Part of what makes the Occupy Wall Street movement so unique is that there is no codified list of demands that the protesters all agree on. In fact, there is no single issue that sparked the protests. This is a reflection of the times.
There is no single issue that can be changed to make America’s problems go away. That is part of the feeling that has created this movement: the feeling that so much needs to change that it can’t even be expressed in words.
The issues are complex, the problems are all-encompassing, and the solutions are nowhere to be seen. However, through all the dust that has been stirred up by the protests, great ideas are emerging.
Here are some more of those ideas:
Demands are coming in from all over the country:
OccupyWallSt.org provided a (in certain claims, excessive) list of possible demands, which include:
- “Guaranteed living wage income regardless of employment”
- “Institute a universal single payer healthcare system”
- “Free college education”
- “One trillion dollars in infrastructure (Water, Sewer, Rail, Roads and Bridges and Electrical Grid) spending now”
- “Bring American elections up to international standards”
- “Immediate across the board debt forgiveness for all”
The Huffington Post’s article by Rep. Keith Ellison states:
- “The message is that working Americans want Wall Street to be accountable”
- “Working Americans want a fair tax system”
- “Americans want the Congress to pass legislation that produces jobs”
- “Americans are frustrated by continued income disparities and the inability of Congress to invest in jobs”
Clearly the main focus is holding Wall Street and the US Government accountable for the losses that occurred due to their policies, and reforming the economic, tax, and political systems so that it doesn’t occur again.
One of the top journalists covering the Wall Street debacle and the corruption of the political system in dealing with the aftermath of the economic crash, is Rolling Stone’s Matt Tiabbi, who suggests the following economic and tax reforms in his proposed List of Demands:
- “Break up the (too big to fail) monopolies” that threaten our national economic security and “mandate the separation of insurance companies, investment banks and commercial banks”
- “A tax of 0.1 percent on all trades of stocks and bonds and a 0.01 percent tax on all trades of derivatives…to pay for your own bailouts”
- Companies that received bailouts should not be allowed to contribute to political campaigns
- “We need an immediate repeal of the preposterous and indefensible carried-interest tax break, which allows hedge-fund titans like Stevie Cohen and John Paulson to pay taxes of only 15 percent on their billions in gambling income”
- “Change the way bankers get paid”, so that bankers stop getting paid upfront bonuses for big deals that might have negative consequences for their companies in the future. Large bonuses should be paid out in company stock over 2-3 years so that the banker’s bonus is dependent on the long term health of the company and the economy.
All of Taibbi’s suggestions seem like no-brainers, except for breaking up the monopolies, which should be done with caution. It seems clear from his suggestions that Wall Street needs to finally start paying its fair share of taxes on all those billions in earnings.
“At one time commercial banks and investment banks had to remain separate entities as mandated by the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933. Today, however, because of Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act of 1998 they can be combined.”
This deregulation of banks “helped turn every part of the financial universe into a casino.”
Banks need to be broken up into separate entities so that banks cannot participate in risky trading without consequences, and bonuses need to be paid out over time to stop encouraging wild speculation gambles. The American people should not be insuring Wall Street’s gambling habit with their bank deposits.
- “The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the nation”
- “The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation”
- “The right of every family to a decent home”
- “The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health”
- “The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment”
- “The right to a good education” including “affordable access to college and that education should be world class”
It is probably dangerous to call these “rights”, since however true and good the points may be, they are not innate rights of an individual simply by virtue of being born. However, if we agree as a country, as we likely should, that our entire society (the rich, middle class, and the poor) will be better off if every citizen is given adequate education and healthcare, then we should provide it by law. Life in America will without a doubt be better for everyone if all American citizens have healthcare and education provided for them.
As for the living wage, if healthcare and education were provided for free, the living wage would not be such an issue. Corporations also need more incentives to hire, rather than fire and layoff, workers in the current economic environment.
Added to the ongoing BEST IDEAS SO FAR list of demands will be:
Basic healthcare checkups, advice, and procedures should be free to all. Wealthy people can still pay to be first in line with the best doctors.
Higher education should be fully subsidized by the government. Your grades will determine your eligibility for larger subsidies to better schools. Wealthy students can still pay to go wherever they want.
Reinstate a form of the Glass-Steagall Act to separate commercial and investment banks, to discourage rampant speculation, and to prevent banks from being too big to fail.
Banker bonuses need to be paid out over time to encourage long term growth and to discourage short term speculation.
No more corporate donations will be allowed in political campaigns. Campaigns will be publicly financed through voluntary donations from tax payers, and funds set aside by the government. All political candidates will be given the same amount of money.
Companies that received bailout money cannot fund political campaigns.
Repeal of the carried-interest tax break (allows Wall street gamblers to pay only 15% rather than 30% on their earnings)
Tax Wall Street on all stocks, bonds and derivatives.
*The full LIST OF OCCUPY WALL STREET DEMANDS