Occupy 12 Months On

September 17, 2012   ·   0 Comments

Twelve months ago today the Occupy Wall Street protest began with a simple and immediately understandable message. We are the 99% and what happens in the Wall Street stock markets by the remaining 1% is bad for us and for our country. It was a message that resonated not just with the United States but around the world and the Occupy movement was born.

One year on has seen a lot of protesting and a lot of extreme activities by those protecting the interests of the state. In today’s world this means the interests of big business. Though the Occupy movement and the ideals of it’s protesters are far from dead; very little has been achieved in terms of real global change. The government rules and regulations that allowed the Casino Banking empire to succeed have hardly been changed. There is the odd rapping of the knuckles for some of the big business bankers, more so in the UK than the USA.  This amounts to little more than political theatre. The system is as decadent and useless as it has been for the last thirty years.

It’s hard to see democracy in a modern capitalist society as anything more than a big, money-laundering scam. In fact recent enquiries against the big commercial banks, including those bailed out, suggest that this is not a conspiracy theory but probable fact.

Now my comment about democracy and money laundering is borne out of what we have seen happen in the last few years. Banks can spin their roulette wheels all they like and the key personnel will make more money in a a month than many of us will ever seen in a lifetime. We know the story. If the game goes sour then the government will stump up for fear of  “a run on the banks”. A run on the banks is gobbledy-gook for, ‘Please don’t take your money out of the bank because you’ll just prove that we don’t have it anymore”.

Back to Occupy. What’s the next step? What touchstone can the 99% coalesce around? How can it confront this sickened economic system which does nothing for the majority of the people it is supposed to represent and everything for a small , increasingly oligarchical percentage.

Well I think that the Occupy movement has a fantastic associate in the name of David Graeber and his recent book, Debt, The First 5,000 years is becoming something of a bible for the disenfranchised and if the word “Occupy” can signal activism then surely the word “Debt” is enough to get the most passive observer fired-up.  Even the 1% recognise debt and it’s repercussions to missing the monthly payment on the Ferrari for example.

I don’t want to get into an explanation of the meta-history of debt because Graeber has done such an excellent job in his book. The financial markets love debt, particularly at the macro level. Big banks don’t make money out of rich people in any way near the percentage they do out of people who live pay-check to pay-check. It’s that important adage being it is much easier to take a dollar off a million people than a million dollars off one person. Banks not only excel at this practice but they also compound it with things like stupid and pointless bank charges and over-inflated short term interest. As anyone who has been penalised for bouncing a cheque or going too far into their line of credit will vouch. On top of this, for every dollar that you have in credit they get to play with on average 15 times as much in casino money market activities and this usually goes to either creating more debt or further casino “investments” –  as we have heard about ad-nauseum.

Debt can be a touchstone for the disenfranchised because most would not disagree with any protest against debt if it was argued simply and effectively. The impact a co-ordinated anti-debt campaign could have would be incredible. For example; “The 99% stop at 10%”.  Anyone who was carrying debt refused to pay back more than 10% annualised, including charges. This would target the  corrupt credit card interest rates and notorious pay-day loan companies. Those that protested would have to pay on the button for fear of being seen as someone who was just a debt avoider. Another thing would be to campaign that interest on all debt should be tax deductible. Not being an economist I do see the risk in that strategy, mostly because of the existing enmeshment with financials and politics.

Perhaps if instead of bailing out big banks to the tune of billions the government had set up a “debt cancelling” fund whereby individual debt was repaid by the government. The banks would have not only seen the benefit of the bailout but it would have freed up individuals to start spending again. The money would have still gone to the banks but it would have kick-started the economy again where it was needed, at the grass roots. The only criteria for debt cancellation in this scenario would be the percent of debt to income and if they had “good credit”. The nett benefit would be against people with negative equity in their homes which came as a result of an inflated market caused by  foolish government de-regulation in the first place. Allow individuals to “restructure” not banks and insurance companies who have seen their market value surge 33x since the crash as a result of handouts.

It is a very simple step for the imagination to go from “Occupy” to “Debt”. However you dress it up Debt is the result of the activities of the Wall Street 1%. Not just personal debt but government debt that you – as taxpayers – will have to stump up one way or another. Probably through an increase in the tax on sales because that is the scam that neo-liberal governments love the most.

Intangible debt is the biggest problem with modern capitalism and by that I mean the illusion of wealth created by debt with no real attachment to anything of substance. The cause of the financial crisis was many things but more then any other it was the result of intangible debt at all levels of society. Understanding how debt works to the benefit of the 1% is not a stretch and something that can be actively tweeted and commented  especially wherever debt absurdity is found. Be it 4,500% loan interest from UK company “Wonga” to Lehman brothers ability to borrow almost forty times what they had in the bank.

It’s the debt, stupid.




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