October 10, 2011

The oligarchy exposed

Critics of the Occupy Wall Street movement have asserted that their goals are not clear and they don't have solutions, although it is pretty obvious (as this Tom Tomorrow cartoon says) that economic injustice is their main grievance. But Paul Krugman points out that the hysterical response to the Occupy Wall Street movement is a telling indicator of the fact that the protestors have achieved one major goal: they have put the role of the financial oligarchy in causing the nation's problems in the spotlight and they are squirming and want to shut down the discussion. They much prefer to do their work in the shadows.

The answer, surely, is that Wall Street's Masters of the Universe realize, deep down, how morally indefensible their position is. They're not John Galt; they're not even Steve Jobs. They're people who got rich by peddling complex financial schemes that, far from delivering clear benefits to the American people, helped push us into a crisis whose aftereffects continue to blight the lives of tens of millions of their fellow citizens.

Yet they have paid no price. Their institutions were bailed out by taxpayers, with few strings attached. They continue to benefit from explicit and implicit federal guarantees — basically, they're still in a game of heads they win, tails taxpayers lose. And they benefit from tax loopholes that in many cases have people with multimillion-dollar incomes paying lower rates than middle-class families.

This special treatment can't bear close scrutiny — and therefore, as they see it, there must be no close scrutiny.


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I agree that the oligarchy must be shell shocked and wondering what to do. I wonder though, what eventual the outcome be. Will Obama get booted out? Will a leader emerge from the crowd, get organized and come up with a list of clear positive demands? If so will the administration give into a few less harmless (for the oligarchy)of these demands and hope to pacify the protesters? Will the protesters hope to bring in changes by electing progressive candidates to the Congress and the Senate? Will there be a stalemate? Will they form a third party? Will the protest get violent and eventually peter out? However, this not a matter of mere curious interest. While it will be interesting to see what happens next. It can result in grave, negative consequences. I only hope that the cure will not be worse than the disease. Am I overstating its seriousness?

Posted by Manik on October 10, 2011 10:01 PM

It must be underlined that in the election of 2010, only 40% of eligible voters cast their votes. As the OWS protesters are claiming that the system worked for only the top 1%, they should be asking themselves, where were they on election day in November 2010? Democracy only works with a well-informed population who votes for the best candidate. By not voting, you let the others, a minority of 40% in 2010, decide for the whole country.

Posted by zaybu on October 11, 2011 08:26 AM

While I agree that voting is very important to the whole process, I also think it is naive to say that is the only factor. Specifically, the United State's two party system undermines democratic process by limiting choice and participation. I voted in the last election, but feel neither party reflects my interests in human rights and social justice. To quote Ralph Nader "The only difference between the Republican and Democratic parties is the velocities with which their knees hit the floor when corporations knock on their door. That's the only difference."

Additionally, our current method of casting votes (choose only one candidate), also limits choice. Preferential voting would probably be more equatable and allow change.

Posted by Josh on October 11, 2011 09:44 AM

I agree with Josh regarding Zaybu's comments. Personally, I have felt increasingly disenfranchised in the voting process given the choices the past several years. If memory serves, Ralph Nader was not allowed to participate in one of the presidential debates several years ago. This is a good example of how the current system fails middle- and lower-class Americans.

Posted by Tim on October 11, 2011 11:52 AM

The USA is an antique of the democratic evolution of society and continues to follow several obsolete and even fanciful principles of the past. Among these is the oligarchic or "managed and calibrated" representation method. Among other things, this means that voting is not a right, but a privilege. In the entirely empty argument over "negative" and "positive" rights another peculiar conceit in the US, everyone forgets the fact that voting is neither By its extensive federalism the US encourages a multitude of despotic conclaves, instead of having a set of uniformly progressive laws. For instance the process of elections, involves voter registration laws set by the state and voting processes managed by the individual counties, and constituency formation by the state legislature. These three factors in the context of a two party oligarchy (or is it same wine in both bottles?) plays havoc with law making and legislature formation.

Posted by kuraL on October 11, 2011 04:31 PM