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RChandlerBrown

Writer, world traveler, technology and sceince geek, armchair philosopher
RChandlerBrown has written 7 posts for Occupy Wall Street

Why Occupy Wall Street Wants Universal Healthcare & Education

Occupy Wall Street Healthcare Sign

Universal Healthcare and Universal Higher Education are two of the European economic system’s highest achievements.

However, they are constantly bashed by pundits with little to no facts about those systems.  Pundits tell us that the healthcare and educational systems in Europe are not as good as what we have in America, but the statistic prove them wrong.

For those of you who think we have the best Healthcare in the world:

America is ranked 37th in the world according to the World Health Organization, yet we spend almost double what other countries spend.  France was ranked #1.

However, we spend more than double what France spends on Heathcare.

Healthcare Costs

I personally received treatment in an emergency room in a mountain village in Europe and the total cost to me was $4.  They performed the exact same procedure that they would have in the US, with the exact same tools and medicine.  I can personally vouch that their system is vastly more convenient and helpful than ours.  Had I been to an emergency room in America, I would still probably be paying the bill in addition to higher insurance premiums.

Education is the same story.  The United States was recently downgraded to only “Average” in its education ranking:

US Educational Rankings

At least we beat Mexico and Bulgaria!

USA Education government spending

Those against universal healthcare and education believe that somehow, providing the most basic needs of our citizens will prevent people from working hard, and that higher taxes will make the American dream, the ability to improve your social and financial situation and to live better than your parents lived, more difficult to attain.  The truth, however, is very different.

For people who say Universal Healthcare and Education can’t work, we ask: then why does it work in Europe? Why are Europeans more upwardly mobile than Americans?

Europe has a better educational system, in many cases far better healthcare standards, and the population of Europe is more upwardly mobile than America’s middle class.  That means you are more likely to achieve the American dream in Europe, than in America.

“Results show that Britain and the United States have the lowest levels of cross-generation mobility [in the test], lying well below Canada and the Nordic countries.”

Excerpt from Jo Blanden; Paul Gregg and Stephen Machin (April 2005). “Intergenerational Mobility in Europe and North America” (PDF). The Sutton Trust.

View this New York Times chart for more comparisons: http://www.nytimes.com/packages/html/national/20050515_CLASS_GRAPHIC/index_03.html

 THE UGLY TRUTH: Americans are NOT as upwardly mobile as Europeans!!!

Could it be because Americans are crushed beneath tons of college debt and insanely high healthcare and insurance costs?US college tuition increase

US student loan chart

Rising Healthcare Costs

Wouldn’t you rather pay slightly higher taxes and never have to worry about how you are going to pay for your children’s healthcare or education again?

Or would you rather continue to pay increasingly high health insurance costs and ever-increasing college loan costs, while our free market system crumbles under the weight of the debt?

It is our argument that America’s current Healthcare and Educational systems are PREVENTING Americans from improving their economic lives, because of the crushing costs of healthcare insurance and student loans on average Americans.

A single payer system is the only way to lower healthcare costs.  Health Insurance companies profit from your illness and death. The only “death panels” are the people in the insurance companies who deny you coverage.  The government cannot deny you medical coverage in a single payer system.

It is clear that the burden of the Healthcare system and the Educational System must be borne by all.  It is currently only carried by a few, mostly by the middle class, and they can’t continue to carry it.  Everyone, rich and poor, must pay into the system.  Everyone, rich and poor, should also be able to enjoy its benefits.

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Occupy Wall Street: List of Demands Part II

Occupy Wall Street Demand sign

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.

Taibbi and other experts have also suggested reinstating the Glas-Steagall Act to reform the banks so they aren’t too-big-to-fail.

“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 DailyKos.com article “What the Occupy Wall Street Demands Should Be” suggests that the protesters follow in the footsteps of FDR and demand a Second Bill of Rights, including rights like:

  • “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:

UNIVERSAL HEALTHCARE:

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.

UNIVERSAL EDUCATION:

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.

BANK REFORM:

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.

ELECTION REFORM:

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.

TAX REFORM:

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

Who We Are

Occupy Wall Street

We are the masses who don’t require millions of dollars to be happy.

We are the masses who don’t need a 3000 square foot house to sleep well at night.

We are the masses who think a mountain of debt is not a healthy future for anyone.

We are the masses who know that a better society is possible.

We are the masses who think peace is a better solution than war.

We are the masses who choose to use our energy to lift up our brothers, rather than hold them down to lift up ourselves.

We are the masses who don’t think it’s right for a few to make massive profits at the expense of the many.

We are the masses who simply request that the basic needs of all our brothers and sisters be met.

We are the masses who think education and healthcare are good for everyone.

We are the masses who know that our country has the resources, the ingenuity, and the integrity to improve life for everyone in America.

We are the masses who understand that improving another person’s life improves the entire society.

We are the masses who are tired of being ignored.

*Feel free to add your own “We are” lists in the comments section.

Occupy Wall Street: List of Cities

Occupy Wall StreetIn addition to Occupy Wall St, popular uprisings have emerged around the country and the globe.

It has been reported that over 118 occupations have been organized and over 1300 communities are in the process of organizing protests.

Some of the major occupations:

Chicago;

Atlanta;

Denver;

Los Angeles;

San Diego;

San Jose;

Dailykos.com has a detailed map of protests in the US and a list of all occupation Facebook pages

More protests can be found on this occupation thread

OccupyTogether.org has a great resource for finding groups in over 1500 cities

There is also a LiveStream of occupations around the globe

A map of October 15 events around the world

Twitter feeds at dozens of occupations can be found on OccupyInfo.tumblr.com

For the more adventurous, you can also find a List of Wall Street Executives Home Addresses – just make sure that the person you protest actually had something to do with the economic crash and the bailout.

Join a protest, tell us who you are, and tell us your demands!

Occupy Wall Street: List of Demands Part I

Wall Street Occupation

The one thing uniting the protests is a sense of being wronged by the financial system and the political system designed to protect us.   What has not been forged yet is a common set of principles and political changes that the protesters agree upon.

Demands must have the following attributes:

  1. They should be immediately changeable
  2. They should be largely uncontroversial amongst the protesters
  3. They should have evidence to back up their effectiveness

Here is a list of some of the most popular and usable solutions so far:

JOB CREATION:

1. Subsidize the creation of new jobs, not just companies: give companies a subsidy for each newly hired employee

Example: government pays up to 50% of salaries for newly hired employees, up to $15,000 per year.  (If your new salary is $20,000 per year, the government pays your company $10,000, if it is $30,000 per year, the government pays $15,000, if it is $100,000 per year, the government pays $15,000)

This pumps money directly into the workforce, and every cent goes to new workers. That money will then be immediately spent in the form of consumer spending, and much of it will return to the government through taxes.

2. Reward companies for keeping employees until retirement.

3. Discourage layoffs with increased taxes on companies that layoff workers while increasing executive compensation.

TAXES:

1. Increase taxes on the rich according to a graduated tax system.

2. Increase taxes on investments of the rich according to a graduated tax system which does not affect small investors or retirees (investments of less than $1 million).

3. Limit the growth of executive compensation by increasing taxes on corporate executives when their compensation exceeds a certain % of the average salary at their company.  Executives should not be making 100 times the salary of regular employees.  The more executives pay their employees, the more they can pay themselves.

WAR & PEACE:

1. Get our military out of Iraq and Afghanistan.  Spend that $2 billion per week on rebuilding America.

Occupy Wall Street War Spending

Putting the Annual Cost of War in Perspective (Source: New York Times)

2. Don’t train an army that can fight against us; train teachers and build schools.  Educate the people so they can build lives for themselves, not armies.

3. Stop invading other countries and fighting wars that we can’t afford!

The Manifesto Part I

Occupy Wall Street(Feaured on Home page)

What has happened to American companies?

What does it mean to be a company in today’s modern world?

A company used to be an extension of ourselves – a way to make a living, feed our families, meet friends, and provide a service to our communities.

Does that sound like your job?

In reality, this idea of a company that not only employs people, but is a part of the community, a part of people’s lives, a place where someone can stay and work for 60 years and then retire, seems like a dream of yesteryear. This idea is what all companies should be: miniature communities whose goal is to better the lives of everyone in them, and this goal is achieved by providing a service in such a way that it brings a profit to all involved.

Where did the simple, practical companies go?

The good ones got big, unfortunately. And when they got big, the people who built them often left their companies in the hands of people whose sole goal was to make money – not to improve their company or help those within it (the community of workers, which is, in reality, the company itself) only to make more money, by any means necessary. Companies transformed from small, localized communities that provided useful services into faceless, heartless, soulless money making machines – an entity entirely separated from the worker, which is illogical since the worker is the basic building block of a company.

Why do companies that achieve incredible success want more?

Why would a company like Coca Cola, which has saturated the world market with its product, buy other companies? Why not just make Coca Cola and make everyone who works for you rich? Why not do something for the people who have worked so hard and long for you? Why not give the money to the people who work for you and inject the economy with that hard earned cash which would benefit everyone in the country and eventually around the world? What is the point of exploiting the workers while making ever-increasing profits? Exploitation of company resources only benefits the top 1%, the owners and top executives. The workers are making less and less while the owners and executives are making more and more.  This cycle must end.

“The Company” is merely a lifeless facade – why does it matter if “The Company” has a lot of money or not?

The real question is: who profits by a system in which workers do not share in the ever-growing profits of the companies that they work for?

The answer: Investors.

But which investors? You and me and grandpa with his 401k? Sometimes, yes. Usually, small investors provide access to money for growing corporations in order for them to expand even further, and that money is returned with a healthy percentage. But this money is not lived off of for most ordinary people. We still go to work every day and do something productive with our lives.

Sometimes, however, we all succumb to greed, and we dream that our investment, our lifeless money, will somehow do all of the work (the real living) for us, and we will be able to sit back and simply enjoy the fruits of our money’s labor (which is really the labor of others).

Occupy Wall Street Kevin Drum

Share of National Income 1979-2008 (via Kevin Drum)

Sound like anything familiar? Of course it does – it’s called feudalism, serfdom, tyranny, slavery, and many other unpleasant synonyms.

Money for nothing, taxation without representation, exploitation, injustice, the bourgeoisie – there have been many names for this idea which people have fought against and died for throughout the centuries.

Then there are the big investors – the trust fund babies, the men and women who do practically no work at all (no physical or practical labor – they add nothing to the value of their communities), yet they receive the majority of the world’s wealth.

And the sad thing is, you wish that you were one of them.

These are the people who have destroyed our economy. And we have let them do it.

Why do we let individuals get so rich? Does it make any sense? Does it make sense for a company to become so large that it can lose billions (and BILLIONS) of dollars, yet call itself successful? Whose money is that anyways? – Usually yours, the small investor with a real job.

Why are there super companies that own hundreds of other companies? What is the point of their existence? How can they exist at all?

Ironically, the largest source of funds for expanding companies has ended up costing our companies their innocence: the stock market.

The public trading of stocks has allowed for the over-expansion (hyper-expansion) of businesses. They have become too big for their own good and for the good of the human race. The purpose of a company is (ideally and logically) the betterment of mankind, or at the very least, the betterment of its employees (just as the purpose of the existence of a government is the betterment of its country’s citizens, or at a primal level, the purpose of an organism is the survival of its cells, and DNA).

Today’s mega-corporations have become so big that they can destroy the lives (or the productive equivalent – the value of what people can produce) of thousands or millions of people without being effected. This is illogical. It is a cycle of destruction and exploitation that will eventually eat itself from the inside out – as is happening right now.

Our system (which we consider capitalistic, but which has become a massive oligarchy) takes money from regular people (through taxes and the stock market) and gives it to the rich, making the rich richer, just like other archaic economic systems.

The only way out of this cycle that feeds the rich is to find a way to spread their wealth – to take the money from the super-rich and use it to benefit society – not just individuals, but society as a whole. Their money should be used to build something better than what exists – not to simply build another company which once again exploits workers for the benefit of the rich. This is logical, since the billionaire’s money will improve society, which in turn improves his own life. Which is better: to be a billionaire in a ravaged society, or to be a millionaire in a healthy, happy society?

When a company is private, its only duty is to itself, to its employees, and to its customers.

When a company is publicly traded it is given a new duty – a duty to the invisible shareholders.

And what do the shareholders want? They want one thing and one thing only – money. They want the company to do whatever it can to increase the return on their investment. They want the company to do whatever it can to increase its profits and to increase its share price.

And then there are the members of the board – the real men behind the curtain – the men who control the business world. They hire the CEO’s. They fire the CEO’s.

Why do they hire a particular CEO? Because the CEO promises to raise the share price, which increases their profits – which gives them more money for nothing.

It doesn’t matter what happens to the employees, or to the community, or to the quality of the products, or to the integrity of the organization, or to the environment. Those things don’t matter to the members of the board – the men who vote the CEO out when he can’t deliver exceptional numbers year after year.

This means the CEO’s only focus is making the members of the board rich. But why? Why does he care if these fat old men get any richer?

Because they make him a promise – if he makes them rich, they’ll make him rich. And they do. The CEO becomes incredibly rich. But not as rich as them, of course.

So the CEO who controls the company is hired (or fired) by a group of men who have no desire whatsoever except to make as much money as possible for nothing. They do not care at all about the overall social, economic, or environmental effects of their business on others.

The CEO directs the company in such a way that it will make a profit (real or not) which will in turn drive up its share prices (justifiably or not), which will enable him to become very very rich as well.

Thus, when all is said and done, this monstrosity of a company, which started out as a group of people, perhaps even friends and neighbors, which made a product and provided a necessary service for those in the community, in exchange for enough money to guarantee the personal well-being of each worker, is now being used to better the lives of the already-rich in order to make them much much richer, in exchange for nothing (no labor, no products), all at the expense of the people who work at the company, who are exploited by the company, or who are foolish enough to invest their hard earned money into the company before the rich old men bleed it dry and the hard earned (actually worked for) money disappears before their eyes into the invisible abyss of rich men’s pockets.

Thus 1% of the population of the world rape, pillage, and steal 99% of the value of production of the entire earth. And all of this is done (like the company exploiting those who make it run) at the expense of the earth itself.  Humans destroying humanity.  Earthlings destroying Earth.

Thus these men slowly destroy themselves as they destroy humanity. They will drink from the wine of the grapes of wrath grown in the soil of those they have exploited.

But remember… as the markets fall, the banks close, and the jobs are lost, remember as you and those you know and love are suffering, remember that during this time of hardship and pain – for them, it’s like Christmas. Better than Christmas – for the whole world is on sale at a discount – and they’ve got enough to buy it all, and then some.

But the veil has been pulled back.  We see who you are and what you are doing to our world.

Now is our time to make real change in the world.

Wall Street must be reformed.

The United States Government must be reformed.

The best and brightest ideas for progress must be shouted from the rooftops until the politicians are too embarrassed by the truth NOT to put our demands into law.

Here those ideas will be presented and debated until the best are ready to change our world.

The next step is yours.

How to OCCUPY WALL STREET (or any other street)

Occupy Wall Street

STEP 1: Preparation

You will need:

1 sleeping bag

1 tent

1 set of eating utensils

1 toothbrush, tube of toothpaste, & bar of soap

1 change of clothes (at least)

1 small pillow

1 flashlight

1 credit or debit card (preferably from a small local bank)

1 notebook (for jotting down great ideas)

1 cell phone (with charger)

1 portable musical instrument (guitar or harmonica highly advised)

1 list of DEMANDS

and…

As many friends as you can gather!

STEP 2: What to do at the rally

1. FIND A CAMPING SPOT

Hopefully on the grass, not on cement, unless you brought a heavy sleeping bag.

Try to camp with some friends.

2. MAKE FRIENDS WITH NEIGHBORS

Find out what your neighbors are thinking.  Why are they there?  What are they disappointed about in our country?

3. DISCUSS DEMANDS

The key to making a difference is spreading knowledge.  Your main goal during the occupation should be to discover and disseminate the best ideas that you hear.

Ask others, What are the best solutions for progress that they have heard?  Then discuss them with others until an overall consensus has been reached.

4. VOTE

VOTE IN every politician who agrees to the demands of the people.

VOTE OUT every politician who appeases Wall Street, won’t tax the rich, blocks legislation, or makes it easier for companies to exploit workers and the environment.

Maintain lists and databases of all the politicians running for office and spread the word about who is helping and who is hindering the cause.