Monday, November 14, 2011

Occupy For What?

While I support the so-called "Occupy" movement's core (though as yet poorly articulated) goal, I don't support their tactics or strategy.  Not just their actual occupations of city properties, whether publicly or privately held, but what they are trying to accomplish.

Why not?  Firstly because 'camping out', while tons of fun in your parents' backyard as a kid, doesn't really communicate much more than determination.  What it says is "Look at the discomfort we're willing to go to in order to keep attention focused on our cause".  All well and good, but the next obvious question is "So what do the decision-makers need to do in order to make you happy enough to go home?"  The answer from the "Occupy Movement" currently seems to be "We don't really know."

The movement's initial momentum is now winding down as the proverbial wind goes out of their sails.  The police and city governments are helping, but as they represent the majority and the "Occupy Movement" has failed to articulate a simple and clear enough message to win over the populace, their removal by the authorities was inevitable.

Right now their occupy tactics are helping to water down their goal.  How?  The longer they camp out, the more legitimate voices they lose to the reality of life (jobs and families) and the more illegitimate voices are attracted to the promise of a nice campsite, food and resources (the homeless).  Street protests like those against the G20 in Toronto in 2010, in this age of instant cellphone communication, face a similar risk of 'hijacking': the moment a bunch of violence loving sociopathic boys with black shirts and ski masks infiltrate a crowd, the original goal of the protest is null and void.

What will be interesting to see is whether the movement dies out, or re-groups and gets serious and effective.  Recall that the 'protest movements' of the 50's, 60's and 70's employed large rallies and marches as tactics, bringing out quantities of voters that politicians found hard to ignore, and their goals were simple and clear:
  • Give women the vote.
  • Racial equality.
  • End US participation in the Vietnam war.
Only when the so-called "Occupy Movement" gets crystal clear about it's demands will it become a real force of change.  Sadly what started as "Occupy Wall Street" with a simple goal: "Make the people who benefited from the mortgage bubble of 2008 pay for the global crisis they instigated" got side-tracked.  What happened seems to be that the financial sector's lobbyists convinced the protesters that it wasn't their sector that were really responsible ("We were just doing our job!"), it was the rich people who hold most of the stock in their firms and steer the government in their best interests.  Oops!  Not so easy to target a bunch of rich people living everywhere in the country and demand they 'share their wealth'!

To be fair, if the government said "OK, you made your point, we're going to raise taxes on the rich back up to a reasonable rate" most of the smart, focused protesters would consider that they'd won a major victory.  The reality is pretty horrifying, as back in 1980 in America the 1% paid 70% income tax, now their rate is 35% and most use loopholes to pay just 17%.  The effect on the US economy is devastating, since the top 1%'s portion of total income in the US has risen from 10% to 20%.  A more than 50% drop in tax revenues on one fifth of all the income in America is clearly going to have a serious effect on the public purse.

The reality is that nothing short of outright revolution is likely to effect any real change in the US, or anywhere else in the world where the rich run things.  (Mexico's Carlos Slim went from being a political sycophant to the richest man in the world by manipulating politics to his advantage -- he and his rich buddies are Mexico's decision-makers, not the politicians or government.)  Everyone who is in control in most of the world is rich, and unless they are forced to change, they're not going to.  And you can trust human nature -- if you were in their shoes, you wouldn't voluntarily share your wealth either!

Denmark's Mysterious Secret to The World's Highest Standard of Living:   

Share the Wealth

There is a simple secret that the few countries with the highest standard of living in the world know and live by.  It is called 'share the wealth'.  The system is very simple: a sliding tax rate through which the poorest pay nothing and the richest pay a lot.

The reality is that once your family has a reliable disposable income of over a few hundred thousand dollars a year, you really don't NEED any more money.  You may want it.  You may really, really LIKE it, but you do not need it.

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