Occupy Wall Street: Too Big To Fail?

The combination of Occupy Wall Street and Social media may mark the end of the invisible hand. With the rise of crowd sourcing and location-based services it could be that the consumer actually solves the economic crisis. It would mean a paradigm shift from the losing battle of employee vs employer to “the customer is always right”.

Occupy Wall Street is a testament to the concept of “jobless recovery”. Higher stocks and corporate profits don’t constitute a recovery when states are cash strapped and American’s are experiencing stagnant wages and record unemployment. The fact that lower-income wage earners experience a recession first and recover last is as old as civilization, but this time things may be different. When the Occupy Wall Street movement began I was surprised only in that it wasn’t a response to a single event or catalyst. Now I’m beginning to think it could be the catalyst.

Some of OWS activities included asking customers to close their accounts at bailed out banks and switch to local worker-owned credit unions. At the Occupy Austin event a couple of speakers mentioned shopping farmers’ markets and buying local. There could be something to this, Austin not only weathered the recession better than most cities, but even corporate chains here know there are consequences to displaying a questionable commitment to the community.

People would have probably remained blissfully ignorant of wealth disparity as long the 40-hr work week paid the bills, insurance, mortgage and allows for modest savings.  According to a Wall Street Journal article 53% of workers surveyed said they’ve taken on new roles, with just 7% getting a raise or a bonus. People are catching on to the more work less pay trend. Most American’s don’t want to be rich, they want to fulfill their own pursuits of happiness.

if U.S. businesses keep prospering while Americans are struggling, business leaders will lose legitimacy in society. He exhorted business leaders to find a way to link growth with job creation at home. Harvard Business School Dean Nitin Nohria (Harvard Business Review Nov. ’10)

If our financial system were not on the brink of a double-dip recession and small businesses could get loans and hire people there would be no movement. Instead people have lost faith in their political and economic leaders whose only response has been to claim the climate is bad for “job creators”.  The Wall Street Journal reports that US multi-nationals cut their work forces in the U.S. by 2.9 million during the 2000s and increased employment overseas by 2.4 million. It could be that if the current leadership doesn’t get it together and address the jobless part of this recovery the people just may take it into their hands.

Advertisements

Mike Huckabee, Occupy Wall Street and how Supply-side Media works

In his monologue Mike Huckabee referred to Occupy Wall Street as ‘young and the wanna be young’ who would rather ‘yell’ than work. He continued, saying they should put down their iphones and get jobs in a field picking vegetables. He was trying to be clever and infer these people were hypocrites for using technology invented by billionaires. Its not clear where he got numbers on how many, “lived with their parents” or actually have iphones, but lets assume that most do in fact have iphones, facebook accounts and twitter; people do not go to protests to “yell” about products they like.

He knows exactly what Occupy Wall Street is about. He wrapped up his introduction with an assurance that he was against the bailouts and tax funded bonuses for corporate executes who ruined our financial system and violated the public trust. He also knows this is the majority sentiment in the country but its important that he condemn the protest and controls the message. This folks is how supply-side media works.

I will post a link to his monologue if it becomes available in the internet. It was from the Sunday Oct. 9th episode of “Huckabee”.

Rick Perry jabs Occupy Wall Street at Value Voters Summit

He may not have addressed it directly but Rick Perry referred to the Occupy Wall Street movement in his latest address to the Value Voters Summit.

You know Liberals are now pointing the finger of blame at successful employers under the guise of fairness, but when they utter phrases like “fair share” you just know, heh, they’re once again playing fast and furious with the truth. And the truth is you can’t reve up the engine of economic growth by heaping higher taxes on job creators, you can’t spread success by punishing it, you can’t unite our country by dividing it.

The answer to our troubles lies in a positive optimistic vision with policies rooted in American Exceptionalism.

He has the last part right but most Americans would not look at the state of the financial sector as a “success”. The lack of rules and ethics that allowed for multi-national credit card companies to prey on young people at college campuses putting them and our country further into debt is not my idea of American Exceptionalism.

Perry also mentioned a Wall Street Journal article that indicated, “Nearly Half of U.S. lives in household receiving government benefit”. Now, much like the famed “Rich people pay half of all income taxes” this claim also deserves some scrutiny. First it serves to point out that all but 18% of Americans will pay payroll taxes. This is a federal tax on working people, fine, but at least give them credit for paying into the system.  The headline infers that slightly more than half of the U.S. do not receive a government benefit. This is one of the many ways the supply-side media tries to have it both ways. They would have you believe the government is funded by the wealthy and they receive no benefits such as tax breaks, loan guarantees, bailouts, loopholes or special access to government officials.

The graph below represents how many American households are receiving specific government benefits like Social Security, Medicare and food stamps. Notice while the trend nears 50% in 2010 the unemployment rate hovers around 9%. This means that less than 10% of the working age population is unemployed yet nearly half the households still need additional government assistance, a clear product of stagnant wages. Juxtaposed against the next graph you can see as CEO pay increased dramatically employee wages remained level.  Now consider the rise of inflation, cost of living and loss of benefits over the past two decades and we have a recipe for economic malaise.

The Increase in executive compensation correlates almost exactly with the number of households receiving “a government benefit” for the same time period. I would contend that the Wall Street occupiers are not interested in taking money from the rich but when they work hard to create wealth for a company or institution they expect to share in their own success. If people continue to believe that working harder will not increase their standard of living or take home pay we will lose the motivating factors for free market capitalism.

Occupy Austin “This movement is about Democracy”

I returned to #OccupyAustin about dusk. The occupiers had grown in number to over 1,000 and the atmosphere was festive. The crowd skewed young but was at least as diverse as the city itself. There were impromptu sing-a-longs, home made signs and lots of folks who were clearly there out of curiosity.

I walked into City Hall which happen to have a council meeting in session discussing the possibility of moving May city elections to November.  Having worked as an election administrator for both the 2006 and 2008 elections I can assure moving elections to November amounts to increasing turnout. The city is also relieved of funding an additional election in the spring. Although this is a separate matter it deals directly with democracy and participation, two things that were going on in mass just outside. After speaking to one of the on-duty officers about his long day we walked to The Gingerman right up the street. We discussed what good if any could come from this gathering and all agreed supporting local business was a good way to “recycle our wealth”.  We would start with bars and breweries and dub it #occupintAustin. After a Peacemaker and a Rahr Gravel I left and headed back to City Hall.

At that point it was 11pm. I walked up to Univision doing an interview with a lady holding a POW MIA flag. The crowd had thinned some but the remaining occupiers looked as fresh and enthusiastic as I left them. I heard conflicting reports on whether the protests actually had to conclude by a certain hour but according to the chatters on their live feed they plan to be there all night. I will make my best attempt to go to City Hall and watch the march on Bank of America. There they plan to ask customers to leave BoA and join a local credit union. Should be interesting but I don’t think BoA is in the business of novel ideas. I suspect by now they’re aware of the plan and will have security or APD on hand to remove any trespassers. Its worth noting that unlike most protests I have attended this one felt it necessary to appear “pro” law enforcement. It is in at least part a branding effort but I saw multiple conversations between occupiers and officers, many speakers thanked them for being there and one read, “APD are the 99%”.

If you are interested in how to participate the General Assembly has posted list of items they need and how they can be donated. If you would like to learn more about what the General Assembly does you can read their minutes from today. The operations are growing increasingly complex and demanding and it appears to all be done by volunteers. There is a lot that can be said about these people but lazy is not one of them.

Slideshow of today.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Occupy Wallstreet (Anywhere)

Today is #OccupyAustin and as I talk to local politicos about the burgeoning new “occupy[insertyourtown]” movement we speculate on how long it will be before some highly funded, issue specific group comes in and marginalizes it like the TEA Party. Within the Occupy Austin movement there is a clear structure being created with a General Assembly that meets daily and specific committees who democratically discuss issues and make plans. They have a website and are highly motivated and engaged. Their facebook page already has over 7,000 fans and today’s event has over 4,000 RSVPs. It will be interesting to see who is behind such a speedy effort to first occupy the URL OccuppyAustin.org then to create such a content heavy web presence.

The in-cohesive nature and lack of pure ideology are part of what gives these movements credibility. You can not cut the head from a headless snake, but groups like Move On are trying to shape themselves into just that. As we have seen so far celebrities and unions have “joined the fight” though no specific agenda has been outlined. Isn’t the point here though, that people are just tired of failed leadership at the hands of greed? Do they really need an agenda or specific reforms to push? Like a friend said,  “What matters is these people are getting off their asses.” At the end of the day public policy is no overnight read and is generally left for politicians, activists (which anyone with spare time can be) and business ‘leaders’ to work out. Average working class people, if they in fact have work, do not have time to become political scientists.

After a historic election of “hope and change” how did we get to a point where we have two separate organic movements against our nations establishment?  Ladies and gentlemen this is nothing new. It happened at the end of the Roman Empire as well. The young educated class who could not find work lost respect for “Roman virtue” when they saw it was really just a farce to keep the common order of things as they were. There was no real meritocracy. All any of these people want is a job where they do not feel like they are getting the screws. I see pundits refer to them as communist, socialists and anti-capitalist as if they just hate rich people. Sure those types are drawn to large gathers and protests in general. However, I suspect that these folks wouldn’t mind bonuses for bank executives if they weren’t just laid off by a bank, or if wasn’t funded by taxpayer bailout money. This is what people are tired of. Watching people who made bad decisions redistribute the nations wealth amongst themselves.

Simple question: Would our economy be in this shape if these financial executives were doing a “good job” or at least one worth 10 million a year?

Bush said it:

Some workers are being left behind in the booming economy and the disparity between the rich and the poor is growing…The fact is that income inequality is real. It has been rising for more than 25 years…The earnings gap is now twice as wide as it was in 1980. Bush said, adding that more education and training can lift peoples’ salaries.

Reagan said it:

Now try it yourself…

Keystone XL: Pipeline to Employment?

I have been following the Keystone XL pipeline developments for over a year and we are coming to the end of the public input process. This week the State Department is holding the last round of hearings in Texas, Monday in Port Arthur and today in Austin at UT’s LBJ Library. The Sierra Club enlisted my help to raise awareness of the Keystone XL pipeline that is tapped to deliver Canadian tar sands to Port Arthur for refinement.  As an environmental organization I understand their position which is complete opposition to the pipeline.  Their concern for increased emissions have been met with flat out denials by industry. When I talked to local media in Southeast Texas for this story even they felt the conclusion was already drawn. We have seen this time again and when a project gets to this point its not going to be stopped but that doesn’t mean that the discussion should end. The question now is, “How do we ensure that the communities in Southeast Texas have every opportunity to benefit from the $20 Billion economic activity?

Continue reading “Keystone XL: Pipeline to Employment?”

Not so smooth…like Keystone XL

“It’s not the easiest thing on Earth for law-abiding folk to come to risk arrest,” –Bill McKibben Environmentalist/protest organizer

Born and raised in Southeast Texas I can attest that a new pipeline is hardly worthy of a headline. This is different, and even with a notable amount of national media attention it is still proving difficult to get the message across. I started on this campaign over a year ago when the State Dept. began holding hearings along the route of the pipeline. At the time several significant issues were brought to their attention including; strip mining in Alberta, chemical leaks to downstream communities, the proposed route’s passage over the Ogallala aquifer, the discrepancies between proposed job creation numbers and ultimately the impact on citizens living near refining sites like Port Arthur.
Continue reading “Not so smooth…like Keystone XL”

That First Step – Citizens REunited

I’ve been wanting to restart my blog again for a while now. Many factors have led to my procrastination not excluding the hours berating pundits on cable news.

I think my point of view is fair and balanced but not just because I say it is. I do my best to site my sources but the biggest obstacle in writing more is the research involved. I will try and keep my posts focused and short.

My main motivation for writing is the void of reasonable voices in popular media. I hear them among friends and in public so I know they are out there. I see ideological bubbles forming even though American’s have more access to information than any other point in history. Today our ability to seek out content that merely reinforces our own prejudices and preconceived notions is disturbing. Its a trend that goes past our instincts to group ourselves but is in fact part of the algorithms used by Google and Facebook to “suggest” content to you. Ultimately this limits choice (aka freedom) and is largely unrepresentative of the diversity of ideas in the market place.

I think buzz words are important and as long as Democrats, liberals, progressives et. al. choose policy explanations over soundbites, Republicans’ message will continue to be effective. As a friend said, if we are explaining we are losing. We must find a constructive way to fight the scorched earth policy towards institutions that represent human progress and personify “we the people”. Democrats will never win as the “anti-government” party and until they remind folks of what good government has done you can bet it all on red.

I’m proud of the fact that I frequently come to agreeable solutions with conservatives because we are generally given false choices that force us to take opposing sides on non-issues.  Non-compromising liberals and conservatives feed the gridlock and prevent government from actually being an aset to the people.

Our challenge now is to define the role of government and cut out the rest. The real tyrant we face is corporate money in our elections. Corporations are not immoral but they are amoral and do not represent real human interest. The government has been a defenseless whipping boy in our recent political discussions regarding “class warfare”.

The Supreme Court was supremely wrong in Citizens United when they decided to treat companies like people. Just know when you hear its beneficiaries say “private sector” they really mean “big business” and when they say “government” they really mean “the people”. So start listening closely because this is an all out battle for the hearts, minds and the soul of our nation.

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: