Occupy Your Base Mr. President

The Occupy movement has picked up steam these past few weeks spreading throughout the U.S. from San Jose, to Portland, ME. Estimates suggest that upwards of 1,000 cities have had some sort of Occupy meetup or protest.

While protesters would rather not be labeled as liberal or leftist to keep from being painted and dismissed with a broad brush, they do represent progressive ideas and once could be considered Obama’s base. If Obama were wise, he would try to win back the base, but it may be too late.

Many progressives are fed up with him and the do nothing Congress. To be fair to the President, he has a list of achievements that have kept the country from sinking even further into the danger zone. The stimulus helped, but it wasn’t big enough to make much of a difference. TARP was a necessary evil, but did not result in significant Wall Street reform. Bailout banks no longer lend. Cash for clunkers was clever, but its impact was short-lived. Health Care Reform was so divisive that it may be dismantled before it’s true impact can be felt. Why the President abandoned the single payer system so early in the game is beyond me. The law that ultimately passed will insure more people, which is positive, but will not do much to keep costs down in the future or to reform the health care system which values profits over people.

One of the biggest disappointments for me is that we still spend billions to keep the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan where countless lives on both sides have been lost, despite the campaign promise of “bring the troops home”. And Guantanamo Bay is still open after all these years. I recall very clearly Obama’s fierce opposition to the detention facility as a global embarrassment. As to the war on terrorism, the initial fear among conservatives was that the President would favor diplomacy and dialogue over brute force. Though conservatives will never admit it, the Obama administration has been hawkish and comparatively more effective in the war on terrorism. The administration has drawn down troops in Iraq, but remains determined to stay in Afghanistan whatever the costs. And the President has been aggressive in going after terrorists killing a number of Al Queda operatives in drone attacks including eliminating Osama Bin Laden in a bold raid on his compound in Pakistan.

For progressives, maybe the most significant achievements of the Obama administration are its two Supreme Court appointments – both women who have kept the court from being overwhelming corporatist and reactionary. For this, I am grateful. Thank you Mr. President.

Unless there is a viable progressive alternative to the President, I will vote for him again in 2012. I would rather that he be the viable progressive alternative to the corporatist forces on the right who value profits over people and who view corporations as people. Time will tell, but time is running out.

Occupy Walstreet

What is the Occupy movement all about?  Is it just a bunch of peace-loving hippies sharing green tea, organic vegetables and dancing freestyle to Fish and the Grateful Dead?  Who are the folks involved and why do they assemble day after day?  Are they young “radicalized” students, with trust funds to support their “soul-searching”, who romantically fashion themselves as Marxists?  Are they socialists, dreaming of the day when the U.S. has a more even distribution of wealth?  What are their issues?  Is there a coherent theme, or is it just a collection of progressive causes and complaints? Is this movement simply a counter to the Tea Party, which is not a party at all, but just an eccentric assortment of disaffected right-wing anti-Obama folks who incidentally initially shared some of the same concerns as the Occupy crowd, but who have been taken over by the lunatic fringe?

Clearly, many have had enough on all sides.  As the country’s economic situation deteriorates, and people lose their jobs, their homes and stay unemployed; and as the do nothing Congress does nothing and our try to do something President fails to do enough; and as corporate America continues to thrive, making record profits and doling out millions in executive bonuses, as banks continue to look for ways to pilfer money from its customers,the average American struggles to make ends meet; people have had enough.

The Republican answer is to create even more favorable conditions for corporations (not main street, Wall Street that I would like to refer to from now on as Walstreet) who keep whining that they can’t hire or invest because of the “uncertainty” of the economy while the only thing that is certain is that they care more about profits than people. Wait, corporations are people, I forgot.

The Democrats and the Obama administration have been utterly ineffective in bringing about any meaningful changes, though they have tried and have been either blocked by the do nothings or forced into compromising positions so to speak.  Where is the Walstreet reform promised?  Why has the EPA been under attack?  What happened to Elizabeth Warren’s Consumer Financial Protection Bureau? What happened to the simplification of the tax code?  Where is all the infrastructure spending? After being bailed out, why aren’t the banks lending? What happened to all the manufacturing jobs?  You know, U.S. corporations are creating lots of jobs abroad, and making huge, untaxed profits.  What’s up with that?

And finally, back to the original question of who the Occupy folks are and what they want?  In summary, I would say they are a diverse group of progressives who demand social and economic justice. And I would add that, I think it’s time for a new party to emerge in American politics or time to do away with the party system altogether because they have become simply too divisive.   A declaration from the original Occupy Walstreet is below:

Declaration of the Occupation of New York City


As we gather together in solidarity to express a feeling of mass injustice, we must not lose sight of what brought us together. We write so that all people who feel wronged by the corporate forces of the world can know that we are your allies.

As one people, united, we acknowledge the reality: that the future of the human race requires the cooperation of its members; that our system must protect our rights, and upon corruption of that system, it is up to the individuals to protect their own rights, and those of their neighbors; that a democratic government derives its just power from the people, but corporations do not seek consent to extract wealth from the people and the Earth; and that no true democracy is attainable when the process is determined by economic power. We come to you at a time when corporations, which place profit over people, self-interest over justice, and oppression over equality, run our governments. We have peaceably assembled here, as is our right, to let these facts be known.

They have taken our houses through an illegal foreclosure process, despite not having the original mortgage.
They have taken bailouts from taxpayers with impunity, and continue to give Executives exorbitant bonuses.
They have perpetuated inequality and discrimination in the workplace based on age, the color of one’s skin, sex, gender identity and sexual orientation.
They have poisoned the food supply through negligence, and undermined the farming system through monopolization.
They have profited off of the torture, confinement, and cruel treatment of countless animals, and actively hide these practices.
They have continuously sought to strip employees of the right to negotiate for better pay and safer working conditions.
They have held students hostage with tens of thousands of dollars of debt on education, which is itself a human right.
They have consistently outsourced labor and used that outsourcing as leverage to cut workers’ healthcare and pay.
They have influenced the courts to achieve the same rights as people, with none of the culpability or responsibility.
They have spent millions of dollars on legal teams that look for ways to get them out of contracts in regards to health insurance.
They have sold our privacy as a commodity.
They have used the military and police force to prevent freedom of the press. They have deliberately declined to recall faulty products endangering lives in pursuit of profit.
They determine economic policy, despite the catastrophic failures their policies have produced and continue to produce.
They have donated large sums of money to politicians, who are responsible for regulating them.
They continue to block alternate forms of energy to keep us dependent on oil.
They continue to block generic forms of medicine that could save people’s lives or provide relief in order to protect investments that have already turned a substantial profit.
They have purposely covered up oil spills, accidents, faulty bookkeeping, and inactive ingredients in pursuit of profit.
They purposefully keep people misinformed and fearful through their control of the media.
They have accepted private contracts to murder prisoners even when presented with serious doubts about their guilt.
They have perpetuated colonialism at home and abroad. They have participated in the torture and murder of innocent civilians overseas.
They continue to create weapons of mass destruction in order to receive government contracts. *

To the people of the world,

We, the New York City General Assembly occupying Wall Street in Liberty Square, urge you to assert your power.

Exercise your right to peaceably assemble; occupy public space; create a process to address the problems we face, and generate solutions accessible to everyone.

To all communities that take action and form groups in the spirit of direct democracy, we offer support, documentation, and all of the resources at our disposal.

Join us and make your voices heard!

*These grievances are not all-inclusive.