Occupy Wall Street: The Crux of the Issue

The “Occupy” protests across the country have been criticized by the media and mostly ignored by our elected representatives. Much of this criticism stems from the desire by both the media and the politicians for a single sound bite or demand while the focus of the issue is as plain as the nose on their faces, to separate money from politics.

The single issue is the fact that we have become a Corporatocracy where the 99%, expressed as the rallying cry of the OWS movement, are marginalized and ignored

This naturally leads to the many and varied voices coming out of the movement like financial inequality, the fallout from TARP bailouts, expectations vs. reality and jobs.

One might rationalize that it is easier for the political elite to deal with the single need of corporations, profit, than the petty manifold demands of the public. Make no mistake, profits are the lifeblood of our capitalistic society. Most of what we see around us including the return on the investment to shareholders would not exist without profits.

But we are still a government “of the people.” Corporations still need us to buy their products and politicians still need our votes even if they do forget us between elections.

Obama in his 2008 campaign spoke out against the influence of big business lobbies and even encouraged the organization of  home parties to generate and send in a wish list of changes. His attitude toward lobbies obviously changed as evidenced by the influence they had on the implementation of Obamacare and the financial bailouts. Much of this is still happening as the banking lobby waters down the Dodd-Frank bill. But why?

The big contribution of lobbies, next to campaign contributions, is data. The industry lobbies have at their disposal mountains of data that they collect and synthesize to support their biased view which they then present to hungry politicians who can’t get it any other way (see my previous blog: Our Information Democracy and the Influence of Lobbies). To make matters worse our representatives encourage these groups to write the legislation.

All the 99% have are a collection of heart wrenching anecdotes which are used to formulate a mish-mash of ill-defined demands. The only way we can make a difference is at the polls. Viva la vote!

Everyone should be deeply disturbed that since the start of the “occupy” movement not one politician has stepped forward to acknowledge their complicity in bowing to the demands of the 1% or offered a single solution to the political poison of campaign financing and  big business influence on our political and economic systems. Neither have they come out to condemn the privatization of the gains while socializing the losses as has happened most recently beginning with the 2008 financial collapse.

Obviously we need to have a serious conversation about campaign finance reform including a reversal of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision and repeal of personhood for corporations. We should demand that these issues be put up for a popular vote; after all that is the only real voice the 99% have.

(Update 8/15/12)  Move To Amend,  formed in September 2009, is a grassroots coalition of hundreds of organizations and tens of thousands of individuals committed to social and economic justice, ending corporate rule, and building a vibrant democracy that is genuinely accountable to the people, not corporate interests.

The Move To Amend website further declares that “[w]e are calling for an amendment to the US Constitution to unequivocally state that inalienable rights belong to human beings only, and that money is not a form of protected free speech under the First Amendment and can be regulated in political campaigns.”

This movement is growing across the country. Go to the website, http://www.movetoamend.org/, to sign the petition and then contact your local and national representatives to encourage their support.

(Update 11/18/11) Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL), a member of the House Judiciary Committee, today introduced an amendment that would ban corporate money in politics and end corporate personhood once and for all.

The amendment is called the Outlawing Corporate Cash Undermining the Public Interest in our Elections and Democracy (OCCUPIED) Amendment, would overturn the Citizens United decision, re-establishing the right of Congress and the states to regulate campaign finance laws, and to effectively outlaw the ability of for-profit corporations to contribute to campaign spending.

In his statement provided to ThinkProgress Deutch said “I introduced the Amendment because the days of corporate control of our democracy must end now. It is time to return the nation’s capital and our democracy to the people.”

See also Robert Reich’s blog.

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