Occupying the Message

As one of the few journalists who will fight through the police barricades to see what is really going on, Amy Goodman gives us indispensable reporting from Liberty Plaza. Her column is in stark contrast to Brian Williams reporting on the eviction from the park.
Goodman and Ted Rall indirectly illustrate and crystalize a point I have been trying to make about all the calls for the Occupy movement to have an “agenda.” To have an agenda would mean that you thought it was possible to work within the system. And the movement’s message is simply that the system is dysfunctional and broken, and cannot be worked within. So what would be the point of proposing specific legislative ideas? It would simply play into the hands of those who want to tamp down the movement. The powers would say, sure, we’ll consider that, try to send people home, and lose the legislative ideas in committee.Our government and congress has become utterly dysfunctional and unable to accomplish anything. The idea they could consider or get their minds around a specific “agenda” in the current climate is laughable. They haven’t compromised on anything or worked together for anything to help the American people. I know some try to point to Obama’s health care bill as one of the great compromises, and I remind again that not a single Republican voted for it, and from the day it passed they have been dedicated to repealing it. If that is bipartisan compromise, I want no part of it.
The only thing Congress has agreed on recently is to revoke new rules for healthy school lunches in the country. They have decided, under pressure from the food company lobbies, that the profits of the corporations are more important than the health of our children, so frozen pizzas will continue to be served as school lunches and tomato paste will continue to be considered a vegetable. And that is about the extent of what our political system is currently able to produce. So if you want an agenda, it is start having government for the people again. And that isn’t happening under our current system.
I think the people who want an agenda so desperately fall into two camps. One, those who can’t get their heads around what the movement is about and so need something specific in a form they are used to in order to understand it. And two, those who simply can’t believe the system is so broken that the kind of agenda they are hoping for is simply beside the point, for it can’t happen under the dysfunctional politics we currently have. Yet it is that bad. The great Bill Moyers summed up the movement in one line better than anyone else in a recent speech celebrating the 40th anniversary of the great watchdog group Public Citizen: “America has occupied Wall Street because Wall Street has occupied America.” His speech is absolutely worth your 20 minutes, and can be seen . You can read the text many places on the web including here. Jim, in the past you have said you like Moyers but that he has an agenda that you somehow distrust. I asked what that was and don’t think you ever expanded on it.

The system needs to be rebooted, renewed, call it what you will. It needs to be retaken by the people and have the corporate money and power removed. A senator who wants to be reelected knows every morning when he wakes up that that day he has to raise $20,000–every day of his six year term–to have any chance to be reelected. How is he supposed to have time to govern? And as we have shown many times in this blog, all of the gains in income in the last generation have gone to the top one percent. We have become a plutocracy, and nothing will change until that changes. If it ever does, we can get to specifics of legislative and policy change. It’s fine to talk about those things now, and to pretend they are possible in our current politics is almost beyond tilting at windmills. And since you brought up some specifics, I will take exception with just one as an example. You characterize the liberal position as wanting to gum up capitalism. In past posts I have made the case with specifics, giving links and facts and evidence, that regulations actually create jobs, improve the public health, and are good for capitalism. If that is gumming up the works, then so be it. But your use of the phrase sounds like a Rush Limbaugh talking point. It is too simplistic to say one side wants more government bureaucracy. We want better government! Simply adding bureaucracy isn’t the answer; good government with good regulations that protect the commons, the public health, and that create equal opportunities for people and business is what we want. That will only happen with government of, by and for the people. Right now we have government of, by, and for the corporations, and yes, the things they want will gum things up for the people.
Currently our congress is voting to extend massive subsidies for fossil fuels. I’d say that is gumming up the works and making it harder for renewable energy to take hold (though it is doing so anyway, with some government help and in some ways in spite of the government). The fossil fuel industry provides a lot of money to our politicians. Until the money is taken out of politics we can tilt at windmills all we want, but nothing will change. Occupy has a chance to actually change things. Perhaps a small chance, but a chance. I think it is clear that the Keystone pipeline decision would not have been delayed without the Occupy movement, and they have succeeded in getting the mainstream media to change the discussion from budget deficits to jobs (and that is no small feat). There is a nice history at Alternet of similar past movements and how they played out.
Today the movement regroups and grows, and continues its fight to take the government back from the plutocrats.

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About JP

We're two guys who met in college, in 1980. We've stayed in touch, and like to talk politics, current events, music and religion. JP is nore liberal than Sid, but not in every way. We figure that dialogue stimulates ideas, moderates perspective, and is in general friendly. These are things we need badly in these dangerous times. The blog name is taken from a song by Bruce Cockburn.
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