Richard Fisher, head of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, is fond of quoting the Biblical admonition: “Come, be serious and discipline yourselves.” He could be speaking directly to Occupy Dallas and similar groups across the country whose members are fast throwing away a chance to do something significant for themselves and the nation.
At first Fisher was sympathetic to the protestors. So was I. But closing the port in Oakland or crushing plants at Bank of America in Dallas look more like the bra-burners of the 1970s than the shrewd, winning campaign, grounded in political economy and led by the likes of Gloria Steinem. The acting-outers are by no means the whole of the movement, but they must be moved to the side and made to occupy themselves in ways less destructive.
The truth is that the 99 percent slogan is brilliant and the ideas behind it in many cases are sound. Some are bad, of course, such as the wish to end the Federal Reserve. That would put interest rates in the hands of Congress, an appalling prospect. But there have been thoughts well worth debating, such as one from L.A. to end the fighting in Afghanistan and press for that war budget to be spent on jobs.
Students in the movement who called for forgiveness of college loans had a point, and they got some help from President Obama who proposed easier terms for payment.
Restructuring home mortgages would be not only a responsible demand, but also absolutely essential to our national recovery according to Robert Dye, chief economist at Comerica Bank.
Excessive compensation also is a legitimate issue, from the basketball court to the corporate boardroom where the current distortion in what’s paid top executives no longer can be ignored any more than painfully impossible union contracts can.
What’s needed now is for the 99 percent to shape up and concentrate on a few realistic goals. Otherwise they will throw energy that might have moved mountains, as one writer put it, into a futile flailing about as happened during the anti-globalization flurry of the 1990s. Then camp followers demonstrated from Cancun to Seattle, with no hope of accomplishment. They were fighting a wave that could not be reversed. That is not the case today. Like the civil rights movement of the 1960s and the serious side of the women’s movement in the ‘70s, the occupiers have an important and achievable case to make. But the 99 per centers must control those who would wreck their enterprise and aim directly at what they want or, as Virginia Woolf wrote, they “will fall like snow and be wasted.” That would be unfortunate for us all.