Sunday, October 2, 2011

Why OccupyWallStreet beats Save the Middle Class

When you look at the demands of the Occupy Wall Street leadership, it is a pretty conservative list. Essentially it is basic procedural liberalism, combined with populist utopianism. It's a list that would not be out of place in a JFK cabinet meeting: RFK talks about arresting corrupt bankers, JKG about creating jobs, LBJ reminding him that he's promised to do something on civil rights, Orville Freeman giving an update on the food safety bill and goings on at the USDA, Dean Rusk going on about relations with "the poor south." There's nothing radical here, and in fact, it is more conservative than what was being proposed by say, the FDR cabinet in response to the bank crisis in 1933. Note, no calls for nationalization of the banks, which was a serious policy proposal in 1933. John Nance Garner could have signed on most of this.

And that is the fact people should note: because there are two other memes competing for the disaffected going on right now, and both of them are failing to get traction outside of their own small spheres. One is the ever present libertarian calls for permanent depression now. These are self-debunking, but like LaRouchites, they are always at the fringe of any call for change. Just remember this: under a libertarian President, everything that the banks did would have been completely legal, other than taking money from the Fed.

The second is "Save the Middle Class." This meme is promulgated as a way of getting people who are disappointed with Obama, to never the less, be a fully contributing, by which we mean money, member of the re-election effort. Can't bring yourself to cheer Obama? Cheer his meme. The problem is, it is a bad meme.

First, it is incoherent. There's no such thing as a free standing middle class. By definition, there is at least one class above it, and at least one class below it. Thus, it is either working for the rich against the poor, or working for the public against the rich. It is also incoherent as present policy: the people who have born the dismal brunt of this depression – d e p r e s s i o n – and will continue to do so. Unemployment rates for college educated whites hover around 4%, which is higher than their normal 2%, but still nothing compared to working class whites, and all african-americans and hispanics. The population as a whole, ex-college graduates, is over 10%. Whacking out the resource boom in places like North Dakota, and it is higher. And that is just "U-1" the narrowest measure of unemployment, which is really not a labor market statistic, but an inflation one. Better is to look at how Payrolls in the US have not recovered at all since the down turn.

Second, it is narrow. It is telling people who were never in the middle class, or who have been pushed out of it, that they do not matter. Save the whales does no good, for dead whales. Save the middle class is not appealing to the ex-middle class, or the unmiddled class.

Third, it is fundamentally defeatist. It simply asks that those who have not been purged, not be purged now.

Fourth, it is hypocritical, in that it is meant to gain the support of people who do not support the candidate, and that means Barack Obama, who coined it. It's his meme.

It is a fundraising slogan, and as such, is the sort of thing that people get purged for opposing. Standing between a so called progressive and their next begging routine, is hazardous. But then, that's why the progressive movement has gone from a great challenge to politics, to a pathetic fringe that is regularly horse whipped by the President. He has contempt for progressives, because, they have always shown themselves to be willing to roll over in the past, no matter how badly he treats them. Insteadhe knows that if he kicks down, so will they in turn.

For these reasons, "Occupy" is going to beat "Save." The people on the streets of New York can have an occupation "saved" because they don't have one any more, instead, Occupation is now their occupation. As for attempts to coöpt their ideology by libertarians, and more moderate old left forces, who are still pimping the idea that JFK and MLK played a set a Woodstock and freed African Americans by ending the War, is rather silly. The grind of reality is going to coöpt occupy. The police are not their friends. They have no one to vote for, and so must get more radical until a candidate finds them. Occupy is the meme that takes in the unemployed, the working, the disaffected. Many young people rebel against the very values that "middle class" presupposes.

There is more to say, but there is no future in the present, people are not ready to read it.