But they’re failing miserably at articulating what it is. Which in democratic politics, is the very essence of effecting change.
Yesterday, the Congressional Budget Office released a report that was commissioned a few years ago that studied where the economic gains of the past three decades have gone. And that report found that the top 1% took the lion’s share of that increased wealth. That the very richest in this country have taken the overwhelming bulk of the economic progress that’s been made in my lifetime is no surprise. The writing has been on the wall for some time now.
It has many reasons. Federal policies that have skewed government benevolence on speculation and financial manipulation, the evisceration of the manufacturing sector in this country, soaring costs in education and healthcare, all of these are factors. But the bottom line that the Occupy Wall Street movement should take note of is that these are all the direct result of either a failure to act, or the government actively promoting policies that have led to this outcome. This wasn’t a fluke. This didn’t come out of nowhere. This is the result of a long process of conservative economists and politicians singing the glories of the ‘free market’ for a long, long time. And all the while, they ignored the obvious consequences as they continued to mount. But the persistent counterargument to these phenomena as they piled up was basically more of the same.
Let the market take care of it. The obsession with the invisible hand and the prowess of the invisible hand at effectively, efficiently and fairly allocating those gains realized by the policies, or lack of policies, is akin to a religion. I’ve long stated that while this country may not have an official state religion, in practice we do. That religion is capitalism.
If Occupy Wall Street wants to effect positive and lasting change that will target the material well being of the 99%, they would do well to point to this report as Exhibit A to illustrate their case. Reforming government policies to assist the middle class in terms of reigning in costs in healthcare and education, bolstering our manufacturing sector (industries that actually produce tangible products, as opposed to the financial industry that just moves piles of money around) and a sensible tax code that fairly captures an equitable and sustainable take of those gains so as to best fund a federal government that is able to help that broad middle part of the country that has been put through an economic meat grinder should be the focus of the Occupiers.
This is an opportunity. Occupy Wall Street would do well to use this as a staring point to articulate a coherent, feasible and realistic strategy to right the wrongs that the past 30 years of free market worship has dumped on the US. Whether or not the Occupiers can give in to that sense of organization, hierarchy and dirty politics that this will inevitably entail remains to be seen. But this is a chance that’s being served up to OWS on a silver platter. Eat it up fellas.