A bold prediction for 2013: at least two of the Too Big To Fail banks will be implicated in major crimes and they will be fined less than the profits that they made engaging in those crimes.
As a Congressional candidate, I did not distance myself from my association with the Occupy movement, nor did I embrace it as an identity or brand. I was not the "occupy candidate," and that is how I wanted it. (This interview piece written the week before the election captures the distinction.) Among most deeply committed and involved Occupyers, there is very little faith left in the American political process. Even among the tens of millions who identify even marginally with the movement, there is probably a major segment that no longer believes voting really matters.
I sympathize, but I'm one of the minority in the Occupy movement who optimistically chooses to believe our politics can be redeemed. To realize such redemption, I believe we need to work together as a people to reinvent civic participation in the political process. Direct action tactics and grassroots campaigns can be brought successfully to electoral politics. Thus, I ran for office.
With the disclaimers that I am both an Occupyer and an optimist aside, allow me to dwell for a moment on the broader case for pessimism.
First, let me take a step back to the above interview. Although my answer didn't get into print, I was asked about the current state and the future of Occupy. I answered that in my opinion, the movement is in a state of metamorphosis. Various working groups are tackling specific issues autonomously and other individuals activated by the movement have spread out into the broader activist communities and organizations. Occupyers are building organizational capacity and real world experience in providing social services that our political and economic institutions have stopped providing. Among the many evolutions, witness Occupy Sandy, the most effective hurricane relief effort going, the Rolling Jubilee offering real forgiveness of onerous debt (the instrument of our wage slavery) or Occupy Our Homes, fighting against illegal foreclosure, et cetera.
In a reasonable country and certainly in any country that prides itself on justice, liberty and generosity as ours does, these efforts would be lauded.
But you see, in the process of bringing our common concerns together in the public square, we realized the people of America are alone, we are the grown-ups in the room now and we're going to have to govern ourselves and support one another. Government for the people is broken. It has been destroyed by the concentration of power in the hands of banks and corporations (or more accurately, the creditors who stand behind them, the 1%). The parties are equally enthralled by big business, and viewing the world through the lens of this understanding is the only way to make logical sense of their policies.
It's not very surprising then that rather than plaudits, the Occupy movement has been rewarded with FBI surveillance with help from the Department of Homeland Security as well as banks and other members of the "private sector." Some within the FBI saw our nonviolent protests as the gateway drug to domestic terrorism apparently, and the spying became just part of a nationwide coordinated and violent crackdown on peaceful demonstrations of free speech. Paranoia doesn't die easy, I guess. Who knows how many millions of dollars were wasted in these efforts. Tragically, such levels of intrusion on the privacy of American citizens have become commonplace.
Would that the FBI spent its man hours investigating the criminal activity that is really ruining our country. Back in 2004, the Bureau was tipped off about the rampant fraud being committed by lending organizations. Meanwhile banks have admitted to rigging local, state, national, and international interest rates and bond auctions like common racketeers, and HSBC has famously paid a record fine for laundering money for actual terrorists, not to mention murderous drug cartels. Jon Corzine walks around scot-free despite evidence that he knew of the theft of consumer deposits to pay off the bad bets of MF Global while he was in charge. The statutes of limitations for many of these financial crimes are expiring, and no banker has been criminally indicted for any of it, even as the FBI and the rest of the finest policing institutions on the planet have focused on the protesters in the park.
Over 7,500 Occupyers have been arrested since 2011. I am sure that I have a nice FBI file somewhere myself. To call it an asymmetry of justice would be an absurd understatement. It's outrageous, and we should not accept any of it; not the dissolution of our civil liberties and not the facilitation of financial crimes. This is not how a government of, by and for the people is supposed to act.
Another bold prediction: more Occupyers will be arrested this year for trying to help people than bankers for committing fraud.
Despite the most expensive police force and national security apparatus that has ever existed; despite plenty of prison space, the biggest criminals in this country will continue profiting like it was 2006. Meanwhile, our elected leaders and the administration will continue to act like Keystone Cops, and the disenchantment with authority will grow. For my part, I will continue to work to salvage some scrap of democracy from the ash heap, and Occupy will continue to work to fill the vacuum of community support left by the disappearing state and the triumphant culture of hyper-individualism. May we find hope in one another.
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