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I believe we can resolve the concerns regarding the future of OWS by focusing on the one key problem and by having a clear vision of a workable solution.

The one key problem is the concentration of political power among the top 1%.  This is key, because no other problems can be fixed until this first problem is fixed.

A workable solution involves getting a large percentage of the population actively involved in publicly supporting a movement to solve the key problem.  I believe when enough people get involved, then solutions will start to emerge and the political clout will be great enough to make those solutions a reality.  

When this key problem is fixed, then we will have a functioning democracy, with which we can use to tackle other problems like the concentration of wealth.

The Key Problem and a Vision for Solving the Key Problem

Our nation is stuck, because our democracy is broken.  We cannot fix a broken democracy through voting and petitioning, because these traditional democratic methods only work in a functioning democracy.  In fact, we cannot fix any problem until this first problem is fixed.

Here is one vision for solving the key problem that people can rally around:
1) Get a growing number of people involved in publicly expressing their belief that our democracy is not working.
2) Get a growing number of people involved in developing and communicating a better understanding of the details of the problem.
3) When some critical mass of people get involved, then ideas for solutions will emerge and the political clout will also emerge to advance these solutions.

In order to get a really large percentage of the population involved, we have to focus on only this one key problem, because if the OWS movement includes other problems, then the additional problems will serve to divide people.

And we need a large percentage of the population involved, in order to amass the political clout and the understanding to push for effective reform.

The Importance of Developing a Clear Understanding of the Key Problem

Having a good understanding is important, because the problem is complicated.  In addition to campaign contributions, there are other ways that lobbyists peddle influence.  We need to fully understand all of these levers of influence.  It will take time to acquire this understanding and communicate to everyone.  For this to happen, we need many people involved and interested in gaining an understanding of exactly what is wrong with the system.  

In the following interview, the former lobbyist Jack Abramoff divulges that political influence involves more than just providing campaign contributions.

Nov 6, 2001 - 60 Minutes - Jack Abramoff: The lobbyist's playbook

CBS News:  ...... the "best way" to get a congressional office to do his bidding ... was to offer a staffer a job that could triple his salary.  

Abramoff: When we would become friendly with an office and they were important to us, and the chief of staff was a competent person, I would say or my staff would say to him or her at some point, "You know, when you're done working on the Hill, we'd very much like you to consider coming to work for us." Now the moment I said that to them or any of our staff said that to 'em, that was it. We owned them. And what does that mean? Every request from our office, every request of our clients, everything that we want, they're gonna do. And not only that, they're gonna think of things we can't think of to do.
Abramoff: At the end of the day most of the people that I encountered who worked on Capitol Hill wanted to come work on K Street, wanted to be lobbyists.
Abramoff: The reform efforts continually are these faux-reform efforts where they'll change, they'll tweak the system. They'll say, "You can't take a congressman to lunch for $25 and buy him a hamburger or a steak of something like that."  But you can take him to a fundraising lunch and not only buy him that steak, but give him $25,000 extra and call it a fundraiser. And have all the same access and all the same interaction with that congressman. So the people who make the reforms are the people in the system.
CBS News:  He says the most important thing that needs to be done is to prohibit members of Congress and their staff from ever becoming lobbyists in Washington.

Abramoff: If you make the choice to serve the public, public service, then serve the public, not yourself. When you're done, go home. Washington's a dangerous place. Don't hang around.

In addition, the information we get is distorted by the moneyed interests.  Many of the news websites that people visit are controlled by major companies, not to mention the traditional sources from TV, radio, and print.  Even experts in think tasks and universities are influenced by big money.  
The Globe and Mail - 10/15/2011 - Economics has Met the Enemy and it is Economics

Indeed, economics may be the dismal science, but there is nothing dismal about the payoffs for those at the top of the heap serving as advisers and consultants and sitting on various boards. Unlike some disciplines, economics has no guidelines governing conflict of interest and disclosure. - 10/20/2011 - Semi-Random Notes on the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) Movement

The key to understanding Washington is to understand that the whole place is for sale. It's not just politicians. It's interest groups (right and left), media, foundations, lobbyists, etc.

Companies/foundations/labor all essentially manufacture "public opinion" from thin air simply by routing money to the right mouthpieces -- public interest groups, non-profits, academics & universities, analysts. It's hugely sophisticated and the budgets are enormous.

They are all competing (and paying) to either get the government to screw their competitor or convey some government benefit to them.

The voice of the electorate -- the real "grassroots" -- gets completely lost in the din. As soon as a "movement" picks up steam (e.g. Tea Party, it becomes completely co-opted... Tea Party becomes about "Guns, God & Gays" as Denninger rightly points out. Huge sums of money are dangled in front of the movement's leaders and the original purpose of the movement is transformed into something that the status quo can tolerate.

There's no room in this town for anyone who challenges the status quo -- be that a Ron Paul, a Dennis Kucinich, a Noam Chomsky, etc. (Republicans ridicule Ron Paul just as much as Democrats do... It's NOT his ideas that they are afraid of, it's that he's a huge threat to their power and perks.)

The Key Problem is Heavily Ingrained in Our Democracy

Another significant aspect is that this problem has been around for much longer than forty years.  It has been around for more than a century, which means that it is heavily ingrained in our institutions, regulations, laws, and judicial interpretations of the Constitution.  

Here are some relevant quotes:
* In 1931, the philosopher John Dewey wrote that "... politics is the shadow cast on society by big business". ["The Breakdown of the Old Order".  March 25th, 1931.  New Republic.]
* In 1876, the president Rutherford B Hayes said, "It is a government of corporations, by corporations, and for corporations". [The Hidden History of Corporate Rule]

Our nation was founded, in part, as a reaction to corporate power, but it did not take long for the seeds to be planted which allowed corporations to gain control of the U.S. government, as they had the British government.  The citizenry will need to "reassert the convictions of our nation's founders who struggled successfully to free us from corporate rule in the past." ["Our Hidden History of Corporations in the United States" -]

The Importance of Growing the Movement to Encompass a Large % of the Population

The OWS protests were a spark, but the active support has not yet been at the level that can demand change.  As of now, less than 1% of the population have been holding signs that read "we are the 99%".  Although it's true that polls show that somewhere between 1/3rd and 1/2 of Americans support OWS, there needs to be public expression of this support in order for the movement to grow.

Also, creative ideas need to emerge to allow people to express themselves in other ways than occupying a public place.  Although that is a good tactic, not everyone is going to do that, especially in the winter.

Here is an idea that I came up with.  It is probably not a good idea, but I wanted to come up with some idea to provide an example, so that we can start brainstorming better ideas.  The idea is that we start a campaign to photograph groups of people holding signs that indicate support for OWS and reclaiming democracy.  Perhaps, we can have billboards that show local people holding a sign that shows a link to a website that would list names and show photos of their neighbors expressing support for OWS.  It would also describe the problem that OWS is trying to fix and the game plan for how to fix the problem.  Then, it would encourage visitors to join the movement by publicly expressing their support.

If people don't even have the will or the nerve to publicly call for reform of our democratic system, then it probably will not happen.  To amass a powerful movement, there needs to be an energetic, public expression of the conviction of a large percentage of the citizenry.

A Clear Vision that will Help Motivate People to Get Involved

It is hard for many people to be enthusiastic about a movement that seems to be just about growing without there being any concrete action to advance ideas that will actually solve problems.  For this reason, there needs to be a clear vision that explains how this movement will work.  Here is my clearest conception of a vision:
1) Grow the movement until at least 50% of the population is publicly expressing support for democratic reform.
2) While the movement is growing, activists need to gain an understanding of how wealthy interest groups control our government.  Also, activists will need to communicate this understanding to their fellow activists and the population at large.
3) As an understanding develops of the problem, ideas for solutions will naturally emerge and then be discussed among activists.  A few best ideas will emerge as the most popular.
4) When 50% of the population is involved, then we will advance the best ideas to our state and federal governments and they will become enacted in law, due to the overwhelming power of energetically expressed popular opinion.

The actual number needed may be less than 50%, but I am guessing that if we got to 50%, then that would be sufficient.  Also, it helps to come up with a specific number, so that people can see what the goal is.  In other words, the 50% number makes it clear that there will come a time when the movement will have grown large enough and sophisticated enough to switch to focusing on advancing solutions, rather than just growing.  And that time is when 50% of the population is involved.  


When is the soonest you think that we could develop a functioning democracy?

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50%2 votes
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25%1 votes
25%1 votes

| 4 votes | Vote | Results

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (0+ / 0-)

    Where are we going and why are we in this handbasket?

    by Quequeg on Mon Nov 21, 2011 at 05:46:39 PM PST

  •  new book "Republic, Lost" by Lawrence Lessig (0+ / 0-)

    On the Charlie Rose show, there was a really good interview with Lawrence Lessig, who recently wrote a book called "Reublic, Lost - How Money Corrupts Congress and a Plan to Stop It."

    You can watch the whole 20 minute interview here:
    Lawrency Lessig - Nov 14, 2011 - Charlie Rose

    Here are some excerpts, starting at roughly minute 9:00:

    Lessig:  I think what people are increasingly recognizing, as we see these populist outside-the-beltway movements on the left and the right, in the Tea Party and the Occupy movements, people are recognizing that in a sense, we need to build an outside-the-beltway movement demanding fundamental change.

    Charlie Rose:   So, what do you make of this argument?  The Tea Party understood that they were agents of change and they got involved in the political system.    And therefore, if Occupy Wherever Wall Street wants to have a political impact, it's not by sitting in protests in different venues around the world.   It's about getting out right now and saying we are going to change the composition of the Congress.

    Lessig: But the question is what's the change you're aiming for.   I think that the Tea Party actually moved to quickly to becoming a just an arm of the Republican party.  They have enormous power, because they have 60 votes, but they're just kind of a Republican engine right now.  And they lost, at least some of them, lost the opportunity to say that we're talking about something more fundamental.  We're not talking about getting more Republicans in
    Congress.  We're talking about getting a government that's responsive again to what the people want.

    Lessig: And while I agree with you - I think the Occupy movement has got to recognize that just sitting in Wall Street or sitting on K Street or sitting next to South Station in Boston is not going to change the world - I think that many of them think "Look, we're not just talking about getting more Democrats in Congress, because if the Democrats we get in Congress do what they did with the financial reform bill - which is basically sell out to the interests that are there demanding that they give them whatever they want if they want their campaign money - we haven't gotten anything.  
    So, I think what everybody in a sense recognizes is that we have to find a way to leverage this reform movement to a real change, not just one party taking over another party.  

    Where are we going and why are we in this handbasket?

    by Quequeg on Mon Nov 21, 2011 at 05:58:39 PM PST

    •  more excerpts from the interview (0+ / 0-)

      Charlie Rose:  Do you think bankers are smiling saying "we won the financial reform fight?"

      Lessig: ... I think in 2008 if you had asked any of them if they would be able to block financial reform as effectively as they did, I think 90% would have said no.  They all thought the world was different, that we were going to have a substantial re-regulation.  

      Charlie Rose:  Will the Volcker Rule be enacted as it is defined by the regulatory authorities now?

      Lessig:  Yea, but the question is not what it says at the surface.  The question is what the 10,000 regulations underneath it actually do.

      Charlie Rose:  And that's what they're doing now.  Take the Consumer Protection Agency.

      Lessig:  Same thing.

      Charlie Rose:  In other words, it will be so ameliorated that it will have none of the teeth that people who created the law intended it to have.

      Lessig:  Absolutely.  And this is the way our system works.  On the surface, you have decisions that make it sound like you're responding ...

      Charlie Rose:  That's true in health care, that's true in financial regulation

      Lessig:  That's the general form of how our government works now.

      Charlie Rose:  OK, stay with me a minute, because that's getting to the heart of your book.  That's not a democracy in your judgement, because a few are making the decisions because of the power of their money and influence.

      Lessig:  Right.  So, our framers gave us what they called a republic.  And what they meant by a republic was a representative democracy.  And what Federalist 52 says is that a representative democracy would be a "government dependent on the people alone."  Now, whatever that means, what we know is Congress has evolved a different dependency, a dependency on the funders.  And that dependence is different and conflicting with the dependency on the people, because the funders are a tiny slice of the people.  If you asked in 2010, what % of Americans maxed out in Congressional contributions in a campaign, the answer is 0.05%.  So, Occupy Wall Street says "we are the 99%", that's bad marketing.  They should be saying, "we are the 99.95%" who don't have access and influence inside the system, because we are not the 0.05% with the extraordinary power that the funders in this system have.

      Where are we going and why are we in this handbasket?

      by Quequeg on Mon Nov 21, 2011 at 06:04:55 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  more excerpts #2 (0+ / 0-)

        Charlie Rose:  And it's even changed more now with all the court ruling that allowed independent expenditures.

        Lessig:  Absolutely.  It will be much worse.  So, what we've got is a democracy that is corrupted relative to what the framers intended.  It is a kind of dependency corruption.  And not because the Congressman are criminals.  I think this is the confusion when people talk about corruption.   I'm not saying it's Rod Blagojevich throughout the whole system.  These are not people who violate laws.  These are good people, decent people who go to Washington trying to do what they believe is right.  But they get in the system and they can't help but be distorted as they spend 30% to 70% of their time raising money to get back to Congress.

        Charlie Rose:  Because they are raising money, they are not being effective at what they believe they were sent there to do, whatever their political thing.  

        Lessig: Or get your party back in power, you can't help but be distorted.  You become shape shifters as you constantly adjust your view of life

        Charlie Rose:  So, how do you change the financing?

        Lessig:  There are two questions.  What's the right answer?  And the second one is how do we get there?

        The first one is easy.  The right answer is a way of funding elections that's a small dollar system for funding elections.  I describe a version in my book, which is a little bit different from the ones that have been proposed.  It basically says, "look, all the voters pay at least $50 in taxes.  So, let's take the first $50 you pay and rebate it to you in the form of a democracy voucher.  And they you can use that voucher to give to any Congressional candidate, as long as that candidate agrees to fund his or her campaign with those vouchers only and contributions of up to $100 from any citizen.  The $50 voter is 6 billion dollars in any election cycle.  That's 2.5 times what was spent in the 2010 election cycle.  So, it's real money.  And if it were a system where the majority or 70% of candidates opted into that way of funding their elections, then nobody could believe that when Congress did something stupid that it was because of the money.  It may have been because there were too many Democrats or too many Republicans, whatever, but it wouldn't have been the money, because we removed this fundamental source of cynicism, because Congress would be raising money in chunks that nobody would believe are biasing them.

        Charlie Rose:  What chance does this have?

        Lessig:  Under this Congress, exactly zero.  I looked it up on Google.  It's exactly zero.   So, what we need is a movement outside of Congress to force the institution into adopting the kind of funding system that we can trust again, because they got elected under the old system.  They don't want to change it.  Many of them see their life under the old system as a stepping stone to becoming lobbyists, as a kind of farm league for K Street, as Jim Cooper from Tennessee describes it.  And so they don't want to change the system where lobbyists won't be as valuable.

        Where are we going and why are we in this handbasket?

        by Quequeg on Mon Nov 21, 2011 at 06:12:58 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  more excerpts #3 (0+ / 0-)

          Lessig:   The hardest part of this problem is how to get there.  The hardest part is recognizing that people from radically different perspectives need to work together to get there.  I went to K Street and I have a teach-in at K Street and what I said was "you guys may believe in capitalism or not.  I mean, I believe in capitalism, but you may or may not believe in capitalism.  But nobody believes in crony capitalism.  And if you would start inviting Tea Party people down to these meetings and start talking about crony capitalism, you could begin to build a movement that was across the board movement, that was for reform.  

          And this could have been scripted from Hollywood, because just then a guy raised his hand and said "hey, you know, I was one of the founders of the Tea Party and I run a website called".  And I can guarantee you, if you were to start talking like this, you would have all these Tea Party people down here supporting this movement.  

          Well, after I said that, I started getting killed in the left-wing press by people who are saying "this is absolutely the wrong idea to try to begin to talk to those quote racists from the Right".  And my view was, "wait, I'm not a mathematician, but if you say you are speaking for the 99% and you take 100% and you remove the 30% of Americans who call themselves supporters of the Tea Party and I'm not sure how you get to 99%.  

          But the point is we have these business models in American life - media as well as politics - that are focused on polarization, let's teach each other to hate each other.  And the idea of teaching each other to talk to each other, not by giving up your views, not by compromising, by just saying we need to be able to talk to each other is the hardest thing to begin to motivate people around.  But that's the essential step to getting any kind of change at the level we need.  
          Lessig:  ... 75% of Americans believe that money buys results in Congress.  And when 75% believes that money buys results in Congress, they naturally - if you're not the person with the money - stay at home.  They don't participate.  They have enormous cynicism.  

          It's an institution which New York Times two weeks ago, reported has 9% confidence in America.  There are more people who believe in the British Crown at the time of the Revolution than who believe in this Congress today.  

          So, I think we've got to recognize that this institution is fundamentally bankrupt, politically bankrupt.  And until we can begin to earn the respect, restore some of the trust in the institution, we won't have a system that can call itself a government of the people.

          Where are we going and why are we in this handbasket?

          by Quequeg on Mon Nov 21, 2011 at 06:23:18 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  There is no reason -- (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    for the political class to even consider the popular will when creating policy.

    The 99% will, in the end, have to create its own government.

    "But it ain't about who ya love, see it's all about do ya love," -Michael Franti

    by Cassiodorus on Mon Nov 21, 2011 at 06:18:18 PM PST

  •  I agree with more focus. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I can't say that I disagree with what you say.   And I applaud you for your work and research.  What I would like to see though is more diaries with ideas for solutions.  Yes I agree it will take around 50% to reach the tipping point.  I've read that there are currently between 100-150 million adversely or highly likely to be adversely effected by the polito-economic mess we are in.  While I think the campers are heroes to put their live and health on the line I believe we have to move way beyond holding ground to enroll 100 million people in our movement.  That is going to take enormous creativity.  

    I once was involved in a segment of the self help craze in the late 80s.  I had a whole stack of self help books.  Eventually I realized that everyone of them spend almost the whole book defining the problem and then threw in a vague chapter almost as an after thought on how to solve it.  

    Maybe as you suggest, the answers will be self evident when enough people get involved and I'm just impatient however I read a lot of magical thinking in many diaries.  

    A couple of days ago someone said the system is too broken to fix the but that we have to engage them in a new political process.  

    Great...What is the new political system?  Again no answers.  Just talk.

    Personally I think the system can be fixed.  The ship of state is in almost exactly the same position as it was in the Guilded Age of the 1890 and again in the Great Depression.  

    In both cases the government and the economic system had been hijacked by the 1% or less.  In both cases through, by public demand the government stepped in and fixed things and then the cycle repeated itself.  So it can be done.  

    I'm not advocating insurrection which seems to be the only alternative for anyone who absolutely proposes that we can't work with the framework of the Constitutions to put things right once again.

    What I'm really looking for isn't the grand plan.  More like a cookbook of 101 merry little pranks, or leverage points or just ideas that anyone of us could use to deal the death blow by 1000 cuts to the current injustice.  

    General Strike WA--Occupy the Legislature, Monday Nov 28--Olympia. Union Supported--10,000 expected to be here. Stop the cuts until the corporations pay their share.

    by YellerDog on Tue Nov 22, 2011 at 01:54:34 AM PST

    •  I'd like that cookbook too. (0+ / 0-)

      I recall there was some Far Side cartoon, which had an absurdly complicated equation on a chalk board, and then in the middle it read "some magic happens".

      With respect to the earlier times in history you mention (Guild Age, Great Depression), perhaps we could get some ideas by reviewing how Americans fixed the democracy back then.  

      To me, the biggest areas of magic are in how to grow a big movement, and then how to use that movement to bring about change.  

      With respect to growing the movement, in the diary, I suggested that we need to provide a way for a lower threshold (i.e., less time & money) of involvement, in order to get people to take the first step in getting involved, so that we can get the ball rolling.  Also, there needs to be a variety of ways to get involved, because everyone has their different preferences and skills, etc.   Also, I think it has to be some kind of public, organized involvement that relies on people expressing themselves publicly on a regular basis.  So, I was trying to describe what is essentially required, in order to help us come up with ideas to make it easier for people to get involved.

      With respect to channeling a big movement for change, I'm not really sure how that works.  I'm just guessing that if we got 50% of the population pushing for change, then somehow it will happen.  

      But Lawrence Lessig had one idea for a solution that seems pretty good (which is in my comment "more excerpts #2" above).  Basically, just give everyone a tax rebate of $50 to donate to the campaign of their choice.   The result would be 6 billion dollars in each elections cycle, which is 2.5 times more than what was spent in the 2010 elections.

      Did You Hear the One About the Bankers?  -  Oct 29, 2011 - Tom Friedman
      Our Congress today is a forum for legalized bribery. One consumer group using information from calculates that the financial services industry, including real estate, spent $2.3 billion on federal campaign contributions from 1990 to 2010, which was more than the health care, energy, defense, agriculture and transportation industries combined. Why are there 61 members on the House Committee on Financial Services? So many congressmen want to be in a position to sell votes to Wall Street.
      What amazes me is just how cheap it is to buy our government.  It only costs $2.3 billion over 10 years to get trillions of dollars worth of favorable laws/regulations.   So, if the general public were to spend 6 billion dollars in each election cycle, then that would make a big difference.

      And then in my diary, I quoted Jack Abramoff who said we should ban members of Congress from becoming lobbyists.  Also, we should ban them from becoming executives or board members of major corporations.  

      So, I'm thinking that there are fixes that are fairly straightforward that will largely remedy the problem, but the difficulty is amassing the movement and then somehow applying that movement to effect political change.   On a positive note, we've already won the argument, given that 75% of Americans believe money buys results in Congress.  So, we don't need to persuade people that change needs to happen.   What requires persuasion is making people believe that we can grow a movement that can fix this problem.  If only we all shared the confidence of Thomas Paine, who said, "we have it in our power to begin the world over again" ...

      Where are we going and why are we in this handbasket?

      by Quequeg on Tue Nov 22, 2011 at 08:45:52 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

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