Posted 10 years ago on Dec. 17, 2011, 8:02 a.m. EST by arealpolitik
This content is user submitted and not an official statement
Back in October, I joined the active ranks of Occupy protesters, picketing in front of Great Barrington's town hall. The movement was new and brimming over with potential. I fashioned a homemade sign: "$pe¢ial Intere$t$ have no pla¢e in democracy!" As the months have gone on, I've stopped attending weekly gatherings, more a function of my poor health and the volume of my studies than of waning interest.
But, I am still very much a demonstrator in spirit. I've made an effort to stay up-to-date as events have unfolded from Oakland, CA to Moscow. The Occupiers have had immense success in facilitating a switch to credit unions en masse and changing the national dialogue so it is primarily about fashioning an equitable society, not about indiscriminate fiscal austerity. Now that the initiation stage of the Occupy Wall Street movement is over, many people feel the need to move toward a more defined set of goals and proposals.
On Twitter, @OccupyIdeas is harnessing the collective brainpower of concerned intellectuals. You can add your own idea to the mix using the hashtag #ConcreteIdeas. So, this article is comprised of a few of mine. How can we create a strong economy that works for everyone? I hope you'll consider these potential solutions and add a few of your own in the comments or on Twitter (the web hub of the Occupy movement).
- Get tough on corporations.
Corporations have a huge influence that permeates almost every segment of our politics, corrupting the system and impeding progress. Overturning Citizens United, the Supreme Court decision that let corporations spend unlimited amounts on campaigns, would be a good first step to clean up Washington. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has already proposed an amendment to the Constitution that would do so. The major issue with corporate personhood (which enables companies to exercise their right to free "speech" to begin with) is that a corporate entity cannot be jailed for its offenses like a living, breathing person can. How about legislation enabling confiscation of 50% of a firm's annual revenue or total assets (whichever is higher) as a toothy punishment for not abiding by the rule of law? Maybe then large conglomerates would think twice about fouling the air, cooking books, and maintaining unsafe working conditions to pad their profit margins. The sticky point with cracking down on corporate misconduct is always the claim that it would hurt small businesses. It doesn't have to. We can pass much-needed increases in regulation and oversight of multinational corporations while simultaneously creating legislation to alleviate the regulatory burden on local businesses, making it easier for them to create jobs.
- Reform the tax code.
Call it a six step plan. Step one in crafting a fair system of taxation is zeroing out all loopholes, industry subsidies, and credits of the sort that allowed General Electric to pay $0 in taxes. Step two is equalizing the brackets for capital gains and income taxes so that people pay the same rate on money earned in a stock trade as they do on money earned doing real labor. Step three is letting the Bush tax cuts expire to the tune of massive long-term savings. Step four is lifting the payroll tax cap. Step five is placing a tax on companies that ship American jobs overseas. Step six is creating a few more brackets with higher rates, thereby increasing revenue and making the system of taxation more progressive and more similar to how it was in the prosperous post-WWII years.
- Address the problem of poverty.
There are more people living in poverty now than at any other point in US history. Social mobility has markedly decreased since the 1980s. How to remedy these vexing problems? One part of the solution is fully funding and improving the efficacy of our education system so that it is better able to give children a one-way ticket out of poverty. Another is increasing the availability of affordable housing. However, the number one thing that can be done in my estimation is to increase the minimum wage to the point where two full-time minimum wage incomes are sufficient to keep a family of four comfortably above the poverty line. The minimum wage needs then to be tied to the cost-of-living index so that working class Americans will not be the victims of future Congressional impasses. Finally, the wages of every member of Congress should be the same as the median household income in America. That way, lawmakers have a direct incentive to increase prosperity and ensure that any rising tides will lift all boats.
Agree? Disagree? Qualify?
Did I leave something major out?
Please let me know your thoughts, and thanks for reading this latest musing.