THE OCCUPY movement’s most powerful unifying factor has been its clear and simple identification of the key problem in American society: the divide between the vast majority of the population—the 99 percent—and the richest and most powerful 1 percent.
This 99 percent/1 percent formulation isn’t just a statement about income inequality in the U.S. today. It’s also an acknowledgement that the 1 percent largely controls the government and is therefore able to rig laws, taxes and regulations in its favor.
If you look at opinion polls on questions like taxing the rich, regulating Wall Street, spending money on jobs, prioritizing economic growth over cutting the deficit or preserving and protecting Social Security and Medicare, you’ll find popular, often lopsided, majorities opposed to austerity and in favor of “redistributionist” policies.
Yet the dysfunctional government seems incapable—and not even much interested—in doing much of anything to meet these popular demands. By contrast, Congress acted with tremendous speed—and with little regard for the deficit—to appropriate hundreds of billions of dollars for the banks and other corporations when the financial crisis struck in 2008.
In theory, we’re all equal at the ballot box, and so popular majorities should be able to force politicians to address their concerns. But the Occupy movement has caught fire because millions of Americans realize that the way Washington works in reality bears no resemblance to the political science textbook explanations.
So how does the 1 percent get away with it?
A Moral Focus for Occupy Wall Street
I think it is a good thing that the occupation movement is not making specific policy demands. If it did, the movement would become about those demands. If the demands were not met, the movement would be seen as having failed. […]
Publicize the Public
Tell the truth about The Public, that nobody makes it purely on their own without The Public, that is, without public infrastructure, the justice system, health, education, scientific research, protections of all sorts, public lands, transportation, resources, art and culture, trade policies, safety nets, That is a truth to be told day after day. It is an idea that must take hold in public discourse. It must go beyond what I and others have written about it and beyond what Elizabeth Warren has said in her famous video. The Public is not opposed to The Private. The Public is what makes The Private possible. And it is what makes freedom possible. Wall Street exists only through public support. It has a moral obligation to direct itself to public needs.
All OWS approaches to policy follow from such a moral focus. Here are a handful examples. […]
This movement could be destroyed by negativity, by calls for revenge, by chaos, or by having nothing positive to say. Be positive about all things and state the moral basis of all suggestions. Positive and moral in calling for debt relief. Positive and moral in upholding laws, as they apply to finances. Positive and moral in calling for fairness in acquiring needed revenue. Positive and moral in calling for clean elections. To be effective, your movement must be seen by all of the 99% as positive and moral. To get positive press, you must stress the positive and the moral.
Remember: The Tea Party sees itself as stressing only individual responsibility. The Occupation Movement is stressing both individual and social responsibility.