Occupy Peach Pundit: Guest Post by George Chidi

October 17, 2011 14:14 pm

by Todd Rehm · 48 comments


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On one of surprisingly many points, I find myself in agreement with Debbie Dooley, a leader here in the Tea Party movement. The media, she says, calls describes the Occupy phenomenon as the left’s version of the Tea Party. Dooley says that’s “the furthest thing from the truth.

I concur. Occupy Atlanta, and ostensibly Occupy Wall Street and Occupy DC and Occupy everything else, in my fervent hope, is almost nothing like the Tea Party.

You see, we want the Occupy movement to actually help fix our country. I view that as a sharp contrast. If Occupy does nothing more than perpetuate the political paralysis leading to America’s destruction as the Tea Party of the left, we’re all well and truly doomed.

Adbusters magazine certainly sparked the movement with its piece referencing the Tahrir Square protests – a triumph of democracy rivaling the fall of the Berlin Wall. But the fuel for the fire accumulated with every moment of the debt negotiation crisis in recent months.

Slowly, over the course of the year, as the government has slid from mere incompetence to complete political dysfunction, it has become clear to most of the people sleeping in Zuccotti Park – and downtown Atlanta – that no one in Washington can save us. A slow-motion political catastrophe awaits us, inexorably creeping forward as we watch, horrified.

Our dysfunction is so complete, we have structured our vital fiscal negotiations around the presumption of failure. Laughably, we expect the so-called super committee to come to no agreement, with each political party expecting the other to bear the greater burden of blame when the untailored budget cuts come.

Somehow, a change in marginal tax rates of three or four percent for the top bracket has become a radical political concept upon which our country will be allowed to break. A reasonable person would look at our budget history of the last 30 years and simply call for a return to tax rates for top-bracket earners and cuts to costs – perhaps from war spending? – that, at the very least, returns the country to its historical balance between revenue and expenditure.

This is a policy view held by the majority of people I’ve encountered in the movement, and I strongly suspect some version of this goal will be adopted as a formal policy objective.

Meanwhile, Greece is imploding. The maddening spiderweb of international finance – and the criminally stupid opacity of the credit default swap market – virtually guarantees that US banks will take huge hits to their balance sheets within the next year or so … which is to say, sometime during election season.

They’re going to ask us for another bailout.

None of this had to be this way. In 2009, with the closest thing to a mandate any president has enjoyed since Reagan’s second term, Barack Obama swept into office and could have pushed with maximum force for proper oversight of the US financial services industry.

He could have demanded reinstatement of the measures from the Glass-Steagall Act separating investment and retail banking. He could have demanded an oversight board to make trade in derivatives such as credit default swaps transparent. A risk regulator – yes, there’s that dirty word – could have been established to warn the markets when too many Wall Street trading desks had large, correlated risks with the potential to destabilize the economy. He could have called for rules to identify and potentially break up too-big-to-fail financial institutions before their private liabilities became our public liabilities.

Hope, indeed.

I laugh at the critique of the Occupy movement as some kind of crypto-campaign strategy on behalf of President Obama. Many – if not most – of the people I speak to here carry deep disgust for the president’s inability to bridge the differences between Democrats and Republicans and to lead the country to sane policies. Calls for his impeachment are common.

But I believe that it doesn’t matter who serves as president right now. There is no near-term credible scenario in which either a Democrat or a Republican executive can muster control of the House and a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate long enough to accomplish anything of substance, not before the continuing dysfunction of government swings public sentiment away from the party in power.

I suppose it would be easy enough to simply cry plague on both political houses and party in the street until Ragnarok, but that’s not the sentiment I’ve witnessed in the week I’ve been watching and speaking with protesters in Woodruff Park. (Its new denizens have taken to calling it Troy Davis Park, an appellation I view as distracting.)

These are the people who haven’t given up hope, but they’re no longer investing their hope in the president or in government as it works today. As long as well-financed firms can essentially bribe politicians legally through the lobbying process and campaign donations, change must come from outside of the system.

So. We occupy public spaces to draw public attention to the public’s problems. Woodruff Park, for example, would otherwise remain a gathering spot for the city’s homeless, even though it’s nestled in the middle of Atlanta. As long as we’re there, the people in that park will have access to a meal.

Locally, I would urge the Occupy movement to look for ways to get involved in public policy related to lobbying reform, public space and the ripple effects of the Wall Street meltdown and housing crisis. For example, the Alliance for Ethics Reform contains “independent groups and individuals … united in the push for strengthening Georgia’s ethics laws with detailed proposals on Georgia ethics legislation.” AER wants limits and disclosure of gifts to legislators from lobbyists, rule making authority for a state ethics commission, PAC spending limits and better conflict of interest rules.

That sounds like it’s right up our alley. As it happens, Tea Party Patriots is also a member.

I would urge Occupy to scrutinize the use of public-private partnerships with dubious benefits to the public. The 1-85 express toll lane experiment comes to mind, in which Georgia has essentially sold the right to charge tolls on a public road to private investors. We can see how well that’s working out while we stuck in traffic on the way to town with a nearly-empty lane next to us. State leaders are considering an expansion of the experiment, which would require a bidding process for private investors that’s closed to the public and an agreement not to build new roads to alleviate congestion until those investors have been repaid with interest.

Similarly, public parking in Atlanta has been effectively leased to the private firm Park Atlanta, limiting the city’s flexibility to manage this asset to the public’s benefit while infuriating drivers and business owners all over the city with hyper-aggressive parking enforcement.

I answer the charge of the crimes “communism” and “socialism” not guilty. I’m an entrepreneur, an avowed capitalist and hold an MBA from a ranked school. Wait … it’s not against the law to be a communist or socialist in America? The entire conversation about communists in our midst is absurd, a slur, irrelevant and the worst kind of unproductive emotional demogoguery. We have real problems to solve in this country. The Red Menace is not one of them.

There is a radical caucus within the Occupy movement in Atlanta. It is unclear to me how influential they will be, but they appear to be in the minority – as they almost always are, everywhere. A meeting of honest-to-goodness Communists in Atlanta could not fill the park.

But as I’ve said before, can anyone honestly say that because a handful of communists happen to attend rallies at which no one is barred, a public conversation about the issues raised by the Occupy movement lay beyond the pale? Even addressing this question feels like a moment from the McCarthy era and symbolizes the degraded state of our public discourse. Rather than discuss the actual issues of the day, we look for ad hominem reasons to avoid actual conversation.

Similarly, the incidents of disorder conservatives have latched onto as a means of de-legitimizing the movement – pictures of protesters in New York crapping on a cop car and a flag – are condemnable for the misdemeanor criminal offenses they are. Those protesters should be prosecuted as such.

I note, however, that even as I condemn the actual crimes you’ve described, I support the right, broadly, to make extreme political statements — even statements with which most Americans would disagree — as a hallmark of our 1st Amendment rights. I believe in the Constitution – the whole Constitution, not just the parts that make my argument sound more valid.

The Tea Party embraced a lack of central control at first. Virtually anyone with a microphone and a voice could speak at a meeting. More than one person took that opportunity to try to wrap the mantle of the Tea Party around extreme views that were ultimately rejected by the group. It took some shaking out, and some time. That accurately describes Occupy Atlanta right now, and, I think, the broader movement as well.

 George Chidi is an Occupy Atlanta supporter, a former staff writer for the AJC and director of research for the competitive intelligence consultantcy Neon Flag.


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Rambler1414 October 17, 2011 at 2:29 pm

“The 1-85 express toll lane experiment comes to mind, in which Georgia has essentially sold the right to charge tolls on a public road to private investors.”

Fact check alert.

This is false, correct? A private investor is NOT receiving these tolls, nor is a private investor dictating what price to charge.

Charlie October 17, 2011 at 2:39 pm

Correct. The I-85 project is a combination of federal and state funding. There is no private ownership involved.

22bons October 17, 2011 at 2:34 pm

I just wish I could embed the cartoon going around of the tea party guy with the “don’t tread on me” sign standing next to the OWS guy with the “tread on him —>” sign. Sums it up rather nicely.

Harry October 17, 2011 at 2:36 pm

While your views are well-stated, it seems these occupying forces in general need some more time to mature and marinate, and then we will see if they are a truly independent voice. If they assume the worldview of a Ron Paul, then I could support that. Al Sharpton, on the other hand….

gchidi October 17, 2011 at 2:38 pm

I may have misread how the I-85 project is working — I’m writing without a net, fast. My source is this AJC story.

http://www.ajc.com/news/georgia-politics-elections/i-85-toll-lane-1181981.html

“However, another toll project took an unexpected stumble Thursday. Gov. Nathan Deal raised concerns about state’s maiden toll road project using private investment just as it was about to go out to bid. The state Department of Transportation has postponed the bidding at least until Monday.

That project would build new optional toll lanes alongside I-75 and I-575 in Cobb and Cherokee counties.

After years of false starts, the I-75/I-575 project appeared headed for bidding Thursday or Friday. Key elements of it sailed through approvals Thursday at DOT, where board members called it “historic,” and at the State Road and Tollway Authority board, which Deal heads as chairman. The impasse came later at a state finance commission meeting, also chaired by Deal.

Deal’s concerns about the I-75/I-575 project centered on a clause in the proposed project contract, which would protect the private investors by restricting what other road projects the government could build in the area of the toll road. The project would cost about $1 billion, and private investors would finance and build it, to be paid back by tolls and up to $300 million in tax dollars.”

I assumed this was an expansion of the I-85 pilot project. It appears that am in error, and I will happily accept correction.

Charlie October 17, 2011 at 2:42 pm

Separate projects. The 75/575 projects will use private money (with some public backing) to create new lanes. The 85 lanes that converted existing lanes to toll/HOT/HOV lanes are taxpayer funded, with the goal of revenue raised to be break even, and the goal of the project to keep one lane open at all times for express busses and emergency vehicles, as well as those willing to pay.

gchidi October 17, 2011 at 2:49 pm

Understood. That does change the terms of discussion around the I-85 project. The experiment is marginally less annoying now that I know this, but it does invalidate that critique. An error, then.

We can talk about watching Mercedes and Escalades zipping by in the pay lane while we drudge along, but that will instantaneously degenerate into a Neil Boortz-like discussion about wealth envy. Let me simply say that the cost-benefit analysis needs to be very rigorous to justify leaving an entire lane of traffic all-but open in the name of a congestion pricing experiment and an open path for the state patrol.

tomfromdecatur October 17, 2011 at 3:20 pm

Thanks for shedding some light on the Occupy activities. And, to my surprise, it is on Peach Pundit and in Georgia of all places. May this civil discourse continue and grow.

I hope what you say is true as I tend to agree with much of what you posted. Keep the words coming and the comments on all sides growing.

Thank you for the post.

John Konop October 17, 2011 at 3:36 pm

…..Somehow, a change in marginal tax rates of three or four percent for the top bracket has become a radical political concept upon which our country will be allowed to break. A reasonable person would look at our budget history of the last 30 years and simply call for a return to tax rates for top-bracket earners and cuts to costs – perhaps from war spending? – that, at the very least, returns the country to its historical balance between revenue and expenditure…..

I do appreciate the rational tone of your opinions on the PP. And as you know I do think Debbie should debate over spewing talking points at your group. With that said your above statement does not add up for the following reasons:

1) The issue is not the tax rate but a system that is a pay for play game that allows multi-national corporation to pay a very low rate if it all while small businesses and middle class get caught holding the bill. A more rational idea would be a flatter tax system with no write-offs and special deals.

2) I have been against the policemen of the world foreign policy and do agree it has been a waste of our money, loss of brave souls and created more problems than it solved. But anyone who knows the math surrounding the out of control debt will tell you Medicare alone will bankrupt the system. And both sides are engaging in happy fantasy talk about the budget unless they deal with Medicare. And when comes to cuts both sides are just playing politics.

jiminga October 17, 2011 at 4:31 pm

George,
Your points are well written and logical. As I have posted before, we await the Occupy _________
to adopt a logical set of goals and an action plan in order to transition from a mob to a movement.

Mark Rountree October 17, 2011 at 5:30 pm

George,

Today the Occupy Atlanta folks at the Park said they would refuse to leave the park unless Georgia met its demands — the one specifically being named is that Georgia must abolish 2011 legislation, HB 87, which is intended to stop illegal immigrants from taking jobs — illegally.

This is ZERO to do with “Ending the Fed” or stopping corruption, but has everything to do with hard Left-wing politics. It further shows how quickly the movement is being taken over by the hard Left — away from some good-meaning folks — and is now to the point that is not credible.

ZazaPachulia October 17, 2011 at 5:46 pm

To be fair, I am far from “hard left” and I think HB 87 is heaping pile of you-know-what… There are plenty of people on both sides of the aisle that recognize the shortsightedness of that bill (especially when everyone who voted for it knew it would head directly to the courts, costing tax-payers money while Arizona (and others) were already fighting in court).

Mark Rountree October 17, 2011 at 6:40 pm

I’m quite sure you do think it’s bad.

But your love of hard left goofiness has nothing to do with my central point…which actually *makes* my point. ;)

This nonsense is totally off-base as to WHY the few *sane* people who are there are there.

Yours is a hard Left demand” from political outer space…nothing to do whatsoever with Ending the Fed or “ending corporate greed”.

Keep making your demands. It’ll soon rain. Baths, anyone?

Todd Rehm October 17, 2011 at 5:55 pm

Mark-

Where do you find that they’re demanding the repeal of HB 87? They’ve issued a clarification that if a “demand” statement doesn’t appear on the occupyatlanta.org website, it does not reflect the will of the group, and I don’t see anything about HB87 over there.

Mark Rountree October 17, 2011 at 6:27 pm

Todd, it was reported on either 750 or 640 today, news report (not talk show)

Mark Rountree October 17, 2011 at 6:35 pm

Todd, here it is in the AJC dated today:

” …the protesters listed three demands “in an effort to bring local concerns to the national movement, the group said in a statement.Those demands were: the immediate and unconditional rescinding of the recent MARTA fare hikes; the immediate and unconditional end to the Atlanta Police Department’s stop and frisk policies, including road blocks; and the immediate and unconditional repeal of House Bill 87, the Arizona copy cat law passed by the Georgia legislature.”

Left wing stupidity. Nothing to do with “corporate greed”. Nothing to do with Ending The Fed. Nothing to do with cutting the deficit, nor creating jobs by cutting taxes.

Just non-reality. The hard left is running the show now. The movement is entering the narcissistic phase in which it jettisons real solutions and honest conversation.

http://www.ajc.com/news/atlanta/occupy-atlanta-protesters-say-1203215.html

bowersville October 17, 2011 at 9:30 pm

Horse hockey…you conveniently left out the beginning of the sentence in the AJC article…

“A group of protestors CLAIMING to be with Occupy Atlanta “in an effort to bring local concerns to a national movement…”

It could just as easily have read…

“A group of homeless winos wondering into the park looking for a free meal and CLAIMING to be with Occupy Atlanta “in an effort to bring local concerns to a national movement…”

The rest of the article quotes people with names. The winos were never identified.

griftdrift October 17, 2011 at 6:36 pm

750 reported as a segment of “self described radicals”. I got the Occupy Atlanta press release denying any demands made about 30 seconds later

Todd Rehm October 17, 2011 at 6:37 pm

And I’ve since seen it reported at AJC, but I didnt see it at the groups site. I just don’t know who to believe.

griftdrift October 17, 2011 at 6:38 pm

And as Alverson said, plenty of not so hard left oppose HB87. But keep pounding the talking point, Mark. It is usually an effective tactic.

Mark Rountree October 17, 2011 at 6:43 pm

Yes, opposing the incentives draw illegal immigrants to Georgia is … pretty effective since the vast majority of Georgians agree with it.

Darn those elections. No wonder so many of you guys are calling for elections to be stopped. (such as Jesse Jackson and the North Carolina Gov Beverly Perdue)

griftdrift October 17, 2011 at 6:50 pm

Wow Mark. Are you auditioning to fill Erick’s chair when he’s on vacation? “You guys”? Calling for elections to be stopped? Warming up for glossy flyer season by practicing putting words in people’s mouths?

Thanks. I was going to leave this alone. But you’ve inspired me.

Ambernappe October 17, 2011 at 7:05 pm

These suggestions regarding the possibility of 2012 elections being halted is indeed frightening!!!!

dirL October 17, 2011 at 8:36 pm

What a pathetic list of demands !!! I am surprised they didn’t ask for people to come down with diapers and pacifiers. And true to the typical leftist talking points they find a couple of so called conservatives that disagree with the immigration clean up and claim somehow it’s a flawed bill. As for Agri business and their losses, maybe they need to adjust to following the law and quit undercutting the hard working American people that need jobs. Have you been to those poultry plants in North Georgia? Their profits were on the back of underpaid, abused illegals and of course, those rich repugs don’t want you to change their laws. They were making money hand over fist. I will say it again. If you oppose enforcing stronger illegal immigration laws then you support human trafficking, the illegal sex trade, workers being abused and underpaid, and gang activity. The bozo shoe fits, now wear it !!!!

griftdrift October 17, 2011 at 8:43 pm

You forgot human sacrifice.

dirL October 17, 2011 at 10:01 pm

I always forget something but yeah being soft on immigration fosters human sacrifice, spanglish and bad tattoos not to mention that whole sharpie eyebrow thing

Mark Rountree October 17, 2011 at 8:53 pm

Aw shucks…

Here I go quotin’ *actual* Democratic elected officials, and you decide that I’m your inspiration.

I think maybe there’s a bit of Tea Party in you after all, James. ;)

“Your thoughts betray you, Father. I feel the good in you, the conflict.”
–Luke

griftdrift October 17, 2011 at 9:16 pm

So “you guys” equal Democrats? Interesting. Probably want to check your polling data, Mark. Or maybe you were just flattering me with all those glossy mailers I got.

Mark Rountree October 18, 2011 at 12:15 am

Don’t blame the messenger, blame these folks, below (links provided). The hard left is getting pretty hysterical these days.

Good, well-meaning libertarians will get shuffled out of Occupy as this progresses. The hard Lefties and haters will remain on there because they finally have a new project that diverts attention away from the failures of the Obama Presidency, blaming someone else for the problems that Obama is causing and exacerbating.

Enjoy:
Dem Gov Perdue calls for ending elections…without a hint of a joke on her face. http://bit.ly/pCJ7Oi

Jesse Jackson calls for suspending the US Constitution and imposing a Presidential decree system in order to accomplish their goals:
http://thedc.com/oAHwyw

griftdrift October 18, 2011 at 7:28 am

And those two things have to do with me how?

Three Jack October 17, 2011 at 8:03 pm

i’m curious how a conservative supporting hb87 would qualify losing $391m in ag revenues to be beneficial during georgia’s ongoing economic troubles (obviously other factors weighed in, but lack of workers was a big part). throw in a pile of new regulations forced upon private businesses by state government because federal government failed to do it’s job and we have hb87. if this is the new conservatism, somebody took a wrong turn.

ows has their reasons for wanting the law repealed, many conservatives agree for very different, but purely principled reasons. you know, less regulation, more prosperity. instead of running off the hard working hispanics, republicans should have worked out an interim policy while they put together a long term solution. but that would not have been politically expedient which we all know is the underlying reason for passing hb87 in spite of the many obvious flaws.

Mark Rountree October 17, 2011 at 9:59 pm

Three Jack (BB),

It’s quite simple as to why this is a conservative approach: because there will be problems as the law is enforced, but the long-term goal of getting serious about controlling our borders is correct for the entire country. Obviously HB87 is a small part of that, a very small part. But until the White House and Congress get leaders who are serious about fixing the problem, it leaves states with few options to deal with it. We should not provide incentives for illegal immigrants to be in Georgia.

Plus, you only use one one side of the scale in claiming $391 million. You are not counting the savings in government expenses, classroom size, hospital expenses, prison care, and more in the equation. Frankly, there are no credible figures that I’ve seen produced that have shown the real net cost or benefit.

Like the issue or not, eliminating the incentives for illegal immigrants to come here is a principled one, just one state’s approach borne of a failed federal government. Many other states, are now following suit.

Three Jack October 17, 2011 at 11:19 pm

mark, the legislature could have done both with a little thought; eliminate the incentive to come here illegally by passing a practical interim plan while at the same time maintaining a critical workforce. instead they played politics which ended up hurting georgia’s primary industry.

i’m all for securing the borders, but last i checked georgia is not a border state. if georgia citizens are so concerned about border enforcement, then they should implore one of our members of congress/senate to introduce and promote a federal solution.

Mark Rountree October 18, 2011 at 12:01 am

You are missing the entire point by a mile.

Occupy Atlanta raises a demand that Georgia must overturn our laws, including HB87, or else they won’t vacate the park.

Absolutely not. The hard-left idiots who demanded this don’t quite get their reality. Furthermore, the hard-core leftists (who will eventually take over the entire thing) are using perfectly well-meaning (though gullible) conservatives/libertarians as human shields to give them cover.

The human shields will eventually figure it out and come in out of the rain, leaving the petulant demanders to sit idly in the rain as (actual) productive people walk on by.

griftdrift October 18, 2011 at 7:31 am

“Occupy Atlanta raises a demand that Georgia must overturn our laws, including HB87, or else they won’t vacate the park.”

Two different people have shown you that this was a few people, not the group and Occupy Atlanta quickly issued a statement denying making any demands. But in these arguments, reality usually doesn’t matter. Keep pounding that nail, Mark.

ZazaPachulia October 17, 2011 at 5:42 pm

George, interesting points (and great photo).

Quick question in terms of your involvement in the Occupy movement. I surmise from conversations we’ve had in the past that you and I would likely agree on the idea that backward tax policy in this country has been straining the economy for years. It is hampering job growth, growing the deficit and incentivizing outsourcing. I think we’d also agree that a seemingly non-partisan, easily achievable first step in fixing this problem is lowering the corporate tax rate from a top rate of 35 to something much more competitive with the rest of the world (say the low 20s), while simultaneously simplifying the structure and closing nearly all current loopholes. I’m angry at Congress because they are too beholden to partisan (and lobbying) interests to get this no-brainer passed…

So… Could you imagine the Occupy crowd rallying around the concept of a lower tax rate for corporate America? If so, I’m underestimating the rest of the crowd.

NoTeabagging October 17, 2011 at 6:25 pm

George.

I am hoping the next great peoples political movement will NOT align themselves with any political party. In fact, the best goal would be to end the two party system and make all elected officials independent and individually accountable. Our current ‘team sport’ system only allows players to work for the team, make the team look good, score points and make a good offensive or defensive move of the day. which of course is reported in safe, non-fact checked sound bites by the media. This does not solve problems, it is not leadership, and it does not lead to good legislation.

Obama campaigned under the guise of non-partisanship and doing right for all Americans. His powerful message at the 2004 Democratic convention was about doing the right thing for all people and not one party. He had everyone’s attention, including the media, and was poised to make great changes. Unfortunately, he blew it. Perhaps the circumstances on his arrival impeded progress. I think he could have done more to lead as a non-partisan entity, and changed the way the media reports politics. I do not think he had to become the great Republican basher at ‘State of the Union’ speeches. That was a mistake. He was our hope and I do not see anyone willing or able to make that monumental change coming up in the ranks.

Do something extraordinary… end the two party system for the good of the country.

debbie0040 October 17, 2011 at 9:25 pm

The socialist OWS mob invades Oakland, California.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tuFQuEwJ5xI&feature=player_embedded#!

Baker October 18, 2011 at 12:06 am

Very interesting video. Please Lord for the sake of our country, and as our country goes, so goes the world, so for the sake of all of Humanity, please let these people be a super slim minority.

I know there are crazies out there, and I know they are a slim minority, but this is pretty spooky. Also, this video is from Oakland, CA, one of the most-lib places in the country for sure, but still. I will never understand how Marxist practice in history has no impact on these people. Amazing what arrogance can do. “Well, Russia just didn’t do it right, we’re smart enough to do it the right way”

Doug Grammer October 18, 2011 at 3:09 am

Any group that starts with “occupy” is promoting breaking the law. Park hours don’t apply to them. For some reason, they aren’t required to have permits when they hold a rally. The occupy movement started on Wall Street. It is a simple case of greed. I am not talking about the greed of the Wall Street brokers. The occupiers are concerned with the amount of money that others have. They want more of it. They obsess over it. They want redistribution of wealth. The “have nots” want what the “haves” have. The reason people call the occupiers socialists and communists is because they are.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wrPGoPFRUdc

I am not defining the occupy movement. This is how the occupy movement has defined itself, one member at a time.

To state that the President has nothing to gain from the public’s focus taken off of him and on to Wall Street and the occupy movement is very silly indeed. I don’t think he can escape his record, but he will try.

The occupy movement seems to be a pilot fish. It wants to swim with the shark, aka the TEA Party, and be taken just as seriously as the TEA Party. For that to happen, people need to equate the two groups on equal footing. They are not on equal footing. One group expresses it’s concerns within the law and the other does not. We need to remember that the pilot fish is a scavenger and a parasite and can’t live on its own for very long.

I’m sure that there are some members of the occupy movement who want better regulation of banks and stock trading without any personal benefit, but the vast majority seem to want what others have and call for and end of the current system.

We can make changes to the current system without ending it.

“Somehow, a change in marginal tax rates of three or four percent for the top bracket has become a radical political concept upon which our country will be allowed to break. A reasonable person would look at our budget history of the last 30 years and simply call for a return to tax rates for top-bracket earners and cuts to costs – perhaps from war spending? – that, at the very least, returns the country to its historical balance between revenue and expenditure.”

Is this any different than take from the rich and give to the poor? Is this any different than communism? There is also the left’s message of “end the war” mixed in. By the way, I am fine with ending the war the right way.

Why couldn’t a reasonable person want to change the system so that everyone pays an equal proportional amount and support a flat tax or a fair tax? If everyone pays into the system, everyone will care more about the system instead of focusing on what they can get out of the system for themselves.

GEORGE CHIDI  said “Those protesters should be prosecuted as such.” Why isn’t he equal in that assessment of those who break the law and occupy our parks past hours that normal citizens would be fined and possibly arrested for?

rense October 18, 2011 at 2:59 pm

This response is most unhelpful.

“Is this any different than take from the rich and give to the poor? Is this any different than communism? There is also the left’s message of “end the war” mixed in. By the way, I am fine with ending the war the right way.

Why couldn’t a reasonable person want to change the system so that everyone pays an equal proportional amount and support a flat tax or a fair tax? If everyone pays into the system, everyone will care more about the system instead of focusing on what they can get out of the system for themselves.”

As I stated on another comment, the people who are so opposed to “taking from the rich to give to the poor” in taxation would receive what they deserve should the poor and the middle class decide to cease volunteering for the military en masse and would also resist the draft that inevitably occurs afterward. When there are no poor and middle class people fighting our wars – which increasingly seem to be more about our political/economic interests than legitimate national security/defense objectives – then MAYBE the “anti-redistribution of wealth” crowd will learn the meaning of shared sacrifice for shared benefit.

Also, it was rather dishonorable the way that you totally ignored his main point. George Chidi was merely attempting to depict the debate over tax rates in the context of recent history, which would mean that his ideas, which would include raising tax rates to what they were during the Clinton administration and using its proceeds to retire the national debt – and Clinton did begin paying down the national debt towards the end of his office, and some GOPers complained that instead of paying down the national debt, the surplus should have been used to cut taxes – amounts to socialism. I am sorry, but taking what was our own fiscal policy for most of the last 60 years and equating it to what goes on in Cuba or some European social democracy is pure demagoguery. It reveals the mindset of a person who is totally unwilling to so much as have a civil conversation apart from the 20% of the population that agrees with you ideologically.

What’s wrong with a flat tax, you ask? Nothing, except for the fact in practical terms, we’ve never had one. Pretending as if we have ever had a flat tax, or as if a flat tax is an idea supported by the vast majority of Americans when the truth is that it isn’t even supported by most Republicans outside of Neal Boortz-influenced Georgia is absurd. Again, do expect to go with calling everyone who opposes a flat tax a socialist when most REPUBLICANS oppose a flat tax?

“We can make changes to the current system without ending it.”

Therein lies the rub. The non-radical element of the OWS supports a change to the system, the actual issues that Chidi was talking about. The Tea Party, or at least what the TEA Party became when it was co-opted by the GOP, doesn’t want the reforms that Chidi is mentioning. Instead, they want the same agenda that the GOP has been pushing since Reagan, really since before Reagan. They want everybody to believe that this financial crisis was caused by Chris Dodd, Barney Frank and Frank Raines pressuring banks to give “those people” home loans. The last thing that these people want to talk about is the criminal behavior that was rampant in the financial sector in the dozen or so years before the collapse, and they certainly don’t want to talk about regulatory changes, including possibly the need to put the regulations that were taken out during the second term of the Clinton administration back in. THAT’S the reason why no Tea Party type wants to debate an OWS type, because they want everyone to think that merely returning to the tax and regulatory policies that we had in 1997, when this country – when Atlanta – was booming, and in 1985, when the nation and region were booming, is some Saul Alinsky communist plot. And that is precisely the type of dishonesty – rank purposeful intellectual dishonesty and deception by ideologically rigid people – that NONE of the reforms that are BADLY NEEDED are going to take place no matter who gets elected.

Well, when it all goes down the tubes, I hope you’ll enjoy your flat tax then. Fat lot of good it is going to do you.

Doug Grammer October 18, 2011 at 11:16 pm

Rense,

Was there a memo that I am supposed to be helpful to the occupiers? If so, I didn’t get it.

I know a few people who used to be millionaires who aren’t millionaires any longer. If we taxed everyone in the United States who makes over $250,000 a year at 100%, that would be enough to run our government for about six months. (source Michelle Bachman, so even I question the exactness of it, but it’s plausible.) Then what would you do?

The problem is spending. DC spends more than it should. That’s another subject. We can’t tax the rich into making all of us prosperous. I’d rather see a system that doesn’t punish people who take risks more than the people who don’t. I’d like to see an equal system of taxation, be it fair or flat.

As far as the wars go, I’m an advocate of Iraq of paying us a bit for the freedom we’ve helped provide for them. That too, is another subject.

I don’t happen to agree with many of George Chidi’s ideas. I’m not going to speak on their behalf. If you are going to bring up dishonorable ways to ignore a point, what about my point that they are breaking the law? Is it dishonorable of you to ignore it? He is speaking on behalf of criminals.

As far as the mortgage industry and regulations go, I’ve been a mortgage loan originator for the last 10 years until I have been regulated out of that industry. There have been a lot of problems in that industry, but what do you really know about it?

Did you even know this conversation ever took place?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_MGT_cSi7Rs

benevolus October 19, 2011 at 8:51 am

“He is speaking on behalf of criminals. ”
You need some Xanax.
I don’t think you even see shades of gray, let alone colors.
They are criminals in the sense that speeders are criminals.

Doug Grammer October 19, 2011 at 7:16 pm

Bene,

At least you admit they are breaking the law. The question is, why doesn’t George Chidi advocate enforcing those laws as well?

benevolus October 20, 2011 at 9:30 am

Well he can speak for himself, but I am sure you know that civil disobedience has a long and often honorable history in this country. Not to mention some may feel that the right to peacefully assemble is worth exercising, even if it means challenging city ordinances.

gchidi October 18, 2011 at 10:25 am

Thank you all for your comments. I’m going to address them as I can here, briefly.

First, let me reiterate — I’m not an official “spokesman” for Occupy Atlanta. I’m not an official anything. I haven’t made official demands. I’m a supporter of the broad goals of the movement, which I took a stab at describing in this piece.

Thanks, Mark, for bringing that AJC piece to my attention. I’m going to air a bit of dirty laundry now. I saw Debbie’s piece yesterday, decided it needed an intelligent answer, and wrote one. I didn’t vet it — I have no authority, so what’s the point — and shot it here. (In retrospect, someone with policy chops might have caught the I-85 bit. Still …) Then I sent it to the committee formulating demands.

Some praised it. A few members of the radical caucus said it denigrated and marginalized them — and they’re apparently somewhat pissed at me. “Middle-class” was one description given, I believe. There were others. These radical members, apparently in the interest of moving the ball in a direction they prefer, appear to have issued demands of their own to the AJC, on behalf of the radical caucus. I don’t know if it was before or after my piece. I think it was after.

I counted heads at the radical caucus meeting a couple of days ago. There were 30 or 40 people in the circle. Not all of them were actual radicals. Not all radicals were at the session. But there were several hundred people in the park.

Yesterday afternoon, a disclaimer went up on the OccupyAtlanta.org site, reiterating that the movement has no official spokesman and has made no official demands. So the radicals are speaking for themselves. As am I. Not that they don’t make a few good points.

I believe, for example, that HB 87 should be abolished in favor of a streamlined legal work permit process and some kind of path to citizenship for productive, otherwise-law-abiding migrants. HB 87 has all kinds of unintended consequences for the legal citizen children of undocumented workers and on the Georgia economy at large.

I also believe that occupying a park in Atlanta isn’t closely linked enough to the problem to even help. King staged sit ins at segregated lunch counters and organized bus strikes because that was where the problems were. Latino migrants face real problems, but they’re not facing them at Woodruff Park. As a practical matter, HB 87 is going to be overturned in court, not by the Georgia Legislature. That specific demand isn’t realistic.

But why be at Woodruff Park at all, then? In my view, it’s to stand with the Occupy Wall Street phenomenon, which is centered on questions of financial regulation, fiscal policy and good governance.

ZazaPachulia and John Konop — I can imagine many people in the movement embracing a simpler tax code, one that doesn’t reward lobbying power. But I hope that such a tax code would actually capture an appropriate amount of revenue. The dirty truth of the US corporate tax code today is that while it’s one of the highest marginal tax rates in the world on paper, in reality the effective tax rate for multinationals is far lower and the US takes in proportionately less revenue from business taxes than almost any industrialized country.

http://graphics8.nytimes.com/images/2011/05/31/business/31economist-bartlett2/31economist-bartlett2-blog480.jpg

An element of that is scale, of course. Our economy is larger, our country is larger, so there should be some efficiencies. But if you scoff at the concept of a larger government being more efficient, then that number should probably be larger than it is.

Medicare reform is a big issue, and once again, I think Obama and Congress blew it. I personally believe that we needed to get at cost-drivers more in the debate — perhaps through a single-payer process, perhaps through other means. For example — managing the supply of medical professionals better. There are more people applying to medical school than there are medical schools to train them. It’s a guild mentality about the profession, and it’s got to stop. We have more lawyers than we know what to do with while doctors can charge insane rates because there’s an artificial constraint on supply.

This is the lobbying power of industry at play.

And finally, Debbie. Debbie. DEBBIE! Ma’am. I’ll send you a note. It’s worth mentioning that, with all the Occupy Atlanta and Occupy Wall Street news out there, we haven’t been hearing much from the Tea Party. Perhaps it’s better for the Tea Party that attention shift elsewhere. I’ve seen the poll numbers. Despite a Tea Party-produced set of cherry-picked interviews set to spooky music in that bastion of sanity, Oakland, the movement is still held in higher regard by the public than the Tea Party.

Perhaps it’s easier to hide behind Twitter and blogs, in a sounding room of like-minded people who won’t challenge or contradict one another. The quality of ideas doesn’t necessarily improve that way, but hey, it’s safer.

I’ll take up someone else’s offer for a forum, but I’d still like to talk. Lobbying reform is a big deal, and I know many people here who want to get involved there somehow. Say hey to Julianne for me.

John Konop October 19, 2011 at 9:14 am

George,

I do think you are a great addition to the blog and it would be interesting if they made you a front page poster. It is obvious that you are a bright and thoughtful guy. Even If I disagree with someone on issues I have tremendous respect for anyone who can intelligently make their point. Also it seems clear that you are willing to look at issues from a different prospective, and you are not just an ideologue spewing talking points. Welcome to the PP!

BTW with that said if we use public exchanges or single payer and the end of the day Medicare needs a combination a combination of more revenue and more cuts any way you slice it. I do think Sen Tom Coburn is right when he has said the problem is both parties are scared to have this conversation with the American people. And as I have warned for years the longer we wait the harder the medicine. It is time for the adult conversation.

dorian October 18, 2011 at 11:38 am

Why not just start a news channel and call it “Occupy TV’? Then people who don’t actually want to be bothered to go hang out in a park all day, but for whatever reason share a keen interest in the people who do, could get their all-park-all-the-time news fix. Because, god know we need to know MORE about just what the heck all the “parkies” are doing all day. Do they prefer Starbucks or Cup-of-Joes? Who makes their signs? Are the port of potties adequate? For the love of God people, WE NEED OUR PARKIE FIX!!!

Here’s my question. As someone who works for 50-60 hours per week why should I give two cents about a bunch of folks who have nothing better to do than hang out in a park all day as a means of protest? Actually, that is a rhetorical question. The answer is ‘I don’t’. I just don’t care. I’ll be honest. I don’t even know WHY they are there. It doesn’t matter. All I hear is “blah. blah. protest. park. hippy”. It’s like the teacher from the peanuts cartoon.

I hope they sit in their little park until the end of time. I’ll just keep working on increasing my carbon footprint.

/rant off

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