Or... Educating oneself about the root causes of the Occupy movement.
(TL;DR version: a lot of everyday Americans are as mad as hell and we are not going to take it any more...)
So you may well be asking, what brings me out of my blog hibernation? Well in addition to the new
process which is much easier to deal with, I have a new topic that I am passionate about and that I
think requires me to write my feelings about, but I need to do it in a forum that is individual to
me and not in a place where I feel it might be inappropriate. That new topic is the Occupy movement
specifically Occupy Wall Street in New York City and other Occupy local groups as well as the 99%
A friend of mine recently created a new group called 'Occupy Anchorage' on Facebook after seeing
many of his old friends (including me) posting about Occupy Wall Street and after no doubt following
the story himself via the internet. While I can never be sure of his individual motivation or
intention, I have an idea he thought it would be a good for Anchorage to have its own action and
movement. At the very least in solidarity with the movements spring up in cities all over America.
Surprisingly 60-70 people who attended the first meeting of 'Occupy Anchorage' in a meeting room at
'The Snow Goose' restaurant seemed to agree. It felt like a throwback to the American revolution
prior to 1776.
He mentioned me in a facebook post along with another old friend and facebook basically told both of
us named individuals that our friend was saying this of us: "I bet a couple old friends of mine
would be interested is starting and supporting an Occupy group..." and we were. I assume so because
both friends showed up. The reason why I agreed is because for several weeks prior to this I had
been posting daily links to the Occupy Wall Street movement and was trying to disseminate even more information about it on Facebook to my circle of friends because traditional mainstream media was ignoring this rapidly growing movement. So that is how I personally got involved. I did it to myself by paying attention at a time when I felt many were not.
For those that don't know or have never heard of Occupy Wall Street, I will speak as an individual
as to what I think the movement is all about. It isn't REALLY what it is all about, because this
isn't soley a single issue movement although it remains highly focused, nor does it have any
traditional leadership -- so anyone who says anything about it is being purely subjective, speaking
only for themselves. Which is why I feel it should be kept mostly anonymous and unattributed. Lastly
it should be noted I am writing as a participant in this movement, participating in my own way, just
as everyone else does. I am not a leader. I am not your role model.
From the beginning this movement was created as uniquely non-partisan, non-religious, and non-
violent. The right of those to peaceably assemble cannot be denied. At this point let me issue a
quick aside by doing what most writers inevitably must do when speaking about the Occupy movement: compare it to the Tea Party. Keeping the movement non-partisan and non-religious helps to insure no one faction gains control over it. Because it is also non-violent, guns are discouraged. Weapons are unnecessary for all to stand up for what we support because we have an idea that will not die, and an idea that won't die will always defeat guns, and bullets, and batons, and violence.
I have an idea that Occupy Wall Street was originally created to force accountability upon Wall
Street bankers. These very rich and profitable corporations received a $700 billion bailout that we
were told was because these institutions were "too big to fail" lest they collapse the entire
economic system. In retrospect, this was wrong. I will not waste time placing blame on who's idea it
was to rescue these free market, capitalist companies because it's well-known who's idea it was and
multiple people are responsible for a bailout of all the rich bankers who took a chance, mostly with
all our pensions and deposited monies, and then lost. America paid twice. We are paying even more
than that if we lose our constitutional right to govern this country as "We the people...".
In my opinion, that's just one part of the core message of the movement -- the other part is the
undue influence that modern corporations are currently exerting upon American government. Most will cite the "Citizen's United" ruling generically, but the background of what that ruling allows is
quite important to understand. Because of new 527 groups (political action groups or PACs) and their
ability to give unlimited amounts of cash to issue ads (and whether you like it or not, via slimy
lobbyists, congressional campaigns), I feel that the balance of power has shifted to corporation and
away from individual people. I feel I am not the only individual who feels this way. OWS and OA are
proof that my feelings are correct.
Because of an illegal ruling about the Citizens United case, corporations have been given the power
to donate unlimited amounts of cash to campaigns and for issue ads. This is wrong. Individual people
and corporations under 501(c)3 tax rules have limitations upon donations in place and all must
declare their donations to the FEC. In case you missed it, there are limits upon those donations.
527 groups do not have those limitations. 527 is the IRS designation of those PACs used for tax
purposes. Those groups were created with no limitations on donations, nor it seems are there any
effective ways to track and/or report any of their political donations. Particularly since many 527s
seem to feel that the 'free speech' entailed in their unlimited donations are a constitional "right"
to free speech.
527s or SuperPACs have actively ignored the requirement to report to the FEC and have paid lobbyists to weaken congressional limitations upon the legal activities of 527 groups while also actively paying politicians to vote against full funding for the FEC (Federal Election Commission). The irony is that if you don't have accountability for campaign and political donations and there's no way to trace them, then how exactly are you supposed to tax them like they do with for-profit political
action committees? Those laws are also in place to keep 501(c)3 (non-profit PACs) and 501(c)4 (for-
profit committees or PACs) honest by imposing donation limitations and reporting requirements.
Because of many 527 PACs inability to be honest in reporting as well as their attempting to game the
system, their lack of accountability as particularly demonstrated during the recent '10 campaign
season, we now have proof enough why 527 groups and ALL for-profit political action committees must be outlawed. Individual citizens are narrowly construed on how they can contribute to free political speech when issued in the form of monetary support but unregulated, unsupervised 527 groups? Not so much. So -- outlaw the outlaw 527 PACs. Period.
Right after you kick out the lobbyist moneychangers, of course. Why? Because in recent times in
Washington, D. C. there have been as many as a 6 to 1 ratios of lobbyists to legislators! This is a
bad thing for American democracy. It means that special interests other than the people themselves
are basically already controlling our government. If we are to regain a handle on being a
representative democracy again, we need to outlaw for-profit lobbying groups in general. Most
especially any lobbying that is financed by unaccountable groups and those that feel they are
somehow above the requirements for accurately reporting their contributions towards financing our
In order for individual American voices to be represented again we need to take the money component
away from our professional politicians in a couple of ways. In spite of the idea that votes will
control our politicians, I have an idea that we must have term limits. If a president is limited to
two terms, I do not see a reason why Congress and the Senate cannot be limited to two terms as well.
In fact I believe it would be a healthy thing for American democracy. The reason for that is that we
seem to currently have a cadre of professional politicians rather than citizen politicians allegedly
working 'for' us, as it should be. So if it's good enough for the presidency to limited to two terms
it should be good enough for all political offices at both the state and federal levels.
So now that I have briefly addressed what I personally believe to be the root of the problem I am
left with only a few ideas on how it can be addressed directly since we no longer seem to have a
representative democracy. The idea is if the the politicians will not listen to us directly by us
writing letters, sending them e-mail, or talking to them directly when we meet them in person, the
only thing left for us to do is to make a statement with our bodies -- putting ourselves personally
on the line at occupying spaces to garner attention for a movement that wants to hold the bankers
both responsible and accountable for their actions. If you TRULY want to bring attention to a
problem? Bring 100 or 200 or 500 or 1,000 or 10,000 of your closest friends along with you IN
PERSON, to get that point across. We may be non-violent, but we're plenty angry and fed up at the
partisan two party system bullshit that may be dragging this country into another recession or worse
-- an economic depression. Want a solution to the problem, D. C.? Thousands of us are now saying
"How about you start frogmarching some greedy Wall Street bastards off to jail for their past
misdeeds instead of rewarding them with bailouts and positions of importance within the very
companies they used via their rampant illegal investor unapproved funded speculation to bring this
country low"? How about congress represent their constituency locally rather than the multinational
corporation or banker? Accountability.
It is very sad that the Justice Department has not moved in on and arrested some of these jokers.
There have been few if any arrests of people who I believe have broken the law have engaged in
insider trading, and who have raided pension funds. They did so at the expense of the vast majority
of Americans who trusted them to invest their money in a very risky stock market based system. In my
opinion one of the biggest drivers of failure for the markets has been hedge funds. Hedge funds bet
against success. It's like you're putting all your investment on somebody failing. This is not the
way that things should be done -- in fact hedge funds (or back in the day "short sellers") and
margin calls are pretty much what killed us during the great depression and what in part triggered
the great depression itself. That and a run on banks by consumers that no longer trusted banks with
their hard earned cash is was what really triggered the great depression.
There have been calls for people to move their money from the big banks who are the worst offenders
-- Bank of America, Citibank, and the new mixed banks/investment houses like JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs that were created by the removal of the Glass-Steagall act. This act, now repealed, once allowed us a firewall between banks and investment houses. The mixed banks that are more investment brokerages than bank are perhaps even more responsible than traditional banks. Banks used to be a place of trust and now instead they have become a place where your money can go down of the hole of unaccountability perhaps never to be seen again if your 'banker' is using your pensions and deposits to engage in risky short term/high profit investments. In short, people who use banks or credit unions should abso-friggin-lutely transfer all of their funds to something local. A credit union or
a small local commercial bank.
The Glass-Steagall act must be reinstated to put that firewall back in place once again. Banks
should not be allowed to use their customers money to make a risky investments. If customers
themselves choose to make risky investments then they should go to a brokerage house and allow them to do it but the two should be separated. A bank should never be a brokerage house and vice versa.
Rebuild that firewall for consumer safety. I do not wish my savings in a bank to be risked upon some
long-shot venture decided upon by some wet behind the ears 23 year old, entry level, "investment
You may hear some Libertarians (big L party as opposed to 'civil libertarians') say that the real
source of the problem is the federal reserve system. I have to disagree with that as being the
entire cause. A part of it? Surely. The majority of the problem comes from the federal government
agreeing to abide by bad securities or junk bond investment risks in the form of mortgage backed
securities from these brokerage houses/banks. In many cases these banks/brokerage houses acted and
used their own depositors funds in order to make risky bets on the housing market because at that
time the housing market was the market from which to make the biggest profits. And after the fact
they continue to use T-Bills as a method to continue to earn the slimmest of margins (1.5-2.0%) off
of Treasury bill investments. Even at the most dire of times, banks "too big to fail" have worked
out a method to use FED advances and individual deposits to profit off of long term T-Bill
guarantees. Banks have been profiting off of that slim margin since TARP.
Not many people know this was the case because it wasn't exactly front page news. Bankers tried to
make those securities sound like they were liquid and that they could be traded openly and were as
good as cash. Triple AAA. Better than US Treasury bills, right now. They acted in collusion with
ratings agencies like Moody's and Standard and Poor's. But the reality is is they are junk. When they
are written on paper, they are not worth the paper they are written upon. In many cases it is
untraceable who the original mortgage holder was for these defaulted mortgages so you cannot go back. In time because there is no paper trail to trace where these bad mortgages came from. As a method of trying to establish ownership of the original mortgage backed securities banks have began to, in many cases, commit fraud using a method called Robosigning to automatically go back and sign already defaulted upon documents in order to make them look legitimate. So because of a combination of all these facts, we are at a point where we as Americans need to stand up and demand that justice is
served and that we regain our equality of economic opportunity. Bankers must be held accountable for their bad investments. They cannot be called too big to fail and be allowed to take socialist payments from the federal government for their risky investments made using often their depositors
Of course the housing market bubble burst leaving the FED to buy up $14 trillion of these unsecured
'securities' out there. That's where the Libertarians get there are $14 trillion figure. There are
literally $14 trillion worth of these junk bonds floating around and the agreement between these
banks during the bailout was that the federal government would buy these securities (or as I like to
call them, junk bonds) from them as a form of security for the tarp loans that they got. Now they
have become emboldened and have recently revealed that they have another $74 TRILLION that they want the FDIC and American taxpayers to absorb. Market losses once marketed as profitable financial
instruments or 'securities', no worth than less the paper most of them aren't even written upon. You
see -- there's the ultimate riddle: all this "paper debt" that these banks cannot even produce legitimate paper for, thus the issues you may have heard about injunctions against robosigning by banks in their attempts to legitimize paper debt when they can't even trace back the debt to the original debtor, cannot even exist legitimately because they are artificial financial instruments introduced by investment banks as investment opportunities! And yet they are as naked as an emperor with new clothes! A profit drunk industry cannot even trace back the inadvisable loans they made to many people who couldn't even afford those loans in the first place... their naked greed in offering
loans to those who could least afford same show their greed for raw profits.
So what does this have to do with Occupy Wall Street or for that matter Occupy Anchorage? All
traditional means of enforcement against people who committed illegalities and broke the law are not
working. The American jurisprudence system is not going after these people with situational ethics
in pursuit of profit because these people are continuing to bribe them left and right with the vast
millions that they've recently gained in profits.
In fact it has been pointed out that many of these banks are using TARP fund taxpayer money in order
to bribe... or excuse me -- 'donate' campaign money to our elected representatives in Congress and
the Senate. I do not even know how to describe how that is wrong on so many levels. We are being
sold out using our own money and in a nutshell that is exactly what the occupied movement is about:
combating the status quo -- holding these bankers responsible for their activities. If they made bad
investments. It's on them not on us! If they made bad investments using deposited money and money
from raided pension funds, then they need to go to jail for that illegal activity.
The occupied movement itself is designed to make those people feel uncomfortable about these bad
investments and the actions of all their bad actors. But don't get me wrong, not all bankers are
evil. Some are actually good and will do a good thing for you and your money. But what it all comes
down to is the bad actors that must be jailed for their bad actions. The industry must be regulated
properly and overseen properly. Lately the securities and exchange commission has turned a blind eye
to these bad investments. Bank losses for mortgage backed securities and the fact that they're using
depositors money to make profit is proof enough that it is time that all are held accountable for
The Occupy movement was specifically created to bring attention to these problems because often the
mainstream media is not paying attention to them and by extension not informing Americans what is
really going on with our tax dollars. The Occupy movement is a method of bringing a higher awareness to all individuals in America and that's why it is spreading so rapidly throughout the country. It originally started in New York City which is a major banking center but it has also spread to other cities like Chicago, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Boston, Portland, Seattle, Dallas, Detroit, Atlanta, and many more cities including even our little town of Anchorage, Alaska. So what can we reasonably do to make things change? Part of what we can do is just to not go away to gain more and more people who are aware of the economic problems that Wall Street and bankers have created for our country and then to acknowledge the economic difficulties they have put all of us through. It is also necessary to continue to grow the movement so that more and more people become aware and educated about present reality and of how broken our financial and government systems have become.
While many people would like to add other causes to the occupied movement I think that that is a bad
idea. The occupy movement needs to remain focused upon the main issues for which it was created. We must not allow the momentum that the occupied movement has gained already to dissipate through factionalism or religious factionalism or by adding too many issues to it that weigh it down or are unrelated to the main issue of holding Wall Street, our government, and our politicians accountable for the current state of our economy. We must keep the occupy movement both nonpartisan and non-religious, as well as non-violent so that all feel included -- all of the 99% of us who are not billionaires should feel that they can become a part of the occupied movement thus keeping it open and available to the majority of Americans to participate and do something real against the Oligarchy or/or Plutocracy that has been dominating lately in our banking system and in our government.
While I certainly realize there are many noble causes to want to champion, whether it be
environmentalism or ending war or rescuing abandoned pets, these things are not really related to
the Occupy Wall Street movement and I would hope that people would not try to include them as part of it. There are is a time and a correct venue for the other issues and similar movements can and
should spring up to fill the void of necessary activism needed. But to include them within the
occupy movement is to dilute its strength. It needs to stay focused on its main issue and it needs
to be self reflecting back upon itself to make sure that it remains the main message otherwise that
message will get lost or even perhaps stolen by people wanting to co-opt the movement for their own
agendas and their own needs.
While I cannot truly fault those looking to take advantage of a rapidly growing movement to push
their own agendas this is not the time or place, nor the correct movement in which to push overall
individual agendas. This movement needs to stay focused on its main issues and despite what you
hear in the mainstream media or from people who have no idea what Occupy Wall Street means or is
about, there is a main message to what we're doing -- it is not our fault if people are a ignoring it.
So the question is where do we go from here? Where we go from here is to continue to organize and
grow the movement, focusing on the main issue of the Occupy movement -- which is accountability for Wall Street and for the vast majority of us to continue to get that message out to more and more
people that if you're not a billionaire, this problem with bankers and Wall Street and the economy
and rampant corruption in politics via lobbying must come to an end if America is to continue as a
viable republic. It isn't someone else's problem. It is ours. If we don't act now, we may never have
the ability as free citizens to ever act on it again.