Examining Occupy: Why Didn’t It Work and Can It Start Again?



A resistance movement to “business as usual” began to form in 2011. This movement called itself “Occupy” and indeed occupied Zuccotti Park located in New York City’s Wall Street Financial district.

The key issues of Occupy were social and economic inequality, greed, corruption and the power corporations exert over the government. The Occupy slogan was “We are the 99%.”

The original Occupy Movement was initiated by Kalle Lasn and Micah White of Adbusters, a Canadian anti-consumerist publication. See the magazine here. 

What were the main goals?

  • A reduction in the influence of corporations
  • A more balanced redistribution of income
  • More jobs, and better jobs
  • Bank reform
  • Forgiveness of debt, such as student loan debt

Eventually the protesters were forced out of Zuccotti  Park on November 15th 2011. The protest continued on college campuses for a while, but eventually fizzled out.

While Occupy didn’t achieve their goals, they did bring the idea of the 99% to national consciousness as well as the corruption of the banks and corporations. Perhaps Occupy merely planted the seeds for future revolutionary activity?

What did Occupy need to work? 

  • Leadership: In this aspect, the movement was its own worst enemy. It used a type of consensus system to make decisions. However, a dynamic and charismatic leader would’ve done more to give the movement staying power and direction. For example, the reason why the Civil Rights movement had some success in America was because of Martin Luther King. Also, I hate to mention the Tea Party, they did give themselves some political power by rallying behind key conservative candidates. Perhaps what the Occupy movement should have done was to identify populist candidates and work on elevating these people to key positions of power.
  • Agenda: It was good to see the underbelly of America’s anger at the system, but this anger needed to transform into something greater than the protest of an evil system – a bunch of people with signs saying “I’m mad, and you’re mean!” Occupy needed a manifesto, a sort of agenda of social change to pass out to its followers.

So, in a sense, Occupy was like a dragon without a head or talons. The fire was there. The body of people were present. But without a head the movement lacked direction, and without political power or an agenda, the movement lacked the ability to actually create a lasting change.

If I could write an agenda for Occupy, here’s what it would look like:

  • The implementation of a Financial Transaction Tax for transactions on Wall Street. This tax would only take a very small percentage out of each and every trade, but it would add restrictions to the risks that Wall Street traders take in gambling with American lives with the addition of adding much needed revenue to the budget.
  • Steep tax penalties for corporations that move jobs overseas. Many corporations enjoy the benefits of American taxes that give them roads to transport their goods and educated people to sell these goods. Yet the corporations do not return the favor by providing jobs to America. If they are going to outsource workers, they should pay a price for hurting America
  • A repeal of all the Bush Era tax cuts. As Van Jones once said, the wealth of the Middle Class didn’t just vanish, it was stolen. At a time when Americans are suffering financially, the GDP is still booming and the rich are paying record low taxes. When Obama came into office, he actually kept a majority of the Bush tax cuts. These absolutely need to be repealed. We need to take income taxes back to where they were in 2000.
  • A Carbon tax. Most countries around the world have already implemented measures to deal with global warming and the growing environmental disasters. Yet America remains the world’s number 1 climate offender. Our environmental and economic woes are interwoven together.
  • Major Debt Forgiveness Programs: It’s apparently “okay” to use tax dollars to bail out failing banks, but not to bail out a dying middle class. I’ll note that it was these same big banks that created the economic mess of 2007 to begin with, and we’re giving them a “get out of jail free card” while middle class Americans lose their homes and become debt slaves as a result of college debt. A major program of debt forgiveness would actually rejuvenate the anemic economic recovery by giving people more buying power. 
  • National Broadband: A major program to connect all Americans with broadband access would help to deal with the issue of poverty and education. We really would be killing two birds with one stone here. This program would help give America the competitive edge that its losing to its losing to countries like China.
  • A Green Jobs New Deal: In the presidential campaign of 2012, Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate proposed an idea to create 25 million new jobs via the creation of “Green Jobs” around America. Barack Obama’s “Natural Gas” solution for the next “100 years” is actually what it sounds like, a bunch of hot air. Fracking doesn’t actually provide that many new jobs, aside from a temporary boom and bust cycle in the towns on which the Natural Gas companies prey. The massive undertaking of implementing green energy technology in the infrastructure of American Life would offer job opportunities to millions in addition to improving the environmental solution.

These are just a few ideas for what America could do to get its act together. However, the current political systems are throwing peanuts at a coming typhoon. If the Left cannot summon the virility to put these needed changes in place, we need to consider the possibility of political alternatives.

What the successors of the Occupy movement really need to do is create a clear cut economic agenda, and then back the right candidates who will make this agenda a reality.

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