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Forum Post: Robert Reich: Why We Must Occupy Democracy

Posted 11 years ago on Nov. 23, 2011, 2:09 p.m. EST by looselyhuman (3117)
This content is user submitted and not an official statement

You've been seeing this across the country … Americans assaulted, clubbed, dragged, pepper-sprayed … Why? For exercising their right to free speech and assembly - protesting the increasing concentration of income, wealth, and political power at the top.

And what's Washington's response? Nothing. In fact, Congress's so-called "supercommittee" just disbanded because Republicans refuse to raise a penny of taxes on the rich.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court says money is speech and corporations are people. The Supreme Court's Citizens United decision last year ended all limits on political spending. Millions of dollars are being funneled to politicians without a trace.

And a revolving door has developed between official Washington and Wall Street - with bank executives becoming public officials who make rules that benefit the banks before heading back to the Street to make money off the rules they created.

Other top officials, including an increasing proportion of former members of congress, are cashing in by joining lobbying power houses and pressuring their former colleagues to do whatever their clients want.

Millionaires and billionaires on Wall Street and in executive suites aren't contributing all this money out of sheer love of country. Their political spending is analogous to their other investments. Mostly they want low tax rates and friendly regulations.

Why else do you suppose tax rates on the super rich are now lower than they've been in three decades, and why - even though the long-term budget deficit is horrendous - those rates aren't rising? Why else do the 400 richest Americans (whose wealth is larger than the combined wealth of the bottom 150 million Americans) now pay an average tax rate of only 17 percent?

Why do you think Wall Street got bailed without a single string attached - not even being required to help homeowners to whom they sold mortgages, who are now so far under water they're drowning? And why does the financial reform legislation have loopholes big enough for bankers to drive their Ferrari's through?

And why else are oil companies, big agribusinesses, military contractors, and the pharmaceutical industry reaping billions of dollars of government subsidies and special tax breaks?

Experts say the 2012 presidential race is likely to be the priciest ever, costing an estimated $6 billion. "It is far worse than it has ever been," says Republican Senator John McCain.

If there's a single core message to the Occupier movement it's that the increasing concentration of income and wealth at the top endangers our democracy. With money comes political power.

Yet when real people without money assemble to express their dissatisfaction with all this, they're told the First Amendment doesn't apply. Instead, they're treated as public nuisances - clubbed, pepper-sprayed, thrown out of public parks and evicted from public spaces.

Across America, public officials are saying Occupiers have to go. Even in universities - where free speech is supposed to be sacrosanct - peaceful assembly is being met with clubs and pepper spray.

The First Amendment is being stood on its head. Money speaks, and an unlimited amount of it can now be spent bribing and cajoling politicians. Yet peaceful assembly is viewed as a public nuisance and removed by force.

This is especially worrisome now that so many Americans are in economic trouble. The jobs recession grinds on, seemingly without end. Homes are being foreclosed upon. Qualified students cannot afford college. Or they're forced to take on huge debt loads they can't repay in a jobless economy. Schools are firing teachers. Vital social services are being axed.

How are Americans to be heard about what should be done about any of this if they are not allowed to mobilize and organize? When the freedom of speech goes to the highest bidder, moneyed interests have a disproportionate say.

Now more than ever, the First Amendment needs to be put right side up. Nothing less than the future of our democracy is at stake.

-Robert Reich



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[-] 2 points by geierwallstreet (3) from Queens, NY 11 years ago

A plutocratic regime is no democracy.

[-] 2 points by LSN45 (535) 11 years ago

Bravo! I have no problem with people making lots and lots of money - as long as they don't subvert our democracy and disenfranchise the American voter in the process. The influence needs to go back to who the founding fathers intended - the people (some "wealth redistribution" will happen automatically as the rich and powerful are no longer able to twist the laws in their favor).

For the sake our our children and future generations of Americans, we need to take back our democracy from the rich and powerful who are using their vast sums of money to "speak" as if they represent millions of Americans. They are twisting our laws and manipulating our policies in their favor at the expense of the average American. The $50 or $100 a normal American may give to a political campaign becomes meaningless when corporations or other special interests are handing our millions to buy political access to the decision making process. Here's my 2 cents on what we need to do:

For decades now the corporations and special interests have had our "representatives" bought and paid for (both on the right and the left). Don't get distracted by the symptoms - we need to address the root cause. Concentrating our efforts on getting the money out of our politics is the best way we can create an environment in which further reforms can be realized. Until we end the current system of legalized bribery (campaign donations) and paid lobbying our politicians will continue to be the LAP DOGS of the corporations and special interests. What we need first and foremost is real, loop-hole free CAMPAIGN FINANCE REFORM!!!! If the corruption is not dealt with first, the chance of any other meaningful reforms becoming a reality is almost zero - the special interests will just use their money to buy votes and put forward bills that create loop-holes or otherwise twist the law in their favor. If we want our children to live in a country where there vote matters, we need to get the money out of our politics, otherwise they will increasingly become the 21st century version of the "landless peasant." Spread the word - End the LEGALIZED BRIBERY!!! CAMPAIGN FINANCE REFORM needs to be THE main goal of the protests!!!

[-] 2 points by brightonsage (4494) 11 years ago

I applaud and agree with The Professor and with you. The point that seems to be missed by everyone who observes that money is a corrupting influence is that they casually limit the scope of the problem to federal elections.

The problem is just as bad in state and local elections. School board elections are attracting multimillion dollar investments. Initiatives, referenda and recalls are all attracting big money.

What about the money in lobbying? Don't think that special interests are going to evaporate when elections are publicly funded. The promise of future jobs, consulting contracts or product purchases are being used now to influence legislation. Insider trading based on tips from industry, as well as, foreknowledge of pending legislation is yet another dimension. There are obvious conflicts of interest in the Supreme Court (Thomas, Scalia) and in other courts as well.

There must be a comprehensive solution to all of the corruption. It must be wide and deep. Federal elections, sad to say, are only the tip of a very large iceberg.

[-] 1 points by LSN45 (535) 11 years ago

You're absolutely right, spread the word with all that you come into contact with.

[-] 1 points by brightonsage (4494) 11 years ago

Thanks, I'm trying.

[-] 2 points by Jargo (11) 11 years ago

Keep it coming! USA Today said less than 1 in 5 Americans know what Occupy Wall Street is all about. Posts like this help spread the news.

[-] 1 points by debndan (1145) 11 years ago

Hope you don't mind, but I think I'm gonna start printing out your posts and send them to our local papers as letters to the editor.

[-] 1 points by looselyhuman (3117) 11 years ago

Well of course I wouldn't mind, but in this case it's just a copy/paste from RR's blog: http://robertreich.org/ :)


[-] 0 points by raines (699) 11 years ago

Robert Reich, Chancellor's Professor of Public Policy at Berkeley is posting on here?

[+] -5 points by aahpat (1407) 11 years ago

The Democratic Party, that Robert Reich pimps for, is like all establishment political entities they only care about he establishment clause of the First Amendment. Free political speech is anathema to everything that they strive for. Absolute dictatorial control of all political thought.

[+] -5 points by rascal (42) 11 years ago

"Robert Reich pimps for"

I totally agree. He is more a part of the huge economic problems that we face today, than many realize. Learn the difference between Keynesian and the Austrian School of Economics. Robert Reich is a staunch supporter of Keynesian, which continues to inflict a constant stream of debt.