Occupy Wall Street’s goal: money out of politics

No demands. No leadership. Vague, confused, well-intentioned.

Corporate media argues Occupy Wall Street, Occupy Boston, and the over 900 similar protest events that took place worldwide last weekend (per the Washington Post), are like infants: cute, loveable, but impossible, even dangerous, to take seriously because they can’t articulate what they want. NYT: “Protesters Debate What Demands, if Any, to Make.” News Corp.’s MarketWatch: “Occupy movement: a collective, vague effort.” AFP: “Occupy Wall St’s demand? No demands.”

In fact, here is Occupy Wall Street’s website. Click on About Us and you will find that on 13 July the movement started with a call from AdBusters magazine to occupy Wall Street: “Are you ready for a Tahrir moment? On Sept 17, flood into lower Manhattan, set up tents, kitchens, peaceful barricades and occupy Wall Street.”

The clarion had one demand:

that Barack Obama ordain a Presidential Commission tasked with ending the influence money has over our representatives in Washington. It’s time for DEMOCRACY NOT CORPORATOCRACY, we’re doomed without it.

You’d never know it from reading the newspapers or watching TV. If there is a better current example of how limited the information provided by our corporate media system is, I don’t know of it.


Recommended by sue-kennedy.


13 Comments . Leave a comment below.
  1. I had inferred their key demands to be...

    …increased taxes on the wealthy, increased ACTUAL amounts corporations pay, and overturning doctrines of corporate personhood.

  2. To make this their primary demand is asking much more than many at the protests might be aware.

    As a side note, I seriously doubt most of the protesters are truly demonstrating so that a presidential commission can be set up.

    In any event, to achieve the simplistic (yet admirable) goal of getting money out of politics will take nothing short of a Constitutional amendment. While lobbying reforms may certainly be taken on by Congress, to eliminate the overwhelming influence corporate money has in politics is to ask for radical changes in the way political campaigns are financed. Due to Supreme Court rulings this can only be achieved through an amendment so that campaign money can be regulated without becoming a First Amendment issue.

    If the protests want to advocate for anything then they need to advocate for this. Without changing the way in which political candidates run for elections than nothing else will matter. Want to change corporate regulations? Without a change to election law any change brought about by the OWS movement will be temporary and watered down. Want to enact more progressive social policies that protect the poor and struggling? Won’t happen without this change. Virtually any radical change in the status quo that the protesters are upset about won’t happen without such an amendment.

  3. I don't think an amendment can reduce or infringe on another

    How would this work?

    Due to Supreme Court rulings this can only be achieved through an amendment so that campaign money can be regulated without becoming a First Amendment issue.

    What you’re really asking for is a repeal of the First, like the 18th and 21st.

    • "I don't think an amendment can reduce or infringe on another"

      Of course it can. Constitutional amendments have often overturned the Supreme Court’s understanding of existing parts of the Constitution, going all the way back to the 11th Amendment (which overturned the Court’s interpretation in 1793 of part of Article III). An amendment to overturn Citizens United would be very much along those lines. It would assuredly *not* be “a repeal of the First” Amendment, and would be nothing like the repeal of prohibition.

  4. It's Not Really A Repeal

    The First Amendment doesn’t actually say anything about campaign financing or about corporate rights (or lack thereof) to finance political campaigns. One interpretation of it includes those things but other court rulings have drawn other conclusions. The Supreme Court of 2010 don’t have the power to literally write Citizens United into the Constitution itself. (To reverse things, Roe v Wade isn’t literally in there either, so an amendment to overturn that wouldn’t require repeal of the 1st or 9th either.)

  5. As long as politicians wield a lot of power

    politics will attract a lot of money seeking to influence that power. If you close off point of access A the money will move to point of access B.

    They might as well demand fresh water for all by getting the salt out of the ocean.

    • Over simplification

      It is possible to make incremental progress, even if the ultimate goal is not realized. The best need not be the enemy of the good.

      • Incremental to what

        If someone wants to spend dough on politics, they will find a way to do it.

        Just make some better disclosure laws so the competing candidate has something to denounce and be done with it.

  6. I was in Zuccotti Park on Sunday...

    and the media is fairly accurate, unfortunately, in that the movement is fairly fractured, and almost intentionally noncommittal about making demands. It’s much more of a “we’re angry about the economic situation of this country” protest, than it is about offering a cohesive message unfortunately. And I was surprised by the large percentage of people solely protesting the wars, or trying to get the movement geared to focus on anti-Fracking. Everything there is being done through a General Assembly of sorts, which mostly consists of a few people making speeches, but not a whole lot of action.

    One of the most telling signs, was someone who had been there from nearly the beginning, whose sign read, “We’re Here. We’re Unclear. Get Used to it.”

    Overall the movement is getting more attention about the problems that Wall St is creating, and the disconnect between Wall St and the average person. But I’d still like to see the overall demands be simplified down to “Overturn Citizens United v FEC” and “Move your money to smaller banks or credit unions.” Hopefully it will evolve into that.

    • I don't know.

      My feeling (and it’s not much more than that) is that, at least in the short term, the lack of a to-do list for these protesters is actually a good thing. As soon as they say, yes, we’re all about overturning Citizens United and letting the Bush tax cuts expire, they’re no longer particularly important. It’s precisely because they are talking about huge, not-easily-resolved issues, without a ten-point plan for solving them, that they are generating interest and sympathy. Eventually, something will happen, but nobody really knows what, or when. And for now, I think that’s fine.

      • Well put

        I still think they should go home soon; the main point (“We want something done,” in my opinion) has been made. Further action needs to start, inside.

    • Not mutually exclusive

      I certainly don’t think AdBusters speaks for the entire movement, in NYC or across the US or worldwide. My point was simply that the initial call to action did have a clear demand, and listening to corporate news coverage, you’d never know it: you’d think that a horde of people had descended on lower Manhattan for some utterly incomprehensible, vaguely comic, reason. That’s not accurate.

  7. My humble offer to OWS of 10 platform demands

    My 10 suggestions for restoring justice, sanity and humanity NOW to the U.S. economic system:

    1. Close loopholes that allow U.S. corporations to incorporate in the Caribbean to avoid paying U.S. corporate income taxes.

    2. Prosecute Wall Street bank and investment executives who committed criminal acts that led to the current economic collapse, recession and massive unemployment.

    3. Break up the TBTF banks and corporations. If they are TBTF, they are too big to exist in the first place.

    4. Re-institute the Glass-Steagall Act that separated investment banking from commercial banking.

    5. Start a direct government jobs program like the WPA, training unemployed Americans with skills needed to redevelop our public infrastructure and develop 21st-century industries.

    6. Pass Instant Runoff Voting to give our vote for third-party candidates a competitive chance when Democrats and Republicans offer us little choice.

    7. Institute a Financial Transaction Tax immediately.

    8. End the Bush tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires immediately.

    9. Set up a Presidential Commission to make recommendations for ending the corrupting influence of money and lobbyists on our governmental process.

    10. Compel banks to buy back distressed mortgages at current market rates and allow homeowners to stay in their homes, making lower payments.

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