Occupy Albany has made a shocking, controversial, and altogether unfathomable demand: to take money out of politics.
Ridiculous! Ludicrous! Far too specific! This would undermine everything!
Personally, I think there should be MORE money in politics. In fact, I say do away with voting entirely. Replace it, instead, with glass jars for each candidate. Whoever collects the most cash wins, and then that cash is used to run the country as those people see fit. This way we ensure our representatives are working the hardest they can for our dollars, and only the most hard-working fundraisers will be in positions of influence. Also, corporations should be represented by living, breathing cyborgs that can they also run for office.
I’m being facetious, but not because I think the notion is ridiculous. But because I don’t think it’s nearly specific enough and as a liberal myself, I take offense to the notion that the demands and regulations being alluded to in the most vague possible manner here should just be universally accepted by any and all of this “99%” people keep talking about (the use of which does more to stifle conversation than encourage it and really needs to be abolished). Particularly when I and many others might (*gasp!*) disagree with the positions they are holding as universal to the variety of ideologies they represent.
I want to run down, point by point, the specific measures and issues they are demanding to be addressed “in the short term.”
- Truly effective campaign finance reform. Okay. How and what aspects? It’s not as simple as just saying it. If it were, McCain-Feingold would have been stronger and more effective. Sadly, it was not. But there are a variety of factors that need to be addressed first before we try to tackle campaign finance reform as an issue. Mostly because it is not an issue but rather more of an idea and long-term goal, and the sooner you treat it as such the easier it becomes to address. Categorizing it as a “short-term” goal, as Occupy Albany explicitly states, is a wonderful thought but literally impossible and, really, self-defeating.
- Corporate personhood. This is a tricky one. It’s a phrase invoked by my fellow lefties to elicit outrage from those who believe (as I do) that corporations are often given more preference in legal and political manners than the individual in this country. It doesn’t help when members of the GOP like Mitt Romney snarkily respond to criticisms by stating that “corporations are people too, friend.” What he actually meant, even though ideologically avoiding the issue, is that corporations consist of real people and are not wholly faceless entities. In the literal sense he is right. But the problem is that the influence of a corporation as a collective group is very narrow and self-serving, yet can overwhelm the influence and interests of the people. So what do you do in that case? Do we eliminate corporate personhood entirely? Absolutely not! Part of corporate personhood that doesn’t get acknowledged is that it also serves to protect us from them. Although expanded through legal decisions in the twentieth century, the concept also allows for us to do things like sue a corporation as an entity rather than every single person within that corporation and/or specific people, making it not just easier but literally possible to seek retribution for their transgressions (otherwise we’d be priced out and exhausted by legal fees and logistics). It also makes it easier for us to hold them accountable, financially and otherwise, when they break the law and/or imposed regulations. The other problem is that the more objectionable aspects of corporate personhood aren’t the result of legislation but rather, as Occupy Albany themselves point out, legal precedent. So it’s not as simple as passing a law undoing the concept of corporate personhood and stripping them of that status, as doing so would have consequences on our ability to pursue legal action against them, protect ourselves from their abuses, etcetera.
- Incentive structure for representatives. I’d love to hear what they are actually proposing. If it’s a matter of simply raising income for representatives…well, good luck convincing a cynical populace that they should pay politicians that they’re unhappy with more money that the government does not have.
- Changing the culture of disinformation and divisiveness rampant in our society. If you read letters and statements going back as far as the Founding Fathers, the sting of rhetoric, divisive stances, and politicians parading as ideologues is hardly a new phenomenon. You can and should call it out whenever you see it. It’s childish, anti-intellectual, misleading, and manipulative. But to think that you’re going to solve it through any action or actions is, I’m sorry, childishly naive.
Occupy Albany’s permit for encampment in Academy Park ends today. They show no signs of leaving, citing that it would be more effective for them to be present when legislators return to session early next month.
The video and full text transcript (typed out by yours truly – you’re welcome) of Occupy Albany’s statement is after the jump.
Thank you for joining us on this special day.
There has been much speculation in the media as to why we have been occupying Albany. What is the reason we are going through all this hardship? Struggling through tough weather and putting careers on hold?
We are proud to announce that within the movement’s rich ideological diversity, we are issuing a formal demand. The people of Occupy Albany hereby make the following statement, which represents a powerful commonality within a diversity of beliefs and goals.
We have joined together to occupy as an affirmation of the virtue of democracy where each person has an equal voice in shaping our common future. While we come from diverse background and world views, we stand united in the recognition that our current system is failing us. The voice of the people is drowned out by the corruptive influence that concentrated economic power exerts on the government. The interests of those who purchase influence are awarded at the expense of the people, for whom the government’s just power is to be derived. We believe that this failure in our system is at the core of many interconnected issues we face as a society and its resolution is key to a just future.
We therefore demand true democracy, unshacked from the corrosive influence of concentrated economic power, and ask all who share in this common goal to stand with us and take action towards this end and statement.
As more and more concentrated money tramples on the political will of the people, there is a growing movement for real democracy in the air. From Tunisia to Egypt, to the Occupy movements throughout the country, the demands for genuine democracy are echoing across the globe. While in this country we have the right to vote, we at Occupy believe that voting does not ensure that our representatives are serving our interests. To get elected, they must sell themselves to the highest bidder. And once in power, they are put under intense pressure by lobbyists. Lobbying firms who in many case write legislation and directly hand them to our politicians. And all too often, the people appointed to oversight in specific industries have interests directly linked to these industries; to the very industries they are supposed to regulate.
So who’s interests are the government serving?
We believe that by the very nature of our system, our representatives serve with deep conflicts of inflicts; conflicts between the public good and the good of concentrated economic powers which have corrupted the system. This is not sustainable. This is not tolerable.
At Occupy Albany, over the last few weeks, we have been developing a strategic road map to address in the near term issues of campaign influence, lobbying influence, and the revolving door. Included in this planning are measures towards a truly effective campaign finance reform, overturning the horrible legal precedence of corporate personhood, changing the incentive structure of our representatives so that they are truly working for the people, changing the culture of disinformation and divisiveness rampant in our society, and other near term measures. The end goal of this is true democracy.
We understand that this demand is broad and bold. This was intentional. The challenges we face as a society are simply too great to believe that baby steps and watered down compromises will be effective. Accordingly, this demand does not set a limit on what is possible. This system is broken and this must be addressed systematically to the root for the future of this generation and generations to come. We have a legacy and we owe it to them and we owe it to ourselves.
The occupy movement have given the voiceless a voice, and this voice will continue to grow louder. This voice will return our system of government to the people.
- Goodbye, goodbye, goodbye…
- Listen to me LIVE as guest co-host of Alternative to Sleeping tonight at 10pm!
- Realtors: “WAAAAAAAAAHHHHHH” George Hearst III: “NONONOO SSSSHHH IT’S OKAY, it’s okay…here. Here’s a pacifier.” Kristi: “#oops.”
- Open Mic web series premiere tonight @ Lark Tavern
- Trust Me, You’re Going to Want to See This