real – talk to the huge cadres of over=qualified, under-opportunitied people who took on debt to try to better themselves and now get written off by elite opinion makers.
People make choices in life. Sometimes they make the wrong choices, sometimes they just have bad luck. That is not “oppression.” You can either whine about it and engage in pointless protests. Or, you can move on with your life.
I don’t trivialize it, but nobody ever got a job by protesting and hanging out with the likes of Michel Moore engaging in faux protests.
Gee, thanks Doug. So helpful.
The fact that corporations make choices, too, choices that damage the fabric of society but increase profits? Meh. No reason to get upset about that! Its a choice!
You know, you sound exactly like the tired claptrap I used to hear in college 25 years ago. It was nonsense then, it’s nonsense now.
But thanks anyway for acknowledging that these wanna-be protesters are accomplishing nothing
@RalfW: Yeah, those 60 million people now living below the poverty line due to the economic collapse caused by Wall Street should have never asked Michael Moore to show up at those protests. Those idiots!
This stuff is really bordering on self-parody. We have the highest youth unemployment since WWII. You acknowledge that as a problem, but your focus seems to be that if a measly 700 of them get together, that is MORE of a problem.
The most important contribution OTB can make this Sunday morning, is to protest the protest.
This protest is a joke and it trivializes whatever it is these people think their cause might be.
Like I said, going to some stupid protest isn’t going to get you a job. And comparing yourself to people who were protesting actual dictatorships is stupid and offensive.
@James Joyner: That’s a pretty cynical take. A lot of folks–not just participants in these demonstrations–think there really is such a thing as a “transnational civil society,” and that shared grievances about inequality and voice are motivating parts of it to mobilize right now. You might think they’re wrong about the extent to which that linkage will affect their success, but I think you are wrong to dismiss that linkage as a PR ploy.
Sincere question: Why do you feel it’s a joke? Honestly, I didn’t think anything would come of it until I saw the 700 members of the airline pilots’ union join the protests.
Doug, “sometimes they just have bad luck” makes it sound like these people making the choice (under intense pressure to not fall behind in earning potential, so a choice maybe but not in the sense that I hear you saying from your privilege – they make choices of necessity, not “oh, I think I want to be a scientist..No, a lawyer, that’s it!!”) the people making the choice to get and education, and then have the job market evaporate because of a) financier malpractive on Wall Street and b) the ongoing drive by corporate America to export jobs and globalize and relocate profit, well that]s just “bad luck.”
No, Doug. It’s a plan by the elite 1% to not be accountable for their choices to the 99% who can’t just jet off to better land when this contry starts to really suck after they’ve in effect asset-stripped this place the way Mitt Roment and his pals have been asset stripping industry here for a generation.
There was a time when the leaders in corporate America were producers. My dad – now 81 years old – is understandably proud of the work he and his generation did to build this country. He was a fortune 500 CEO when he retired, and he helped build the Texas energy industry after a first career helping build the global agricultural transportation network.
Now days smart, driven American leaders similar to him but in their 50s-60s are not interested in what can be created to build this country, and make a profit along the way. No. They are interested in building the newest, best vehicles of obtuse, black-box corporate financial instruments that make massive short-term profits and then blow up like bombs on the exchanges when other people are holding the bag.
But its just “bad luck” to you. Not malfeasance. Not a moral abandonment of decent corporate citizenship.
Stick with it Doug. Your elite bubble is pleasant. And removed from reality.
It’s a joke Nikki because these people are the same warmed over hippie wanna-bes I ran into in college in the 80s. They have no understanding of how business works, they just don’t like the fact that they have big student loan debt. You know what? They should’ve thought about that before they incurred it.
@Doug Mataconis: Wow. It’s really that simplistic for you?
@RalfW: So true.
It seems to be getting a lot of your attention, for some odd reason.
If it was me, I’d say 700 protesters in the road, on a Saturday, is harmless. And I’d think the protesters would hate my analysis at least as much as you do. My reaction is “wake me when it’s 10,000.”
But the odd thing is, the protest memes “must die” now. It’s like, all we need is to corral these 700 and all our problems are solved … if only it were that easy.
Actually Nikki, things are very complicated, it’s the #OccupyWallStreet crowd who has the simplistic, almost child-like, view of the world and what they think their entitled to. The truth kids? You’re not entitled to a darn thing
Do the math for us, Doug. How many billions in subsidies flow from Washington to Wall Street, and then how many millions flow back as contributions? The sign up top, about the 99% without a lobbyist seems pretty true.
This really strikes me as one of those bizarre situations: “I agree with your facts, but will fight your right to say them.”
@Doug Mataconis: Perhaps not. But if protesting is the only means left to me to get my voice heard, then I’m gonna shout as loud as I can. Call me a hippy if you must; names never hurt me.
I oppose subsidies in all forms, John.
Unlike the #OccupyWallStreet crowd, though, I didn’t vote for a President who supports and increases those subsidies.
The other sign up top says “no more corruption.”
Another “#OccupyWallStreet crowd” theme for you to hate?
Funny how easily you see this group as “the other” and then stop thinking about the issues they are complaining about, the ones you actually have common-cause with. It becomes party warfare in short order
@john personna: Haven’t you heard? The little people should take the screwing they got and be thankful they escaped without incurring more damage.
Doug, when you roll out the word “hippie,” you’ve lost the argument. It tells us you still live largely in the 60s if such an obviously inaccurate slur is so easy on your lips, and hurled from the safety of your independent unassailable fortress (the one in your mind).
What we have cannot be sustained. These protests are just getting started, and the tone-deaf such as yourself will be the first to fall. The look on your face when it arrives may actually be worth it.
First, a pet peeve.
I know this usage is ubiquitous, but it grates none the less. It may be insulting to equate the two, but why on earth is it insulting to compare the two? A comparison does not imply equivalency – it is, rather, the very process of trying to determine how the two things are or are not similar.
To equate a drop of water to the Atlantic ocean would be absurd. To compare them would be perfectly legitimate. It would yield a realization that on a chemical level, there was a remarkable similarity in kind. Plus some significant differences, and enormous differences in other factors.
Even if you find no similarities whatsoever between the two things compared, the exercise of making the comparison is perfectly legitimate.
Comparing the Wall St. demos with the Arab spring reveals that both movements seem to represent a grassroots effort to redefine some aspect of the established order. At least to make the rhetorical argument – to put before their fellow citizens the notion that the established order locks in place some significant injustices, and that perhaps a different approach is warranted.
To point out the enormous differences in the nature of the “oppressing power” and the consequences that may be visited upon the protestors is merely to point out that the US and Egypt (for example) are different places.
Surely no one is arguing that the Wall St. protestors deserve medals for bravery of the type that many of the Arab protestors do. But in their own way, in their vastly different circumstance, our protesters are also expressing, from the bottom up, a dissatisfaction and frustration with the established order, and making an appeal to their fellow citizens to join in the process of rethinking what is possible.
Are you sure? 😉
There have been a lot of Presidents who have increased those subsidies.
“Mob rule is a poor substitute for democracy.”
What was that cycle the ancient Greeks talked about? Democracy falling into anarchy and bringing about tyranny? Except the Greeks didn’t blame the mob. They blamed the flaws of democracy.
And I think people are forgetting about Doug’s libertarianism on this issue. One of the underlying assumptions of that kind of thinking is that everybody who gets ahead does so entirely on their own merits and everybody who falls behind is likewise entirely responsible for their status. The reality idea that some are privileged and others penalized by economic structures, social compacts and plain old luck cannot be mentioned.
As always, the bold libertarians weigh in on the ugliness of the underclass.
From James, we get the standard “it is the obligation of the poor and weak to accept their lot in life without troubling the rich, who are clearly their moral superiors.”
From Doug, we get the real libertarian id: “They’re poor because they’re stupid and made stupid choices. They should simply accept this and die now.”
The deafness and cluelessness about the way real people with would be shocking… if we hadn’t seen it here time and time again.
Don’t blame me, John, I voted Libertarian in 2008 because I realized just how bad both the major party choices were.
I think I was referring to past Presidents there.
I’d guess the only way not to have voted for a Wall Street supporter is not to have ever voted for a winner. I’m not sure your record is that “good.”
@WR: “The deafness and cluelessness about the way real people with would be shocking… if we hadn’t seen it here time and time again.”
In a not so long time ago, this sort of elite thinking would go unmasked. We witness a last gasp of a movement that helped itself waaaaaay too much at the expense of waaaaaay too many, and it’s a mad race to hoard everything away against the coming End-Times of Themism.
But it’s not the money so much as the utter absence of ideas that have to begin with “We” instead of “Me.” In the public square we solve OUR problems, not just those of the rich. This is neither socialist nor “hippie.” It is American.
I think there is a possibility that the impact of this is being underplayed. I’m sure the initial demonstrations in the middle east were small and drew little attention. I think the oligarchs are concerned. The issues are ones the demonstrators have in common with the Tea Party – what happens if they join in. And things are going to get much worse before they get better. The economic situation in Europe combined with the insolvency of all of the worlds TBF banks make this inevitable and there is nothing anyone can do about it. The Oligarchs are very worried!
@Doug Mataconis: “Don’t blame me, John….”
This unwritten statement begins each and every one of your posts, Doug.
I sort of used to enjoy reading this blog for it’s slightly different “take” on matters.
Now that I have read the proprietor’s nasty retorts to “comments” here I regret
wasting my time. . . Hard to not believe he developed his attitudes about his fellow
man while screaming “roll tide” during his college days in Alabama?
And since Libertarians won’t play ball with Wall street they will never get elected. So voting for them is just as useless and every bit as much of a joke as you claim the protesters are. I’m pretty sure you felt the same way about the Tea party, are their demonstrations a joke to?
The Tea Party won’t join in. The grassroots members of the Tea Party may join of their own initiative, but the corporate-controlled Tea Party itself will never endorse the protesters. Perhaps you haven’t noticed, but the attendance at the most recent Tea Party-sponsored rallies and events has been minuscule compared to the out-sized media attention they have garnered. Perhaps the people are beginning to realize they have been played once again?
Tim Iacono asks if it is A Liberal Version of the Tea Party?
As I say above, that was my thought, based on the overlap of ideas.
@john personna: If the DLC is funneling corporate cash to the protesters and any network other than Fox has been providing media access to the protesters for the past 2 weeks, then, yes, it’s exactly the liberal version of the Tea Party.
Well, that’s the interesting thing. This might be like the early, disorganized, Tea Party. If it is successful, then of course you can expect Democrats to try to steer it. More than that, they’ll try to ride it to 2012.
But that might not be so bad, if it forces the Tea Party to prove they too support “the 99%.”
Despite the weak, hurried attempts at meme creation by right wing pundits, these protesters might bring about actual changes to Wall Street, the place that almost managed to destroy the world (they may still).
Heck, if I lived on the East Coast I’d join them.
I’m with the protesters.
American politics is now in the pocket of Goldman Sachs and has been for a while. The Supremes have granted Goldman and the rest unlimited, untraceable political “speech” that can dominate the dialog. The rich have concentrated power, the working class is powerless, meaningful democracy is dying.
Would I prefer these demonstrations to be coherent? Yes, that would be better.
Would I like these demonstrations to grow and actually shut down Wall Street? Yes.
Would I like to see some bank buildings burning? Not there. Yet.
But some way must be found to stop the loss of power by the middle class and the shift of all power to the rich in this country. The political system has been captured by a tiny minority. Direct action in the streets is called for. More may yet be called for.
@john personna: There was never any early, disorganized Tea Party. The Tea Party began with a rant from Santelli on CNBC on February 29, 2009. This line is from Wikipedia:
You consider that a grassroots movement?
@john personna: And I really need to stop arguing with you since we both appear to be on the same side. I REALLY abhor the Tea Party and everything for which it stands.
EDIT: Correction date mentioned in previous post; should’ve been February 19, 2009.
You don’t think there have been DNC conference calls on this?
@john personna: Although it’s lovely to think that the DNC might try to ride this, there’s such a residual terror of 1968 that they’re more likely to sign up with the Tea Party than actually express solidarity with those who share the goals they claim.
@john personna: I’m sure there has been; the DNC is probably in panic mode right about now. Did the DNC coordinate efforts with any liberal leaders to create the Occupy Wall Street protest movement? Was OccupyWallStreet.com registered anywhere on the web in 2010 or earlier and by whom? Some things more than others can tell us what is grassroots and what is not.
@michael reynolds: And now that JP Morgan Chase has generously donated almost five million dollars to the NYPD, it will become increasingly clear that the super-rich have decided that government exists only to service them — and since the Tea Partiers are making sure that tax dollars are not available for government services, this will become increasingly true.
Clearly it’s the goal of many in the top one percent to turn the US into a third world country. And the idiots in the Tea Party — the middle class whites who are so terrified of a brown or black face they will vote to impoverish themselves rather than risk seeing one of those unworthies get a nickel — and helping them do it.
How could anyone ever blame you Doug? You have made it clear many times that you stand for nothing, and that you have little to contribute beyond endless iterations of “a pox on both their houses”.
@Jay Ulfelder: I see little evidence that “transatlantic civil society” exists, much less that it crosses into the Arab world.
@michael reynolds: I don’t disagree that the wealthy and those who pool their resources have disproportionate power to sway the debate. But that’s true of the teachers unions, the AARP, and the NRA as much as it is Goldman Sachs, the Koch Brothers, or George Soros.
Both parties are both spouting populist rhetoric and cozing up to fat cats for campaign contributions. But there doesn’t seem to be much demand for an alternative party, judging by the fact that none have formed and attracted a meaningful following.
At the end of the day, it’s still one man, one vote. Soros gets the same vote as I do and I get the same vote as they guy up the road in a trailer park or Section 8 housing.
No, it’s not one man one vote, James.
The candidates we are offered are chosen by powers over which we have very little influence. We get a slate of Corporate Servant #1 vs. Corporate Servant #2. The Powers narrow the field going in so that the choices will be limited to those unlikely to ever make a rich man uncomfortable.
Once those folks go to Congress we lose all control over them whatsoever. Goldman et al control Congress — our votes are window dressing. We’re props in a sham democracy.
Right now a large majority of Americans — and a even a majority of Republicans — want to see the rich pay a higher tax rate. Will that happen? If not, why not, given the will of the electorate? Because a vote is all we get, and that vote is about 10% of the game. The other 90% takes place beyond our sight and beyond our control.
And please don’t try to tell me the teacher’s unions are the equivalent of Goldman Sachs. That’s laughable.
More false equivalences. If the AARP and the teacher’s unions wielded as much power as Goldman Sachs and the NRA, Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and collective bargaining would not be on any legislative chopping block, statewide and national.
Geez, how do you sleep at night?
Especially odd then that OTB would decide that the critics of that, need criticism.
I mean, you could have chosen from 1001 hooks on the Occupy Wall Street story, but what did we get? Doug says they shouldn’t block traffic. James says they shouldn’t compare themselves to Arabs. He acknowledges the Arab thing started with another columnist making his own hook. That means James hooked the hook. That is a bloggerish view of reality!
But neither one disagreed that wealth, power, corruption, lobbying by beneficiaries of Washington largess, are bad things.
Indeed. The better comparison would be to other groups which get billions back for their lobbying: defense firms, drug companies, and sure, Freddie and Fannie.
And the only way that will happen is with true campaign finance reform; reform that will allow the most common of men to mount a campaign that can compete on equal footing with the very richest of men. Something our oligarchy will never allow.
@john personna: Yeah, but those honest examples wouldn’t have served his purpose.
Ancient Rome did not have a standing police force because of concerns that plutocrats would co-opt it and turn it into a private army.
If this does not outrage you, well, I don’t really know what to say.
The Bloomberg/Goldman/Chase police force is obviously out of control. Remember this if the protests turn nasty: it was the police that started the violence.
@anjin-san: I wonder why Bill O’Reilly getting the NYPD to run an IAB investigation against his estranged wife’s new detective boyfriend has still not made the national news. It is peculiar…private army you say? Well…when we continue to elect millionaires/billionaires to draft our legislation, guess we shouldn’t be surprised when they decide their best interests trump ours.
Why did these demonstrators not apply and get the necessary parade permit? This is the only legal way to have roadways set aside and traffic re-routed. They do not have the right to arbitrarily seize right of way and block the citizens’ rights to travel to work, play, shopping, or wherever.
The FBI needs to investigate these demonstrators and find out: their background (are they subversives, communists, extremists?), what is their true goal, who all is really behind this and organizing these scenes, who is backing them (they must have a source of funds since they do not appear to be working). If this is being ran as some university professor’s idea of a joke, they need to be arrested immediately.
Was that satire?
You know, the one thing I don’t see these ‘occupiers’ protesting is for streamlining and abolition of regulation and fees required to start businesses. Businesses created by the oppressed that would permit these poor protestors and those they purport to support to escape from under the ruling thumbs of the corporate masters and their government cronies. But instead, there is complex, arbitrary and conflicting regulation that requires large sums of capital to overcome. Large sums only available through places like Wall Street and their bevy of financiers.
But there does seem to be a lot of those clueless about what might solve their problem and quite a few who feel the way to salvation is by over-arching tyrannical government. One presumes, new and improved government now with less cronyism.
You don’t get it…..
Wall Street has no special party except the one who services it the best at a given time. In ’08 Wall Street went all out for Obama. Now they seem to be backing away from him, and turning to the R’s. But, for the teas, Wall Street represents the “elite,” which is an anathema to their beliefs.
Yes, let’s get rid of the onerous regulations that kept Wall Street from having junk mortgages rated as safe investments so that they couldn’t crash the economy. Oh, wait. . .
Regulations are not a problem for small business. They’re a problem for big business.
So, what happened in the ’08 election when McCain, who was a co-sponsor of such a campaign finance reform bill, wanted to run that presidential election according to certain financial perimeters? Please, tell me who was the one opting out of the deal? Who was the one who felt they could glom on to much more money by not having the restraints of campaign finance reform? And, who is currently out there, seemingly daily, sopping up the money for his reelection campaign in hopes of realizing a billion dollars collected in which to run his campaign?
If you answer these questions honestly, the ‘oligarchy’ you refer to must be on the dem side.
It has always fascinated me, though, how social progressives constantly refer to the republicans as the standard bearers of the ‘rich,’ when in fact Hollywood liberals, high finance limousine liberals usually give far greater bounties to their causes and their politicians. And, most Congresses, when adding up the ‘wealth,’ on the respective right and left side of the aisles, will show that the left has far greater financial resources than the right.
Such a paradox……
So how does streamlining regulation and fees that govern business creation and startup somehow in you mind translate into getting rid of regulations on financial instruments and ratings agencies?
I don’t know what you are drinking, but you really need to cut back. It’s making you talk crazy. The very logic that a small business owner who is trying to comply with the bevy of regulations and paperwork would have less of a problem with them than the big business that has a bevy of lawyers and trained professionals whose sole job is compliance is messed up.
…that’s not what many small businesses are saying, nor others dealing with the failures of the Dodd-Frank Act.
Class warfare Jan? Sad that a self-styled uber-capitalist such as yourself suffers from such obvious success envy.
I’d just like say on behalf of the dirty, fvcking hippies of the 60s that they were right.
So how come they’re downtown waving signs?
@michael reynolds: Sure, it will be the police who start the violence. But it will be the mayor who regally informed us that the protestors are ignorant fools who don’t realize that the people they’re protesting against are noble working men and women who make fifty thousand dollars a year and all they want to do is create jobs. So it’s pretty clear which way the mayor wants to cops to act…
Some actual reporting:
@JKB: See my response to Jan.
Hilarious! You link to an article that was written one week before the bill was even signed into law!
Bingo. The oligarchs tell us who we’re allowed to vote for, which means each nominee is vetted and bought by the time we reach the ballot box. It’s becoming clear to more and more people that reform is no longer an option in a system which has been completely captured by the American aristocracy. Make fun of the handful of “spoiled children” if you like, my conservative friends: history teaches us the powerful always, and I mean always, overplay their hand. When nationwide rage breaks out in response it will happen so fast our pundit class will be writing columns ad nauseam about how no one could have seen it coming.
For the record-
I am a 50 year old, suit wearing professional, and I am going to the Occupy Los Angeles protest tomorrow to lend my support.
I am protesting the economic structure we have that provides no job opportunities for my college son, who will graduate into the worst climate since the Great Depression;
Protesting that the banking industry, which undergirds the entire economy, has been changed from a safe and stable system of regulated businesses operating in the interest of the nation, to a casino of unfettered self-interest.
Protesting that the government has become entirely a captive of the 1%, unresponsive to the will of the people;
Protesting that the social contract of a community considering the best interests of all its members has been shredded into a dog-eat-dog 3rd World style kleptocracy;
Go ahead and whistle past the graveyard with harumphing about the nebulous nature of the protests, or the way they dress, and call them hippies; but I am seeing the very same outrage among my MoveOn group, mostly middle aged professionals, and in my church, mostly suburban soccer moms and dads.
But I yield on one point- this morning I did breakfast on organic hemp granola, so you have me there.
@JKB: “Businesses” do not create opportunity on their own. Sooner or later you’re going to have to face the fact that Capitalism is a system which cannot exist without the support of the state. It is in fact a creation of the state itself: economies of scale (i.e. massive corporations) do not come into existence without government intervention to make them legal and guarantee their profits.
Capitalism isn’t Marxism’s opposite as you believe: Capitalism is its twin. This is exactly why Robert Locke labelled right libertarianism (a philosophy entirely predicated on the defense of Capitalism) the Marxism of the right.
@Ben Wolf: Meanwhile, Tea-infused Republicans are passing laws to make it harder and harder for their political opponents to vote. They’re doing their best to disenfranchise young people and minorities. But when those young people and minorities try to get their voices heard, the Dougs of the world tut-tut and say “Don’t they realize they should just go vote?”
@WR: James’ and Doug’s arguments consist entirely of, “They should play by the rules their masters set for them. If they don’t they’re just spoiled dirty hippies”.
It’s kind of like the British demanding the colonists line up on the field of battle and fight rather than firing from cover. The guys with the firepower always want the other side to meekly accept The Rules which just happen to benefit they themselves.
@jan: Uh…what I wrote (re: campaign finance reform) has nothing to do with McCain vs. Obama or even Democrat vs. Republican. True campaign finance reform affects whether a candidate with a message that resonates with the people, but has no deep pockets, is able to mount an effective campaign against a candidate WITH deep pockets. The latter has nothing to do with either of the examples you produced.
You guys want to continue to believe that the protesters are all DFHers. They are not, not entirely. The middle class is finally waking up to realize the many, many ways in which they have been not-so-lovingly screwed. And in fact, it’s beginning to hurt very, very bad.
Call the airline pilots and your children’s teachers and the neighborhood police and fire fighters dirty effin’ hippies if you want. But they used to be your next door neighbors and PTA leaders and church family members. How will you deal with that?
I don’t know why some of you have a big problem with banks. I live in a small town and have known the people who work at the bank for years. They have always been very nice and go out of their way to help me. I can even call the bank president at home if I have a really big problem. More than once they have got me out of the ditch. Maybe the banks where you live are different. Switch banks.
@Coogan: No, dear, not your small town banker. The international financiers.
Not much evidence since you can always find someone to say what you want to write.
But more to the point, I did not speak to regulations that inhibit hiring, my comment was on regulation and governmental costs that inhibit the formation of businesses.
You are confused. Capitalism is not corporations and corporations are not necessarily for the free market as it causes them to compete on a level playing field. Which is why we see corporatism cronyism, especially in the current administration.
Capitalism does not require government. However, capitalism does encourage the establishment of courts and other elements of government to provide a non-violent way to settle disputes and manage common-benefit investments, e.g., roads, ports, etc. Which, by the way, were/are paid for by portions of the profits from the capitalist endeavors. We should remember that the taking of a portion of a free person’s labor for government benefit is, in the US, less that 100 yrs old and a state introduced by “progressives” not 50 yrs after the abolition of the taking of a non-free person’s labor via slavery.
The one with “no understanding of how business works” is you. You’re missing this important point that Ben made: “capitalism is a system which cannot exist without the support of the state.”
Business doesn’t exist in a vacuum. As Adam Smith explained a long time ago, the accumulation of wealth doesn’t get very far in the absence of government (link):
What you’re also missing is how your philosophy is doomed. That wacky Marxist Alan Greenspan has said this:
Joseph E. Stiglitz (Nobelist and former Chief Economist of the World Bank) explains why:
The GOP and their patrons don’t understand that their strategy is ultimately self-destructive.
What a shame that Adam Smith wasn’t as smart as you.
@Coogan: Your friendly neighborhood banks are commercial banks. We’re talking about investment banks which turned the financial system into a casino, then cashed out when everything went bust. The government bailed them out, guaranteeing we’re only a few years (if that) away from the next crisis. Surely you’ve noticed that each financial disaster since the 1980’s (the Latin American crisis, the S&L crisis, the Asian crisis, the Mexican crisis, the 2008 crisis) has been greater and greater in magnitude. This is the result of lax regulation. Banks do not and cannot generate real economic growth, at best they act as facilitators. Yet we allowed them to appropriate 40% of all corporate profits in the country. Banks are exceedingly dangerous to a democracy and an economy unless strictly regulated.
P.S. You gotta love JKB’s response when confronted with actual evidence capitalism requires state support: “Nyah-Nyah-Nyah, no it doesn’t!”
Yup. This has been described as the financialization of the economy: “financialization is understood to mean the vastly expanded role of financial motives, financial markets, financial actors and financial institutions in the operation of domestic and international economies.”
Helpful graph: “Share in GDP of US financial sector since 1860” (link). Wall St. has been growing like a cancer, and what it’s eating is the middle class. And the process is self-perpetuating (until some kind of violent or non-violent revolution takes place), because DC is essentially a wholly-owned subsidiary of Wall St.
I think they’re well aware of that.
But the enjoyment they get now from pissing off America’s fastest growing minority group outweighs the future elections their behavior will cost Republicans.
Well, given that long before the state was conceived of, individuals were accumulating stock, transforming it via labor and then independently trading with others in an equitable exchange of goods.
I will grant that capitalism does eventually spur the creation of a governing force to avoid violent clashes between individuals and groups that turn out to be costly to both sides through binding application of rules or strong-man edict.
Here is a description of the strong-man version that develops in criminal enterprises. By the by, you will find that capitalism flourishes outside the state in criminal enterprises such as the drug trade and the liquor trade back during Prohibition
Trading labor isn’t capitalism JKB. The accumulation of capital is capitalism. Show me a nation practicing capitalism which does not or did not have a strong central government.
Indeed. And these entrepreneurs murder their competitors (sometimes after a round of torture), and terrorize the communities in which they do business, If a customer complains about business practices they have a good shot at a brutal beating and a trip to the ER.
Is this your argument for “getting out of the way” of business?
Indeed. And corporations, as we think of them, have been around for about 400 years.
This is not capitalism, which requires generalized markets for land, labor and money. What is being described in a criminal enterpise is effectively feudalism.
So you are saying that in the illegal drug trade that the purveyors do not accumulate privately owned stock which they transform through the application of their own or hired labor into a product that they are able to sell for more than the cost of acquiring the stock, paying the labor and covering the expenses of security, transport and loss through police action, thus earning a profit?
Please pray tell elaborate on this generalized markets concept, I’m sure many will find this theory fascinating. Did this come from a model?
I’m sorry could you point out where I advocated for the abolishment of courts to enforce contracts through binding interpretation? Or any of the other basic police functions of government that evolved to facilitate trade and exchange without risk of violence caused by contract disputes?
My point is, in the absence of government oppression toward socialism, humans engage in capitalism. With the removal of Saddam, capitalism flourished in Iraq even as the terrorists controlled many of the areas. With the fall of the Soviet Union and the communist bloc countries, capitalism arose spontaneously and flourished. Although, people of violence were able to exploit the lack of effective government for a time and steal from the budding entrepreneurs as well as benefit from cronies in government who controlled natural resources.
One more time, this is what Adam Smith said:
This concept he is explaining applies to everyone pursuing “the acquisition of valuable and extensive property,” including “purveyors … in the illegal drug trade.” Ironically, even they rely (at least in part) on the existence of “civil government” to protect their wealth from “the indignation of the poor.” Which means that your ignorant statement (“capitalism does not require government”) is still ignorant.
If “civil government” was truly absent, then your “purveyors” would not be able to accumulate wealth “that exceeds the value of two or three days labour,” unless they were warlords with their own private army. Which effectively means that they are the government.
English translation: ‘capitalism does not require government, except when it does.’ Maybe you forgot that courts are part of the government. When you say “capitalism does not require government,” you are saying that capitalism does not depend on “courts to enforce contracts.” But obviously it does.
“Humans engage in capitalism” within a framework created by government. That framework includes some things that have been mentioned (like courts and police), and some things that haven’t been mentioned, like maintaining a currency. In the absence of such a framework created by government, capitalism cannot exist. This is an important thing to understand. And your statement (“capitalism does not require government”) demonstrates that you don’t understand this.
You’re a brainwashed ninny.
100% of successful, wealthy, happy countries on planet Earth — 100% — have strong central governments that regulate capitalism and redistribute wealth.
Every single one.
Nope, not a single exception. Ever. Anywhere. In all of human history.
In the entire world.
@Doug Mataconis “I voted Libertarian in 2008”
Lol. And you call the hippies ineffective?
A good point that should be emphasized. I like the way Rick said it:
Doug said this:
There’s a strong argument that people who vote Libertarian are “protesters [who] are accomplishing nothing.”
Grant that is a seriously cool avatar.
“Mob rule is a poor substitute for democracy.”
LOL.. channelling your privilege? Nothing new under the sun..
I find it interesting that you chose to call them a Mob.
There is no crazed mob armed with farm implements coming for heads, no guillotine set up in the park and no knitting ladies.
Money is speech now.. but most people don’t have much to spare so they will have to use their real voices. You can’t get more democratic than an action like this. It’s just direct democracy and DieBold nor voter caging can shut them up.
I’m reading Corey Robbins new book: “The Reactionary Mind: Conservatism from Edmund Burke to Sarah Palin,” and I recognize some of the same themes:
It is not even so much the fulfillment of the demands as much as the exercise of agency that that upsets them, the real issue is they see it as threat to their own power and privilege.
The knowledge of how to put on a good organized protest was held by the communists, so these kids will have to learn by fire. The comparison with Egypt is natural because it’s an actual model. They will go to DC – see http://october2011.org, The symbol of wall street is important because of the bailouts. This protest was started by ad busters which usurped the schedule by these other people, but don’t worry, they will coalesce.
This is really small of you Doug, if you really do believe the in the principles of liberty and opportunity for everyone.
Things aren’t the same as they were 25 years ago when you benefited from the fruits of hard won struggles by our parents and grandparents- benefits which aren’t available to kids today in our new neofeudal state — unless you are born into a privileged family. The middle class has almost been disappeared.
It sounds they do understand how unrestrained capitalism works. Business buys their government and destroys democracy.
It doesn’t sound like you’ve heard of the college privatizations, the skyrocketing tuition rates and the new tuition bubble? rates are up 10X.
How do you know who they voted for? If they didn’t get what they voted for, like perhaps a dark horse quisling who represents global capital lied through his teeth to get his hands on the seat of power should they shut up?
What if they vote for Ron Paul, but the oligarchs who own the media won’t cover him, or those who have access to the levers of power within the parties won’t let them run,(see the California progressive caucus which has lost its charter in the Democratic party for calling for a vote to primary Obama), or they can keep them off the ballot as an independent (See Nader and Gore), or perhaps they are in cahoots with the voting machine vendors… yada yada yada..
When we get to the point where all feel disenfranchised, it will be too late.
Doug is his name, small ball is his game.
Of course if we had accepted this advice Afrian-Americans would still be drinking from their own water fountans. Progress in equal rights was made only after massive outbursts of civil disobedience. Ditto for the Vietnam War, which we’d probably still be fighting if hundreds of thousands of protestors hadn’t forced Nixon to change policies.
Protest is a part of the democratic system whether conservatives like it or not.
James Joyner: “Random protests years after the fact are a bizarre reaction to all that in a representative democracy. ”
Because they did vote, and they saw just how ineffective a bought-and-paid for criminal system was.
Unlike the Tea Baggers, who took what? 2-3 months after Obama took office, these people have waited futilely for years, and are now taking action, which even if not very effective, will be far more effective than all action taken by the establishment.
You live in an America which is heading downwards every year, and all that you have to offer is failed the same failed pseudolibertarian/neoliberal stuff which got us here.
@Doug Mataconis: “Actually Nikki, things are very complicated,…”
Ah, the old explanation – but sometimes, they aren’t.
Wall St got bailed out, after f*cking us.
They have too much power.
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If they had worn tri corner hats, held up racist signs and demanded that government keep away from Medicare, they would be called sophisticated patriots.
@Barry: Doug and I both opposed the Wall Street bailout, actually. But the consensus was that the banks were “too big to fail” and that letting the normal process take its course would have further harmed the global economy.
@Barry: Clearly, you’re not a long time reader. Most of the OTB gang, certainly me, have been quite critical of the Tea Party and its antics.
They have, however, at least gone the next step and gotten organized politically, such that they were a force in the 2010 midterms. I think they’ve done more harm than good in that regard, but at least they’ve done something beyond clogging the streets.
@RalfW: You have hit the nail on the head. A whole generation or more of Americans have bought off on Big Educations selling point that if you’ll just go into debt on the front side you’ll reap huge rewards on the backside.
Now we have the most educated Starbucks hostesses and no one who will do an honest days labor. Wont even consider doing it. We reap what we have sown…only the sowing is being done by foreign labor now.