Monday, October 17, 2011

One Month In, Media, Pols Still Don't Get Occupy Wall Street Protests

Flip any TV onto any one of the sixteen gazillion channels of its banal, mindless offerings, and you'll see the one percenters. There'll be one percenters pretending they're cops. There'll be one percenters pretending they're nerds, even if they're the best-looking nerds anyone's ever seen. There'll be one percenters pretending they're sex-crazed suburbanites, all nipped and tucked and botoxed and collagen-injected and personally-trained into that creepy faux-thirty look so prevalent at Republican conventions.

There'll even be one percenters pretending they're journalists.

The mass media, lamestream and otherwise, were of, for, and by one percenters. The mass media's banal, mindless content, lamestream and otherwise, was created by one percenters, green-lighted by boardrooms filled with one percenters, produced by one percenters, and featured photogenic one percenters hawking some other one percenters' goods and services. And, it was all dedicated to generating bottom lines that tickled one percenter fancies.

Most everyone you'd see, or hear, or read about or hear about in the mass media were one percenters. Performers, politicians, and pundits; newsreaders and novelists; even carpenters and cooks were one percenters. Utility infielders for Major League Baseball teams were one percenters.

Little wonder the one percenters' mass media were baffled by the Occupy Wall Street protests that have spread across the nation and the world, and marked their first full month with their biggest demonstrations yet in the capitols of Europe last weekend.

NBC News anchor Lester Holt Sunday acknowledged the Occupy Wall Street movement had galvanized thousands, but wondered, "toward what end?"

"It's not a middle class uprising," one well-heeled bank exec whined to the New York Times. "It's fringe groups. It's people who have time to do this," he said, likely unable to comprehend that 'middle class' didn't mean folks making only five or ten mil a year.

"For the most part, there just doesn't seem to be a coherent message," Tea Party Sen. Pat Toomey (R-FL) derided the movement Monday on Pennsylvania radio station WKOK.

"I am not sure this movement is going to last if it doesn't have some reasonably clear and cogent purpose and message and so far I haven't seen that," Toomey snorted dismissively.

The few 99 percenters anyone ever saw on the one percenters' mass media were usually being subjected to some sort of degrading hazing ritual to win the kind of prizes one percenters understood: money; notoriety; a brand new car!

The few 99 percenters anyone ever saw on the one percenters' mass media were being made to shed weight, or complete humiliating tasks, or sing or dance or otherwise win the approval of one percenters to be granted some cash reward, or a makeover, or, most splendid of all, admission to the ranks of the one percenters themselves.

The only other 99 percenters anyone ever saw on the one percenter's mass media were wearing orange jumpsuits doing perpwalks.

Thus, it was no surprise that Holt and Toomey and Wall Street Financiers were plaintively asking, "What did the Occupiers want?"

Did they want a break on student loans? Did they want a makeover? Did they want a free trip to a Super Bowl party with Deion Sanders and Britney Spears? Did they want a brand new car?

What did Occupiers out in the streets of more than a hundred American cities and in the capitols of Europe demonstrating against economic injustice want? What could scruffy young people and laid-off web designers and grannies on Social Security marching and carrying signs decrying economic injustice possibly desire? What could a global backlash against economic injustice possibly be demanding?

What did the thousands gathered in New York and Tucson and Orlando protesting economic injustice want? What could countless marches and rallies in Phoenix and Sacramento and Richmond and Los Angeles and Chicago and countless other American cities denouncing economic injustice hope to accomplish? What could the massive demonstrations in London and Rome raging against economic injustice possibly have in mind?

A month into the protest, and the one percenters still didn't get it. A month of rallies and marches and demonstrations, and, with all their money, the one percenters still couldn't buy a vowel to get a clue. A month of outrage and exuberance spilling onto the streets of the world, and you still had to go full-on Charlie Sheen to get through: Duh, an end to economic injustice!

The Holts and the Toomeys and the Wall Street tycoons and all the one percenter mass media moguls couldn't imagine that the 99% wanted to stop the one percenters treating the entire planet as a plutocratic one percenter fiefdom. The Holts and the Toomeys and the tycoons and the moguls couldn't get that the 99% were fed up with one percenters preening and pontificating and plundering and pilfering and pillaging and polluting as though hitting the blind-luck, talent-and-brains-and-hard-work-had-nothing-to-do-with-it fame and fortune lottery somehow entitled them to wreck a whole civilization and demean an entire human species and degrade a whole planetary ecosystem so they could wallow in unlimited gold-plated, private jetting, ice sculpture-festooned decadence twenty-four-seven-three-sixty-five-except-in-leap-years-when-it's-three-sixty-six.

The one percenters couldn't rub their brain cells together and figure out the Occupiers didn't give a fig about a makeover, or a Super Bowl party with Deion and Britney, or a brand new car.

The Occupiers and 99% of everyone wanted a world where everyone - everyone, not just one in twenty-seven million with a chance to win - could find meaningful work that was valued and respected, and provided a decent, dignified life, with promise for the future and a chance for their kids to get on, and the chance to put aside a little - a little - for a comfortable retirement. The Occupiers and 99% of everyone wanted a world where everyone could get decent health care, and a decent education, and live in a decent home that wasn't underwater because so many right-wing opportunists in so many rip-off financial services institutions sliced and diced and repackaged so much debt until it all collapsed, then came and demanded mo' money, mo' money, mo' money to do it all over again.

The Occupiers and 99% of everyone wanted a world where all the tax and economic policies and banking and financial rules and regs didn't concentrate 84% of America's wealth into the hands of 20% of the wealthiest. The Occupiers and 99% of everyone wanted a world where all that wealth wasn't concentrated into so few hands, giving the rich free reign to bludgeon everyone and everything with the blunt instrument of lobbyists and lawyers and bought-and-paid-for politicians to make sure the champagne kept flowing and the private jets kept jetting and Deion and Britney kept grinning and grinding in some luxury suite at the Super Bowl.

"Some of them are pretty radical," Toomey complained about Occupiers. To vilify and demean, he said, "You see the occasional sign that says 'Karl Marx was right.'"

"Karl Marx had it right," Nouriel 'Dr. Doom' Roubini, the New York University economist who'd accurately predicted the 2008 financial meltdown recently told the Wall Street Journal. "At some point, capitalism can self-destroy itself. That's because you can't keep on shifting income from labor to capital without not having an excess capacity and a lack of aggregate demand."

If Marx and Roubini were too radical for Toomey, Marriner Eccles, Chair of the Federal Reserve Board from 1932-1948, said:
"A mass production has to be accompanied by mass consumption. Mass consumption, in turn, implies a distribution of wealth....Instead of achieving that kind of distribution, a giant suction pump had by 1929-30 drawn into a few hands an increasing portion of currently produced wealth. This served them as capital accumulations. But, by taking purchasing power out of the hands of mass consumers, the savers denied to themselves the kind of effective demand for their products that would justify a reinvestment of their capital accumulations in new plants."
By the time Eccles stepped down from the Board in 1948, massive government spending on an alphabet soup of Roosevelt Administration stimulus programs and exponentially more massive government spending on thousands of ships, tens of thousands of tanks, hundreds of thousands of aircraft and artillery pieces, millions of trucks and rifles and machine guns and uniforms and boots and shovels and flashlights and bandoliers and bandages during World War II had finally jump-started the greatest economic expansion in history.

The period after World War II saw the greatest growth in middle class prosperity ever. Abroad, the U.S. government funded the rebuilding of Europe and Japan. At home, the U.S. government funded the education of an entire generation of Americans with the G.I. Bill, as well as the building of the Interstate Freeway System, dams, bridges, schools, libraries and even a few rocket ships to the moon.

There was just one little thing about taxes. Throughout that period of unprecedented growth, the top income tax rate never dipped below 70%.

Then, the money moguls and oil barons and corporate tycoons decided taxpayers should stop funding a decent life for the 99%, and start funding a spectacular life for the one percenters. To that end, they promised everyone that slashing taxes for corporations and the rich would make everything much, much, much better.

They didn't mention it would only make things better for themselves, and much, much worse for everyone else.

What the 99% wanted wasn't a makeover, unless it was the making over an entire dysfunctional global economic and financial system that concentrated wealth from the many to the few. What the 99% wanted wasn't a brand new car, unless it was part of a decent life with a good job, and a secure future, and universally accessible health care, and a dignified retirement.

What the 99% wanted was a world remade for the benefit of everyone, not just for the greedy, narcissistic few who gloated over their power and taunted and cheered for the deaths of those who couldn't afford health insurance.

If the one percenters ever figured that out, they could send it gift-wrapped to the 99% at that Super Bowl party with Deion and Britney. If, as was much more likely, the one percenters never figured it out, the 99% would just have to crash that party.

And that was what the 99% wanted.

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