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OccupyWallStreet: Why it has to be

I’ve noticed a certain deranged Klown has a provocative and baseless post up on his blog (see myiq?  We are sending you traffic) that suggests that OccupyWallStreet and other Occupy events are part of some broader astroturf campaign.  I’m not sure how he came to that conclusion.  I mean, they aren’t infiltrating blogs, promoting candidates like Sarah Palin or her Tea Party organization.  I’ve got nothing against Sarah as a person and I don’t think she’s as dumb as the left would have you believe but I do judge her by the people she hangs out with, like Glenn Beck.  So, there’s that.

But OccupyWallStreet is not about politics.  Oh, indirectly, it is, but what it’s really about is something we at The Confluence have been challenging since 2008.  We are talking about “consensus reality”.  In this particular case, we are talking about the consensus reality that says that the bailing the financial institutions out was the most important thing that needed to be done after the crash in 2008 to the exclusion of everything else.  And the media message that exemplifies this attitude the best is this interview from 2009 between Adam Davidson of Planet Money and Elizabeth Warren, candidate for Senator in MA and Harvard professor of law specializing in bankruptcy and consumer finance protection.  Here’s a partial transcript with the money quotes:

ADAM DAVIDSON: What it feels to me is what you are missing is that — I think we put aside your pet issues. We put them aside. We put them aside until this crisis is over.

ELIZABETH WARREN: The cr– What you’re saying makes no sense. Now come on. [interpolate Davidson sputtering and attempting to interrupt throughout.] It makes no sense. On an emergency basis, on one day, one week, one month, there’s no doubt in my mind we’ve got to step in, we’ve got to make sure we have a functioning banking system. I think I’ve said that like nine times now. Of course we’ve got to have a functioning banking system.

DAVIDSON: Wait a minute. I want to make you go farther. I want to make you madder before I —

ELIZABETH WARREN: No no no. [Davidson snickers] We’re now at what — we’re now seven, eight months into this. And it’s the second part of what you said. We can’t do anything about the American family until this crisis is over? This crisis will not be over until the American family begins to recover. [More Davidson sputtering.] This crisis does not exist independently —

DAVIDSON: That’s your crisis.

ELIZABETH WARREN: No it is not my crisis! That is America’s crisis! If people cannnot pay their credit card bills [Davidson tries to interrupt] if they cannot pay their mortgages —

DAVIDSON: But you are not in the mainstream of views on this issue. You are not —

ELIZABETH WARREN: What, if they can’t pay their credit card bills the banks are gonna do fine? Who are you looking at?

DAVIDSON: The [sputters]–

ELIZABETH WARREN: Who says a bank a bank is going to survive — Who is not worried about the fact that the Bank of America’s default rate has now bumped over 10%? That’s at least the latest data I saw. So the idea that we’re going to somehow fix the banks and then next year or next decade we’re going to start worrying about the American family just doesn’t [Davidson talking over] make any sense.

DAVIDSON: The American families are not — These issues of crucial, the essential need for credit intermediation are as close to accepted principles among every serious thinker on this topic. The view that the American family, that you hold very powerfully, is fully under assault and that there is — and we can get into that — that is not accepted broad wisdom. I talk to a lot a lot a lot of left, right, center, neutral economists [and] you are the only person I’ve talked to in a year of covering this crisis who has a view that we have two equally acute crises: a financial crisis and a household debt crisis that is equally acute in the same kind of way. I literally don’t know who else I can talk to support that view. I literally don’t know anyone other than you who has that view, and you are the person [snicker] who went to Congress to oversee it and you are presenting averyvery narrow view to the American people.

ELIZABETH WARREN: I’m sorry. That is not a narrow view. What you are saying is that it is the broad view to think only about trying to save the banks [Davidson sputters] and say Hey! the American economy will recover at some point and we’ll worry about the families [Davidson talking over]. I think that is the narrow view and I think I have the broad view. The broad view is that these two things are connected to each other. And the notion that you can save the banking system while the American economy goes down the tubes is just foolish.

Well, now we know that Elizabeth Warren was right and Adam Davidson and his serious people, what Paul Krugman calls the “VSPs”, were dead wrong.  And who’s point of view has Barack Obama subscribed to since 2008?  That’s right, the VSPs.  According to Ron Suskind’s book, Confidence Men, Christina Romer, his economic advisor, was unable to get Obama to commit to a paltry $100Bn for the creation of potentially 1,000,000 jobs in 2009.  It’s not like he thought he couldn’t get it, although that was one of the excuses he was making.  It’s that in the overall scheme of things, it just wasn’t all that important to him.  No, seriously.  If you’ve been out of work since 2009, you can partially thank Obama for not thinking your situation required all that much attention.  It was much more important to him to bail out the bankers.  He admitted as much today.

Q Thank you, Mr. President. As you travel the country, you also take credit for tightening regulations on Wall Street through the Dodd-Frank law, and about your efforts to combat income inequality. There’s this movement — Occupy Wall Street — which has spread from Wall Street to other cities. They clearly don’t think that you or Republicans have done enough, that you’re in fact part of the problem.

Are you following this movement, and what would you say to its — people that are attracted to it?

THE PRESIDENT: Obviously I’ve heard of it. I’ve seen it on television. I think it expresses the frustrations that the American people feel — that we had the biggest financial crisis since the Great Depression, huge collateral damage all throughout the country, all across Main Street, and yet you’re still seeing some of the same folks who acted irresponsibly trying to fight efforts to crack down on abusive practices that got us into this problem in the first place.

So, yes, I think people are frustrated, and the protestors are giving voice to a more broad-based frustration about how our financial system works. Now, keep in mind I have said before and I will continue to repeat, we have to have a strong, effective financial sector in order for us to grow. And I used up a lot of political capital, and I’ve got the dings and bruises to prove it, in order to make sure that we prevented a financial meltdown, and that banks stayed afloat. And that was the right thing to do, because had we seen a financial collapse then the damage to the American economy would have been even worse.

And then he goes on to give some lip service to financial reform and Dodd-Frank, which was so watered down as to be less than a tap on the wrist with an anorexic feather, blah, blah, blah.  There was a reason why he concentrated all of his efforts on saving the financial institutions.  He relied on Tim Geithner and Ben Bernanke who were spooked by the collapse of Lehman Brothers.  They were scared to death to rein in the banks for fear of triggering another catastrophe.  But instead of feeding the roots, the homeowners and working people who could have pumped up the banks from the bottom up, Obama lavished all of his attentions on the bankers, giving them all they wanted without considering whether it was good for them or us.

In the meantime, the Very Serious People decided that we should all share the sacrifice, even those of us who did everything right and still got hammered.  The Villagers have been on a tear about deficit reduction and austerity and entitlement reform for the past 3 years.  It’s disaster capitalism with a capital D.  And this relentless message to rip the working class to smithereens to make sure the financial sector comes to no harm has been the consensus reality that has dominated media coverage for the last three years.

The problem is that consensus reality isn’t meshing with real reality for the rest of us these days.  We’ve been told to have compassion for the bankers but somehow must blame ourselves for the mountains of student loan and housing debt we’ve been forced to shoulder because the productivity gains of the past 30 years got siphoned off as profits to the shareholders.  We’ve been told that bankers’ contracts for bonuses are sacred legal documents but union contracts for wages and pensions are not.  We are told that bankers are entitled to taxpayer largess to keep them functioning even if it adds trillions of dollars to the deficit but that we the taxpayers are not entitled to the social security insurance program that we paid for in advance and which adds nothing to the deficit.  We are told that it is unfair to tax rich people because they earned their yachts and second homes and private schools but it is perfectly ok to decimate public schools and foreclose on families when they are out of jobs and can’t pay their property taxes and mortgages.

What the f%^& kind of fools do they take us for??

OccupyWallStreet was destined to happen, even without astroturf.  A nation can’t exist in two realities forever.  One of them is going to start feeling a lot more real-er than the other.  That is what is happening.  Suddenly, all across the country, millions of people are starting to ask themselves, what kind of bullshit have they been feeding us for 3 years or 30 years?  It’s insane that the Very Serious People would expect that we perform a form of ritual suicide to spare them any sense of obligation to the unity of the United States as a national entity “conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal”.

In that heated discussion above, Adam Davidson, his voice dripping with mocking contempt, told Elizabeth Warren that she wasn’t worth listening to and no one would take her seriously.

OccupyWallStreet is about to change all that.

Update:  I don’t know if the picture below is from The Occupation but it sounds right from someone who was there:

After the 2008 election, those of us who were heartsick with the way things turned out wanted very much to start a new movement but didn’t know how to begin.  I doubt it would have caught fire in the aftermath of the 2008 election, in spite of all that we saw that went wrong in 2008.  But how to do it?  Would it be organized?  Decentralized?  What kind of credo?  No one could agree, no leaders could be spared, some of us didn’t know the first thing about starting movements. At one point, I thought that the best example would be like the spread of Christianity in the first and second centuries.  Small groups of self lead believers, figuring it out as they went along, writing their own books, strewn like pearls along the Roman road.

The Occupation has that kind of feel to it.

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OccupyWallSt: 16 Tons

We sang this song yesterday at the OccupyWallStreet event in NYC.  I found this version by Shelly Raine.

Sing it Shelly.

OccupyWallStreet: I see old people

The media keeps telling us that this is a student movement and there are nothing but young people at OccupyWallStreet.  This is a lie.

There are people of all ages there and a LOT more people who are middle aged than you would expect.  It is a gross mischaracterization to say that this a youth movement.  That’s because so many of us are unemployed that we have time to go to marches and rallies.  If the people who are running this country don’t want more marches, they really need to make a more concerted effort to get people back to work.  On the other hand, occupation sites might be a good place to network.  It gets people out of the house and out of their heads.  Plus, if there’s decent bandwidth, you can check your email for job posting updates and rejection notices.   

The unions added more middle aged people to the marchers once we got to Foley Square but if you look at the video I took at Zuccotti Park before we marched to Foley Square, you will see that roughly half of the people in that crowd are older adults (by that, I mean older than 30).  That is representative of the people who were there yesterday.

Note to Tea Party people: I recommend that you go to an occupation near you.  Just remember to keep politics out of your interactions with other protestors.  No one is there to argue for specific candidates (especially Ron Paul) or platforms or anything like that. (Seriously, you want to keep your politics at home at an occupation)  I did see a couple Obama people yesterday but, to be honest, they weren’t proselytizing and that’s not welcome anyway.  There were also no signs of religious affiliations.  All you will find there are people who are as angry as you are about the economy, debt and spending on the wars.  One of the most popular chants yesterday was:

How do you reduce the deficits?

End the wars, tax the rich!

If you can find common ground in those sentiments, get thee to an occupation and stand with your fellow Americans.  The last thing the parties want is for us to find common ground.  If you are itching to make a difference and put the fear of god in your elected representatives of either party, join an occupation.

OccupyNewJersey will have two sites: Trenton and Jersey City.  The Jersey City occupation will take place close to the Goldman Sachs tower, which architecturally bears a passing resemblance to Barad-Dur.  If you are in New Jersey, please check the Occupy New Jersey website for further details.  Considering how many R&D professionals are laid off in New Jersey, it would be kind of cool if we could get some turn out in our labcoat and safety glasses.  The country has the wrong idea about this recession.  It has no idea how severely our science professionals have been affected.  Time to let them know.

I expect that Chris Christie will pop a carotid when he sees us in Trenton.  Plan on nasty, mean spirited and soul crushing attacks from Christie’s crew, because they have no respect for average people who aren’t living off their investments or developers building stupid behemoth shopping centers in the Meadowlands.   He should remember that the longer this Lesser Depression goes on, the smaller the state treasury will get.  His Labor department has been working their butts off to find us jobs but until he and the legislature do something to plug the holes siphoning of the good paying biotech jobs to Massachusetts and California, the deterioration of the educated workforce in NJ will continue and may accelerate.

So, stop stuffing your pie hole, Christie and do something useful for a change.

And then there were the little people: