Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Reaction Coming to Milwaukee ...

... in the form of the "OccupyMilwaukee" movement, a local offshoot of the "Occupy Wall Street" protests in New York. For me, the whole thing - like the protests in Madison - are fraught with nostalgia. They remind one of a more innocent time when the economy could be seen as a struggle between oligopolies and unions (themselves a form of countervailing oligopoly) and one could still believe that socialism might work. We've learned a lot since then. All of the old cliches - "the whole world is watching" - and the art work modeled after mid century Soviet propaganda posters are back. You almost expect to see Grace Slick motor over from the Scooter store.

The Occupiers claim to represent 99% of us and, as Rich Lowry points out, they would if 99% of us were "stereotypically aging hippies and young kids who could have just left a Phish concert."

The plan is apparently to show up at Chase Bank on October 15 (it'll be closed) and demand stuff while beating bongos and just generally getting in the way. Should work wonders.

The "demands" are diffuse involving variations on the theme of someone else giving stuff to the protesters. "Pay us back," they say. If they are talking about TARP money, Chase already has but I want to focus on the "us" part. The occupiers don't exactly look like the taxpayers that comprised the Tea Parties.

One set of demands, posted by a gentleman named Lloyd Hart, calls for the forgiveness of all debt. (H/T: Daniel Foster) He thinks this will create jobs. That this guy probably went to or attended college is a telling indictment of higher education.


Anonymous said...

I certainly enjoy, professor, how you lambaste the exercising of our First Amendments as "nostalgic" by college students who are worried about their future job prospects, middle-aged workers who were recently laid off, and other hard-working Americans who are reeling from government waste, partisanship rancor, and corporate greed.

Your post wreaks of a holier than thou attitude that protests must meet a certain criteria as to be considered "legitimate".


I expect more from you, sir.

Rick Esenberg said...

They can protest but being coherent is always advised.

Anonymous said...

Professor, the protestors are EXPLICITLY clear in their philosophy. We can debate their beliefs on their merits, but your post does little to promote spirited, healthy debate. The moderates and independents of this great country are sick and tired of generalizations and mischaracterizations by BOTH sides.

Again, I expect more from you.


Rick Esenberg said...


I wish it were so but it's not. They claim that they want things handed to them without the slightest consideration of whether that is possible or what the consequences of that might be. Invocations of "corporate greed" do little to resolve any serious question. I have some 40 years of following this kind of protest. I've learned that strong feelings don't imply accurate assessments.

gnarlytrombone said...

That this guy probably went to or attended college is a telling indictment of higher education

You want the fancier version?

Anonymous said...

Many people do not have jobs and many people cannot retire and many people have lost their 401k money in the stock market...

This movement appears to be growing from what I've seen.

Anonymous said...

"Invocations of "corporate greed" do little to resolve any serious question."

And invocations of socialism do little to resolve any serious question as well. Let's be serious. People organizing the protests have legitimate concerns, based on the accounting scandals of the 1990's and the housing meltdown of 2006. The organized demonstrations are a continuation of the efforts made by these individuals to implement a concerted plan to address the issues.

When you scoff at this notion with your references to "hippies", "bongo drums" and "handouts", you do yourself a disservice.


Brew City Brawler said...

Congratulations. It's hilarious juxtaposing this post against your WPRI column in which you found internal consistency, "corner bar" values and economic sophistication in the tea party -- they of the "Stalin-Obama: what's the difference" or "we oppose big gummint but we love medicare" worldview. Well done. It's almost as if you're being compensated by the people who funded The Bell Curve.

Anonymous said...

Brew City Brawler is right. There's very scant difference between these folks and the tea partiers. You don't want to see that because of your own bias.

Tea Partiers were incredibly incoherent. They raged against things they thought were included in health care reform but were not. They were against "government spending" but were almost certainly beneficiaries themselves, especially the ones who arrived on Medicare-funded scooters.

Debt forgiveness would create jobs. I don't know if it's a good idea - moral hazard and all, plus how would it be administered? But then let's remember moral hazard went out the window - out of necessity, unfortunately - for the rich and powerful on Wall Street several times over the past decade.

Anyway the reason I say it would create jobs is that lack of consumer demand is causing the economic downturn. Consumers are either buried in debt or, because their home is now worth less than their mortgage, feel like they are. They are unwilling to spend, meaning firms are unwilling to hire.

krshorewood said...

Tea Party consistency -- "Keep Your Government Hands off My Medicare." They believe what their corporate puppeteers tell them to believe.

krshorewood said...

Craig Crawford on the origins of the Viet Nam war protests -- http://www.huffingtonpost.com/craig-crawford/how-revolutions-begin_b_997459.html.

Don't ya love the smell of hubris in the morning?

Rick Esenberg said...

No, I don't think they are clear at all other than to say that they don't like corporations and that somebody else - presumably rich people - should give them whatever they want. Debt forgiveness would create jobs? I'm sorry but that statement is the occasion for a quote from Billy Madison. Debt forgiveness of the type called for would destroy capital markets.

I believe that I began that column by saying that I am not a member of the Tea Party and, in Wi column, I addressed the infamous "Medicare" sign which is not as silly as the President thought it to be.

I suppose that if I thought nationalizing banks or confiscatory taxation or some form of socialism were even minimally viable ideas, I'd grant the Occupiers more credit. But they're not.

Anonymous said...

Just as the Tea Partiers weren't all that clear as to what they wanted except for less gummit (except for Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, Farm Subsidies, Defense, aid to Israel, etc.; plus government-enforced conservative social norms. Everything else, all .05%, apparently had to go).

Perhaps I wasn't clear about debt forgiveness. By that I meant debt repayment, where the government pays off people's debts. Note that I said I don't support it. But it would create jobs because consumers - who are a big part of the demand part of the equation, remember that rather important piece? - would have more money to spend on goods and services as opposed to paying off debt.

Sure, it's a moral hazard problem. But moral hazard in the corporate sector, especially banking, was nearly obliterated over the past decade plus, was obliterated by Republicans. Your party, as always, has a huge credibility problem (in that it has none).

gnarlytrombone said...

Debt forgiveness would create jobs? I'm sorry but that statement is the occasion for a quote from Billy Madison

Steven Roach was telling me in 2004 that we were headed for a clusterfook of epic proportions. Meanwhile wingnut gurus were telling me taxcuts for Ron Johnson would usher in a new era of prosperity.

I think I'll go with Roach.