Eliminating the ‘99%’ Can Lead to a Better Message for Social Justice

 

 

by WALTER BRASCH

 

It’s time to retire the 99 percent.

Not the people, but the slogan that identifies the Occupy Movement.

“We’re the 99 percent” slogan focused upon two completely different groups of people. The 99 percent are the masses, the impoverished, the disenfranchised, the middle class; the 1 percent refers to the concentration of wealth in the top one percent of the population and in the dominance of large corporate and global financial systems.  

The Movement, following the Arab Spring, began in the late summer of 2011 with the Occupy Wall Street protest. Central to the Movement, which quickly expanded into more than 500 American cities and 82 countries, was a call for social and economic justice.

During the 2007 Great Recession, the accumulated wealth of the 1 percent decreased significantly less than the wealth of the 99 percent, large numbers of whom first became unemployed and then homeless because of the tactics of greed led by the financial empires.

Within the 1 percent are CEOs and executives of the banking industry that willingly took government bailout funds, and then used some of that money to give six and seven figure bonuses.

The 1 percent includes Ina R. Drew, chief investment officer for JPMorgan Chase, which lost $2 billion in funds through misguided investment policies. Drew, one of Wall Street’s power players—and widely recognized as one of the more brilliant financial managers—earned about $14 million in salary. Jamie Dimon, in a stockholder meeting this past week, humbled by the huge loss, told stockholders, “This should never have happened. I can’t justify it. Unfortunately, these mistakes were self-inflicted.” But, Dimon, both the chief executive officer and the chairman of the board, kept his job and its $23 million salary.

The 1 percent also includes Mitt Romney, who earned about $21 million in 2010, and has a net worth of about $230 million, according to Forbes, but hasn’t filed his 2011 taxes. Somehow, he wants the people to believe he will bring the nation out of the depths of the Great Recession, but needs an extension to file his own taxes.

The 1 percent also includes right-wing celebrity mouth Rush Limbaugh, who is in the middle of an eight year $400 million contract that allows him to spew lies, hate, and venom at anyone who doesn’t agree with his ultra-conservative philosophy, which includes Occupiers and just about anyone with a social, environmental, and economic conscience.

The 1 percent includes Sarah Palin, once an obscure politician who now has a net worth of about $14 million, most of it the result of her participation in the mainstream media, which she claims she despises. 

The 1 percent includes the Kardashian Sisters whose souls are wrapped in self-adulation, and who are worshipped by millions who have enhanced their importance by watching reality shows and reading vapid celebrity “tell-all” newspapers and magazines.

But the 1 percent also includes billionaire Warren Buffet, who is leading a movement to reduce tax loopholes and increase taxes on the rich, while improving the tax structure for the 99 percent.

The 1 percent includes Bill and Melissa Gates who are spending most of their fortune to improve the education and health of people throughout the world.

The 1 percent includes George Clooney, who has been at the forefront of the fight for justice in Darfur, whose citizens have been the victims of genocide by the Sudanese government.

The 1 percent includes Angelina Jolie who is Special Envoy for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and who has put her money and time into helping the world’s children.

The 1 percent includes Ed Asner, Bono, Mike Farrell, Bette Midler, Sean Penn, Rob Reiner, Tim Robbins, Susan Sarandon, Barbra Streisand, and thousands of other millionaire celebrities who have willingly put their reputations and money on the line to fight for the important social, economic, and political causes that should be the ones that define America as a land of freedom and opportunity, and which would be supported by most of the nation’s Founding Fathers. 

In contrast, the 99 percent isn’t composed solely of the victims of the 1 percent. Millions are as uncaring, as greedy, as self-centered as some of those in the 1 percent. Millions are racist, sexist, homophobic, and anti-Semitic. Millions follow Tea Party philosophies that selfishly place the health and welfare of the people secondary to a belief that cutting spending, except for the military, will solve all problems. It is a philosophy that, if left unchallenged, would force even greater misery to the American Middle Class and underclass, and lead to destroying the balance of nature and the environment.

“We are the 99 percent” slogan, coupled with non-violent protest in the face of several violent police incidents, had served the Movement well, but its time is over. The Movement can no longer be an “us versus them” philosophy that has become divisive. It must now migrate to one that includes all people who are willing to fight for social, political, and economic justice in the Army of Conscience.

[Walter Brasch—as writer and activist—has been a part of the movement for social, political, and economic justice for more than four decades. His current book is the critically-acclaimed novel, Before the First Snow, the story of an activist and her relationship with a journalist over a 25 year period from 1964 to 1991, the eve of the Persian Gulf War.]

 

 

 

 

Vote Grand Oil Party! Multi-layered deception coming to a street corner near you

In my neck of the woods, the local Republicans are showing a real green thumb (actually, perhaps green hammer) as there is green sprouting all over. Green signs with a gas pump are appearing with the words "Drill Now! Pay Less! Vote GOP!"

Now, other than the direct linkage of a gas pump and the Republican Party (the Grand Oil Party), it is hard to see any honesty in this poster. It is a continuation of the concerted Republican efforts to mislead and lie to the American people about critical energy issues. It is, in fact, impressive that this sign can be deceptive and simply dishonest on so many levels at the same time.

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Freedom, Fairness, Security, Competence

Many progressives have had concerns that the recently unveiled Democratic agenda for 2006, the New Direction for America, lacks a strong narrative that can resonate with the electorate and motivate them to support Democratic candidates in the Fall. This reflects the bigger issue that Progressives have yet to find a distillation of their core beliefs that can be clearly and succinctly expressed as an answer to the question, "What Do Progressives Stand For?". Something similar to the "Smaller Government, Lower Taxes, Individual Empowerment" narrative that the Republicans have touted successfully (if somewhat disingenuously) for almost three decades.

I heard Rachel Maddowtalking about ideas she had for rewriting the New Direction and I woke up with Freedom, Fairness, Security, Competence ringing in my head. I include policy examples (many derived from the New Direction) that make clear distinctions with Current Direction. I'm putting this out there to continue what will, hopefully, be an ongoing dialogue that leads us to something we can use to take back our country for its people.

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Where's the Dem 'cut and run'?

A Globe piece saves me the trouble.

When it comes to pithy slogans, GOP rules, Dems drool:

Stephen Hess , a senior analyst at the Brookings Institution, said the phrase is the latest example of Republican mastery of political shorthand.

"Nobody uses a phrase like that in a favorable sentence," he said. "You're never honoring a person for cutting and running. [Republicans] have got a phrase that sticks to your ribs, if you will."


And, just to prove his point, the piece offers this:
"Instead of offering a blueprint for success, the Bush administration has used the Iraq debate to attack Democrats for wanting to cut and run," Senator Jack Reed, Democrat of Rhode Island, said at a press conference yesterday. "This amendment is not cut and run. This is about getting the president to do the job correctly, something he has failed to do."

And Reed is not even on the RNC payroll!

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"Not On Our Watch" v. "Not In Our Name"

Ever since the anti-war rallies in 2002, I've been somewhat anxious about the "Not in Our Name" slogan.  I certainly agree that those who can do so safely have a moral responsibility to speak out against injustice whether or not the immediate impact of that speech is clear.  But I think the "Not in Our Name" rhetoric has a way of shifting the focus away from using mass mobilization to avert catastrophe and towards insulating one's self from future responsibility for catastrophe.  I don't think it's a stretch to hear in chants of "Not in Our Name" a grudging resignation that war will be conducted in someone else's.  That the Iraq War took place, and continues, is a reality for which all of us with the privileges and burdens of American citizenship bear some measure of responsibility.  So while I think it's good and reasonable for Americans at home and abroad to share their opposition to the Bush administration, the eagerness with which some on the left have embraced "Don't Blame Me - I Didn't Vote For Him" bumper stickers and buttons seems to evince too much pride in personal purity and too little sense of personal responsibility.

This is why I was glad to see the Save Darfur Coalition take on the slogan "Not On Our Watch." While I do believe that we have a particular responsibility to avert crimes perpetrated by our own government, I'm glad that a comparative lack of concern with allowing the Darfur genocide to be perpetrated in our names led the coalition to instead commit to stopping it from transpiring on our watch.  "Not On Our Watch" acknowledges a common moral responsibility for the crimes which take place within communities large or small of which we are a part.  When Americans take to the streets to avert a war with Iran, it would make a worthy slogan.

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