I’ve been fortunate. I had great access to education due to support from my parents, and I was lucky to be at Microsoft during a very heady period for the company. I am clearly a 1%er. And I understand that my good fortune is part luck, part due to the support of others, part due to the free market capitalistic structure that our society has created. A little bit of my fortune is due to my hard work but many people have worked hard and received less — I’ve been lucky.
I’ve been watching the #OccupyWallStreet activity with interest. In my heart, I have great empathy for the movement. Growing up in flyover country, I never felt very warm about the government and financial elite on the East Coast, I viewed them with suspicion. And then having spent most of my adult life on the West Coast, surrounded by entrepreneurial activities at work and liberal attitudes, I have not grown to feel any warmer about large corporations or government involvement.
So when I see people expressing their feelings of lack of justice, lack of representation, antipathy towards the entrenched financial and governmental powers, I tend to empathize with the people on the street. And I applaud heartily their active peaceful engagement in the political process — they have the right to take to the streets in peaceful fashion, they have the right to be heard, they are not doing anything to harm anyone. So without even really understanding the goals of the movement, I applaud and encourage the people involved. It is hugely positive to see people have this level of passion about the issues in our society, and to be fully engaging in participative democracy. Go go go!
A couple of smart and committed young people sent me this “Why Occupy Wall Street? 4 reasons” video as a way of explaining why they are participating in the demonstrations. It is a worthwhile watch. The video lays out 4 principles:
* Re-regulate the financial institutions by reinstating Glass-Steagall. I am not informed enough to know the exact form of banking regulation we should have, but the financial services industry has demonstrated that it is not effective in controlling its own risk profile, or limiting the impact of their risks on the rest of society. A discussion about regulation and risk limitation seems like a good thing.
* Audit the Fed. Certainly greater transparency around the Fed, and its relationship with major financial institutions, seems to be a good idea. The relationships between the Treasury, the Fed, and major financial institutions, based on people circulating between all three, need more openness and examination and perhaps regulation.
* Reverse #08-205 by amendment. I feel very strongly about this one. Corporations do not have the right to vote, they should not have the right to manipulate the political process, they should be barred from funding candidates and causes. I see nothing good from allowing corporations to spend money on politics, it is corrupting. Fully fully support!
* Overhaul 1%/Corp tax code. I am not sure exactly what this means, I can tell you I have paid a lot of taxes, a lot. I am not against paying a fair rate and I am not against a progressive tax. I’d be all for a simpler system because my tax return is a huge freaking disaster. I think there is a larger issue here though, I don’t think the problem is all on the revenue side, I think you have to look at the expense side too and rein in government spending. So — all in favor of fair taxes, but we need to look at the spending side too.
I know that not everyone in the #OccupyWallStreet demonstrations embraces these exact 4 principles, so I am not saying I approve 100% of the demonstrator’s goals — but these particular points seem like great discussions to have, and I fully support the efforts to confront us all with these issues.
One thing I am wondering now is this — what exactly do the 99% want those of us who are supportive to do? How can I be effective in advancing the discussions around these points? Demonizing the 1% is not an effective strategy, some of us embrace reform, and we need a way to engage on the issues in a productive manner. Don’t paint us all with the same brush. Help us to help you.