The point of reference of the movements is not the state or politics conventionally defined. There is no desire to take over the state or to create a new party. The Occupy Movements reject this form of representative politics, focusing instead on people taking control of their own lives and expanding the democratic spaces in which they live and work. The fact that the movements do not have the conquest of the state as their goal does not mean they do not want countless things changed. To the contrary, they want the power of corporations contained and even broken, access to housing and education expanded, and austerity programs and war ended. But democracy is the crux of Occupy politics, and democracy practiced in such a way so as to upend vertical political relationships and expand horizontal ones. (Sitrin, 2012: 75)
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This chapter, the second of three sub-studies, will identify and elaborate on topics related to issues of social structure, in keeping with the second “pillar” of Mills’ (1959) and Young’s (2011) imaginative analytic process, outlined in Chapter 2. Drawing on the News and Academic data sets, this study examines the statement made by media pundits and academic experts for insight into the grievances and demands of protestors. Social and economic issues that are related to Occupy, drawn exclusively from the source material, can be separated into three larger topics. Economic inequality and political under-representation as driving forces behind the Occupy Movement, and the policy initiatives put forth by Occupy protestors to address these large systemic problems.
The first sections explores the subject of economic inequality, or the growing wealth disparity between the richest and poorest segments of American society. Analysis of the source material reveals a widely-held concern by the 99% protest group regarding the collusion of government and private interests that serve to redistribute wealth unfairly. The actions of the “corporatocracy,” a group consisting of wealthy business owners and the government officials that support them. This group, understood synonymously in the source material with the 1%, is blamed for creating the economic circumstances necessary for wealth disparity to occur, providing at least part of the impetus needed for a large public demonstration such as Occupy to occur. A second, and equally powerful motivator for Occupy protestors, the subject of the second section of this study, is a perceived lack of representativeness in political decision making, illustrated by the political favoritism the 1% receive in legislative decisions. The expression of this concern, as well as a proposal for correcting it, are embodied in the demonstration by protest organizers and supporters of a viable alternative; an organizational structure that substitutes hierarchy for consensus-driven participation. The final section of this portion of the analysis discusses the importance and utility of protestor demands. Four lists of “unofficial” Occupy demands are reviewed and compared, with similarities between the lists identified and discussed in more detail. This section provides insight into the common types of policy changes and government initiatives would like to see in order to rectify the issues in the first two sections of this analysis.
Economic Inequality as a Driving Force Behind Occupy Wall Street
Core Grievance – Growing Wealth Disparity
Undoubtedly, the closest thing to a consensus that can be found in the source material is the idea that Occupy Wall Street can be reduced to single core issue or grievance, that being, the growing economic inequality and wealth disparity between the richest segment of society, those who make up the 1% of income earners in America, and the remaining 99% (Abzug & Greenberg, 2011; Brooks, 2011; Chopra, 2011; Cooper, 2011; Folbre, 2011; Grossman, 2011; Jickling & Hoskins, 2011: 6; Kristoff, 2011a; Krugman, 2011a; Moynihan, 2011a; Moynihan, 2011b; Ostroff, 2011; Owens, 2011; Porter, 2011; Ross, 2011; Strachan, 2011; Zelizer, 2011; DeLuca, Lawson & Sun, 2012: 484-485; Kazin, 2012: 67; Wagner-Pacifici, 2012: 194). Porter (2011), Zelizer (2011) and Wagner-Pacifici (2012: 194) admit that, despite their being concerns held by many regarding the vagueness of protestor demands, they have been blatantly clear about their central preoccupation with economic inequality. Deepak Chopra, a world renowned author, New Age guru and alternative medicine practitioner, wrote an essay entitled “What’s the best outcome for Occupy Wall Street?” published in the Huffington Post in early December, 2011. In it, Chopra (2011) identifies what he believes to be the fundamental injustices to which Occupy supporters and participants are responding:
There is injustice in the way corporate greed has been allowed to wreck the global economy at will, without fear of punishment. There is injustice in the way jobs have been undermined, a manufacturing base ruthlessly destroyed for the sake of corporate profits. This injustice doesn’t affect simply the factory workers, farmers, and underclass who typically lead social revolutions. A small elite has stripped away bargaining rights, pensions, and job stability without a shred of conscience.
Cooper (2011), in an article published in the Huffington Post entitled “Occupy Conservatism,” offers what he believes to be a fair summary of the primary complaint, drawing many parallels with Chopra (2011):
The current economic structure of the country is out of balance and favors a very small proportion of the rich over the rest of the country. America needs to reduce the power of major banks and corporations and demand greater accountability and transparency. The government should not provide financial aid to corporations and should not provide tax breaks to the rich.
Both authors identify an imbalance in the current economic system, tilted in the 1%’s favour (Kristoff, 2011b), who exercise disproportionate control over the economic and political circumstances of the masses (Folbre, 2011). Americans are asking themselves whether the “game is rigged,” and It is this sense of injustice, coupled with economic insecurity, that have contributed significantly to the anti-Wall Street sentiment that exists today (Owens, 2011). As Owens (2011) points out, Americans can’t help but get upset when presented with substantial evidence of “systematic foul play.”
Brooks (2011) separates the notions of inequality into two subtypes, “Blue” and “Red,” noting that they are “related but different.” Blue Inequality occurs in densely populated urban centers like New York City, Los Angeles, and Boston, and is characterized by a disproportionately high amount of wealth being funneled to the top 1% of earners (Brooks, 2011). By contrast, Red Inequality occurs in much smaller cities and towns, with an income gap quickly expanding, but not between the top 1% and the bottom 99%, but between those with a college degree and those without (Brooks, 2011). In hindsight, this form of inequality is not necessarily negative, some might even call it “fair.” If anything, it illustrates the success of the “global capitalist promise” (to be discussed in Chapter 5), reinforcing the notion that the meritocracy in place functions as intended. Brooks (2011) points out that the Occupy protests focus specifically on the issue of Blue Inequality in America, with so many large banking interests and media conglomerates concentrated in major cities.
There is certainly a huge fascination in the source material with uncovering quantitative data to substantiate Occupy’s claims regarding income inequality. Measures of the distance between the 1% and everyone else in terms of income is illustrated in several ways, with estimates varying wildly. As it turns out, “We Are the 99%” has a degree of mathematical accuracy, effectively publicizing a message consistent with research on the distribution of income and wealth (Folbre, 2011). As Lubin (2012) points out, higher than average rates of poverty and income inequality is a characteristic of cities that have succeeded in attracting global capital interests. According to U.S. Census Bureau report, from 2009 to 2010 the poverty rate in New York City grew faster than the nationwide average, with one in five residents living in poverty (Lubin, 2012: 188; see Roberts, Povich & Mather, 2013. The Working Poor Families Project, Policy Brief, Winter, 2012-2013). Both Kohn (2011a) and Kristoff (2011b) make light of the fact that the 400 wealthiest Americans have a greater combined net worth than the bottom 150 million Americans. Others suggest that, as of today, top 1% of American earners receive about a fifth of the country’s income (according to a study cited by Rampell, 2011, conducted by economists Piketty & Saez), while others claim an even larger gap, that the 1% possess more wealth than the entire bottom 90% (Kristoff, 2011b).
Evidence to support the claim that the top 1% earned a disproportionate amount of the country’s wealth is also provided throughout the source material. According to an analysis of the U.S. Census Bureau’s Historical Income Tables performed by Hickel (2012), in the United States, the share of national income going to the top 1% more than doubled between 1980 and 2010, from 8% to 18%. Within the same timeframe, the top 5% of American households saw their incomes increase by 72.7%, while the bottom 20% saw their incomes fall by 7.4%. In the period between 2002 to 2007, 65% of total economic gains for the entire country went to the richest 1% (Kristoff, 2011b). Several authors opted to present figures that illustrate how much a member of the 1% makes in annual income, compared to the opposite extreme. The average net worth for a member of the 1% was estimated at $19,167,600 as of 2007 (Rampell, 2011). The cut-off point to entry into the 1% in terms of annual income is approximately $506,553 according to the U.S. Tax Policy Center (cited by Rampell, 2011). However, as Rampell (2011) contends, tremendous variation in annual income exists even within the top percentile, with an individual at 99.5th percentile making roughly $815,868 a year, while someone in the 99.9th percentile makes more than double that, at around $2,075,574 a year. Of the 100 highest-paid chief executives in the United States in 2010, 25 took home more pay than their company paid in federal corporate income taxes, according to the Institute for Policy Studies (cited by Kristoff, 2011a)
Among all the statistical sources cited by authors in the source material, a study conducted by the U.S. Congressional Budget Office is mentioned most often, lending weight to its credibility and accuracy (Folbre, 2011; Jickling & Hoskins, 2011: 13; Krugman, 2011a; Porter, 2011; DeLuca, Lawson & Sun, 2012: 484-485; Hatem, 2012: 413). The statistics offered by the CBO, which appeared around the same time as protests erupted, is a longitudinal study using various measures to examine national income distribution in the 40 year period between 1979 and 2007. Overall, the report documents a sharp decline in the share of total income going to lower- and middle-income Americans. Based on the results published in the report, during the timeframe mentioned, incomes of the top 1% grew by a staggering average of 275%, while comparatively, those of the next 60% grew by only 40%. In 2007, the richest 1% of the population owned 34.6% of the wealth, the next 9% owned 38.5%, and the bottom 90% owned 26.9%, meaning the top 10% owned nearly two-thirds of the nation’s total wealth (Hatem, 2012: 413; Jickling & Hoskins, 2011: 13; Porter, 2011). Krugman (2011a) essentially proclaims that the elimination of the middle class is complete, with the most telling conclusion derived from the report illustrating that the bottom 80% of households now receive less than half of total income.
In keeping with the idea suggested earlier by Rampell (2011), that significant variation exist within the top one percentile, there is some agreement among authors in the source material that the real target of scrutiny by Occupy protestors should not be the top 1%, but in fact, the top 0.1% of income earners (Porter, 2011; Krugman, 2011b). The top 0.1% are mostly comprised of elite corporate executives, with approximately 60% of members in this group being employed either as en executive in nonfinancial company or make their money in finance (Krugman, 2011b). According to an earlier CBO study published in 2005, the richest thousandth of Americans saw their real incomes rise more than 400% over the period from 1979 to 2005 (Krugman, 2011b).
Maintenance of an Inequitable Economic System
Owens (2011), reflecting on the onset of dissent and protest in the U.S. in the past decade, asks “what took so long?” suggesting that the gap between the infamous 2008 U.S. bank bailouts and the beginning of Occupy Wall Street, demonstrates a cultural willingness to “tolerate a relatively large amount of income inequality” (when compared to European counterparts). Kristoff (2011b) is fascinated by the same observable phenomenon, what he identifies as an aura of complacency on the part of American citizens to the injustices being perpetrated around them. Two authors in the text offer theories to explain why the majority of Americans remain loyal to a system that doesn’t support them. Mark Fisher (2009: 2), in his book entitled “Capitalist Realism,” argues that this complacency can be attributed to the widespread sense that capitalism the only viable political and economic system, that to imagine a coherent alternative would be impossible (as discussed in Jaffe, 2012: 199). Fisher (2009: 5), in a fairly bleak tone, notes that the “realism” of capitalist realism is “analogous to the deflationary perspective of a depressive who believes that any positive state, any hope, is a dangerous illusion” (Jaffe, 2012: 201). Owens (2011), however, argues that the phenomenon stems from a socially embedded loyalty to “meritocracy,” where the truly hard-working, intelligent and innovative people are rewarded financially, an idea that will be discussed in Chapter 5, and the final Discussion.
This complacency exhibited by many Americans, it is argued, can be explained in correlation to the diminished “purchasing power” of the majority of citizens (Tabb , 2012: 268), a function of how much disposable income individuals possess, combined with the value of the dollar (affected by inflation). People makes less money, they spend less money, and the money that is available to spend doesn’t afford all that much. Ultimately, this can lead to an epidemic of loan creation and borrowing, maxing out credit cards and spending home equity, to allow citizens to sustain an adequate standard of living (Tabb, 2012: 268). Building on this idea, Francis (2011) suggests that escalating debt and chronic employment have led to a “great markdown” in the accepted standard of living. Over time, as a majority of individuals become accustomed to earning a diminished income, whether it be as a result of downsizing, outsourcing, pay cuts, etc., people begin to accept the declining lifestyle and reduced standard of living that accompanies it. Being poor and “broke” – having only the income available to purchase necessities, enjoying few, if any, of the luxuries that top wage earners receive – becomes the accepted norm.
The wealthy, and the media pundits that support their interests, have ways of neutralizing the backlash directed at them, either by deflecting the blame towards another target, or attempting to repackage the issue as another issue entirely. According to Krugman (2011a), members of the media attempted to transform the conflict inherent in the Occupy protests, arguing that the dispute cannot be reduced to the “wealthy” versus the “poor”, but instead, the educated versus the uneducated, in a not-so-subtle implication that the 99% are somehow not worthy of wealth because they are not intelligent enough to secure wealth within the confines of the system. The most bewildering defense, as identified by Krugman (2011a), is that even though the erosion of the middle class is evident, America has transformed into an upper-middle-class society, with a broad class of highly educated workers who have the necessary skills to be financially prosperous in our modern, technologically-advanced society. This explanation can almost be viewed as comical, with the implication that economic conditions have actually improved for the vast majority of Americans.
In defense of another classic “textbook” economic tenet, some economists maintain that a degree of income inequality is necessary for the functioning of the capitalist system as a whole, creating the incentives needed to persuade people to sell their labour in order to pool together the money and resources needed to survive (as discussed by Kristoff, 2011a; also see Jickling & Hoskins, 2011: 13). But a balance needs to be achieved. Too much inequality, it is argued, can become a detriment to the system with “two perverse consequences”: first, the very wealthy are in an advantageous position to lobby for political favors, contracts and bailouts, that can ultimately distort markets both nationally and internationally; and second, growing inequality undermines the ability of the poorest segments of the population to invest in their own education (Kristoff, 2011a). In 2003, B.L. Chen posited an “inverted U-shaped” curve: income inequality produces gains in economic growth rates to a certain point, but when the degree of inequality passes that point, growth begins to slow. High income inequality and wealth disparity is the price we as a society pay for sustainable, robust growth. Robert H. Frank, an economics professor and author of the book “The Darwin Economy,” suggests the opposite: using a comparative study of 65 industrialized nations, inequality seriously damages economies by stagnating growth, with “individual countries growing more rapidly in periods when incomes are more equal, and slowing down when incomes are skewed” (as discussed in Kristoff, 2011a)
The Actions of the “Corporatocracy”
Having established that wealth disparity is the core issue fuelling the Movement, the question begs to be asked, who is to blame? What analysis of the data reveals is that the collusion of corporate interests and the U.S. government is responsible for creating and maintaining the economic conditions needed for a large income gap to exist. The Occupy Wall Street Movement raised important questions regarding capitalist institutions, particularly corporations, played in wreaking havoc on America’s economy (Gutting, 2011; Pepitone, 2011).
The term “Wall Street” is used in the source material to mean many things; an umbrella term that covers a variety of organizations and institutions, all operating under the same unified goal of profit, a group that DeLuca, Lawson and Sun (2012: 488) and Adbusters (2011a) refer to as the “Corporatocracy.” Adbusters (2011a) called Wall Street the “greatest corrupter of our democracy…the financial Gomorrah of America.” There is agreement in the text that global capitalism in its current form is primarily shaped by the massive proliferation of powerful transnational corporations whose operations either directly or indirectly control global economics and national politics (Ellison, 2011; Gutting, 2011; Grossman, 2011; Jickling & Hoskins, 2011; Pepitone, 2011; Porter, 2011; DeLuca, Lawson & Sun, 2012: 488; Hatem, 2012: 402; Tabb, 2012). Several different criticisms regarding the conduct of multinational corporations can be found within the source material, with many contending that corrupt corporate practices provided the impetus needed for an uprising like Occupy Wall Street to occur (Jickling & Hoskins, 2011: 4; Pepitone, 2011). Where difference of opinion exists is in regards to what behavior on the part of corporations is most deplorable. The choice between which of Wall Street’s many crimes can be deemed most impactful, is ultimately a matter of personal preference.
A broad accusation often applied to financially-driven institutions like corporations and banks, is that they collude to siphon off resources and funds that could be better spent elsewhere to serve the greater good, instead of a small minority (Hatem, 2012: 402). In 2008, a “trickle-down” economic strategy was employed by the U.S. government in an attempt to stimulate economic growth. Under such a strategy, the government provides financial subsidies and tax breaks to American-based corporations in order to increase their cash flow (Ellison, 2011). The fundamental flaw in the strategy is the assumption that corporations will re-invest this money into production and labour, leading to job growth, lower unemployment and increased household spending.
Unfortunately, the additional funds that were retained through these tax breaks afforded corporations the opportunity to recycle their earnings into “speculative investments” and “complex financial instruments,” gambling on the success of other businesses and foreign currencies, which perform well in terms of generating a return, but serve no greater social benefit (Ellison, 2011; Jickling & Hoskins, 2011: 6). The issue being that the rich, through the corporations, banks and other financial institutions they own, have very little incentive to reinvest their gains in production, not only because the returns are lower in the short-term, but because the vast majority of citizens do not have the disposable income to purchase what is being produced (Hatem, 2012: 402; Tabb, 2012: 268). The argument is that corporations “swapping pieces of paper” in and amongst themselves is not only less useful, but morally inferior to the actual production of goods and services (Hatem, 2012: 402). Companies see no reason to increase production of goods by investing in additional raw material and labour, because the bulk of the consumer base is either drowning in debt or unemployed, either of which can cause a significant decline in household and personal income (Tabb , 2012: 269). These complex financial instruments and short-term speculative trading strategies have made a few individuals very wealthy, but have made the financial system as a whole, upon which all consumers and businesses depend, less stable (Jickling & Hoskins, 2011: 6).
According to some in the source material, once it became clear that the risky, speculative investments made by corporations and banks were beginning to fail, the deficit was passed on to the American people in the form of a taxpayer funded government bailout (Grossman, 2011; Kohn, 2011; Kristoff, 2011b). And, as a further insult to the American taxpayer, after receiving the bailout money, many corporations issued exorbitant bonuses to their CEOs in the millions of dollars (Grossman, 2011). That exorbitant compensation of Wall Street traders, aside from further exacerbating income polarization, but encourages some members of the middle and lower class to perform excessive risk-taking behaviors with the small capital or equity they do possess, which is substantially riskier for the general population who are subject to higher unemployment and slower economic growth during and after recessions (Jickling & Hoskins, 2011: 6). Kristoff (2011b) contends that protestor rage directed at Wall Street is justified because banks and corporations have manipulated the economic system to enjoy profits in good years and bailouts in bad ones, or the “privatizing profits and socializing risks.”
Some attention is paid in the source material to the very specific role the U.S. Federal Reserve played in causing the economic downturn. Censky (2011) of CNN wrote his synopsis of a press conference held in early November with Ben Barnanke, an economist who, at the time, was at the tail end of his second term as chairman of the Federal Reserve (or “Fed” for short). During the conference, Barnanke expressed sympathy for Occupy Wall Street protesters, admitting that the many of their frustrations with the sluggish economy were “understandable” (Censky, 2011). However, Barnanke was also very vocal about expressing his concerns about the backlash against the Fed, arguing that the anti-sentiment was being fueled heavily by “misconceptions.” Censky (2011) admits that the Federal Reserve is perfectly situated as a scapegoat, or “whipping boy,” for the Occupy demonstrations. The institution itself was created by and reports to Congress with its top leaders appointed directly by the president. Yet, the Federal Reserve is independently funded and operates similar to that of a bank, serving both private and foreign institutions as well as the U.S. government (Censky, 2011). What angers protestors in particular about this institution is its role in facilitating the government’s 2008 Wall Street bailout, which was touted by Barnanke during the news conference as a way to stabilize the financial system (Censky, 2011). As well, the Fed is criticized for lowering interest rates, which, rather than serving its intended purpose of reducing consumer debt and increasing spending power, was used by Wall Street financiers to free up additional money to increase their holding of financial assets (Tabb , 2012: 269). The Fed’s ability to print and create new monies (one of their inherent powers granted to them by the government) allows banks, at least perceivably, to remain solvent since they can “borrow unlimited funds at little or no interest and then buy government bonds making a profit on the difference between the cost and the return” (Tabb , 2012: 269).
The decisions of corporations, financial institutions, and the individuals who own and control them can be easily explained, according to Gutting (2011), by accepting that they generally exhibit no dedication to fundamental human values, but rather, exist merely as instruments of profit for their shareholders (Gutting, 2011). The old adage is that “Profit is King” – the driving force behind all corporate decisions and actions, and absolutely essential for corporate survival, because those that do not make money inevitably disappear. Gutting (2011) clarifies that this does not necessarily imply that corporations are invariably “evil” or that they do not make any essential economic contributions to society. It does, however, suggest that corporations can be useful in improving the human condition, but is not actively or inherently invested in doing so. Ross (2011) makes an interesting point, noting that the relentless pursuit of profit is not exclusive to Wall Street interests, that politicians themselves are guilty of possessing the same motive. Greed explains why so many politicians are so easily subverted and corrupted by money and corporate influence.
The only economic and political loyalties transnational corporations have are to the corporate elites that manage them and their exceeding wealthy owners, categorized by OWS as the 1%, acting only in the interest of ensuring that a “bottom line” profit is achieved for all shareholders (Hatem, 2012: 402). Corporations behave as if they believe they have more economic influence on the global financial system than most nation-states, and with the exception of a few nations, they are correct. Federal politicians who want to be labelled as “job creators” often have to bow to the bidding of major transnationals that make America their home, as an incentive to keep them in the country to spur economic growth. To this extent, nation-states actually seek to primarily serve the global interests of corporations instead of having any commitment to citizens they serve and the issues that affect them nationally (Hatem, 2012: 402).
The overwhelming consensus in the source material is that economic inequality is the most important issue concerning supporters of the Occupy Wall Street protests. This inequality is made visible to the public through the growing wealth disparity between the richest and poorest American citizens, a phenomenon that can be quantitatively measured and illustrated. The economic system in America is structured in a way that favours the exceedingly wealthy, members of a group labelled the 1% that consists of corporate leaders and politicians alike, many of whom enjoy a cozy and mutually-beneficial relationship. Upon analysis of the source material, this relationship is fairly simple to deconstruct. The government passes new laws and amends existing laws to enable corporations to generate greater profit through the exploitation of tax, international trade, and many other financial and legal loopholes. Governments also intervene when speculative corporate investments fail, resulting in huge bailouts funded almost exclusively using taxpayer money. In turn, corporations and the wealthy supply “donations” in the millions of dollars to finance political campaigns.
Several explanations are provided in the source material to account for (and justify) the longevity and maintenance of the current, unjust, economic system. It is believed that Americans, as a whole, have a high tolerance threshold for poverty, willing to accept a steadily declining standard of living. Citizens are forced to adjust to gradual increases to inflation and decreases in purchasing power, without receiving any proportionate increase in wages to compensate. “Capitalist realists” are not supporters of the current economic system, but are also incapable of selecting a viable alternative, and thus, are forced to accept things the way they are. Some citizens, however, still express faith in the current system, arguing that an economy and social structure that distributes financial rewards based on merit, remains the best system for allocating wealth. Textbook economic theories are also used to defend income inequality as both an inevitable and necessary by-product of the capitalist economic model. The idea that financial deprivation acts as an incentive for individuals to sell their labour, substantiates the need for equilibrium between poverty and wealth in society. Poverty is the fuel that powers the cogs and gears of the engine that is the capitalist economy, allowing it to run efficiently and without interruption.
The actions of the “Corporatocracy,” a collective consisting of corporations, banks, and other financial institutions affiliated with the government (such as the Federal Reserve), are discussed synonymously in the source material with the actions of the 1%, making them an equal target of scrutiny by Occupy supporters. The role multinational corporations and banks played in the U.S. economic collapse of 2008, is a hotly debated topic in the source material, with a single, broad accusation emerging upon analysis of the text. Members of the corporatocracy operate under a unifying principle of maximizing profit regardless of the resulting economic and social implications. This pursuit of profit is believed to encourage fraudulent corporate practices, justified so long as value is added to the company for owners and stockholders. Corporations and banks are suspected of siphoning off wealth into risky investments, a consequence of the failure of “trickle-down” strategies intended to stimulate economic growth in 2008. Corporations and banks invested additional capital into “complex financial instruments” and foreign currencies, instead of local production and job creation as the government had hoped. The organizations that comprise the corporatocracy ultimately end up “swapping piece of paper” among themselves, which serves to funnel wealth into the control of individuals who have the discretion and authority to invest it carelessly.
Government intervention in the form of taxpayer funded bailouts was necessary once these speculative investments began to fail. Tax, by sheer definition of the word, is public money that is under the discretionary control of the government, to be used in the funding of social welfare initiatives and programs. Public outrage is understandable considering the government’s fervour to allocate tax income to correct the financial missteps of a handful of wealthy people – money that could have been spent to improve the well-being of society as a whole.
Political Representativeness as a Driving Force Behind Occupy Wall Street
Core Grievance – Political Representativeness
The issue of representativeness is identified in relation to the power corporations and banks yield with regards to political influence, highlighting the fact that the concentration of wealth to a small minority threatens to make the U.S. a “democracy in name only” (Hardt & Negri, 2011: 2; Krugman, 2011b; Ross, 2011; Zelizer, 2011; Hatem, 2012). Protestors want the world to know that bankers and finance industries in no way represent them in the democratic process, and that what is good for Wall Street is certainly not good for the country, or the world (Hardt & Negri, 2011: 2; Zelizer, 2011). Ross’ (2011) perspective is even more cynical, arguing that bankers are probably welcoming of Occupy Wall Street because it has the cultural effect of reinforcing to the broader public, at least perceivably, that America is still a free and democratic society, helping to mask the underlying truth – that the plutocrats control the wealth, and thus control the government, which is gradually being replaced with a new aristocracy.
The mantra, “We are the 99%,” has a double meaning, a reference to both economic disparity and the struggle for political representativeness. The choice of slogan by protest organizers and supporters is believed to have important symbolic significance. Kazin (2012: 69) believes it conveys a deeply moral, democratic message, with Pickerill and Krinsky (2012: 281) elaborating on this idea, arguing it creates a sense of inclusion and majority among participants.
The Occupy Movement brought national media attention to an issue Sitrin (2012: 74) considers a “growing crisis” regarding a fundamental “lack of democracy.” The social imbalance that the 99% are protesting against has more than just an economic dimension. Protestors feel a sense of betrayal on the part of the federal government; a government that is so easily corrupted by corporate interests and money, drafting legislation and enacting policies that overtly favor themselves and the wealthy (Hardt & Negri, 2011: 2). It is suggested that those who align with Occupy Wall Street recognize, but have tremendous difficulty accepting, their lack of political representation in the government (Abzug & Greenberg, 2011; Hardt & Negri, 2011: 2; Lubin, 2012: 185-187; Maharawal, 2012: 179; Sitrin, 2012: 74). To Abzug & Greenberg (2011), OWS can be understood as the struggle for “equalism,” or the right of any citizen, regardless of economic position, race, gender, orientation, identity, or belief, to participate in — and be served equally — by their government.
One of the broader topics discussed from various perspectives within the source material is the idea that, at its core, the Occupy Wall Street protests present an alternative to the prevailing democratic order (Moreno-Caballud, & Sitrin, 2011; Hickel, 2012). This alternative, according to Sitrin (2012: 74), is known as “horizontalism” – originating from the Spanish horizontalidad model, which was used in Spain and Argentina earlier in 2011 – a form of participatory democracy that promotes non-hierarchical social relationships. The term horizontalidad has become synonymous with the pattern of contemporary social movements seeking self-management, autonomy and direct democracy (Lubin, 2012: 187; Sitrin, 2012: 74), characterized by what Hardt and Negri (2011: 2) call a “multitude form,” involving frequent public assemblies and participatory decision-making structures. No leader, elected or otherwise, assumes a position of power and control over the rest (also see Syrek, 2012: 72-73). Protestors are actively avoiding the replication of the stratified social relations of mainstream society, which necessarily prevents protestors from appointing a leader (Syrek, 2012: 73).
Several terms, including “horizontalism,” “direct democracy” and “participatory democracy,” all appear frequently throughout the source material, and all allude to the same concept of “consensus- based decision making.” Syrek (2012: 74) provides a concise outline of how the consensus decision making model typically operates. Every individual, no matter how informed or educated, contributes to the completion of collective goals, which are presented as individual proposals by members of the group, and agreed upon unanimously through voting. Efficiency and speed are not the primary objectives, instead, the satisfaction of all stakeholders through meaningful collaboration is considered most important. Majorities do not dictate terms to minorities, and actual voting is only resorted to in extreme cases (Syrek, 2012: 74). As Maharawal (2012: 179) points out, the consensus-based model is inherently “inclusive,” tied both to the participation of supporters, as well as the processes and practices through which decisions are made (with involvement in the decision-making process considered to be a “deeper” form of inclusion than simply being present) (also see Kastenbaum, 2011).
The consensus model is not perfect, however, with a few authors highlighting some of the more negative aspects of a decision-making system that treats everyone equally. There are several practical issues with having to obtain a unanimous consensus every time a proposal needs to be decided upon, issues that can potentially alienates segments of Occupy’s all-inclusive follower base. Decisions requiring consensus proceed until everyone agrees, or at least until no one disagrees enough to block a given proposition. This, according to Hickel (2012) has the consequence of alienating those who don’t have a tremendous amount of free time to dedicate these lengthy discussions. Linksy (2011) notes that, because everyone’s grievance is equal to everyone else’s grievance, the primary message gets muddied. Clarifying the message and focusing on specific targets become necessary next steps, according to Linksy (2011), which also has the consequence of alienating those whose issues are abandoned. In an interview with Martin Linsky, co-founder of Cambridge Leadership Associates, whose organization specializes in translating ideas and recommendations into actions (ideally with positive outcomes), Kastenbaum (2011) of CNN, suggests that adherence to a consensus-based model could spell the demise of the Movement, because the only initiatives that can actually achieve consensus are ones that are incredibly abstract. “I think that’s the danger of this kind of process,” Linsky said. “If we say we’re going to operate by consensus, which is everybody has to agree, well, the only way you can get everybody to agree when people have different agendas is to agree on something that is so ethereal as to be meaningless.” (Kastenbaum, 2011). Because everyone has a voice and an opportunity to voice their concerns, discussions also tend to focus on the “mundane logistics” of each individual’s experience, never graduating to the more important task of affecting broad systemic change (Hickel, 2012). The process of pursuing universal agreement also typically means that important propositions, like expanding Movement efforts nationally and internationally, get diluted to the point of inefficacy. In order for consensus to be an effective tool in achieving Occupy’s goals, both Kastenbaum (2011) and Linsky concur, someone will have to assume leadership: “If someone were to actually try to shape and form that movement into something that actually might effect change, that person is going to annoy a lot of those people in Zuccotti Park.”
The agreement in the source material, particularly among academics who discussed the topic, is that the utilization of a horizontalist organizational structure is a direct response to the failures of representative democracy (Hardt & Negri, 2011: 2; Lubin, 2012: 187; Syrek, 2012: 73), a visible expression of outright rejection to the form representative politics that currently exists, coupled with the demonstration of a viable alternative. OWS seeks a total transformation of the hierarchical structure of human relations that perpetuates gross inequality and injustice (Syrek, 2012: 72; Rehmann, 2013: 4). The employment of an alternative form of organization by Occupiers, one that lacks leadership and encourages participatory democracy, is entirely deliberate, serving two distinct purposes, one political, and one pragmatic (Maharawal, 2012: 178). Pragmatically, consensus decision making serves to ensure participants feel invested and involved in the Movement, fueling their commitment and loyalty to the cause (Maharawal, 2012: 178). Politically, it functions as a way to visibly challenge and critique structures of liberal democracy; structures that those in the Movement often describe as illegitimate, disempowering, and politically compromised (Graeber, 2011; Hickel, 2012). The occupation of Zuccotti Park is understood by some authors to be an attempt by protestors to create an “equitable space,” an area where everyone’s voices could be heard, where mechanisms for group decision making and accountability could be formulated and implemented, and where self-responsibility and empowerment are seen as paramount (Sifry, 2011). The occupation of public space and the adoption of consensus-driven protocol are meant to demonstrate the organization and functionality of an ideal democracy, one that supports all members of society equally, providing everyone with an equal voice (Hardt & Negri, 2011: 2; Syrek, 2012: 73). In this way, those participating in the movement are “prefiguring” the world they wish to live, a world in which people would have more power over the decisions that affect them (Maharawal, 2012: 178; Sitrin 2012). Protestors are effectively leading by example, “beta testing” the ideas and behaviors in the hopes that one day it will be adopted by greater society (Rushkoff, 2011; Maharawal, 2012: 179). The means and the ends have to be the same if substantial and meaningful social change is to occur (Graeber, 2011; Hickel, 2012).
The General Assembly
The function, purpose and effectiveness of the General Assembly, is another hotly debated and contested topic in the source material (Bennett, 2011; Caballud & Sitrin, 2011; McVeigh, 2011; Davenport, 2011: 89; Kastenbaum, 2011; Kimmelman, 2011; Kleinfield & Buckley, 2011; Rushkoff, 2011; Sitrin, 2011; Writers of the 99%, 2011: 25; Brucato, 2012: 81; Costanza-Chock, 2012: 383; Hickel, 2012; Mulqueen & Tataryn, 2012: 293; Syrek, 2012: 74). It is argued that the most important “force pushing Occupy toward openness” is the participatory nature of the General Assemblies, as well as the “Working Groups” that comprise it (Costanza-Chock, 2012: 383; also see Caballud & Sitrin, 2011; McVeigh, 2011; Mulqueen & Tataryn, 2012: 293). David Graeber, an American anthropologist and anarchist who is currently employed at the University of London, is credited with creating the New York City General Assembly, which he claims, was inspired by his ethnographic observations in non-state societies located in rural Madagascar (Hickel, 2012). One of the hallmark characteristics of the General Assembly, according to Graeber, is its anarchist structure of non-hierarchical, consensus-based participatory democracy (as discussed in Hickel, 2012). The idea of the general assembly was not widely known to those who were planning the Occupy Movement, up until Graeber was able to offer his knowledge of how to facilitate a general assembly to the group. It has since become a cornerstone for how decisions are made in many of the Occupy sites (Bennett, 2011; Davenport, 2011: 89; Writers of the 99%, 2011: 25).
The General Assembly is considered the primary decision-making body of the Movement, a forum for negotiating demands and goals, as well as the organization of Occupy-related events and demonstrations, and the distribution of donated resources (Mulqueen & Tataryn, 2012: 293). As Bennett (2011) explains, a General Assembly is, “a carefully facilitated group discussion through which decisions are made – not by a few leaders, or even majority rule, but by consensus. Unresolved questions are referred to working groups within the assembly, but eventually everyone has to agree, even in assemblies that swell into the thousands” (67). The General Assembly model encourages vigorous participatory debate, giving participants a direct stake in decisions (Hickel, 2012). Instead of relying on leadership and hierarchy, Assemblies operate on the basis of consensus-based decision-making (Syrek, 2012: 74). Arriving at a consensus on all final decisions and actions can be a taxing process because anytime a proposal is presented to the group, everyone present has the right, no matter how informed or educated that individual might be, to comment on it or offer amendments to it (Kastenbaum, 2011; Rushkoff, 2011; Syrek, 2012: 74). Unanimous support for a proposal is required in order for it to pass, a process that severely lacks in efficiency, but rates high in participant satisfaction because most feel that their concerns have been appreciated and their collaboration meaningful (Kastenbaum, 2011; Syrek, 2012: 74). Unlike parliamentary rules that promote debate, difference and decision, the General Assembly, as described by Rushkoff (2011) creates consensus by “stacking” (or ranking) ideas and objections in terms of priority, with a bulk of the process being orchestrated through hand gestures (also see Brucato, 2012: 81; Maharawal, 2012: 178). Two General Assembly meetings are held each day for 2-5 hours in Zuccotti Park, where participants arrange in a half circle to discuss and vote on topics outlined in the evening’s agenda (Kastenbaum, 2011; Kleinfield & Buckley, 2011; Gillham, Edwards & Noakes, 2013: 86). Topics can range anywhere from the practical (such as where to march and when) to the mundane (like concerns about trash collection) (Kastenbaum, 2011).
Kimmelman (2011), while observing one of the General Assemblies held in Zuccotti Park from a distance, claimed that the practice reminded him of Aristotle, who argued in Politics that the size of an ideal city “extended to the limits of a herald’s cry,” and that a healthy citizenry in a well-functioning city required face-to-face conversation. General Assemblies are emblematic of the commitment within the Movement to participatory democracy. With inclusion to the group not limited in any way (Maharawal, 2012: 178; Mulqueen & Tataryn, 2012: 293). According to Hardt and Negri (2011), the General Assembly exemplifies this principled alternative to the prevailing social order, expressing dissatisfaction with the existing structures of political representation while offering a viable alternative for what can be deemed “real democracy” (2). Sitrin (2012) agrees with this contention, suggesting that the General Assembly focuses on people taking control of their own lives and expanding the democratic spaces in which they live and work (75).
The first General Assembly convened on August 2, 2011, at the Charging Bull statue, a Wall Street icon located at the tip of Bowling Green Park. It was held more like a rally, because most people in attendance had little to no knowledge about what a General Assembly was, let alone how one functions and operates (Writers of the 99%, 2011: 11). Formally thereafter, the General Assembly served a simple and straightforward function: it was the decision-making body of the protest group and the forum through which organizers made sure that the needs of those participating were met (Writers of the 99%, 2011: 27). In order to accomplish this, committees were formed within the General Assembly with specific tasks delegated to each, including the Food Committee, the Student Committee, the Outreach Committee, the Internet Working Group, the Arts and Culture Working Group, and the Tactical Committee (Moynihan 2011b; Rushkoff, 2011; Writers of the 99%, 2011: 11). One of the primary responsibilities of Working Groups early in the Movement was to designate where differing logistical activities would occur within Zuccotti Park. For example, areas of the park were selected for a food station, sleeping area, information booth, art and poster space, library, media spokes desk, internet and live streaming stations, and of course, an area to hold General Assemblies (Moynihan 2011b).
The Direct Action committee is also believed to be instrumental to the success of OWS. Numbering anywhere between 35 and 50 activists, the committee is “empowered by the general assembly” to plan action. The committee includes campaigners, community activists and those with relevant organizational skills, some of whom live in collectives and already base their lives around a communal system (McVeigh, 2011).The subjects under discussion among members of this group include security, march procedure, how to deal with “autonomous” actions and how to avoid conflict with police. The committee appoints several “pacekeepers” for every march, who make sure it doesn’t go too fast or too slow, and it is they who decide on the direction. There are also informal “scouts”, who keep an eye on progress, and “runners” who run back and forth between the various organizers telling them of any problems arising (McVeigh, 2011).
The discussion on Working Groups reminds us that we cannot overlook the fact that, in order for an event of this magnitude to occur, a small group of people had to establish themselves as leaders, in the sense of being co-organizers. Gitlin (2013: 3) refers to this small core group as the “inner movement,” with the self-proclaimed “leaderless” structure of Occupy masking the fact that this group did a substantial amount of the work (Sifry, 2011; Jaffe, 2012: 201). Arthur Brisbane (2011), a New York Times Public Editor, who an essay published in a Sunday version of the Times entitled “Who is Occupy Wall Street?” He argues that the notion of a political Movement such as Occupy arising without a charismatic leader is “inconceivable.’ He states, “An investigation into [its] origins would lead to the identities of early leaders, at least, and the search for the broader leadership of the movement should continue from there.”
Opposition to Public Assembly: State and Law Enforcement Intervention
The topic of “Law Enforcement Intervention” is another major topic that appears consistently throughout the source material (Grossman, 2011; Golgowski , 2011; Lennard, 2011; Miller, 2011; Moynihan, 2011a; Moynihan, 2011b; Pepitone, 2011; Lubin, 2012: 186; Pickerill & Krinsky, 2012; Gilliam, Edwards & Noakes, 2013). Plenty of detail regarding instances of protestor arrest and excessive force used by officers is well documented in both the news media and scholarly literature, neither of which is surprising considering the popularity of such topics among the general public. The press provides mostly damning testimonials about gross misconduct, and are extremely critical of many of the circumstances under which protestors were arrested. Several key instances of police intervention are cited within the source material as being particular milestones for the occupation of Zuccotti Park. Police intervention is actually crucial to the perceived legitimacy of the protest in the news media, with many news outlets deliberately ignoring the protest until arrests started to be made.
In the meetings leading up to September 17, according to those close to the group, it was the Tactical Committee that had the most integral role in the organization of the event. While the Outreach Committee worked to draw people to the Assemblies, the Tactical Committee, “determined the time and place for the first General Assembly to happen and everything that would need to be done in order for that to happen” (Writers of the 99%, 2011: 12). The most important task was choosing the final location for the occupation. According to the Writers of the 99% (2011), the Tactical committee had to consider several criteria when choosing a location, most important of which was the expectation that there would be a heavy police presence that could potentially shut down the demonstration altogether. Should police be particularly repressive on September 17, the strategy was to “attempt to have a General Assembly at one location”, and then, “move to a new place and another place throughout the weekend” (Writers of the 99%, 2011: 12-13). The location had to be in Lower Manhattan, hold a minimum of 2,000 people, have multiple exit points, and be close enough in proximity to Wall Street “so that symbolism remained.” As mentioned previously, the first choice was Chase Manhatten Plaza, but on September 17, it was completely barricaded by police, so they ended up settling for Plan B, Zuccotti Park (Writers of the 99%, 2011: 12-13).
Gillham, Edwards and Noakes (2013), in their research of the policing strategies employed during the first two months of Occupy Wall Street protests, examined the implementation of “strategic incapacitation” tactics by members of the NYPD. The study begins with a discussion of the evolution of police responses to protest in the U.S. in the past several decades. The first is referred to as “Escalated force,” popularized in the 1970s against anti-Vietnam War sentiment, included a host of what could easily be considered unnecessarily harsh tactics, such as arrests, beatings, tear gas, firing of weapons. The purpose of this strategy, which operated under the premise that the state viewed protest was an illegitimate form of political expression, was to combat the formation of protests through fear, performing visible acts of pain and suffering (Gilliam, Edwards & Noakes, 2013: 82). As reliance on this strategy faded, it was replaced by a tactic rooted in a different philosophy, one that recognized the legitimacy of protest as a form of expression, requiring officers to maintain order in a peaceful way, while ensuring protestors’ First Amendment Right to free speech remained protected (Gilliam, Edwards & Noakes, 2013: 82). This strategy, referred to as “Negotiated Management,” placed emphasis on collaboration between officers and protest organizers, the process of which relied heavily on the government’s bureaucratic and administrative branches to issue permits for every planned activity, including rallies and any acts of non-violent civil disobedience.” It is argued by the authors that this approach by police is the most ideal, with a significant reduction in the number of conflicts and arrests as a result of each party being able to predict how the other will behave (Gilliam, Edwards & Noakes, 2013: 82). By the 1990’s, use of negotiated management techniques began to erode, with a shift towards what scholars call “Strategic Incapacitation.” The basis of strategic incapacitation is found in the “New Penology” (refer to Feeley & Simon, 1992; Garland, 2001), with “risk management” techniques and incapacitation considered the best methods for crime prevention (Gilliam, Edwards & Noakes, 2013: 83). Setting up barriers and barricades in order to contain protestors or funnel them in a certain direction, and the arrest of large numbers of protest participants during public demonstrations, are characteristic of a “risk management” approach to crowd control.
Gillham, Edwards and Noakes (2013) provide several examples of the applications of strategic incapacitation techniques during the first two months of protest, starting from day one. The erection of barricades in strategically placed areas is noted throughout the text. In an interview with Pepitone (2011) of CNN, NYPD Deputy Commissioner Paul Browne stated that officers were made aware of scheduled demonstrations ahead of time, which allowed them to “plan accordingly” (Moynihan, 2011a; Pepitone, 2011; Writers of the 99%, 2011: 15-16). On the morning of September 17, police erected barriers around the Charging Bull statue that had been selected as the initial rally point. By early afternoon, two dozen uniformed officers had surrounded the statue in an effort to disperse the crowd (Pepitone, 2011; Gillham, Edwards & Noakes, 2012: 82). Police officers clustered at the park’s four corners, barricading the northern edge of the park in an attempt to protect One Liberty Plaza located across the street (Liberty Plaza is owned by Brookfield Properties, which also owns Zuccotti Park) (Gillham, Edwards & Noakes, 2013: 86). A perimeter of metal barricades was erected by officers around Zuccotti Park in an additional effort to prevent Occupiers from spilling out into the streets, unless they were crossing at an intersection. The reason for this approach, according to Browne, was that “none associated with the demonstrations sought permits,” with additional concerns related to the safety of pedestrians and impeded vehicular traffic (Moynihan, 2011a; Pepitone, 2011).
Later that evening, over 700 activists participated in a General Assembly, originally scheduled to be held at Chase Manhattan Plaza, but was prevented by another police enforced “hard-zone” of barricades surrounding the plaza (Gilliam, Edwards & Noakes, 2013: 84). Along with this “hard-zone,” police also established a designated protest area or “free-speech zone” next to the New York Stock Exchange, however, activists refused to use it (Moynihan, 2011a). Once again, protestor organizers and supporters were forced to resort to Plan B, reaching a consensus on the selection of Zuccotti Park as their preferred “free speech zone” and encampment location (Gilliam, Edwards & Noakes, 2013: 86). In another statement by Browne, he maintained that, “A protest area was established on Broad Street at Exchange Street, next to the stock exchange, but protesters elected not to use it” (Moynihan, 2011). As a result of the NYPD’s efforts, only two individuals were taken into custody that first day, both of whom were wearing bandanna masks attempting to enter the Bank of America offices located at Broadway and Liberty Street (Moynihan, 2011a). These actions by the NYPD suggest an overall strategy employed that, on its exterior, can be perceived as a compromise, allowing for the assembly of large groups for the purposes of public demonstration, but restricting that assembly to pre-determined locations such as Zuccotti Park.
Gillham, Edwards and Noakes (2013: 86) provide a detailed description of the surveillance techniques employed by the NYPD. Surveillance tools that were visible to protestors included a 25-foot mobile “Watch Tower” with a two-person observation booth equipped with darkened windows, flood lights, video cameras, and a closed-circuit television (CCTV) camera positioned near the park, as well as an additional mobile surveillance vehicle with a camera affixed to a 20-foot boom. There was always a constant police presence at the park, including a Technical Assistance Response Unit (TARU) responsible for gathering intelligence and documenting protester/police interactions, especially when confrontations are expected to occur (Gillham, Edwards & Noakes, 2013: 86). The authors also speculate that it is quite possible that a uniformed police presence was supplemented with an undercover presence, attending Working Group meetings and General Assemblies openly held by activists. Grossman (2011) notes that surveillance of demonstrations were relatively straightforward to monitor, because they were, for the most part, located at a fixed site.
Several instances of police intervention are identified in the text as being questionable, with examples of the alleged use of deception on the part of police officers. The one week anniversary of the Movement was celebrated with a march north towards Union Square. The group was confronted along the way by a contingent of police officers, armed with orange netting and pepper spray (Moynihan, 2011b; Gilliam, Edwards & Noakes, 2013: 87). An estimated 80-85 people were arrested during this intervention by police, with another five protestors struck by pepper spray, and those who were fortunate enough to avoid detention made a brief appearance at Union Square before retreating back to Zuccotti Park (Moynihan, 2011b; Gilliam, Edwards & Noakes, 2013: 87). When asked to provide reasons to justify arresting 80 protest supporters, In a public statement released by Deputy Commissioner Browne replied in a public statement that it was “mainly for disorderly conduct by individuals who blocked vehicular and pedestrian traffic, but also for resisting arrest, obstructing governmental administration and, in one instance, for assault on a police officer.” (Golgowski, 2011; Moynihan, 2011b).
On Saturday October 1, two weeks after protests began, another large march was organized to cross the Brooklyn Bridge (Lennard, 2011; Miller, 2011; Lubin, 2012: 186; Gilliam, Edwards & Noakes, 2013: 88). A group of approximately 2000 activists participated in the march, which started in Zuccotti Park at 3pm that afternoon. There is some speculation as to whether the tactics employed by police on October 1 was done to “trick” protestors into inadvertently doing something illegal in order to justify arrest. Several activists at the head of the march, confused by the placement of metal barricades, which prevented access to the bridge from the sidewalk, caused many activists into the roadway, with some chanting “off the sidewalks, into the streets” and “Whose bridge? Our bridge!” (Lennard, 2011; Gilliam, Edwards & Noakes, 2013: 88). According to Lennard (2011), despite a dense police presence at the front of the march, it appeared as though protestors would not be impeded. However, once they reached the bridge’s first Gothic-style archway, a wall of metal barricades and officers held firm (Lennard, 2011). Over the course of the next several hours, activists who had not deviated from the original march route watched on as police arrested more than 700 protesters (Lennard, 2011; Lubin, 2012). The allegations by some media pundits and internet bloggers suggested that officers confined – or “kettled” -protesters onto the road, leading them to believe crossing the bridge was an acceptable activity, only to arrest them once a clear attempt to cross the bridge had been made (Lennard, 2011; Miller, 2011). In an email sent to Miller (2011) of Fox News.com, Deputy Commissioner Browne, acting as the NYPD’s official spokesman at this juncture, once again came to the defense of officer conduct, stating that the police responded as warranted by the circumstances, “The protesters at the Brooklyn Bridge had the option of legally taking the Brooklyn Bridge walkway, which thousands of New Yorkers and tourists do every day…They instead took the roadway and illegally blocked traffic for which they were issued summonses and desk appearance tickets.” He argues adamantly that “Police officers showed professionalism and restraint in response to protesters,” many of whom, it was reported, resisted arrest and assaulted officers by throwing batteries and glass (Miller, 2011).
The most documented, and arguably the most important instance of both government and law enforcement intervention during the Occupy protests in New York City, happened on November 15, 2011, exactly two months after demonstrations began (Grossman, 2011; Krugman, 2011a; Miller, 2011; Ostroff, 2011; Riley, 2011; Taylor, 2011; Lubin, 2012: 190; Shallwani, 2012; Gilliam, Edwards & Noakes, 2013: 90). That afternoon, a judge from the New York Supreme Court ruled against Occupy Wall Street protesters, supporting a combined effort by then Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Zuccotti Park landlord Brookfield Properties to remove tents and prohibit overnight camping (Grossman, 2011; Riley, 2011; Taylor, 2011). The order did not prevent protesters from gathering in the park, but argued that their First Amendment rights did not include remaining there “along with their tents, structures, generators, and other installations to the exclusion of the owner’s reasonable rights and duties” (Riley, 2011). Shortly after midnight, approximately 1,000 NYPD officers, many of whom were wearing riot gear, surrounded Zuccotti Park, clearing it of all tents and camping equipment overnight (Ostroff, 2011; Gilliam, Edwards & Noakes, 2013: 90). In addition, an upwards of 200 occupiers were arrested, including a few journalists who complained of excessive police force and brutality, and were promptly released (Grossman, 2011; Miller, 2011; Shallwani, 2012). The following day, protest organizers filed an appeal, hoping to be granted a temporary restraining order against the police, an action that was ultimately for not, since police had wasted no time executing the eviction the previous evening (Grossman, 2011). After a hearing, another judge denied the request, agreeing with the city’s contention that the act of overnight camping did not constitute an act of free speech protected by the First Amendment. The compromise was that protestors would be allowed to demonstrate in the park, but were no longer permitted to establish an encampment (Grossman, 2011). The eviction of Zuccotti Park, according to Ostroff (2011) of the Huffington Post, is landmark in the sense that it effectively marked the end of the Occupy protests in New York, with a only a handful of noteworthy demonstrations in the year to follow.
Mayor Bloomberg claimed sole responsibility for the eviction, stating in a press release that he had asked for the court’s help in enforcing its rules against sleeping in the park, but that the final decision to act was his alone (Grossman, 2011; Lubin, 2012: 190). Bloomberg’s successful court order with Brookfield Properties was, in actuality, the final effort in a series of attempts to have protestors removed from Zuccotti Park. His actions are perceived in the texts as predictable, with some journalists taking into consideration the Mayor’s own publicly expressed concerns regarding protest activities made in a statement on October 7. Bloomberg (a billionaire business magnate and philanthropist) mostly criticizes the protest group for the supposed damage they caused to the local New York economy and tourism industry, accusing protesters of “trying to take the jobs away from people working in this city” (Krugman, 2011b). He suggests that protestors are fundamentally misguided for two reasons: first, emphasizing that financial institutions employ large numbers of New Yorkers — many of them not wealthy executives, and second, that lending money to financial institutions is exactly what is needed to fix the economy (Taylor, 2011):
If the banks don’t go out and make loans, we will not come out of our economic problems, we will not have jobs, and so anything we can do to responsibly help the banks do that, encourage them to do that is what we need.
Peterson (2011) argues that the Mayor is consistent about his assertion that protestors pose a threat to the rest of the city, stating that their removal was necessary for their challenging “the quality of life for residents and businesses in this now-thriving neighborhood.” Expressing an additional concern for pedestrian safety, he’s quoted later in his statement that, “People have a right to protest but we also have to make sure that people who don’t want to protest can go down the streets unmolested” (Taylor, 2011).
Just a few days after issuing this statement, Bloomberg made a surprise visit to Zuccotti Park, addressing protestors personally to inform them they would have to relocate temporarily in order for regular maintenance and cleaning of the park to be conducted (Orden, 2011). Despite the efforts of Occupy’s own Sanitation Committee, the unsanitary conditions of the park were enough to convince city officials that actions had to be taken. Richard Clark, Brookfield’s chief executive, stated in the letter, “After weeks of occupation, conditions at the Park have deteriorated to unsanitary and unsafe levels,” noting that Brookfield has “received hundreds of phone calls and emails from concerned citizens and office workers in the neighborhood” (see Orden, 2011). The Deputy Mayor of New York, Halloway, stated that protestors would be allowed to return to the area once cleaning was complete, provided they “abide by the rules that Brookfield has established for the park,” which prohibited the use of tents or camping equipment (Orden, 2011).
Further analysis of the source material reveals that the gross social inequalities to which protestors are responding, possesses an economic and political dimension. The collusion between government and wealthy corporate interests, a relationship that has contributed significantly to growing wealth disparity (as discussed in the first section of this sub-study), also threatens to make the U.S. a “democracy in name only.” Abzug & Greenberg (2011) put it best, suggesting that the Occupy Movement can be understood as the struggle for “equalism,” or the right of any citizen to be served equally by their elected representatives. Put simply, the 99% are upset that their best interests are not reflected in government initiatives and policy changes. Unfortunately, such an issue does not lend itself easily to a solution that can be executed through policy.
The occupation of Zuccotti Park is understood by some authors to be an attempt by protestors to create an “equitable space,” an area where everyone’s voices could be heard. Protestors adopted a “horizontalist” organizational structure to demonstrate what an alternative to representative democracy – a functioning participatory democracy – might resemble. Occupy Wall Street was motivated by the desire to substitute the existing hierarchical structure of government institutions with one that incorporates a consensus-based decision making model. Under such a model, all citizens have a share in the responsibility for proposing new policy initiatives, as well as the execution (or enforcement) of new legislation, with decisions requiring a unanimous vote to proceed. The primary manifestation of this consensus-based model within Occupy Wall Street was the General Assembly, a group responsible for the oversight and execution of Movement initiatives. Open invitations were extended to all protest supporters wishing to participate, encouraging anyone who had the time to attend meetings to voice concerns and vote on group decisions. Organizers of the assembly were divided into different sub-committees, or “Working Groups,” each responsible for different aspects of Occupy Wall Street’s operation.
A consensus model enables protest participants to feel more invested and involved in the decision-making apparatus of the Movement, while openly challenging democratic structures that are believed to be compromised. Protestors are effectively leading by example, “beta testing” a model that could one day be adopted on a national scale. However, many practical issues involving unanimity emerge in a consensus-based model, however, shortcomings that are noted in the source material. Unanimity can have the unintended consequence of alienating those who do not have a tremendous amount of free time, or obfuscation of important group issues because of the importance placed on treating individual problems with equal consideration.
General Assemblies were held intermittently throughout the two month occupation of Zuccotti Park; meetings that were met with heavy opposition by members of law enforcement and local government. Evidence of “strategic incapacitation” by police officials, a strategy that involves erecting barricades, prohibiting access to public spaces, and mass arrests, is provided throughout the source material. Efforts to reduce the ability of Occupy supporters and organizers to convene in public through police intervention ultimately proved unsuccessful, prompting legal measures to evict occupiers from Zuccotti Park two months after protests began. Complaints brought to the municipal government’s attention by Brookfield Properties regarding park cleanliness, along with concerns raised by Mayor Bloomberg with regards to public safety, created the justification needed to enact legislation to force protestors to disperse. This act is recognized in the source material for effectively ending the Movement, both literally and symbolically.
The Demands Debate
Several questions are raised throughout the source material with regards to demands made by members of the 99% protest group. Opinions on this topic are mixed, with some authors questioning the existence and utility of demands, while others argue that protestors have released dozens, if not hundreds of demands, and that the real challenge is sorting through the variety in order to reduce them into one or two concrete, “official” demands. There are authors who believe that the creation of an official set of protest demands is absolutely crucial if the protests are to be successful at enacting any positive change, while others argue that demands are not important, and that the act of publicly demonstrating to raise awareness of certain social injustices is the true goal of the protest. This section of the second sub-study will elaborate on these debates, and will discuss some of the demands proposed by supporters of the protest. The word “official” is used in this section to describe any demand created by protesters and supporters, drafted while engaged in a consensus-based decision making exercise, and released to the media and public on behalf of all members of the 99%.
Are Protester Demands Necessary?
The inability or refusal on the part of Occupy protesters and supporters, as a collective, to propose an official set of demands is an aspect of the Occupy protests identified by many in the source material (Ellison, 2011; Haberman, 2011; Ross, 2011; Suzuki, 2011; Weiner, 2011; Hickel, 2012). According to Rep. Ellison (2011), protesters were criticized almost immediately after protests erupted for not having drafted a list of demands, but argues that this lack of demands is of little practical significance to Occupy efforts. Rather, it is “the staying power and resonance of their anger,” that has caused the protests to garner media attention, as well as sustain itself for weeks and months. Ellison (2011) reminds us that official demands are not necessary for supporters of the Movement to “sympathize with the frustration and anger that Americans feel.” Gitlin (2013: 5) concurs that specific demands were not necessary in 2011 in order to draw attention to “vicious inequalities” and a “botched political system.” What matters is the act of protest itself, the grassroots activism that shed national attention on the issues, setting the precedent for future actions and demonstrations. Farrell (2011), on the other hand, contends that without a “clear rallying cry,” it is impossible to truly determine or measure whether any significant change has occurred, having no basis upon which to gauge that success. Lubin (2012: 187-188) suggests that that the success of Occupy can be seen in the articulation its core message without having to issue demands. Ostroff (2011) remarks that despite not having a goal, Occupy achieved it. The question then becomes whether or not identifying or determining a single important demand, or an all-encompassing demand, is a worthwhile exercise (Suzuki, 2011).
Rushkoff (2011) makes an important argument, stating that the reason protest demands have been so difficult to identify is because Occupy is “anything but a protest movement,” but rather a prototype for a new way of living and interacting with others. Protestors may want some things to change and other things to stop, but the goal of the protest is not to make demands, but to publicly demonstrate a model for how society could be (Rushkoff, 2011; Schneider, 2011). By establishing a temporary tent community with kitchens, bathrooms, libraries, first-aid posts, information centres, sleeping areas and educational space, protestors created a “prefigurative alternative community” that circumvents traditional providers of social services, such as the government (Pickerill & Krinsky, 2012: 283).This idea was mentioned in the previous chapter and will be discussed in greater detail in the final section of this chapter entitled “Horizontalism.”
The Diffusion of Demand
Weiner (2011), alternatively, argues that it is not a lack of demands, but a diffusion of demands among protestors that lead to the creation of a “prefigurative society” in Zuccotti Park; an attempt made to democratically consider and attend to everyone’s concerns. Celebrity ecologist David Suzuki (2011) stated that protestors’ aims were not always clear, some being “incoherent” and “absurd.” Haberman (2011) claims that the diffusion and variety of demands created an “inchoate cry”, what Weiner (2011) referred to as a “cacophony of noise, signs, and demands,” which has the unintended effect of irritating the media, resulting in protest initiatives being shed in a negative, damaging light. Also, the desire among protest participants to consider and attend to everyone’s demands equally, from Hickel’s perspective (2012), is grounded in a philosophy of “liberal relativism” (with an emphasis on tolerance and an individual’s natural right to pursue happiness as he or she understands it), that erodes the Movement’s ability to “politicize.” Not having a clear and concise set of demands strips the Movement of an element of definitude that helps to anchor the protest’s grievances in popular discourse and political debate.
A few sources attempt to engage in the exercise of drafting a definitively-stated list of demands that simplify the “cacophony” of grievances expressed by Occupy supporters. This simplification process often amounts to the identification of commonly-held grievances, however, some authors take the extra step of transforming these grievances into tangible policy changes and coordinated government interventions. The performance of this exercise is not without its criticism in the source material. Klein (2011), re-quoting Cornel West, academic activist and advisor to President Obama’s 2008 campaign, states, “It’s impossible to translate the issue of the greed of Wall Street into one demand, or two demands. We’re talking about a democratic awakening.” Several parallels can be found between the lists, the similarities of which will be flushed out and discussed in more detail in this section.
The first list is inspired by a poll conducted by Hayat and Covert (2011) published in the Huffington Post; an informal survey they performed in an attempt to better understand Movement demands. A group of 233 respondents from three Occupy locations (New York, Washington D.C. Boston), during the week of October 23-30, were asked the following open-ended question: “If you could enact ONE policy to address America’s problems today, what would it be?” (Hayat & Covert, 2011). From their analysis of the vocabulary used by protestors, they were able to articulate a list of the eight most frequently mentioned policy changes supporters of the Movement would want to enact (Hayat & Covert, 2011). In no particular order, the list included policies such as those intended to reduce or eliminate corporate influence in politics, to reform the tax structure, to create jobs, to improve the healthcare system, protection of the environment and the use of renewal, sustainable energies, anti-war policies, education reform, and the last category of policies they call “Miscellaneous Policies Related to Political Economy,” which include ending capitalism, re-regulation of the financial sector, and putting an end to Keynesian spending habits by the Federal Government (Hayat & Covert, 2011). Unfortunately, as good as the analysis was at revealing some of the major themes connected to protestor demands, the only conclusion the authors draw is that “there is a need for more data-driven analysis and less speculation with regard to the demands of this movement, especially as it continues to evolve,” acknowledging that the informality of the survey make any substantial conclusions difficult to draw (Hayat & Covert, 2011).
The second list was created by Michael Moore – a world renowned and award-winning documentary filmmaker with an anti-corporate message and agenda – and discussed in the source material by Deepak Chopra (2011). In an effort to assist the Occupy Movement, Moore published and circulated his own list of political action points, translating the more abstract Occupy demands into legislative initiatives (Chopra, 2011). According to Chopra’s (2011) synopsis, Moore calls for seven specific actions to immediately be taken by the Obama administration, which include, the eradication of the Bush-era tax cuts for the rich and the enforcement of a new taxes on the wealthiest Americans and on corporations; the implementation of a “penalty tax” on any corporation that moves American jobs to other countries when that company is already making profits using U.S. manufacturing and labour; the requirement that all Americans pay the same Social Security tax on all their earnings. Normally, the middle class pays about 6% of their income to Social Security; someone making $1 million a year pays about 0.6% (or 90% less than the average person). The second is the reinstatement of the Glass-Steagall Act, placing serious regulations on business conduct, specifically banks and Wall Street firms. The remainder of the list includes conduction of a full investigation of the “the Crash of 2008,” holding those accountable to the law who are deemed responsible; re-prioritization of the national budget, with a significantly smaller allocation to war and national defense efforts; creation of a single-payer, free and universal health care system that covers all Americans, all of the time (Chopra, 2011).
The third list was published on September 29, 2011 on occupywallst.org, a site widely recognized as being an “official” forum for Occupy supporters establishing encampments across the U.S. (Preston, 2011). Zadek (2011), whose self-published article was shared by the Huffington Post, reflects on the list written by “GhandiKingMindset,” which offered a list of nine proposals to be presented to Congress during Occupy DC demonstrations (OccupyWallSt.org, 2011). The author of the list proclaimed it to be a “work-in-progress developed through the best ‘open innovation’ process money can’t buy,” admitting that they “make a lot of sense” (Zadek, 2011). The first demand on the list involves “prudent banking practices,” more specifically, the re-institution of the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933, effectively terminating the Gramm–Leach–Bliley Act of 1999 that dissolved the separation that existed between investment banking (which issues securities) and commercial banks (which accepts deposits) (OccupyWallSt.org, 2011; Zadek, 2011). Holding those in the investment community accountable for the criminal behavior that caused the “Crash of 2008” comes in second, recommending the creation of a congressional oversight committee to both investigate and prosecute offenders.
Four of the nine proposals (numbers 3, 6, 7 and 8) all refer to the topic of corporate influence, with the third demand seeking a reversal to the “Citizens United” U.S. Supreme Court decision allowing corporations to contribute an unlimited amount of funds to political campaigns, the sixth which limits the influence of corporate lobbyists on politicians, and the seventh which demands that Congress pass “Revolving Door Legislation,” limiting the ability of former government officials receiving high-ranking jobs in the private sector (and vice versa), and the eighth which seeks to abolish “Corporate Personhood” in the eyes of the law, repudiating a justice system that allows anonymous members of a corporate entity dodge personal liability in cases of fraud, environmental destruction and negligence, etc. (OccupyWallSt.org, 2011; Zadek, 2011). The fourth demand calls for the creation of a “Buffett Tax” (named after famed investment guru and multi-billionaire Warren Buffett), that ensures wealthy individuals and corporations pay an equal tax to that of the average citizen (Zadek, 2011). The fifth demand calls for the reform of the financial market’s regulator, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), to reduce bias, political interference, conflicts of interest.
Gitlin (2013), drafted his own list in an article published in Dissent entitled “A Charter for the 99%,” arguing that an articulated set of demands was necessary in order for Occupy to move on to its “next phase,” having accomplished the most it could hope to achieve given the Movement’s structure (5). In broad terms, Gitlin (2013) believes that the rebuilding of American society must “go deep,” seeking tangible political and economic reforms, while constantly reminding the public that a plutocracy threatens their personal livelihoods, shared economic growth, and the environmental sustainability of the planet. The goal should be the development and implementation of a “reform program” or strategy that is altogether ambitious, urgent, and achievable. (Gitlin, 2013: 5). Some of Gitlin’s (2013: 6) recommendations fall in line with those made by other authors mentioned previously, including the desire to eliminate the influence of money on politics by rescinding the Citizens United decision allowing unlimited campaign funds by private and corporate interests, a reform in tax policy to make it more “progressive,” such as taxing capital gains and dividends the same way as personal wages, and curbing military spending while simultaneously investing in job creation. Gitlin’s (2013) third recommendation is unique in that he advocates the implementation of a “Robin Hood Tax,” a small fee added to financial transactions that is paid for by banks, not private citizens. Kern and Nann (2013: 199), make a similar, specific recommendation, stating that stricter regulation of the global financial system should include a “Tobin Tax,” originally proposed by Nobel Laureate economist James Tobin in 1972, described as a tax on all foreign currency conversions made by banks and corporations.
A Single, Unifying Demand
The question, “What is our ONE demand?” was first posed by Adbusters’ editor-in-chief Kalle Lasn, who contended that the magazine campaign that launched Occupy Wall Street demonstrations was simply “an invitation to act,” as opposed to an attempt at receiving a direct answer. In an interview with Pepitone (2012) of CNN, Lasn admitted that if a consensus had to be reached on a single demand, it would likely focus on “taking to task the people who perpetrated the economic meltdown,” which would involve “asking Obama to set up a committee to look into the fall of U.S. banking” (also see Adbusters, 2011a; Farrell, 2011). For three authors in particular, the primary message being conveyed by Occupy supporters is that Americans seek accountability from Wall Street for their role in triggering the financial crisis resulting in the growing economic inequality gap (Ellison, 2011; Kristoff, 2011b, Sorkin, 2011).
The only way to save the economy from “crony capitalists” is to install more reliable tools and measures for individual and corporate accountability (Kristoff, 2011b). To Farrell (2011), whose position is representative of the second category of responses, the “one simple demand” that Occupy, as well as all protests and revolutions that occurred that year worldwide, can be reduced the idea that people “want their democracy back.” Aligning himself with protestors, he argues that the tactics employed in Egypt were successful, and that similar results can be expected in the United States if a similar model is followed (Farrell, 2011). Ensuring democratic equality and fairness can be expressed with a catchy slogan, “One citizen, one dollar, one vote” (Farrell, 2011).
Making Sense of the Diffusion
The question of whether or not protestors have demands is not in dispute in the source material. Instead, the opposite is true. Many authors recognize that a multitude of demands exist, so many that it can be confusing to decipher exactly what the issues are and what it is protestors want to see changed. The question then becomes twofold: whether the success of Occupy Wall Street is dependent on the existence of “official” demands, and whether the creation of a simplified set of definitive demands, representing the demands of all protestors, is even possible.
Discussing the necessity of demands alludes to a much broader issue about the ways in which the success of Occupy is measured. One school of thought, to which some authors are aligned, suggests that the 99%’s public display of activism is impressive in and of itself. Getting wrapped up in the identification of demands detracts from the actions of the protestors themselves, which have far more meaning. The act of occupation and General Assembly are meant to exemplify how a more equitable society could function; a model that expresses the desire for structural and political change without ever having to put it in words. In this regard, the demonstration tactics used by Occupy protestors are themselves, demands. Under this school of thought, the standard for success is fairly low, with the widespread notoriety and support Occupy received being viewed as an acceptable benchmark. The second school of thought is that protest efforts are meaningless unless tangible changes and outcomes can be documented. Meeting this requirement for tangible results has a lower possibility of success, but can be satisfied with deliberate, organized government responses, such as the creation of a new policy or the formation of a committee intended to investigate alternative solutions to the issue at hand.
Four proposed lists of demands are discussed in this analysis, covering a spectrum of requests that range from sweeping systemic overhauls to the current political and economic structures of society, to specific amendments to policies related to taxes and corporate oversight. The first, developed by Hayat and Covert (2011), offers eight of the most commonly suggested policy changes derived from the survey responses of protest demonstrators. This particular list provides extremely broad objectives such as “ending capitalism” and reforming both the healthcare and education systems. The value of this list is questionable, considering the abstract nature of the requests. The feasibility of a request as broad as “end capitalism” is next to impossible, and could take years, if not decades, to fully realize. In defense of the authors, their survey and conclusions were intended to be more exploratory than definitive. The second list, created by filmmaker Michael Moore and discussed by spiritual guru Deepak Chopra (2011), offers seven policy initiatives to be considered, and enacted, by the Obama Administration. Many of his demands center around reformation of the federal tax system, suggesting amendments to the existing tax code that ensure taxes is both collected and allocated in a more effective and equitable fashion. Moore’s demands reinforce the idea that legal loopholes exploited by wealthy Americans and corporations are to blame for the economic inequality addressed by protestors, loopholes that allow the 1% to avoid paying their fair share of taxes. The third list, published by an individual under the pseudonym “GandhiKingMindset” on occupywallst.org, consisted of nine policy requests to be given directly to members of Congress. Particular attention is paid to policy amendments that would inhibit the self-serving relationship enjoyed between the government and corporations, setting limits on the amount of money corporations can supply to political campaigns, as well as the ability for government officials to assume high-paying corporate positions upon completion of their political terms. The final list of recommendations drafted by Gitlin (2013) in the Charter of the 99%, does not offer any unique requests to those made by other authors, but does provide a few “progressive” tax solutions, such as the taxing of capital gains.
Tax reform is a demand of specific importance, mentioned in all of the previously discussed lists. Many of the demands related to reformation of the tax code seek to ensure that wealthy individuals and corporations pay a proportionate amount of taxes based on income, relative to the rest of the population, what Zadek (2011) refers to as a “Buffet Tax,” and Gitlin (2013), a “Robin Hood Tax.” The re-regulation of the financial market is also mentioned frequently, with the lists examined by Chopra (2011) and Zadek each mention the re-institution of the Glass-Stegall Act (1933) specifically, which would re-establish a clear division between investment and commercial banking, a division with many exploitable loopholes. Many in the source material hold Wall Street financiers and corporations responsible for the great economic “Crash of 2008,” justifying the need for a congressional oversight committee to investigate the cause of the crash, and hold those accountable to the highest extent of the law. Reducing or eliminating the influence of money in politics is another demand that spans multiple lists, the clearest example of which is the proposed repeal of the Citizens United Supreme Court decision, which granted corporations the freedom to donate unlimited funds to the political campaigns of their choosing.
Taken together as a whole, the three sections of this sub-study, which explores the pillar of “social structure,” reveals several important revelations pertaining to the impetus and motivations behind protestor action in the Occupy Wall Street Movement. Economic inequality and political representation are identified as core grievances in the source material (excluding statements published in Tumblr, which is discussed in the next chapter), with the final discussion related to protestor demands addressing both of these grievances with specific policy initiatives. Analysis of the source material illustrates how these core grievances are intimately intertwined. The wealth disparity between the richest and poorest segments of American society is attributed in the data to corrupt corporate practices that serve to funnel wealth upward to a small elite; practices that are allowed to continue as a result of a lack of political oversight and corporate accountability. According to the commentary provided by media pundits and academics that is examined in this sub-study, protest supporters recognize an imbalance that exists in the current hierarchical political system; a system that overtly and frequently demonstrates favoritism towards the wealthy, further exacerbating the income gap between the rich and the poor. The creation of the General Assembly, the primary organizing body of the Occupy Wall Street Movement, was done deliberately to demonstrate a functional alternative to the existing political system, one that operates under a horizontalist, consensus-based philosophy. Analysis of the text also reveals resistance on the part of the established political order to this proposed alternative, through the deployment of law enforcement and legal sanctions. The demands articulated by supporters of the Movement offer various solutions for redistributing wealth, while suggesting that government coalitions and policies be created that investigate and punish the corporatocracy for the depriving greater society of the financial resources needed to live a fair and comfortable lifestyle.
 See Congressional Budget Office, Trends in the Distribution of Household Income Between 1979 and 2007, October 2011,
 eee Chen, B.L. (2003). An inverted-U relationship between inequality and long-run growth. Economic Letters, 78. 205-221; as discussed in Jickling & Hoskins, 2011: 13.