With just a few posts under my belt spaced over the course of several months, I think it’s time to commit to more. So, now I’m going to try posting at least once a week. We’ll see how that works out
Occupy Wall Street (#occupywallstreet) has started to become a movement. Protests are cropping up around the country as people sign on to the notion that corporate goals, especially those of financial giants, aren’t in tune with the majority of people in this country. What seemed to just be the next thing that protesters were doing (solidarity with Wisconsin labor being the last thing, anti-war demonstrations being the thing before that) has become something bigger. This embiggening into a movement means that people are already trying to co-opt that energy. Unions are joining in, though seemingly without pushing an agenda. Van Jones has planted his flag and given shout-outs at his Take Back America Conference. It won’t be long before everyone from MoveOn to the Human Rights Campaign blasts out fundraising emails that name drop #occupywallstreet.
Here’s the thing: the mass of people participating in this course of civil disobedience and airing of grievances aren’t putting forward any leaders or endorsing any specific agenda. Unlike the WTO protests or the anti-war rallies of the past, these folks are simply demonstrating that they’re pissed off and they won’t be moved until somebody with power takes action. Ask any one of the protesters about what needs to be done and they’ll most likely have a laundry list of possibilities but they’re not offering a canned solution that can be denied or negotiated away. There’s no leader or organization that can be bought or negotiated with. This is the Tea Party of the progressive movement. Tea Partiers didn’t have to do anything more than show up and shriek incoherently about taxes in order to bolster their political allies. Then they successfully took credit for electing a number of ideologues. Now, any elected official in the Republican Party can’t approach a single vote without checking on the Tea Party stance.
We’ve learned that protest movements don’t get shit done in this country. Huge numbers of people came out against the war, against the WTO, even against the death penalty. Politicians looking at big protests organized through the usual suspects on the left and right think of them as poll results showing the strength of their base. Polite people that get permits, book speakers, and put out press releases are just looked at as people that will reliably vote against the other party, so fuck’em. Impolite people that shout obnoxiously, pack public meetings, block streets, and generally cause havoc need to be listened to. The Tea Party figured that out. Now the Left has a growing movement of boisterous activists that are good enough at stirring up shit that they’re not fading out of the spotlight. Maybe, the Democratic Party will have a moment of clarity like the Republicans did. When camps of protesters pop up in Missoula and Billings, Kent Conrad and Jon Tester get to make a choice between getting primaried or finally making some sense when it comes to jobs and the financial sector. I certainly look forward to replying to the next fundraising email from Mark Udall with a brief statement-
FUCK YOU, signed #occupywallstreet
Conservative thought tends to value the wealthy in society. I don’t know if this is because they read too much Ayn Rand when they were younger, or if it’s simply a reflection that affluent and upwardly mobile people honestly fear for their own wealth. Anyhow, the general sense from the Fox News type mouthpieces is that the rich are the job creators. They say that taxing the wealthy will result in economic free-fall as government sucks dry the source of economic activity in this country.
That’s bullshit and I’ll tell you why.
The rich aren’t stupid. Well… the rich are at least good with money. Rich people don’t drop cash on things for the hell of it. That means that 90% of the crap made in this country doesn’t go toward the rich. In fact, rich people don’t buy American unless it’s a good bargain– they buy German cars and Swiss watches. Even when they buy stuff in the good old U-S of A, rich people don’t really consume very much and they can afford to buy the best so they aren’t in the same crappy obsolescence cycle the rest of us are stuck in. Finally, there just aren’t very many rich people. The few rich people that we have are WAYYYY loaded while everyone else is scraping by. They don’t have to save up for shit. Giving the wealthy a pass while everyone else is sacrificing for the common good just doesn’t make sense.
Well, maybe the wealthy are job creators. Sure, a rich person could afford to start companies and hire people. They don’t have to and they’re not going to. Like I said, rich people are good with money. By good with money, I mean that they’re good at keeping their money. They can afford to employ people that specialize in investing that roll and making more money. So… what about investors? More investors investing money in companies equals more jobs, eh? Nope.
Here’s the thing- investments these days are ways to make a solid return with as little risk as possible. This isn’t some rich guy stumbling across a dude hawking awesome homemade circuit boards at a fleamarket and offering to back him. This is swapping money back and forth, gaming systems to artificially raise prices and then cashing out to move on to the next thing. It’s gambling on a scale where the rubes (pension funds, bank depositors, etc) get to play but the big money dudes can afford to buy themselves into the role of the casino. The really rich- the “investor class”- wouldn’t play along with the investment game unless they could be assured that they couldn’t possibly lose. Even when the whole thing goes to shit and it looks like the party’s over, the big boys can afford to work the levers of government to make sure they still don’t lose even if it’s at the expense of everyone else.
So there it is. Rich people don’t add anything special to the economy either in terms of consumption or in productivity. They have the potential to do so, but having more money isn’t going to make that happen. This is the part of the story where We the People make these big piles of capital productive. We can either do it indirectly by our elected government levying taxes that go toward directly hiring workers and funding things like research and infrastructure. Or we can do it directly by stealing hubcaps and looting gated communities. Either way, rich people can suck it.