Occupy Building Momentum in 2012

Let’s start the new year off on a positive note. Sure, our government is bought and paid for, our law enforcement seems more intent on stifling dissent than arresting those who hijacked our economy wholesale, and the country is slowly turning more and more into a police state. But there are some glimmers of hope out there, and I credit the Occupy movement with helping to turn things around….


The Bad: While everyone was getting ready to celebrate the new year, President Obama signed into law new provisions that allow for Americans to be detained indefinitely.
Glimmer of Hope: Senator Diane Feinstein has introduced a law to repeal these provisions. It’s called the Due Process Guarantee Act, and as the name cleverly implies, it restores due process for all Americans. It’s still completely shameful that we need a law to restore something that the Constitution and American tradition upholds.

There’s a petition circulating to persuade senators to support this. Sign it!

2. Citizens United

The Bad: This is the Supreme Court ruling that essentially said Corporations are People. It allows corporations to fully participate financially in elections, and means that if you thought the flow of corporate money into politics was bad before, you ain’t seen nothing yet.
Glimmer of Hope: The cities of Los Angeles and New York both voted to declare that corporations are not people, and the State of Montana’s Supreme Court has also said that corporations are not people. Furthermore, Senator Bernie Sanders and Representative Ted Deutch both are working to introduce a Constitutional Amendment to declare that corporations are not people.

There’s a petition on Senator Sanders’ site that needs the support of as many of us as possible. Sign it.

3. Big Corporations vs Consumers 

The Bad: Well, apart from the fact that large corporations control a disproportionate amount of the GDP of this country, that companies are increasingly listening to their shareholders first, and customers second (or third, or fourth…), AND that thanks to the repeal of Glass-Seagall (I could go on about this one, but it can wait for another post), the large financial institutions went on a gambling binge with our money, lost, got a sweetheart deal from us taxpayers to save them, then headed straight back to the casino to start all over again….
Glimmer of Hope: Bank of America became the first large bank to announce a $5/month debit card fee. However, thanks to the incredible, coordinated outcry from customers, including a massive exodus of consumer accounts to credit unions, Bank of America backed down, and other large banks publicy announced they were abandoning plans to do the same. Last month, Verizon Wireless announced plans to charge a fee for manually processed electronic bill payments. The outcry was swift and furious, and they also backed down.

It’s clear that since Occupy Wall Street protests began in September, the spotlight is shining more and more on the criminal business practices of the financial industry, the increasing wealth gap in this country, and the way our government and large corporations are listening to each other but ignoring the electorate.

The road ahead is difficult, but I’m feeling more and more confident that this movement is going to gain more traction across the country, and have a greater and greater effect on national discourse. Here’s to 2012…

Government of the 1%, by the 1%, for the 1%

Yet another reason why our government seems to be totally out of step with the realities of the 99% living across America today:

House of Representatives Income Breakdown

If it seems like our Congress is catering to the whims of the 1%, it’s because they have more in common with them than they do with us. Take a quick read at The Daily Whatthe collective net worth of our federal lawmakers jumped 25% in TWO YEARS. What recession?

It’s yet another example of how broken and corrupted our system of government is, that you need to be in the wealthiest income percentiles to get elected to office.

And it makes an even stronger case for reforms such as the Saving American Democracy constitutional amendment.

Letter to The Honorable Martha Coakley, Attorney General of Massachusetts

Dear Madam Attorney General,

I wanted to thank you for standing up for the rule of law in our country by filing a lawsuit against Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Citibank, Ally Financial and the Mortgage Electronic Registration System for their fraudulent and irresponsible business practices. There is no way we will be able to return our country to prosperity so long as we are continuing to let illegal acitivities slide for those powerful enough to buy a pass.

In a time when most of us are steadily losing all hope in our elected officials, it is so heartening to see someone in public office stand up for what is right, not just what is right for their largest donors.

Please, keep up the fight for the citizens of your state, and for all of us out here in America. So long as you are acting in the interests of the 99%, you will have our support.

Brian Haigh
Los Angeles, CA

The 53% is really part of the 99%

There has been a meme floating around the Internet in reaction to the 99% movement, called “We are the 53%”, based on the factoid floating around that only 53% of Americans pay income taxes. This backlash plays upon the the idea that people supporting the Occupy movements are leeches on society looking for more handouts.

The problem of course, is that none of this makes any sense.

So who are the 47%? There’s an excellent article on Slate that goes into greater detail than I ever could. The bottom line is, some people are too poor, while others claim enough deductions to wipe out their taxes (almost half are elderly), and yet others benefited enough from the Bush tax cuts that their deductions erased their income tax obligations.

But even deeper than that, this movement tries to pretend that income taxes equals all taxes, which is ludicrous. Every single person in America (whether a citizen or not), pays into the system. Every. Single. One. There are taxes for Social Security, Medicare, roads, payroll, the list goes on and on. Some people may get more from the system than they pay into it, but everybody pays (just like with any kind of insurance, when you think about it).

One of the core ideas of this movement is that the 53% are the hard-working ones pulling themselves up by their own hard work, and are now being expected to subsidize everyone else. And yet the statistics are quite clear (see this NY Mag article with the pretty graphs) — the middle class that these people identify themselves with are slowly being squeezed to death by the 1% who are continuing to use the system to further their own goals at the expense of everyone else. The anger from these “53 percenters” is misguided — maybe they should be asking why so many people can’t find jobs, or why they’re paying a mortage worth more than their house.

I can appreciate conservatives not wanting to jump on what is largely seen as a left-wing movement. But we are fighting for a level playing field. We are fighting for the American Dream, where hard work is rewarded. We expect our government to respond to the people who elect them, not to the people who pay them the most money to do their bidding.

This is not about being a liberal or a conservative. This is about common sense, and about restoring the balance to this country.