I have been thinking a lot about the Occupy Movement and its potential to move the larger political debate lately, but I have been having a difficult time crystallizing those thoughts into a form coherent enough to write down (and whether I have managed to do so here is an open question). A couple of recent posts here at Fair and Unbalanced have helped me out. First, there was the excellent testimony of Robert Borosage at the Congressional Progressive Caucus's hearing on jobs. He lays out the problems we face, why the ideas coming out of the Super Committee are bad, and what we need to do. His main proposal is the passage of the People's Budget, something I have talked about before (but which, lets face it, is not going to happen). Then there was this morning's post by lovechilde on the Occupy Movement at two months.
I think that the problems that lovechilde talks about are very real. I live in Oakland and have been involved in and listening to conversations about the Occupy Movement since it began, and particularly since the first, violent eviction of the occupiers in Oakland. Some of those conversations have been with people who are sympathetic to the movement but put off by the tactics, not only the violence of the very small number of idiots but also the negative impact on small business and the cost to a city that is already in a dire financial situation. One of the things I found particularly interesting was the different take that the members of two local list-serves have on the movement. One, a neighborhood list which is mostly focused on crime prevention and neighborhood watch in one of the more affluent neighborhoods in Oakland, mostly anti-Occupy. The posts ranged from sympathy for ends but dislike of means to full on Fox crazy talk of, I kid you not, Bolshevik revolution. The other is an Oakland Public School Parents list where there is almost universal approval of the movement (with a few concerns expressed about tactics) especially because of its support for those fighting the proposed closure of five Oakland Elementary Schools.
One of the things that I found most troubling, and that I think emphasizes the challenges the movement faces and that lovechilde discussed, is that even those who were sufficiently well informed to know that the violence comes from a very small minority, and that the majority had attempted to stop it, were still dismissive of the movement in large part because of that. Another significant source of opposition was the perceived (though there is disagreement about that even among business owners) harm that the movement was doing to small business in a city that is desperate to increase business and investment.
As lovechilde said the Occupy Movement will need to evolve if it is going to continue to have broad appeal and an effect on what happens in this country. The fact that this is on the mainstream media radar is, I think, a good sign and I think that Occupy can and will continue to be a force. The problem is that we are quickly running out of time. The Super Committee deadline is fast approaching and there is every sign that democrats are preparing to surrender once again. I assume that anyone who has been awake for the Obama Presidency needs no explanation of why that is entirely likely, but if you do you can look here or here.
This is all going to happen very soon, like this week, and it is not clear that the Occupy Movement can have much more impact on the immediate process than it already has. There are however, two points that the movement, and progressives in general, can focus on.
First, there can be no deal that does not include significant increases in tax revenues focused on increasing the taxes on the wealthiest, especially those who destroyed the economy. It seems clear that the Republicans are not going to accept anything close to a fair deal on revenues and that leads to point two: Do Nothing.
As E.J. Dionne, among others, have recently argued, the best outcome might be to do nothing. While the automatic across the board cuts would be bad, they are probably no worse than what a super committee deal that Republicans would endorse. Moreover, inaction would lead to the end of the Bush tax cuts. This would, all told, reduce the deficit by $7.1 trillion over ten years. In addition, a recent CNN poll indicates that the Republicans would get the blame:
The poll indicates that 42% say they would blame the Republicans in Congress, with 32% blaming the Democrats, and another one in five volunteering that they would hold both parties equally responsible.The danger is that one Democratic defection on the Super Committee, if it leads to something a Republican House would pass, would mean the Democrats would have to block the deal in the Senate, which would likely change the public opinion picture. That is why it is so important to focus on the idea that no deal is better than a bad deal and to avoid Republican traps, like the proposal to leave the details of tax increases for later (we know how that will work out).
By inserting into the debate the issues of income inequality and the responsibility of the rich, especially those in the financial industry (who by the way are, unlike anarchists, free to loot and pillage without fear of retribution), for our current financial difficulties the Occupy Movement has created at least the possibility that Democrats will not fold this time. And then maybe we can talk about this country's urgent and immediate problem: Jobs.