This article was originally written only about the Occupy Wall Street when that was a “thing.” For an instant in time, it looked like people might look up and notice the huge shift in wealth from the poor and working classes to the rich. And from the young generation (Millennials as they’re now called) to the Baby Boomers That moment has passed but the issues remain, and a large-scale disruption seems inevitable. The student loan picture has grown much worse, and combined with health care and retirement issues, might well bring on an inter-generational conflict of massive proportions.
Occupy Wall Street – The Beginnings of a Serious Movement
As always, I’m a little cautious when I bring an “outside” issue into the discussion of defending yourself from a lawsuit brought by a debt collector. But there are links: there is increasing resistance to the status quo of banks and debt collectors using the legal system to take things away from people without a lot of money. So far, this resistance hasn’t accomplished much (if anything) on the broader political scene, but it is beginning to create an energy that may affect what litigants and judges will do. It may also radically change the whole debt legal landscape.
And that brings the discussion within the legitimate scope of my analysis.
Here’s what I wrote about Occupy Wall Street, and then there’s a link to an article about debt jubilees.
Occupy Wall Street Is Just Getting Started
I am very happy to see the demonstrations. As I have mentioned before, there is certainly a “class war” going on, but that war is not in the words of the fringe politicians. It is in the actions of the political decision-makers, who have transferred trillions of dollars to the wealthiest people (by and large, these are the people who own the banks) through the bailouts and other policies. It is the working and middle class people who are and have been under fire. They pay the price of the bailouts to the rich, and they are the ones being sued for debt more than anybody else, who are losing their homes and groaning under big credit card balances with outrageous rates of interest.
They should be mad. Occupy Wall Street has started, like so many other social movements, among the young, but it is showing some signs of attracting the working and middle classes. There’s smoke. Will there be fire? I think that possibility certainly exists, and the persistence of the “occupation” has been impressive.
The Occupiers’ Message
It isn’t that I think the demands of Occupy Wall Street are coherent at this point. I haven’t been able to make out any sort of specific, consistent message from the things they have written, or that have been written about them. But that said, I do believe that they have a point. They know they’ve been screwed –they just don’t know how. Yet.
“Green Tea Party”
Last year I called for a “Green Tea Party.” Although the name was a little tongue-in-cheek, the thoughts behind it were quite serious. The Tea Party, with its calls for “smaller government” (but apparently without wanting to reduce American military adventurism around the globe or subsidies for corporations and other traditionally right wing interests) captures the imaginations and hopes of a lot of people who feel disenchanted by politicians. Occupy Wall Street, with their opposition to bailouts for the wealthy and other corporate “help” (but apparently with some faith in the trustworthiness and goodness of government), really are a sort of mirror image of the Tea Party.
There is a lot of antagonism between the two groups right now, but they both, actually, seem to want the same thing. Both groups want a world where people have a chance to survive and get ahead in life. Each identifies one side of the coin as the problem. And the coin is that we have a ruling class that uses government as a tool -to take money from the lower and middle classes and give it to the rich, and to expand their reach and power through the world.
A Combined Populist Movement
What would happen if Occupy Wall Street came, as many progressive organizations did during the Great Depression, to view big government as the problem rather than the solution? What would happen if the Tea Party, as Ron Paul clearly does, came to see the assertion of U.S. military power around the world as a form of big government opposed to personal freedom? or corporate bailouts as contrary to free market enterprise?
Then the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street might come together with some real populist power. It would never be called the “Green Tea Party,” of course, but it might be called “The New America” movement or something like that. Something that might capture the urgent need for our country to move back towards real democracy, away from the on-going siphoning of resources to the wealthy, and away from the constantly expanding government that makes that possible.
The response to both the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street has been “instructive.” It’s actually very similar to the initial response to “Arab Spring,” the movement which has toppled dictators in the Middle East and continues to reshape politics over there. The financial press ignored Occupy Wall Street as long as possible, and since then have been, almost uniformly, contemptuous or patronizing. Politicians have either ignored the group or tried to co-opt them. And the police response has mirrored what we saw in the Middle East out of the dictators: brutal and arrogant.
Meanwhile, more and more people are gravitating towards the marchers.
There has been criticism of the Tea Party that they were, in fact, co-opted by the Republican Party, and I think that is partially true. It has been a platform for the anti-intellectual side of the party, no doubt. But this co-optation is certainly not complete, as the Tea Party candidates have shown that they do have their own agenda that is not always under the control of the rest of the party. If the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street could somehow see beyond their differences and develop the broad common ground they share, the resulting movement would, I believe, be beyond the power of either political party to co-opt.
Now a new phase of this movement is beginning – a call for “debt jubilee,” where student loans will simply be wiped off the books. How will this happen and what will it do? Click here for article on Debt Jubilee. The movement will dramatically affect everything in the U.S., from schooling to Social Security and beyond. And there will be consequences.