The Occupy Movement has many valid arguments to make everywhere that it has sprung up. We live in a society where good deeds are punished and avarice is rewarded. And that’s been going on for HOW long? Like maybe forever, but this trend has accelerated since the reign of the 1st Imperial President Ronald Reagan. Bush Sr. and Jr. were 2nd and 3rd.
Until President Reagan led the way for deregulation of the financial sector and other major industries, the American economy ran pretty smoothly. The system of taxation to support government services such as education, fire, police, parks, roads, and infrastructure also worked pretty well until about 1978. That was when Proposition 13 hit California and the rest of the country got on the anti-tax bandwagon. Then guys like Reagan, Grover Norquist, Bush Sr., Bush Jr and Eric Cantor took that destructive idea to extremes. It astonishes me when people cry about how modern Republicans are dishonoring Reagan, when they’re following his playbook. Now Republicans are cannibalizing one another as never before.
The major financial players destroyed the economy and then blackmailed the government into bailing it out. Occupy America has many good points to make. The problem is all this unharnessed energy, ill-defined agenda and poor leadership. Notice I didn’t say “lack of leadership” as the mainstream media has ascribed. Our crappy education system isn’t even producing effective radicals these days. Where is Saul Alinsky when you need him? Has anyone read “Rules for Radicals” lately?
America is calling Jeff Bridges – where is The Dude when you need him to author another Port Huron Statement. Jeff are you listening? Here is the draft; you can edit and revise The Demands:
- Repeal Proposition 13 and similar draconian laws in other states.
- End the Bush Jr. tax cuts; nothing is “permanent.”
- End to usurious bank service charges.
- End to repos of cars whose value is less than what is owing.
- End to home repos for same
- A freeze on tuition and fee hikes at public universities.
- Congressional investigations into profiteering by American corporations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Prosecution of same.
- Criminal prosecution against finance industry executives who collected bonuses while they destroyed the value of their account holders.
- Creation of a National Restitution Fund from the end of the tax cuts, plus fines and sanctions against criminal executives.
- Restitution to account holders, home and car owners who lost their property in wrongful repos to paid from the National Fund.
- Accountability in labor unions – unions must stop protecting workers whose performance and behavior warrants termination.
- Accountability in government – this means real campaign finance reform so the Koch Brothers and others can’t give unlimited contributions to their destructive candidates without accountability. Prosecution of public officials such as Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates, and Berkeley City Attorney’s Zach Cowan and Mark Zembsch for their protectionism of rogue and thieving city administrators. Democrats can be just as corrupt as Republicans – Berkeley illustrates that.
- Dismantle the secret government installed by Dick Cheney.
- Forgiveness of all outstanding student loans, to be paid off through the National Fund.
- Restoration of art, music and sports programs in all public schools – the National Fund is rich.
- Forceful criminal prosecution of banking officials, Enron officials and others who directly contributed to sectors of a national financial meltdown.
- Make Warrant Buffet a Cabinet member – he doesn’t need a title. ID other wealthy people who demonstrate a conscience and hold them up as examples.
I used to make it a sport of abusing middle managers at banks for all the usurious and gratuitous fees I was assessed. Then I learned how they get punished for forgiving and reversing wrongfully assessed fees. The big banks screw their managers and line employees as badly as their customers, plus they get assessed the same criminal fees.
This isn’t the same old timewarp again. This one involves unions, public employees including off-duty cops, teachers, nurses, and workers, stooges and toadies from every sector of the economy.
Now for the dropping of the other shoe: Last week, the Occupy Oakland got to be too much of a good thing. Bad things happened at that camp and it got to be a nasty, smelly place. I gotta validate that public health concern thing, man. It was beyond skanky. We have plumbing codes and hygiene standards for a reason. You can’t camp in many pristine open spaces because they don’t want people’s piss and shit fouling the streams and delicate ecosystems. If it can’t flow downhill, where is it going to go in a mostly concrete urban park? No where, mon friar! Just to sit and stink, as many of the people were doing.
Long ago I learned “Don’t Throw Rocks at Riot Police.” Or firecrackers, or M-80s, or paint or anything. They’re better equipped than ever. Why trash the town where we live, work and play? Oh, I feel so old when I say that.
The economy, country and world are deeply amiss right now, likely more than is officially recognized. Hence, the occupation. But Oakland cops and city officials aren’t they bad guys. The bad guys hide behind gated communities, up in tall buildings with intensive security and deep down in bunkers. They’re insulated by gatekeepers who are relatively well paid to dismiss and condescend to the people he doesn’t want to hear about. Some of the most diabolical people are admin assistants who share some imperial privileges of their bosses. Some of them are airline sales reps trained to say, “Oh no – we’re not sticking you with a $150 fee; that’s just our re-booking fee.” Others are collection agents, doing the bidding of crooked car loan companies and home mortgage outfits.
Unions unwittingly contribute to the problem by protecting workers whose performance and behavior warrants termination, rather than protection. A lot of it gets back to the Downside of Liberalism: protecting the wrong people for the wrong reasons from bad public employees to plutocratic executives.
There is a lot of angry, misdirected energy going right now. What it is ain’t exactly clear. This is because the causes and sources of the anger have never been more complex and confusing. Reagan and the Bush boys initiated a grand shell game to hide much of the nation’s wealth and cut off the 99%. And this cuts across family lines. I’ve got some 1%’ers in my family, but they’re not the ones who buy into that quaint “share the wealth” creed.
Regrettably, I had to miss all the fun in Oakland yesterday. I had a conflict with precious billable hours. I had to put a check in the bank to cover my rent. I thought about stopping in Downtown Oakland when I was riding back to Berkeley from the South Bay on BART, but I knew the bank would be inaccessible, and I had to cover my rent check.
Many encouraging things happened yesterday. Oakland Mayor Jean Quan instructed a minimal police presence with much greater restraint than last week. Some thoughtful protesters tackled and detained some anarchists who were vandalizing the Oakland Whole Foods. Oh, come on. Not again.
We love Oakland. Jerry Brown did a great job rebuilding it as mayor, and now people are trying to destroy it. Talk about misplaced anger and aggression. Kudos for taking control of the movement AWAY from the anarchists.
We have a draft set of demands – let’s revise and develop it into an effective platform. And next time I’m around the Occupy camp in San Francisco or Oakland, I’d be delighted to give a talk or lead a song, if someone can find the bullhorn.
H. Scott Prosterman
Photo: Mother Jones