OccupyWallSt. should "have demands" and "be on the lawn of the Whitehouse"

OccupyWallSt. should “have demands” and “be on the lawn of the Whitehouse”

Yves Smith at Naked Capitalism describes misgivings for policy prescriptions (demands) becoming central to the OccupyWallSt. movement at this time. Co-option of the energy and emotion of people taking the time to be involved is a real danger and cautions not to cave to media demands to suit convenient reporting or the apparent need for ready ‘expertise’ in spokemen positions.

I’m the first to admit I don’t have a good solution, but being aware of dangers increases the odds of navigating them successfully. Frankly I’ve been disconcerted at the calls for OccupyWallStreet to put forth demands. I’ve been party to extended e-mail exchanges among media types where a query regarding how OWS should deal with the demand that they put forth demands quickly devolved into most of the recipients trying to put forth proposals, rather than answer the question that was put to them. So I may be unduly sensitive to this issue.

Krugman and fellow economists like Stiglitz, as well as other members of Obama’s initial finance team who favored aggressive financial services industry reform like Paul Volcker, may finally be in a position to exert real influence. But for every one of them, there are at least 50 members of the hackocracy. I think OWS is best served on building on its current momentum, getting more followers and extending its reach, since the dangers of elite capture are serious. There is nothing more that the orthodoxy would like to do than neuter the aims of OWS via inside the Beltway dealings and negotiation of hard to understand legislative fine print.

Others have insisted the focus be on the Whitehouse (not Congress??). At some point of course. But we can’t ignore the actual sources of policy prescriptions currently offered by either party.

Lawrence Lessig in his new book Republic, Lost: How Money Corrupts Congress — and a Plan to Stop It (reviewed here and here.) describes a culture for our representatives in Congress that demands 30% to 70% of their time, and national party organizations that demand significant money from each Congressman over and beyond their own re-election needs.

Given the pressure to make decisions based on the need for large sums, Lessig suggests that policy does not dominate:

1. While elected officials are dependent now on donors who command large amounts of money, they also play the partisan game of who gets the money by concentrating on issues that will bring in the most money from industries that spend on their own issues (he uses bank swipe fees versus unemployment issues as an example. Guess who won the lion’s share of the time spent.) He tells us this is deliberate and planned.

2. The end result is a loss for either right or left so to speak…better financial regulation, addressing the broad array of employment, trade, a smaller and perhaps less intrusive government, a reasonable look at taxes…these are really less important than the carrot/stick routines described in the media as party issues or policy debates.

So where to start when you are the little guy?