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Occupy Wall Street: what should they / we demand?

October 6, 2011

What should the Occupy Wall Street protestors demand?  My humble opinion is that the demands should be bold and directed toward moving us in a strongly progressive direction.  I think the basic underlying principle should be a firm recognition that today’s technology is so vast that there’s absolutely no excuse for anyone to live marginally.  The global problem isn’t one of productive capacity or technology, it’s fully a crisis of finance and distribution.  Since Wall Street’s the very symbol of finance and mal-distribution it’s the most appropriate target imaginable for occupation.

I asked my vast research staff to come up with five reasonable proposals that would make a significant difference.  They came up with six.

1) Get control of our own currency.  We should refuse to accept that austerity is ever a requirement.  As long as there’s unemployment and underutilization of productive resources, the government should freely spend through direct monetary creation.  The government should not spend beyond the productive capacity of the country since it would be inflationary, but within such limits, deficits are never a problem.

It’s critical that all progressives become fully familiar with the principles of Abba Lerner’s Functional Finance and Modern Monetary Theory.  It’s a simple fact that the dollar is unbacked by any commodity and can therefore be created at will and at no cost.  It’s completely untrue and actually quite absurd to think the US is dependent on the financial markets or other countries to obtain its own currency.  If OWS wants to confront Wall Street, the very home of non-democratic power over money, this is where to start!

2) Regulate oligopoly power in the public interest. Everyone accepts that monopoly power needs to be regulated yet all the major industries within the global political economy are oligopolies which behave in almost all respects like monopolies.  Just 500 corporations control 40% of global revenues.  Coincident with this power, they charge prices unencumbered by niceties like competition and their executives are paid as royalty.  We need to regulate these goliaths in the public interest like we do public utilities.  Their profit margins and top pay should be strictly limited in order to sharply reduce prices for everyone.

3) Limit Inequality.  We should set a fully livable minimum guaranteed income and a relatively low maximum income.  This could be some combination of a guaranteed job and a basic income guarantee.  The huge income gaps that exist today are immoral and have extremely negative effects on society as a whole: they promote poverty and crime, increase the price of goods which necessarily incorporate the incomes at the top, misdirect society’s production away from the needs of the majority and toward the demands of the wealthy few, lead to never-ending crises as extreme wealth is hoarded into speculative ventures or worthless assets, and create extremes of power that threaten democracy itself.

4) Nationalize the Banks.  We should nationalize the banks since significant changes to the system will certainly render many of the debts held by them to be worthless.  Tight government regulation of banks has been in place since the Great Depression and nationalization wouldn’t be that great a step.  There should be no more bailouts and public policy shouldn’t be aimed at maintaining the value of working class debts to the wealthy.

5) Free Medical Care and Expanded Social Security.  Excellent medical care and a comfortable retirement should be available to all.

6) Disarmament.  We should demand that the United States government make a sincere public offer to substantially disarm in return for similar efforts from other countries.  The US, as the biggest military power by far and the global arms merchant, needs to take the lead.  Isn’t it past time we take a real step toward global peace?

These are big ideas but I think the vast majority in this country and the world are ready for something on a grand scale.  We need to aim high.

From → Wealth & Poverty

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