Monday ReadsPosted: November 7, 2011 Filed under: #Occupy and We are the 99 percent!, abortion rights, Banksters, Environment, morning reads, religious extremists, Reproductive Health, Violence against women, We are so F'd, Women's Rights | Tags: Financial Crisis, Herman Cain, Keystone Pipe Line, Occupy, Protests, sexual abuse, Sexual assault of Journalists 45 Comments
It hardly seems possible that the first week of November has passed already. There seems to be a lot of unhappiness and unrest around the world right now. Ordinary people are continuing to express their discontent with their governments who ignore the rights of the many to support the wealth of the few.
Jineth Bedoya Lima is a Colombian journalist who is trying to use her own abuse as a way to end sexual assault of women’s journalists. She also wants to highlight the inaction of Colombia in pursing cases for women that have been brutalized.
As a journalist who was kidnapped, tortured, and violently gang-raped 11 years ago, when she was 26, Bedoya had finally gotten the chance she’d been waiting for, one that most women who’ve endured what she has will never get. After 11 years of her case lying motionless at Colombia’s attorney general’s office, she has the prospect of seeing some justice at the international level.
During a morning visit to Bogota’s maximum-security La Modelo prison in May 2000, as part of a newspaper investigation into alleged arms trafficking involving state officials and members of the right-wing paramilitary group United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC), she was grabbed, drugged, and driven hours away. Three men repeatedly raped her and left her bound in a garbage dump at the side of a road, where a taxi driver discovered her that evening.
Later Bedoya told the news media how her kidnappers had gripped her hair and told her to “pay attention” as they tortured her. “We are sending a message to the press in Colombia,” they said.
After so many years of waiting on the Colombian justice system to investigate her attack, Bedoya is in D.C. to advance her case at the Inter-American Commission. The Pan-American human rights body will take up a case when all options have been exhausted on the country level or when a country has failed to bring justice in a reasonable amount of time. Bedoya and her lawyers appear to have banked and won on the latter.
All the inaction has taken its toll. When I asked after the hearing whether the look she’s had on her face all morning is anger, Bedoya answered quickly: “No, what you see is an expression of deep pain.”
Support for Republican Herman Cain has waned since the public discovery of settlements for sexual harassment. The polls indicate a definite gender gap. Women are well aware of how prevalent sexual harassment is and they are also aware of Cain’s evolving explanations.
The poll showed the percentage of Republicans who view Cain favorably dropped 9 percentage points, to 57 percent from 66 percent a week ago.
Among all registered voters, Cain’s favorability declined 5 percentage points, to 32 percent from 37 percent.
The survey represents the first evidence that sexual harassment claims dating from Cain’s time as head of the National Restaurant Association have taken a toll on his presidential campaign.
A majority of respondents, 53 percent, believe sexual harassment allegations against Cain are true despite his denials. Republicans were less likely to believe they are true, with 39 percent thinking they are accurate.
“The most striking thing is that Herman Cain is actually seeing a fairly substantial decline in favorability ratings toward him particularly among Republicans,” said Ipsos pollster Chris Jackson.
A major story on sexual predation broke over the weekend. Two Penn State officials have been charged with covering up sexual abuse allegations against a coach.
In a development that strikes very close to Joe Paterno’s storied football program, Pennsylvania State University athletic director Tim Curley and another university official were charged Saturday with perjury related to a child sexual abuse investigation of longtime Nittany Lions assistant coach Jerry Sandusky.
The Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office said Curley, 57, and Gary Schultz, 62, Penn State’s senior vice president for finance and business, also were charged with failure to report, a summary offense. The perjury count is a third-degree felony punishable by up to seven years in prison and a $15,000 fine.
The protest was organized by the Natural Resources Defence Council, a U.S. environmental group. Spokeswoman Susan Casey-Lefkowitz told CBC News many Americans are concerned with the potential environmental impact of the pipeline.
“Tarsands expansion, climate change and particularly this pipeline is a major concern for many, many Americans,” she said, “and the numbers are growing every day.
“You know, for the president, it’s about making sure he holds true to the promises he made to fight climate change,” she said. “And to the other candidates, it’s about calling them out when they act like climate change is not real, which of course it is.”
Mississippi votes tomorrow to enact or reject a radical definition of human ‘life’. Every one interested in the health of women will be watching the southern state that’s best know for being at the bottom of every list of good things in the country. Colorado has voted on a similar initiative but it was rejected by voters.
Opponents said the definition is too broad and, in addition to outlawing abortion, could have effects on in vitro fertilization and birth control methods.
Stan Flint, a consultant for Mississippians for Healthy Families — a group that opposes the measure — said the group has tried to educate voters that they can be against abortion and vote against the initiative.
“Hopefully, everyone in Mississippi will understand this is a dangerously flawed vehicle,” Flint said. “It’s an extreme government intrusion.”
Here’s a really disturbing video from Occupy Oakland of some one being shot at by a rubber bullet by riot police while filming them. Kind’ve makes you wonder about which countries are police states, doesn’t it?
Barry Ritholz continues to make certain that the causes of the financial crisis can’t be white washed by politicians seeking political donations from Wall Street. He writes on the “big lie” at WAPO.
Why are people trying to rewrite the history of the crisis? Some are simply trying to save face. Interest groups who advocate for deregulation of the finance sector would prefer that deregulation not receive any blame for the crisis.
Some stand to profit from the status quo: Banks present a systemic risk to the economy, and reducing that risk by lowering their leverage and increasing capital requirements also lowers profitability. Others are hired guns, doing the bidding of bosses on Wall Street.
They all suffer cognitive dissonance — the intellectual crisis that occurs when a failed belief system or philosophy is confronted with proof of its implausibility.
Be sure to check the list that follows this quote. He has a really good step by step explanation of how Allan Greenspan’s low interest rates led to banks looking for high profits in all the wrong places. They have no one to blame but themselves. So, why are people like Mayor Bloomberg the blaming poor home owners?
So, that will get us started this morning. What’s on your reading and blogging list?
Monday Morning ReadsPosted: October 10, 2011 Filed under: Global Financial Crisis, Marriage Equality, morning reads, Surreality, U.S. Military, U.S. Politics, unemployment, Women's Rights | Tags: Anita Hill, Crackerbox Palace, DOMA, George Harrison, Indigenous People's Day, National Coming Out Day, Native American Day, Occupy, Paul Krugman, plutocracy, Subprime mortgage crisis and the CRA, Taxes and poor people, technology, the Great Depression 25 Comments
and Happy Native Americans’ Day!
The second Monday of October annually marks Columbus Day in many parts the United States but not all states or region follow this observance. Instead, they celebrate other events on the day. For example, South Dakota’s official holiday on this date is Native Americans’ Day (also known as Native American Day), while people in Berkeley, California, celebrate Indigenous People’s Day.
I think it’s a great idea to switch the current federal holiday out to a celebration of indigenous cultures or maybe find a better thing to celebrate!
BTW, National Coming Out Day is Tomorrow. That’s something to remember as you read that Speaker Boehner is threatening to withold funds from the Justice Department if that don’t vigorously enforce DOMA. There he goes again!!! The Republican Jobs Agenda is just always topmost on the priority list.
“We’re going to take the money away from the Justice Department, who’s supposed to enforce it, and we’ll use it to enforce the law,” Boehner told the conservative Value Voters Summit.
Boehner is engaged in an ongoing dispute with Attorney General Eric Holder over his refusal to defend in court the Defense of Marriage Act. President Obama has taken the stance that the law is unconstitutional. While the Justice Department usually defends laws passed by Congress against legal challenges, the Obama administration has stopped defending DOMA while Democrats work to repeal the law.
In March, Boehner announced that if Obama wouldn’t defend DOMA, he would, hiring a private law firm to defend it on behalf of the House.
“As the Speaker of the House, I have a constitutional responsibility. I’ve raised my hand to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States and the laws of our country,” Boehner said Friday.
You know, he’s all about saving those taxpayer dollars too. True Story.
Here’s a movement I want to join if this California Republican Nutter would only give me the location where they’re taking on volunteers. And yes, it’s a REAL tweet.
@RepJackKimble After Value Voters I am more convinced than ever about the radical atheist agenda to secularize Columbus Day
Okay, I’d like to use the next bit of space to clear up a few right wing memes with actual research. I know, you’re shocked, it’s so unlike me to do so. First, while Fannie and Freddie exacerbated the meltdown and behaved as irresponsibly as any Wall Streeter, there is absolutely no connection between the meltdown and the Community Reinvestment Act. I have never been able to figure out how folks jumped the shark to make this connection, but it happened. I’ll give you the bottom line from the abstract but if you want to chase after the econometrics, feel free to follow the link.
In this paper we examine more directly whether these programs were associated with worse outcomes in the mortgage market, including delinquency rates and measures of loan quality.
We rely on two empirical approaches. In the first approach, which focuses on the CRA, we conjecture that historical legacies create significant variations in the lenders that serve otherwise comparable neighborhoods. Because not all lenders are subject to the CRA, this creates a quasi-natural experiment of the CRA’s effect. We test this conjecture by examining whether neighborhoods that have been disproportionally served by CRA-covered institutions historically experienced worse outcomes. The second approach takes advantage of the fact that both the CRA and GSE goals rely on clearly defined geographic areas to determine which loans are favored by the regulations. Using a regression discontinuity approach, our tests compare the marginal areas just above and below the thresholds that define eligibility, where any effect of the CRA or GSE goals should be clearest.
We find little evidence that either the CRA or the GSE goals played a significant role in the subprime crisis. Our lender tests indicate that areas disproportionately served by lenders covered by the CRA experienced lower delinquency rates and less risky lending. Similarly, the threshold tests show no evidence that either program had a significantly negative effect on outcomes.
Okay, one more meme to shoot down. You know how all those Republican presidential wannabes are trotting around saying about half of Americans don’t pay taxes and the rich are still burdened? I’ve shot down some of that argument before, but here’s some further details. I’m quoting from the executive summary and not the study itself. Again, you can go into the methodology if you want here.
A recent finding by Congress’ Joint Committee on Taxation that 51 percent of households owed no federal income tax in 2009  is being used to advance the argument that low- and moderate-income families do not pay sufficient taxes. Apart from the fact that most of those who make this argument also call for maintaining or increasing all of the tax cuts of recent years for people at the top of the income scale, the 51 percent figure, its significance, and its policy implications are widely misunderstood.
- The 51 percent figure is an anomaly that reflects the unique circumstances of 2009, when the recession greatly swelled the number of Americans with low incomes and when temporary tax cuts created by the 2009 Recovery Act — including the “Making Work Pay” tax credit and an exclusion from tax of the first $2,400 in unemployment benefits — were in effect. Together, these developments removed millions of Americans from the federal income tax rolls. Both of these temporary tax measures have since expired.
In a more typical year, 35 percent to 40 percent of households owe no federal income tax. In 2007, the figure was 37.9 percent. 
- The 51 percent figure covers only the federal income tax and ignores the substantial amounts of other federal taxes — especially the payroll tax — that many of these households pay . As a result, it greatly overstates the share of households that do not pay any federal taxes. Data from the Urban Institute-Brookings Tax Policy Center show only about 14 percent of households paid neither federal income tax nor payroll tax in 2009, despite the high unemployment and temporary tax cuts that marked that year.
- This percentage would be even lower if federal excise taxes on gasoline and other items were taken into account.
- Most of the people who pay neither federal income tax nor payroll taxes are low-income people who are elderly, unable to work due to a serious disability, or students, most of whom subsequently become taxpayers. (In a year like 2009, this group also includes a significant number of people who have been unemployed the entire year and cannot find work.)
- Moreover, low-income households as a whole do, in fact, pay federal taxes. Congressional Budget Office data show that the poorest fifth of households as a group paid an average of 4 percent of their incomes in federal taxes in 2007 (the latest year for which these data are available), not an insignificant amount given how modest these households’ incomes are — the poorest fifth of households had average income of $18,400 in 2007.  The next-to-the bottom fifth — those with incomes between $20,500 and $34,300 in 2007 — paid an average of 10 percent of their incomes in federal taxes.
- Even these figures understate low-income households’ total tax burden, because these households also pay substantial state and local taxes. Data from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy show that the poorest fifth of households paid a stunning 12.3 percent of their incomes in state and local taxes in 2010.
- When all federal, state, and local taxes are taken into account,the bottom fifth of households paid 16.3 percent of their incomes in taxes, on average, in 2010. The second-poorest fifth paid 20.7 percent. 
I know it’s statistics heavy, but some times that’s the best way to see what is actually going on. Right wing memes seem to thrive on taking things completely out of context and this one about tax dodging poor people is a doozy. See exactly how many taxes that get paid that weren’t counted in that famous figure which is an anomaly as it is.
Here’s an interesting article at NYT by David Leonhardt on how today’s economy makes the Great Depression look like the halcyon days.
Still, the reasons for concern today are serious. Even before the financial crisis began, the American economy was not healthy. Job growth was so weak during the economic expansion from 2001 to 2007 that employment failed to keep pace with the growing population, and the share of working adults declined. For the average person with a job, income growth barely exceeded inflation.
The closest thing to a unified explanation for these problems is a mirror image of what made the 1930s so important. Then, the United States was vastly increasing its productive capacity, as Mr. Field argued in his recent book, “A Great Leap Forward.” Partly because the Depression was eliminating inefficiencies but mostly because of the emergence of new technologies, the economy was adding muscle and shedding fat. Those changes, combined with the vast industrialization for World War II, made possible the postwar boom.
In recent years, on the other hand, the economy has not done an especially good job of building its productive capacity. Yes, innovations like the iPad and Twitter have altered daily life. And, yes, companies have figured out how to produce just as many goods and services with fewer workers. But the country has not developed any major new industries that employ large and growing numbers of workers.
There is no contemporary version of the 1870s railroads, the 1920s auto industry or even the 1990s Internet sector. Total economic output over the last decade, as measured by the gross domestic product, has grown more slowly than in any 10-year period during the 1950s, ’60s, ’70s, ’80s or ’90s.
Perhaps the most important reason, beyond the financial crisis, is the overall skill level of the work force. The United States is the only rich country in the world that has not substantially increased the share of young adults with the equivalent of a bachelor’s degree over the past three decades. Some less technical measures of human capital, like the percentage of children living with two parents, have deteriorated. The country has also chosen not to welcome many scientists and entrepreneurs who would like to move here.
I’m still of the opinion that we should hand out citizenship to any of our highly skill foreign students and do everything we can to keep them here. I have a feeling I’m in the minority on that opinion, however.
If you want to do some time tripping to a really upsetting period of history for women, here’s The Nation on The Legacy of Anita Hill. We’re now stuck with this total jerk on SCOTUS because of people like Joe Biden. I’ll never forget one of those senators that let Clarence Thomas get away with it. They hid the women that could verify her stories and put her squarely in the worst position possible. She handled it with dignity and we all lost.
Anita Hill remains an icon to whom subsequent generations are rightfully indebted. At the same time, she has not remained trapped by her own symbolism or frozen in time. It is sometimes forgotten that she is a respected scholar of contract jurisprudence, commercial law and education policy. She is a prolific author, publishing numerous law review articles, essays, editorials and books. Today, Hill is a professor of social policy, law and women’s studies at Brandeis University. Much of her most recent research has been on the housing market, and her most recent book, published this month, is Reimagining Equality: Stories of Gender, Race, and Finding Home.
It is ironic that the full substance of Hill’s remarkable intellectual presence remains so overshadowed by those fleeting, if powerful, moments of her Senate testimony. If the larger accomplishments of her life aren’t quite as iconic as that confrontation with Clarence Thomas, they nonetheless merit attention by feminists and scholars alike. To begin with, Hill is a remarkably elegant and accessible writer. For those who wish to apprehend the gravitas of her intelligence and dignity, Reimagining Equality would be a good place to start.
Krugman gets the Occupy protestors and has some delightful comments up on the Panic of the Plutocrats. He eloquently lays out the hype coming from the Cantors and the Bloombergs as well as CNBC and Fox that paints every one upset with their behavior as Leninist. The descriptions are a hoot but here’s the meat.
The way to understand all of this is to realize that it’s part of a broader syndrome, in which wealthy Americans who benefit hugely from a system rigged in their favor react with hysteria to anyone who points out just how rigged the system is.
Last year, you may recall, a number of financial-industry barons went wild over very mild criticism from President Obama. They denounced Mr. Obama as being almost a socialist for endorsing the so-called Volcker rule, which would simply prohibit banks backed by federal guarantees from engaging in risky speculation. And as for their reaction to proposals to close a loophole that lets some of them pay remarkably low taxes — well, Stephen Schwarzman, chairman of the Blackstone Group, compared it to Hitler’s invasion of Poland.
And then there’s the campaign of character assassination against Elizabeth Warren, the financial reformer now running for the Senate in Massachusetts. Not long ago a YouTube video of Ms. Warren making an eloquent, down-to-earth case for taxes on the rich went viral. Nothing about what she said was radical — it was no more than a modern riff on Oliver Wendell Holmes’s famous dictum that “Taxes are what we pay for civilized society.”
I have one more offering that is just for pure delight. It’s a short bit from the daughter of George Harrison’s Business Manager on what it was like to run the halls of crackerbox palace as a child.
Harrison’s wife, Olivia, always took good care of us and, like her husband, had a gentle, calming disposition. I loved going up the great gothic staircase in the living room to the recording studio on the first floor. I was fascinated by the recording console and the selection of instruments. Sometimes, Harrison would play new music for us and ask for our feedback.
Adjacent to the recording studio was a room with gold records and awards and an Oscar statuette. I remember the exhilarating sensation I got picking up the Oscar earned for “Let It Be” and feeling it weigh down my hand.
When it got late, and Dad was still in meetings, we would go to bed in one of the guest rooms down the hall from the studio with sounds of Harrison’s sitar lulling us to sleep.
You can see I’m full throttle academic today. What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
Tuesday Reads: Occupy Boston, Occupy Wall Street, and a Modern Day Whisky RebellionPosted: October 4, 2011 Filed under: Economy, morning reads, U.S. Economy, U.S. Politics | Tags: American Revolution, Boston Tea Party, civil liberties, NYPD, Occupy, Occupy Los Angeles, occupy Wall Street, Whiskey Rebellion 35 Comments
Good Morning!! Today I want to focus on articles about Occupy Wall Street protests, which despite the critiques of those on both the right and left, are still going on in NYC and many other U.S. cities, including Boston, I’m happy to say. The Boston Phoenix has a blog to document the protests. On September 28, Chris Faraone wrote:
At this early juncture it’s already safe to say that Occupy Wall Street has succeeded. I’m not being sarcastic. Yesterday I wrote about the media storm that’s showered their protests from early on, and that’s rained down even harder since the New York Police Department began brutalizing demonstrators. And after last night’s Occupy Boston meeting on the Common, I’m convinced that the hordes have achieved something even greater than attracting press: regardless of what they actually accomplish in the end, Occupy has already become the hottest protest franchise since the Tea Party. Which is why it makes sense that contrarian Boston is emerging as the first city to strike while the brand is hot.
Last night’s kickoff meeting was at least a testament to the popularity of this movement. People have been angry for some time, but for many it was Occupy that motivated them – not the countless other protests that take place every week around here. Roughly 300 showed –with a significant number of reporters on the scene documenting –despite the event having been announced less than a day ahead of time, and almost exclusively through social media (Steve Annear, who you should follow on Twitter if you’re keeping tabs on the actions, also broke the story in the Metro). By a show of hands, a few dozen folks on the Common got their feet wet in Liberty Square during the first stretch of Occupy Wall Street. But for the most part, these were people – mostly young, but overall from a mix of backgrounds, ages, and ethnicities – who’d become interested by what they’d seen online and in the news.
The Guardian even published an article about the Boston organization:
There were socialists, anti-poverty campaigners, students, anarchists, computer hackers, the unemployed, and workers ranging from a vet to an accountant.
And, numbering around 200 and meeting to plot until late in the night, a group of Bostonians have decided to recreate the anti-Wall Street protests that are gripping New York.
Unlike previous attempts, such as a march that fizzled out in Chicago with just 20 people, the people behind Occupy Boston showed a strong dose of media savvy and organisational skill on Monday night, as they drew a committed crowd of volunteers to their cause: to occupy a slice of the city. Local TV crews were in attendance at the evening mass planning meeting, and it had been flagged on the front pages of Boston’s newspapers.
The move raises the first serious prospect of the Wall Street protests spreading beyond New York and comes as other events are also being planned in Los Angeles and Washington.
Noam Chomsky even made a youtube video of support.
This thing is really growing. Could it be that the young people of this country are really going to stand up and fight? I sure hope so. Is this happening where you live? If so, please share what you know. I’m starting to get excited about this!
Getting back to the New York protests, Emptywheel had a post today on the NYPD and their history of violations of civil liberties. I’m not going to excerpt from it, because you really need to read the whole thing–it’s not very long.
At FDL, David Dayen has a post about Van Jones’s Take Back the American Dream organization and how it is “building off #Occupy Wall Street.”
The Campaign for America’s Future expected their conference to be a launching pad for an American Dream Movement that would be a counterpart to the Tea Party, a left populist movement that would branch out across the country. And that movement has built itself up over the past couple months, and was in part responsible for the invisible town hall revolution over August.
But CAF found itself caught by an organic protest movement, a disparate movement organized by a simple theme, an expression of the feeling of mass injustice. Nobody on the left was totally prepared for #OccupyWallStreet, which sprung up on its own. But the groups that have been organizing in similar ways and with a similar theme were more than prepared to support it.
The spirit of #OccupyWallStreet has given a booster shot to this Take Back the American Dream Conference, which last year was completely moribund. The first session at the conference was a paean to #OccupyWallStreet, with video from New York City (the live feed crashed, unfortunately) and even one organizer who camped out in Zuccotti Park speaking. “If we demand something from Wall Street, we’re telling them that they have the power, but we do,” said the organizer from the Working Families Party in New York.
“They went down there to the scene of the crime against our future,” said Van Jones at his keynote address, in admiration of the #OccupyWallStreet protesters. “They’ve been beaten, they’ve been pepper sprayed, they’ve been falsely arrested, but they never broke their discipline. They told the police officers who were arresting them, we are the 99%, we’re fighting for you, we’re fighting for your pensions too.”
“Something’s happening in America. Don’t you give up on this movement!” Jones concluded.
Yes, something is finally happening. Will it continue to grow? I sure hope so!
I also want to call your attention to an interesting piece at Salon by William Hogeland, author of three books on the revolutionary period in American history. Hogeland compares the Occupy Wall Street movement to the so-called Whisky Rebellion. Hogeland writes about radical protests movements against our founding fathers, who were, after all, the elites of their day. Here’s just a sample:
The difficulty in dealing with our founding battle for democratic economics arises in part because the movement was not against England but against the very American banking and trading elites who dominated the resistance to England. That complicates our founding myth, possibly unpleasantly. Also, it was a generally losing battle. With ratification of the Constitution, Hamiltonian finance triumphed, and people looking to Jefferson and Madison for finance and economic alternatives to Hamilton are barking up the wrong tree, since what those men knew, or even really cared, about finance could be written on a dime. (Anyway, in pushing for creating a nation, Madison supported Hamiltonian finance down the line. Their differences came later.) When Occupy Wall Street protesters say “It’s We the People!” they’re actually referring to a preamble, intending no hint of economic democracy, to a document that was framed specifically to push down democratic finance and concentrate American wealth for national purposes. Not very edifying, but there it is.
The Tea Party, meanwhile, has taken up founding economic issues from a right-wing point of view, associating itself with the upper-middle-class Boston patriots (often mistaken for populist democrats) who led a movement against overrreaching British trade acts in the 1760′s and were important to the impulse toward American independence. I’ve written fairly extensively about where and how I think the Tea Party goes wrong on the history of the founding period. But at least they’re framing their objections to current policy, and framing the historical roots of their ideas, not mainly in cultural but in economic terms.
Like it or not, though, it is Occupy Wall Street that has the most in common, ideologically, not with those Boston merchants and their supporters but with the less well-known, less comfortably acknowledged people who, throughout the founding period, cogently proposed and vigorously agitated for an entirely different approach to finance and monetary policy than that carried forward by the famous founders. Amid horrible depressions and foreclosure crises, from the 1750′s through the 1790′s, ordinary people closed debt courts, rescued debt prisoners, waylaid process servers, boycotted foreclosure actions, etc. (More on that here and here.) They were legally barred from voting and holding office, since they didn’t have enough property, so they used their power of intimidation to pressure their legislatures for debt relief and popular monetary policies. Their few leaders in legit politics included the visionary preacher Herman Husband, the weaver William Findley, and the farmer Robert Whitehill.
I found this article absolutely fascinating!
At the LA Times, there’s an editorial about the “message” of the “Occupy” protests along with a photo of protesters at LA City Hall.
The political left has been searching for the last couple of years to find an answer to the tea party. Some hoped last year’s rally in Washington led by TV comedians Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, a response to right-wing rallies attended by such conservative media celebrities as Glenn Beck, would spark a national movement. That didn’t happen. Now they’re pinning their hopes on Occupy Wall Street, which in many ways is a mirror image of the tea party. Both groups are motivated by frustration over the rotten economy and are vague about causes and solutions, though if their positions could be summed up in a one-line manifesto, it might be: The tea party, dominated by elderly conservatives, blames government overspending and overreach for our economic problems and would therefore like to cut federal spending, while Occupy Wall Street, dominated by young liberals, blames corporate greed and would therefore like to tax the rich and decrease corporate political power.
It is, of course, far too early to suggest that Occupy Wall Street represents a resurgence of the left. But we do seem to recall that in its initial days the tea party was similarly dismissed by pundits, especially those on the left who preferred to see the protesters as kooks rather than the vanguard of a political shift. What matters isn’t the size of the protest, the attire of the demonstrators or the misspellings on their signs; it’s whether the relatively tiny number of people who can be bothered to show up and march can inspire and energize other like-minded people enough to get them to the polls.
Finally, at Huffpo, there’s a piece by Judith Samuelson: A Baby Boomer’s Advice to the Millennials Occupying Wall Street
Whether their disgust with Wall Street is fueled by a lack of jobs or a more complex analysis was not apparent to me, but I trust we will be hearing more from the Millennials. Scholars are suggesting they will be a force to be reckoned with. In fact, you might already be experiencing their tendency to want to be heard in the workplace, in the classroom or at the dinner table, for example.
There are a lot of them; 90 million by some count, comprising the largest generation in our history. They are the most racially diverse generation ever, and they have been, and are being, shaped by remarkable events such as 9/11 and the ongoing global recession; by their parents — the boomers of yore; and, of course by technology — the first generation to take instant communications for granted. I believe that Millennials will shape our response to issues that bedevil us — through their passion about social issues, their facility with technology and social networking, and through their continued willingness to vote — as they did in big numbers in the last Presidential election.
Many of them will go to business school — or are already there. A quarter of post-graduate degrees are in business, and 20 percent of undergraduates are pursuing business degrees. Even at liberal arts colleges that may not offer “business” as a major, students flock to economics instead, or as close as they can get to the subject. This may be the result of parental pressure to exit school with some hope of finding a job (unlike baby boomers, Millennials are close to their parents and apparently even listen to them) but it is also in pursuit of the skills, language and heroes they have grown up with — more Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg than Bob Dylan and Robert Redford.
The question I have been thinking about is how they will bridge these two worlds — passion for social issues, and comfort with technology and business. I know from experience that real change is hard; that to influence business, and Wall Street, requires people skills as well as analytics, patience, and multiple approaches to gain the attention and commitment of the power brokers who set the rules and design the reward systems. Protest is a not an insignificant part of the puzzle, however, and always has been; just ask Walmart, Nike or Nestle.
In the spirit of Baby Boomers’ sharing their experience, strength, and hope with the Millennials, here’s a boomer anthem that might be appropriate:
What are you reading and blogging about today? Please share!