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Published on Sunday, October 30, 2011 by CommonDreams.org

For the Media: The ABCs of Occupy

by Robert Freeman

It would be comical if it weren’t so pathetic, watching the media desperately trying not to understand what the Occupy movement is all about. So, for the aid of the occupationally obtuse bobble-headed bloviators, I’ll spell it out in Braille:

THE SYSTEM ISN’T WORKING!

The economy is rigged so that all of its fruits go to those at the very top. The political system is repulsively corrupt, odious with the stench of dirty money sluicing through it to buy gutter-dwelling politicians and their votes. And the media itself, for all of its pontifical posturing, does nothing to clarify the situation and empower the people. Nor can it.

It is owned by the very corporations that are the source of the breakdown of the American dream. So, it is no surprise that instead of clarifying and empowering it does exactly the opposite: it occludes and mystifies. It prevents accountability and change, and works to divert, divide and pacify tens of millions of people who have had it and hopefully won’t take it any more.

Here’s the simple, three paragraph executive summary of our current economic situation.

Politicians of both parties (though mainly Republicans) ran up trillions of dollars of debt, selling the American people into lifetimes of debt bondage. To cover their tracks, they inflated a massive housing bubble. But laden with exploding debt and illusory wealth, and triggered by massive criminality in the mortgage banking business, the economy collapsed. It was wrecked by big banks pursuing sociopathically greedy profits. Since they control the government, from the president on down, they got the government to cover their losses with $16 trillion of transfers from the Federal Reserve. They, who wrecked the economy, stuck the rest of us—their victims—with the bill to make them whole. Even a Tea-Partier can understand this part.

Now, $8 trillion of middle class wealth has been destroyed even as 77 million Baby Boomers stand on the threshold of retirement. 7 million jobs have been shipped overseas so corporations can make more and more and more profits. They’re sitting on $2 trillion of past profits but that is still not enough. Another $1 trillion is parked in offshore tax havens so they don’t have to pay American taxes on it. The richest 1% want to dismantle Social Security, Medicare, public pensions, and unions so that they can get their hands on the money and remove the last shred of income security that protects people against destitution. Destitute people are docile people, and that is what they want. Their job is almost done and the only thing standing between dignity and destitution for 300 million Americans is Occupy. Consider how close we already are:

One out of eight Americans are on food stamps. 25 million workers cannot find enough work. 50 million people are living in poverty. One out of three children are raised in poverty. 10 million homes have been lost in foreclosure. Another 20 million are underwater on their mortgage. 47 million people have no access to health care. The share of equity that Americans own in their homes is the lowest it’s been since the Great Depression, even as income inequality is the highest it’s been since before the Depression. There’s just not enough money to educate our children but there’s always enough for endless wars. There’s just not enough for a Depression era-type WPA jobs program, but funny thing, there’s always enough for more tax breaks for the rich.

For those Megalomaniacal Media Morons out there who can’t quite manage to “get it,” this is what Occupy is about. Only the willfully ignorant, criminally complicit, and pathologically naive cannot understand this.

As for solutions, I don’t expect the kids in the city squares to come up with them. I am thankful that they have the courage to simply proclaim what everybody who is sane, sober, and honest already knows: that the Social Contract has been broken; that hard work, playing by the rules, and keeping your nose clean does not lead any more to economic security for ourselves and expanding opportunity for our children. It leads to the slaughterhouse, and that is NOT the deal we signed up for.

Real change will take time, certainly years, maybe decades. It will require a substantial re-arrangement of political and economic power. That is up to the rest of us to carry out, and the political avenue is the only one available to most of us. It will require scrupulous attention that we are not suckered again by phony liberals mouthing cheesy slogans about “hope” and “change,” all the while selling the country and its people down the river. We need a genuinely progressive Congress to act as a reliable counterweight to the irretrievably compromised, cowardly President. And every one of you reading this can help further that end.

We need to get to work so that the clarity of this moment and the courage of this movement are not lost. We need to be vigilant against the massive efforts that will be mounted to divide us, one from another. There will be relentless campaigns to divert our attentions and dissipate our energies. There will be a deluge of demonizing, scads of scapegoating, and boatloads of bogus blame. But through all the media’s professional obfuscation, studied amnesia, and cultivated cluelessness, we must remember the truth and the power in these four simple words:

THE SYSTEM ISN’T WORKING!

It is both our political right and our economic imperative to demand that this be changed. It will probably get more violent before it gets less. I hope we can remain peaceful when it does, for I am chastened by John Kennedy’s comment about third-world uprisings at the height of the Cold War: “When peaceful change becomes impossible, violent revolution becomes inevitable.” Let’s hope that we don’t end up there.

On to the fray.

Robert Freeman

Robert Freeman writes on economics, history and education. He teaches history and economics at Los Altos High School in Los Altos, CA. and is the founder of One Dollar For Life, a national non-profit that helps American students build schools in the developing world through contributions of one dollar. He can reached atrobertfreeman10@yahoo.com.


Published on Wednesday, October 12, 2011 by Robert Reich's Blog

The Seven Biggest Economic Lies

by Robert Reich

The President’s Jobs Bill doesn’t have a chance in Congress — and the Occupiers on Wall Street and elsewhere can’t become a national movement for a more equitable society – unless more Americans know the truth about the economy.  

Here’s a short (2 minute 30 second) effort to rebut the seven biggest whoppers now being told by those who want to take America backwards. The major points:

1. Tax cuts for the rich trickle down to everyone else. Baloney. Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush both sliced taxes on the rich and what happened? Most Americans’ wages (measured by the real median wage) began flattening under Reagan and have dropped since George W. Bush. Trickle-down economics is a cruel joke. 

 2. Higher taxes on the rich would hurt the economy and slow job growth. False. From the end of World War II until 1981, the richest Americans faced a top marginal tax rate of 70 percent or above. Under Dwight Eisenhower it was 91 percent. Even after all deductions and credits, the top taxes on the very rich were far higher than they’ve been since. Yet the economy grew faster during those years than it has since. (Don’t believe small businesses would be hurt by a higher marginal tax; fewer than 2 percent of small business owners are in the highest tax bracket.)  

 3. Shrinking government generates more jobs. Wrong again. It means fewer government workers – everyone from teachers, fire fighters, police officers, and social workers at the state and local levels to safety inspectors and military personnel at the federal. And fewer government contractors, who would employ fewer private-sector workers. According to Moody’s economist Mark Zandi (a campaign advisor to John McCain), the $61 billion in spending cuts proposed by the House GOP will cost the economy 700,000 jobs this year and next.

 4. Cutting the budget deficit now is more important than boosting the economy. Untrue. With so many Americans out of work, budget cuts now will shrink the economy. They’ll increase unemployment and reduce tax revenues. That will worsen the ratio of the debt to the total economy. The first priority must be getting jobs and growth back by boosting the economy. Only then, when jobs and growth are returning vigorously, should we turn to cutting the deficit.

 5. Medicare and Medicaid are the major drivers of budget deficits. Wrong. Medicare and Medicaid spending is rising quickly, to be sure. But that’s because the nation’s health-care costs are rising so fast. One of the best ways of slowing these costs is to use Medicare and Medicaid’s bargaining power over drug companies and hospitals to reduce costs, and to move from a fee-for-service system to a fee-for-healthy outcomes system. And since Medicare has far lower administrative costs than private health insurers, we should make Medicare available to everyone.

 6. Social Security is a Ponzi scheme. Don’t believe it. Social Security is solvent for the next 26 years. It could be solvent for the next century if we raised the ceiling on income subject to the Social Security payroll tax. That ceiling is now $106,800.  

 7. It’s unfair that lower-income Americans don’t pay income tax. Wrong. There’s nothing unfair about it. Lower-income Americans pay out a larger share of their paychecks in payroll taxes, sales taxes, user fees, and tolls than everyone else.

Demagogues through history have known that big lies, repeated often enough,  start being believed — unless they’re rebutted. These seven economic whoppers are just plain wrong. Make sure you know the truth – and spread it on.

2011 Robert Reich

Robert Reich is Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley. He has served in three national administrations, most recently as secretary of labor under President Bill Clinton. He has written twelve books, including The Work of Nations, Locked in the Cabinet, and his most recent book, Supercapitalism. His "Marketplace" commentaries can be found on publicradio.com and iTunes.


Tiger's Den changes at unpredictable intervals.

A remarkable collection of poems by the late Tim Hahn,
Wight: The Inmost Listener,
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Wait! There's more!

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December, 2000

My first volume of poetry, entitled Indigo Avenue,
is available online at
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November, 2002

My second volume of poetry, TigerTale, is now available
at
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No trees were injured in the creation of this web site, but a large number of electrons were terribly inconvenienced.