While I’ve been convalescing this last week, one of the things that has been all the rage by our chattering classes is Occupy Wall Street (and all of the other occupations across the U.S.). Over and over, Very Serious People in the Commentariat kept asking, “What are their demands?” But, as far as I can tell, that’s not what this is about. It’s about framing the right questions.
If you go to the We Are the 99 Percent tumblr and actually read what’s there, these are the common themes:
1) Crushing student debt.
2) Medically-related debt. (Remember that is how Elizabeth Warren cut her political teeth)
3) Either no job, or a crappy job with lousy or no benefits that doesn’t offer a chance in hell to pay off various debts.
4) Inability to afford healthcare (or the healthcare needed).
5) Housing issues, such as foreclosure, underwater mortgages (the cost of the mortgage is more than the value of the house), or homelessness.
6) Lack of support for veterans.
There are some variations: some of the photos are about closing off avenues (i.e., ‘I won’t be able to…’), while others are simple statements of desperation.
To the extent that these are representative of the Occupy Wall Street protests, it’s pretty damn clear after you go through three or four pages what the issues are. You have to be willfully ignorant not to figure it out (or really fucking stupid). (By the way, how hard would it be for a reporter to read these photos, and, well, report what he finds?)
That’s why these protests are so threatening. Instead of worrying about deficits or ‘stimulating’ the economy, the protests could potentially shift the focus to insufficient wages and disregard for the unemployed, to the equivalent of 21st century debt peonage, to inadequate healthcare. Once we start asking questions like “Why are incomes dropping even as corporations are siting on record-high piles of cash?” or “How do we help homeowners (or renters) stay in their homes?”, out of necessity, we wind up with a very different set of policy and political responses. This is so terrifying to movement conservatives that they’re flailing about, desperately trying to change the subject back to taxes and deficits*.
That would not serve our feudal masters well at all….