Wednesday, October 19, 2011


Critics keep harping over and over again – on blogs and in the broadcast media – that the Occupy Wall Street demonstrators don’t have clear cut demands.

Well, they do. They have a common demand. They demand a complete overhaul of the financial and political system in the United States that currently enables billionaires to buy politicians and to pay negligible taxes relative to their incomes, while kids fear to attend college because they won’t be able to pay off their loans.

That's only part of it. The kleptocracy that America has become reaches so deeply into every facet of American life that everyone has a specific complaint. That's why the demonstrators sound so unfocused. But a few demands would help to clean up a lot of America's greed-based, destructive political behavior.

Evidently, the critics are demanding details. Okay, you guys down in Zucotti Park, consider demanding all or some of these:

Reinstate the Glass-Steagall act. That’s the now-repealed law that said you could either be an investment bank, say like Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley used to be, or you could be a commercial bank, like Citibank and Chase used to be. ut not both. That law kept mischievous shenanigans on Wall Street from bringing down the place where you deposited your checks and savings on Main Street, and vice-versa. If we had a Glass-Steagall act, there wouldn’t have been a mortgage meltdown.

Demand that Congress reinstate laws that once prevented commercial banks from operating across state lines. If you were chartered in New York, you couldn’t be chartered in Delaware and vice-versa. Bank of America did business in California. Citi did business in New York. And so on. The law also prevented most banks from getting chartered in just the one or two states (like Delaware and North Dakota) that currently let banks get away with outrageous fees and interest rates. And the law put state legislators in close proximity to the customers of the banks, where they were less likely to pass laws that allow banks to rape their own customers. Reinstate the laws and you reduce the rape attempts.

Demand that Congress reinstate the graduated income tax brackets we had in the 1950s and 1960s, when people in the top brackets paid 70 percent or more but most of America was prosperous and the economy was growing. Remember, 70 percent doesn’t mean 70 percent of all income — just 70 percent of income someone earns over a certain amount. But that system returned to the taxpayers significant sums that they could use on a range of public endeavors, from the roads and bridges (and space program) we all loved to the wars many of us hated. And that space program created jobs with guhzillions of new technologies, from small computers to Teflon.

Demand that interest rates get regulated, by the Federal government for now, and by state governments when commercial banking is again limited to intrastate banking. Depositors should get paid no less interest than banks charge each other for money. A common benchmark rate, such as LIBOR, can be used. This would encourage the banks to actually start lending out their cash again, instead of hoarding it and gambling with it in the derivatives markets.

Protect Social Security and Medicare by funding them more generously with tax revenues and by negotiating certain rates such as reimbursements to pharmaceutical companies. Do not cut reimbursements to doctors, since these cuts simply drive doctors out of the system. Increase payments to non-profit medical providers individual or small group PCs, but cut them to corporations, which make not reasonable, but obscene profits on drugs that people can’t live without.

Demand that college tuitions get paid, at least on the undergraduate level, all or in part with government funds. Like medical care, college costs have increased at several times the rate of inflation – largely because private loans to students make this possible. Some institutions cost more than $50,000 a year to attend, and students graduate owing the equivalent of a mortgage on a good-sized house. Instead, the Federal government should pay a stipend per-student directly to the college, with strict oversight of tuition costs in return. To control student laze-abouts, students would be required to maintain an acceptable level of achievement each term, or their funding would get cut off. In the long run this would pay off with a smarter, more talented, more skilled work force to compete with competition overseas.

Finally, over the long run we need to demand a constitutional amendment that will limit campaign spending and contributions. Thanks to Supreme Court decisions on campaign funding, we now live in a kleptocracy where the thieves bribe legislators with campaign contributions to keep letting the thieves steal. We demand that every candidate for Congress, the Senate or the White House sign a pledge to support a constitutional amendment that limits campaign contributions to those made by individuals, limits the amounts of contributions, and declares that corporations are not people, but artificial entities that are simply designed to help large numbers of real people conduct commerce, earn a living, and distribute profits.

Okay, I’m going to hide behind a wall now while the critics open fire at me.

Yours very crankily,

The New York Crank

1 comment:

Ormond Otvos said...

You forgot single payer.