Tag Archives: Occupy Wall Street

Occupy Gotham…

Occupy Gotham…

Frank Miller, author of “The Dark Knight Returns” and “Sin City,” last month expressed his views about the Occupy Wall Street Movement. They were no more cogent than what your conservative uncle might have said after his fifth glass of wine at Thanksgiving dinner. Miller, however, is (relatively) famous, so the media ran with it.

‘” ‘Occupy’’ is nothing but a pack of louts, thieves, and rapists, an unruly mob, fed by Woodstock-era nostalgia and putrid false righteousness. These clowns can do nothing but harm America.”

I haven’t read about any stealing and raping occurring at Occupy protests or even raping and pillaging at an “Occupy Treasure Island” demonstration. I also think few people under 40 even remember Woodstock — including the second one. It’s sort of a knee-jerk reaction conservatives over 50 have to anything that reminds them of the summer of love. It’s as if the odor of hippies is imprinted in their senses and results in the occasional patchouli-tinged flashback.

Miller labeled the protestors “iPhone, iPad-wielding spoiled brats” and suggested they “stop getting in the way of working people and find jobs for themselves.” The Wall Street Journal stated that the “vast majority of demonstrators are actually employed, and the proportion of protesters unemployed (15%) is within single digits of the national unemployment rate (9.1%).” Most of the demonstrators are under 30 but 28 percent are over 40.

I suppose it’s the media coverage of the encampments that lead people to think the protestors are unemployed vagabonds. That’s the only major difference I see between Occupy and the Tea Party, and the latter was never described this way.

Of course, if there were that many desperate, unemployed people, it would be a serious issue beyond the economic inconvenience of rising police overtime (at least some of the 99 percent are making money out of this) or the aesthetic unpleasantness of large groups camping out in public places. By the way, the point of a protest is to be inconvenient and unpleasant. If it’s easily ignored, you’ll pay as much attention to it as the flashing light on your car dashboard that indicates something you should deal with but not right now.

Don't you miss these peaceful, constructive rallies by non-hippies that didn't cost the country a dime because we weren't afraid of them?

I had mostly ignored Miller’s comments until Alan Moore, author of “Watchmen” and “V for Vendetta,” responded to them this weekend:

“Frank Miller is someone whose work I’ve barely looked at for the past twenty years… I thought the ‘Sin City’ stuff was unreconstructed misogyny, ‘300’ appeared to be wildly ahistoric, homophobic and just completely misguided. I think that there has probably been a rather unpleasant sensibility apparent in Frank Miller’s work for quite a long time.”

Moore’s statement interested me. It’s easy to assume that the combination of age and wealth caused Miller to go off his rocker. He wouldn’t be the first. However, it is interesting to go back and examine the work he published in the 1980s, specifically “The Dark Knight Returns” and “Batman: Year One.”

The future that Miller depicts in 1986’s “Dark Knight” satirizes both the media and the government’s fecklessness with almost chilling prescience. The TV anchors are vapid and muzzled by the FCC. Superman is a tool of the federal government, and the local police are useless, primarily because Commissioner Gordon has retired and his (female) replacement just doesn’t understand that you need a masked vigilante on the streets to maintain law and order. The Feminine mystique has even infected the penal system — Arkham Asylum is now the Arkham “Home.” Two Face is about to be released —  ostensibly but not really cured. Bruce Wayne, long since retired as Batman and now reduced to an emasculated, drunken shell of himself, enables the rehabilitation, which of course fails (you can’t save these people) and requires the return of Batman and the more masculine approach to justice.

The concept of the masked hero is interesting. Zorro, Batman… these are all men of privilege who hide their identities so they can continue to exist in that world. They have something to lose. Some have made the connection to the Klan, who professed to “maintain” the “rightful” order of things while dressed to terrify their victims and remain anonymous.

Miller’s Batman is obsessed with the nameless thug who killed his parents. He has dedicated his life to fighting a symptom (crime) rather than seeking a cure (poverty). There was a period prior to the release of “Dark Knight” when Bruce Wayne opened the “Wayne Foundation,” a charitable organization that sought to clean up the streets during the day rather than just at night. A connection had been made between extreme poverty, the resulting desperation, and crime. That is not evident in “Dark Knight.” The notable victims of rising crime rates are the affluent like Bruce Wayne’s parents. Their territory — the area they are free to wander unmolested — has been infringed, and that’s enough to drive an otherwise sane rich white man to his cape and cowl.

Batman’s model inspires some mindless thugs to call themselves the “Sons of Batman” and purge the streets through violent means. It’s their own Occupy Gotham. The poor and disenfranchised are now fighting each other rather than bothering people who are important because they own things. Moore references this in his final zinger to Miller:

“I’m sure if it had been a bunch of young, sociopathic vigilantes with Batman make-up on their faces, he’d be more in favor of it. We would definitely have to agree to differ on that one.”

“Batman: Year One,” released in 1987, is a low-key, noirish counterpoint to the more operatic “Dark Knight.” However, many of the themes remain: The cops are either corrupt or useless, and it takes a rich kid to straighten things up. One scene I thought was cool when I was 13 I find repugnant today: Batman breaks into the hotel room of a potential witness against a corrupt cop and convinces him to testify through methods that would please Dick Cheney. This is not really heroic. It just uses a mob technique for the “good” of society, but what was it Nietzsche said about fighting monsters? I recall pre-Miller Batman stories when our hero would have protected the witness from harm rather than just threatening to harm him more than the bad guys would. These were truly the Reagan years with more emphasis on “Dark” and less on “Knight.”

It’s dangerous to believe that “laws” and “rights” are just things criminals use to hide from justice, and that a masked man (or worse, his army of unstable loons) violating them is the only answer. I find it fascinating that the guy who wrote these stories is so irked by a generally peaceful demonstration against society’s excesses. Perhaps he’s afraid of what could happen if the protestors suddenly begin taking orders from someone who views the world as he does.

Leave a comment

Posted by on December 5, 2011 in Political Theatre, Pop Life


Tags: , , , , ,

Black Friday Comin’ Soon; Debt Remains ‘Til June…

Black Friday Comin’ Soon; Debt Remains ‘Til June…

“Black Friday,” the day after Thanksgiving, represents the entire house of cards upon which the U.S. economy is based. Starting in the middle of the night, people line up to spend money they don’t have on items they don’t need. During one of the worst economic periods in history, wouldn’t it make more sense for people to be frugal, maybe even exchange homemade gifts or just enjoy each other’s company on the holidays?

No, experts say that would cosign the U.S. economy to barrel-wearing oblivion.

Some analysts stress, however, that futile as it may seem to push struggling Americans into spending billions on products they could do without, the economy is too fragile to encourage anything less.

Adam Davidson, of National Public Radio’s Planet Money, describes Black Friday as a “one-day economic stimulus plan and job-creation programme” that is crucial to the American economy.

“Billions of dollars, which would otherwise never be spent, make their way into circulation,” he wrote in an article.

Although Scrooge gave Bob Cratchit the full day off for Christmas, retailers can’t be so liberal when attempting to make the most of this capitalist extravaganza.

When Anthony Hardwick, a part-time car-park attendant at a Target in Omaha, Nebraska, was told to report for work at 11pm on the evening of Thanksgiving – the most important public holiday by far for Americans – he refused.

“My fiancée is sad because I was supposed to have Thanksgiving dinner with her family and talk about wedding plans,” Mr Hardwick, 29, who was due to work a shift in his second job on Black Friday, said. “It’s kind of a raw deal.”

Supported by colleagues, he started a petition titled Tell Target to Save Thanksgiving.

“A full holiday with family is not just for the elite of this nation,” Mr Hardwick wrote. “All Americans should be able to break bread with loved ones and get a good night’s rest on Thanksgiving”

It attracted 200,000 signatures, which were delivered to company bosses.

A spokesman said workers were paid extra for filling Thanksgiving shifts and that “every effort to accommodate their requests” for time off was made by managers.

Does the “extra” workers were paid — most likely the standard time and a half — reflect the fortune the retailers stand to make? Not likely. This is part of what makes Black Friday a prime target for the Occupy Movement.

Occupy Black Friday is aiming to persuade people to shop locally to support their communities, rather than multinational conglomerates.

Another, Occupy Wal-Mart, is turning its focus on one huge outlet.

“Black Friday is the one day where the mega-corporations blatantly dictate our actions, they say ‘shop’ and we shop,” the group said in a statement.

“Hit the corporations that corrupt and control American politics where it hurts, and their profits.”

This is not a crazy idea. Shopping locally would ensure that more of the profits went to the people selling you the items rather than the executives who remained snug as a bug in their country home’s rug on Thanksgiving night, later dreaming of huge bonuses reflective of the sales blitz. Wal-Mart, especially, this year has reduced health care benefits for its employees despite still remaining incredibly profitable.

The question also remains as where people are getting the money to participate in the Black Friday frenzy. E.D. Kain at Forbes correctly points out that “we are in the red, and spending on top of unsustainable debt is neither wise nor a recipe for economic well-being.”

We can’t rely on some form of consumer-driven Keynesian stimulus in perpetuity. Spending is important, but not if it comes on the back of boatloads of consumer debt, even if that debt is the result of stagnant wages for the working and middle class.

Unfortunately, Kain falls into the trap of insisting that rampant, essentially needless consumerism is what the economy needs.

The last thing I would do in times such as these is attempt to convince people not to go out shopping. With unemployment teetering around 9% the worst possible thing we as consumers could do would be to stop spending money.

How can you stop spending what you don’t have? How many items purchased on Black Friday will be paid with a credit card? That’s great for the banks but not for the people who will wake up to Red Saturday, which will lead to Red Sunday, Red Monday and so on. As the old joke goes, “These sales are gonna save me into bankruptcy.”

The debt management website says about one third of shoppers rack up credit card debt on Black Friday.

Finance charges on their credit cards can easily wipe out any discounts they received at Black Friday sales.

I also disagree with Kain’s theory about shopping locally.

If consumers spend 20% more purchasing an HDTV from a local retailer, they’ll have 20% less money to spend at local restaurants and coffee shops. Refusing to shop at chains simply because they’re chains may result in more money in the pockets of local retailers, but it may end up taking money out of other local businesses.

This strikes me as a scare tactic. I’d rather just not buy the HDTV. The only way that large chains will begin to treat their employees as is they are possibly something approximating human beings is for consumers to speak with their wallets. As the lopsided distribution of wages in corporations demonstrates (CEOs at Russian Czar level and average worker at Southern sharecropper), helping these companies make money helps only a small fraction of people.

The Tea Party is countering the Occupy protest with “BuyCott Black Friday.” So, a group upset with the tremendous U.S. national debt supports rampant overspending? I guess logic wilts in the face of spite. Shouldn’t these groups be in accord? Big business is — and has proven to be — as destructive as big government.

Leave a comment

Posted by on November 24, 2011 in Capitalism, Social Commentary


Tags: ,

How do you end a revolution? PR, insults, and soap…

So, in the truly clueless category is this article from Slate:

A financial services lobbying firm floats $850,000 plan to undermine Occupy Wall Street protests.

That’s a lot of money to stop the efforts of people with no money. That’s about a dozen jobs right there. I’m reminded of the line from “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid”: “If he’d just pay me what he’s spending to stop me from robbing him, I’d stop robbing him.”

According to MSNBC’s “Up With Chris Hayes,” lobbying firm Clark Lytle Geduldig & Cranford sent a memo to the American Bankers Association with an outline for the plan, which suggests, among other things, doing “opposition research” on the Occupy movement in order to help construct “negative narratives” about protesters and the politicians who support them.

Meanwhile, GOP presidential candidates are already doing their part. Newt Gingrich said the Occupy protesters need to “get a job” and “take a bath.”

“All the Occupy movement starts with the premise that we all owe them everything,” Gingrich said at the Thanksgiving Family Forum in Iowa, as noted by Igor Volsky at ThinkProgress. “They take over a public park they didn’t pay for, to go nearby to use bathrooms they didn’t pay for, to beg for food from places they don’t want to pay for, to obstruct those who are going to work to pay the taxes to sustain the bathrooms and to sustain the park, so they can self-righteously explain they are the paragons of virtue to which we owe everything.”

As touching a sentiment this is for a presidential candidate to express at the “Thanksgiving Family Forum,” it seems to have a few fundamental problems: There’s the “us vs. them” mentality combined with the misrepresentation of the movement’s goals and the flat-out erroneous assertion that the protesters didn’t contribute to the public parks in which they are encamped. That’s why they are called “public” parks. Moreover, it’s disturbing to think that people can work and pay taxes for years but once they lose their jobs and dare to express frustration at a system that is not the least bit interested in fixing the economy it helped collapse, their so-called leaders will dismiss them as subhuman.

According to Gingrich, they should “get a job right after taking a bath.” It should reassure the unemployed in this country that it’s really that simple. All you need is a punchy cover letter and Dial.

Leave a comment

Posted by on November 20, 2011 in Capitalism, Political Theatre


Tags: , ,

Let them work at McDonald’s…

Reading this NPR piece on the Occupy Wall Street protests, I came upon a true “let them eat cake” moment:

One man, who declined to give his name, but said he has worked on Wall Street for nine years, just shook his head. He was wearing a grey wool coat and his hair was neat and combed back. He stood at that corner for a while.

“This is ridiculous,” he said. “I just don’t understand why they’re not out trying to find jobs.”

He said he works 75 to 80 hours a week, so he deserves to be part of the one percent. He says he chose a degree in finance so he could make a lot of money.

I told him what Nathan Storey had told me. He was laid off in 2008 and still couldn’t find a job.

The man shook his head.

“He could get jobs at McDonald’s,” he said. He conceded however that minimum wage isn’t much money and he said he was willing to pay more taxes.

But he said he truly believes if you want to make money in this country, you can work hard and do that.

“This is the land of opportunity,” he said.

There appears to be a disconnect in the anonymous gentleman’s statement that he entered finance so he “could make a lot of money” and his assertion that if you “want to make money in this country, you can work hard and do that.” Yes, “the land of opportunity” is the U.S.’s advertising slogan but that is as relevant in practice as “The King of Beers” is for Budweiser.

His McDonald’s comment is both unoriginal and condescending, as if working in the fast-food industry is a viable option for people who have trouble finding jobs. Sure, many companies are calluously choosing not to interview job applicants who are unemployed — their way of capitalizing further on the poor job market — but having McDonald’s on the resume won’t improve the situation.

He should also know that a bad economy usually doesn’t trickle down. It’s the jobs near the bottom of the 99 percent that are the first to fall. Why does he suppose there are all these job opportunities at McDonald’s? Or does he think any reasonably educated person is preferable to the usual applicants at the fast-food chain? If so, then what are they supposed to do if what used to be the middle class takes their jobs — find work as medical school cadavers?

But let’s propose that there are McDonald’s positions for anyone who wants one. The federal minimum wage is $7.25. Even if you had the opportunity to work 75 to 80 hours a week (you won’t, as you’d be eligible for benefits and overtime), that’s about $30K a year. You’ll be exhaisted and won’t see your family but you’ll be content with the knowledge that you can provide them with so little.

Meanwhile, after nine years, our guy on Wall Street is possibly making around $300 to $500K. That breaks down to around $100 an hour at a 75/80-hour work week, which is slightly more rewarding. He can also get sick once in a while and send his kids to college.

Obviously, our economy can’t work if everyone is either in the finance or fry-making industry. It’s also telling that there’s no other default job that people like this guy can mention. The underlying message is “go away, stop bothering me with your problems, and serve me.”

There is a difference between having a middle-class work ethic and being an all-day, licked down to the center of the Tootsie Roll pop sucker. It’s like being the doting boyfriend while your girlfriend is fooling around with your best friend, brother, uncle, father, and family priest. It can get to the point that even the noblest person would rather die annoying the 1 percent than quietly serve them for the off chance of a pat on the head.

Leave a comment

Posted by on November 19, 2011 in Capitalism, Social Commentary


Tags: ,

Recurring Feature: Michele Bachmann says more things that don’t make sense…

Michele Bachmann at the recent 1,000th GOP debate:

What Obama actually said about Occupy Wall Street:

“The most important thing we can do right now is those of us in leadership letting people know that we understand their struggles and we are on their side, and that we want to set up a system in which hard work, responsibility, doing what you’re supposed to do, is rewarded… And that people who are irresponsible, who are reckless, who don’t feel a sense of obligation to their communities and their companies and their workers that those folks aren’t rewarded.”

I guess that’s “standing” with Occupy Wall Street. Is this what has happened in the past three years? Sarah Palin accused Obama of “palling around with terrorists” and now Bachmann is accusing him of palling around with… U.S. citizens asserting their first amendment rights? OK.

What would really make this weird is if Bachmann had a completely different opinion regarding another set of U.S. citizens asserting their first amendment rights. I’m sure she’d never allow herself to be videotaped being that disingenuous.

We have two angry grassroots groups in the country. One option is for our elected officials to work together to resolve the issues fueling their rage. The other is to marginalize them based on politics and essentially treat them like the Red Sox vs. the Yankees.

What will they do? What will they do?

Bachmann is probably right about Obama and Israel, though. Israel most likely does not view Obama as a friend because, as Mitt Romney recently pointed out, the president was critical of Israel’s prime minister.

“President Obama’s derisive remarks about Israel’s Prime Minister confirm what any observer would have gleaned from his public statements and actions toward our longstanding ally, Israel… At a moment when the Jewish state is isolated and under threat, we cannot have an American president who is disdainful of our special
relationship with Israel. We have here yet another reason why we need new leadership in the White House.”

It’s simple: If you make “derisive remarks” about a country’s leader, then you are no friend of that country. Bachmann and Romney are frequently critical of Obama, who is the U.S. leader, so they have basically confessed to hating the U.S. and all it represents. Wow — and they didn’t even think their mics were off.





Posted by on November 13, 2011 in Political Theatre


Tags: , , ,

Clark Durant does not want to buy the world a Coke…

U.S. Senate candidate Clark Durant, during a fundraising event at Calvin College, said that the Occupy Wall Street protesters should “go find a job.” This is what frustrates me most about the opposition to the Occupy movement. If after 9/11, people had taken to the streets to express their fear and anger over their belief that the government could not keep them safe, any politician who had said they should stop whining and “go defend themselves” would have wound up on some celebrity boxing reality show. Yet, it’s OK for politicians to derisively dismiss the public’s lack of faith that the government is at all concerned for their financial, rather than physical, security.

But that wasn’t the worst thing Durant said to the group of College Conservatives. (I’ve always applauded College Conservative for not wasting their 20s and 30s having their compassion and sympathy stomped out them. Best to get it out of the way early — like chicken pox — and use that free time for something more constructive, such as perfecting your golf swing.)

In regards to the wealth gap the movement decries, Durant said, “I think it should be wider.”

“Does anybody think Steve Jobs should not be (sic) in the 1 percent? He made life better for the 99 percent of the rest of us. You want to create opportunities for people with their unique gifts,” he said. “They have created value and wealth.”

I am forever grateful to Jobs for allowing me to have access to the entire Stephen Sondheim catalog when at the gym, but it’s not like the guy cured heart disease or developed an alternative energy source, ending our reliance on fossil fuels and ushering in a new era of peace and prosperity. He didn’t even create a silent vacuum cleaner. He was a successful businessman who made billions. That’s fine and all but don’t try to claim he wandered the desert for 40 days and 40 nights.

Durant also demonstrates a common Republican misunderstanding of how our economic system works: The 1 percent might command the nation’s wealth but it’s the 99 percent that actually creates it. If Durant believes the iPad is the 21st century’s version of the soft drink you buy the world in order to live in perfect harmony because everyone’s too busy playing Angry Birds to pay attention to each other, then he has to understand that all Jobs had was an idea without the people in the 99 percent who helped him implement it. Code had to be written. Devices had to be manufactured. But if Durant has his way, the people who did that would not have the spare change necessary to buy a Coke.

Invoking the name of God several times, Durant described himself as a “nerdy” kid whose life was profoundly changed by the C.S. Lewis allegory “The Great Divorce.”

I sometimes think Randians pulled a large-scale prank on Republicans and replaced the insides of all their Bibles with copies of “Atlas Shrugged.” Also, it’s nice that “The Great Divorce” moved a young Durant but it seems like his political goals are to turn the United States into the “grey town” Lewis described.

Durant is not entirely without empathy — he “likened the fissures in the Republican Party of today as analogous to the implosion of the Whig Party in the 1850s over the question of slavery. He said the 2012 election is a ‘defining moment’ for the party, which must decide whether or not to ‘enslave’ a generation with debt and spending.”

Is metaphorical “slavery” comparable to actual slavery? Let’s see: Slaves working 18 hour days in 100 degree heat generating wealth in which they’ll never share for a small few. That does sound similar to circumstances today. But Durant might want to reconsider which side he’s own.

Leave a comment

Posted by on November 12, 2011 in Capitalism, Political Theatre


Tags: , ,

What If Atlas Really Shrugged?…

“Atlas Shrugged” is Ayn Rand’s 1957 novel in which rich people, upset because they aren’t rich enough, go on strike and society collapses as a result. It’s an absurd premise: The rich and powerful tend to have too much to lose to walk away from it all. It’s the same mentality you see when a game show contestant refuses to settle for his winnings so far and instead risks everything for a shot at the new car.

The reality is that the wealthy are easily replaced. Actually, I should clarify: The truly wealthy — those who live off the income derived from property or investments —  are definitely disposable. Anyone can have a staff of financial advisers briefing you on your portfolio over breakfast. It’s the type of job you can do from home. However, the merely rich — those who still have to go into the office on a daily basis if for no other reason than to escape their spouses — are also not the treasured commodity everyone seems to think.

For example, if your boss went on strike, you’d probably take his job for half of what he makes, and you’d still see a significant raise. That’s because most corporations compensate its employees according to an inverted pyramid — with those at the top making significantly more than those at the bottom. The supervisor of the mail room probably makes a couple dollars more per hour than his staff — at least before they downsized the mail room. Meanwhile, the CEO of the company makes 343 times more than the average worker. This disparity was not always the case: In 1980 — yes, the year before Ronald Reagan took office — CEO pay was equal to 42 times the average worker’s pay. This is probably why the 1970s was known as the Great CEO Famine.

The tricky thing about an inverted pyramid is that it’s only a matter of time before it topples. The jobs held by those in the top 1 percent — heck, even the top 20 percent — are desirable not just because they pay well but because of the associated perks, power, and prestige. Unless you’re a schoolteacher, it’s more likely to find careers that are described as “callings” in the top 20 percent. In Rand’s fictional world, the top architects walk and there’s not a line down the street to replace them. This is silly. It’s a faulty syllogism of believing there’s just the best and the worst. If businesses don’t pay a highwayman’s bounty for the best, then the businesses will suffer. It’s the same line that A.I.G. offered upset taxpayers when it gave out bonuses in 2009 after receiving a government bailout.

“We cannot attract and retain the best and the brightest talent to lead and staff the A.I.G. businesses — which are now being operated principally on behalf of American taxpayers — if employees believe their compensation is subject to continued and arbitrary adjustment by the U.S. Treasury,” (Edward M. Liddy) wrote Mr. Geithner on Saturday.

This is nonsense of course: It’s not like A.I.G. actually tried to retain its staff without paying bonuses. The sentiment also seemed to imply that A.I.G.’s “best and brightest talent” still lived in the U.S. economy of the 1990s, when you could consider leaving your job for another one just because it had better coffee in the break room. And it takes a healthy amount of gall for Liddy to refer to anyone at A.I.G. as the “best and the brightest talent.” These are the same guys that ran the company so well it needed a taxpayer-funded bailout. To borrow from Woody Allen, maybe A.I.G. should consider hiring “some stupid people.” They’re cheaper and the results couldn’t have been much worse.

Yet at the same time, countless companies suspended compensation increases for average employees — apparently not fearing an inability to “attract and retain” them. Viacom even added insult to injury and rewarded its CEO Phillipe Dauman for “increasing cost effectiveness” by almost tripling his salary ($34 million to $84 million). Keep in mind that “increasing cost effectiveness” usually means firing people or not granting raises.

Earlier this year, on the road to Occupy Wall Street, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker removed collective bargaining rights from public employees. Everyone should see this as the inverted pyramid beginning its inexorable tumble. As Rand would say about a different tax bracket, how much abuse and exploitation are people expected to take?

Let’s reverse the question Rand posed in “Atlas Shrugged.” What if the people at the bottom of the pyramid said enough all ready? Their government has little interest in whether they live or die and has become even more brazen in its clear preference for protecting the interests of the wealthy and powerful. What’s the point? Even those who can find jobs will probably never erase the debt they accumulated when they were unemployed. Banks will come up with new fees to siphon off what’s left (the new “it’s currency” fee — we charge more for currency). Who’s going to rush to perform their tasks? Is Dauman going to take out trash or wait tables or even answer his own phones? Until replicant technology is perfected, those at the top of the pyramid need those at the bottom far more than the reverse. True “rational self-interest” would be keeping those at the bottom content enough so that the wheels of society continue to turn. What we’ve instead experienced in the past 30 years is the slow, steady strangulation of the country’s golden goose — the working class.



Leave a comment

Posted by on October 27, 2011 in Capitalism


Tags: , , ,

The Peasants Are Revolting…

I read this piece in the Economic Times, which states that “many see lack of focus in growing Occupy Wall street movement.”

The protests that began on September 17 by a small group of people in Manhattan have snowballed into a movement against the financial institutions, income inequality and corporate bailouts with thousands taking to the streets and courting arrests.

However, the protesters are yet to ask local and federal governments to adopt specific actions to address their grievances.

I suppose the pun (“see” and “lack of focus”) is unintentional. However, the criticism is not new. Bill Clinton mentioned it recently in an appearance on Late Show with David Letterman.

“They need to be for something specific, and not just against something because if you’re just against something, someone else will fill the vacuum you create.”

I know the protestors have a lot of free time — as many don’t have jobs — but why is the onus on them to fix the problem? And maybe I’ve being even more cynical than usual but wouldn’t any specific policy recommendations be dismissed as uninformed anyway?

I thought widespread protests against “financial institutions, income inequality and corporate bailouts” would be a good place to start, right? That is if politicians genuinely want to resolve these issues. So far, they sound like a really bad boyfriend:

“I don’t get it, baby, why are you leaving me?”

“You slept with my sister and you maxed out my credit cards playing full-tilt poker.”

“Yeah, but all that aside, what specifically is wrong?”

It’s possible to infer from the political realm’s reaction to the movement that it has failed to accomplish more than some front-page media coverage. Let’s look back at the beginnings of the Tea Party movement. Everyone, Democrat and Republican, was in a hurry to either embrace them or not piss them off. Clinton’s position is almost eerily identical:

“I think that, first of all, the tea party insurrection … that you see in these Republican primaries, reflects the feeling of a lot of Americans that they’re getting the shaft,” Clinton said on CBS’ Face the Nation. “That the people who caused these problems …the banks that were responsible for the financial meltdown, they’ve gotten well again. And everybody has got money again who is in that business, but ordinary people don’t.”

“So there is a general revolt against bigness Which in the case of the Republicans is always directed more against the government than the private sector,” Clinton said. “It’s totally understandable.”

The Republicans meanwhile have no concern about giving the movement a united golden shower:

Cantor Deems Protesters Rabble Rousers

Cantor slammed the movement on Friday in a speech in Washington at the 2011 “Value Voters Summit” intended to energize social conservatives.

“I’m increasingly concerned about the growing mobs occupying Wall Street and other cities across the country,” said Cantor at the event sponsored by the Family Research Council Action, the American Family Association, and other evangelical Christian groups.

“And believe it or not, some in this town have actually condoned the pitting of Americans against Americans,” he said.

Oh no! Americans against Americans! Brother against brother in a vicious blood battle! These agitators are stirring up the otherwise peaceful peasants against their benevolent corporate masters! Where’s J. Edgar Hoover’s ghost when you need him?

Fortunately, presidential candidate Herman Cain was able to make Cantor’s statements seem benign in comparison:

Herman Cain steps up attacks on Occupy Wall Street protests

Republican presidential contender Herman Cain amplified his criticism Sunday of the growing Occupy Wall Street movement, calling the protesters “jealous’ Americans who “play the victim card” and want to “take somebody else’s” Cadillac.

Yes, the protestors do want to “take somebody else’s Cadillac” — so they can sleep in it. Wow, Cain sounds about as rational as two angry ladies at a beauty salon in the Bronx.

“Girl, did you hear what those Occupy Wall Street protestors are saying about you?”

“Oh, Laquita, they just jealous. Just jealous of how fine I am and how nice my Cadillac is.”

On CBS, Cain suggested that the rallies had been organized by labor unions to serve as a “distraction so that many people won’t focus on the failed policies of the Obama administration.”

Huh? Labor unions organized this? How many of the demonstrators were actually members of unions? Wouldn’t they possibly still have jobs if they were? The biggest union presence at the protests is arguably the police — the guys with the solid health insurance and retirement plans.

The banking and financial services industries aren’t responsible for those policies, Cain said.

OK, so the Obama administration forced Bank of America to screw its customers? I guess it is Obama’s fault that the economy is sputtering along so that banks can only make jillions instead of gajilions. They have no choice to charge fees that would shame your average loan shark — though a loan shark actually loans you money, rather than charging you for the burden of using yours to play a riskier version of full-tilt poker.

And if the labor unions are pulling the protestors’ poverty-stricken strings, then we all know who is the ultimate puppet master.

Presidential candidate Newt Gingrich, who appeared on the program with Cain, offered a more measured response, but blamed the White House for the discord.

“There a lot of people in America who are angry,” Gingrich said. “This is the natural product of President Obama’s class warfare.”

Speaking on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), chairman of the House Budget Committee, also pointed a finger at the president, whom he accused of fear-mongering.

“He’s preying on the emotions of fear, envy and anger. And that is not constructive to unifying America,” Ryan said. “I think he’s broken his promise as a uniter, and now he’s dividing people. And to me, that’s very unproductive.”

I’m sure privately Republicans are shaking in their boots over Obama’s Army of the Destitute. They will collectively knock down the pillars of our economic system with their massive student loan debt.

So what if companies openly discriminate against the unemployed during a period of record unemployment? It’s unproductive and divisive to get upset. Stay home and come up with some specific policy positions that your elected officials can ignore. Better yet, watch some bad reality TV instead and let Wall Street continue to steer the country in the swell direction it’s currently going. These are busy people. They don’t need your jealous whining.

Cain later conclusively proved the Occupy Wall Street movement’s threat to national security:

“To protest Wall Street and the bankers is basically saying you’re anti-capitalism,” he said.

I sort of thought that this was a protest of Wall Street excess, which did play a part in leveling the economy, rather than an outright broadside against capitalism as a whole, but unlike Cain, I never ran a pizza chain named after a mafia figure.

Wait a minute: If you’re anti-capitalist, aren’t you essentially a communist? And the terrorists also attacked Wall Street, so maybe these demonstrators are communist terrorists or, depending on whether you’re a Northern or Southern Smurf, terrorist communists!

In fairness, Cain was equally protective of Muslims as even though a small minority of extremists were threats to U.S. security, he realized that they weren’t reflective of Islam as a whole and to protest Islam is basically saying you’re anti-religious freedom.

(Yeah, you see where I’m going here: To the YouTube Mobile!:)

Leave a comment

Posted by on October 17, 2011 in Capitalism, Political Theatre


Tags: , ,