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Sunday, October 5, 2014

Occupy Wall Street : Causes And Ideas To Stimulate The Movement (A Guest Post By Fred Curran,Chicago,IOPS)

Let us begin directly with a chart showing the Economic Disparity in United States of America.

This chart shows the Annual Income of the richest 1% of the United States.Look at the three years mentioned and share percentage.It is just 0.4% less than what it was in 1928,during the Great Depression.If such a high amount of share keeps prevailing within the top 1% of the richest population,then it has a history of leading to Economic Stagnation.This does not only pose a threat to the economic conditions in the near future in the USA,this threatens the very present!Moreover,Mr.Obama's system is not very helpful,either.Often,the economically lesser powerful population has to pay higher taxes than those who are economically more powerful.(Doesn't that resemble the conditions of The Third Estate before The French Revolution?)The Italian government are introducing austerity for levying special taxes on those who are earning more than $410,000 or €300,000 annually.The French government is doing the same to those who are earning more than €500,000.We will discuss the impacts of such austerity in the overall economy of a country in our next venture on Economic Explanation.

Income inequality is a focal point of the Occupy Wall Street protests.This focus by the movement was studied by Arindajit Dube and Ethan Kaplan of the University of Massachusetts Amherst, who noted that "inequality in the U.S. has risen dramatically over the past 40 years. So it is not too surprising to witness the rise of a social movement focused on redistribution...Greater inequality may reflect as well as exacerbate factors that make it relatively more difficult for lower-income individuals to mobilize on behalf of their interests...Yet, even the economic crisis of 2007 did not initially produce a left social movement...Only after it became increasingly clear that the political process was unable to enact serious reforms to address the causes or consequences of the economic crisis did we see the emergence of the OWS movement...Overall, a focus on the 1 percent concentrates attention on the aspect of inequality most clearly tied to the distribution of income between labor and capital...We think OWS has already begun to influence the public policy making process."An article on the same subject published in Salon Magazine by Natasha Leonard noted "Occupy has been central to driving media stories about income inequality in America. Late last week, Radio Dispatch’s John Knefel compiled a report for media watchdog Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), which illustrates Occupy’s success: Media focus on the movement in the past half year, according to the report, has been almost directly proportional to the attention paid to income inequality and corporate greed by mainstream outlets. During peak media coverage of the movement last October, mentions of the term “income inequality” increased “fourfold”...tokens of Occupy rhetoric — most notably the idea of a “99 percent” against a “1 percent” — has seeped into everyday cultural parlance." As income inequality remained on people's minds, Republican Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney said such a focus was about envy and class warfare.

OWS's goals include a reduction in the influence of corporations on politics,more balanced distribution of income, more and better jobs, bank reform (especially to curtail speculative trading by banks), forgiveness of student loan debtor other relief for indebted students,and alleviation of the foreclosure situation.Forbes columnist Heather Struck wrote, "In downtown New York, where protests fomented, capitalism is held accountable for the dire conditions that a majority of Americans face amid high unemployment and a credit collapse that has ruined the housing market and tightened lending among banks."

Poster in Support of Occupy Wall Street

The assembly is the main OWS decision-making body and uses a modified consensus process, where participants attempt to reach consensus and then drop to a 9/10 vote if consensus is not reached. Consensus is a process of common sentiment. It is not agreement. Participants are given room for dissent and complex ideas are able to form. The process has been used in many indigenous traditions, Quaker practices, the women's liberation movement, anti-nuclear movement, and alter-globalization movement. In the assembly OWS working groups and affinity groups discuss their thoughts and needs, and the meetings are open to the public for both attendance and speaking.

During the initial weeks of the park encampment it was reported that most of OWS funding was coming from donors with incomes in the $50,000 to $100,000 range, and the median donation was $22.According to finance group member Pete Dutro, OWS had accumulated over $700,000.The largest single donor to the movement was former New York Mercantile Exchange vice chairman Robert Halper, who was noted by media as having also given the maximum allowable campaign contribution to Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.During the period that protesters were encamped in the park the funds were being used to purchase food and other necessities and to bail out fellow protesters. With the closure of the park to overnight camping on November 15, members of the OWS finance committee stated they would initiate a process to streamline the movement and re-evaluate their budget and eliminate or merge some of the "working groups" they no longer needed on a day-to-day basis.

Met with increasing costs and significant overhead expenses in order to sustain the movement, an internal audit from the fiscal management team known as the "accounting working group" revealed on March 2, 2012, that only $44,000 of the several hundred thousand dollars raised still remained available. The report warned that if current revenues and expenses were maintained at current levels, then funds would run out in three weeks. Some of the movement's biggest costs include ground-level activities such as food kitchens, street medics, bus tickets, subway passes, and printing expenses.In late February 2012 it was reported that a group of business leaders including Ben Cohen, Jerry Greenfield, Danny Goldberg, Norman Lear, and Terri Gardner created a new working group, the Movement Resource Group, and with it have pledged $300,000 with plans to add $1,500,000 more.The money would be made available in the form of grants of up to $25,000 for eligible recipients.

American Nurses for OWS

The People’s Library at Occupy Wall Street was started a few days after the protest when a pile of books was left in a cardboard box at Zuccotti Park. The books were passed around and organized, and as time passed, it received additional books and resources from readers, private citizens, authors and corporations.As of November 2011 the library had 5,554 books cataloged in LibraryThing and its collection was described as including some rare or unique articles of historical interest.According to American Libraries, the library's collection had "thousands of circulating volumes," which included "holy books of every faith, books reflecting the entire political spectrum, and works for all ages on a huge range of topics."

Following the example of the OWS People's Library, protestors throughout North America and Europe formed sister libraries at their encampments.

Noticed the Alphabets on the guitar? Tom Morello Playing the guitar for OWS

Data and Photograph Credits : Wikipedia 
Data Credit : The Economist 

Read on to find out how to stimulate the movement further and get rid of the setbacks and failures associated with the movement.The following post is written by Fred Curran (Click on the link to Read his other posts on IOPS),Chicago,Illinois,United States of America.He is a member of IOPS,about which I have previously talked about here.

With Occupy Central with Love and Peace in the media, and pictures of protesters flooding the streets of Hong Kong, a recent discussion with a friend was stimulated about Occupy Wall Street. We were critiquing why the Movement has been failing.
One point that came up was that in order to understand Occupy, we have to understand it did not exist in a vacuum. It did not simply collapse under its own weight, or fade out due to inexperience aimlessness or incompetence.
Highly sophisticated militarized police forces, government agencies, agent provocateurs, corporate powers and a largely complicit media and judicial system, played a significant role, and that any critique of Occupy should be done so with that as a backdrop.
With that being said Occupy quickly set itself up for failure. Once it became a movement that measured its success primarily as its ability to hold encampments it became weak. . Identifying itself in this way was a good start, but thus defined Occupy became less adaptable and easier to destroy.
No revolutionary group should define itself by any terms that are not necessary for its revolutionary goals In doing so it prevents itself from adapting. More important than encampments was the creation of a sustained alternative public sphere, with an inclusive vibrant and sustainable alternative decision making structure.
When Occupy began, it did so granting all participants a vote and a chance to participate in a new public sphere. This reality quickly eroded, as probably largely well intentioned but self interested small groups emerged, removing decision making from the public sphere. This created intractable divisions and without established systems for financial and decision making transparency, these divisions only grew.
As the system is scaled up these participants and others who understand the system and are more capable of interacting with it, remove themselves and decision making from the public sphere. With decision making going on within the public sphere there is every interest in having and providing easily navigable financial and decision making transparency. As this is removed from the public sphere, intentions aside, the chance of these things being put into action precipitously declines.
It was believed, prematurely, that an alternative public sphere and an alternative cooperative democratic decision making structure had been established. And organizing actions from this became the focus of the movement, rather than focusing their energy on the real and sustainable creation of these alternatives. Rather than working toward these goals, we, the Occupy movement began to work from them as if they already existed.
If Occupy had managed to maintain decision making in the public sphere, it would have moved toward more financial transparency which as it scaled up would have become necessary to manage public, inclusive decision making. With decision making transparency, The Movement would have been able to respond, to the overwhelming feelings of the need for strategic shifts.
Moreover, greater financial transparency and decision making in the public sphere, would have meant real participant control. As opposed to the more passive movement generated enthusiasm. This would have left Occupy, across the country and across the world, in a better position to withstand the ebb and flow of public sentiment.
Occupy was the fastest spreading, largest global movement in history, but it fell victim to some very common problems. The failings of Occupy, like those of any experiment, provide us with valuable data. It is important that we view Occupy as a scientist would an experiment, not as a media consumer would a passing fad. If we treat Occupy with what I would call scientific respect, then what we have before us is not a bungle but a rich collection of lessons that only experience can teach us. One being that we too often get ahead of ourselves, and in doing so rob ourselves of the ability to move any further. This next time around let’s take a sober look at how we can effectively make inclusive, public, transparent decisions together, and all along the way, be ever vigilant that our decision making process retains its integrity. In doing so we will infuse the next phase of our global movement with a much needed intelligence, which will make it more resilient.
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