The Occupy movement has drawn attention to how too many in the 1 percent get to play by their own rules while exploiting the 99 percent. But who's doing the most to damage our economy and democracy?
We at Brave New Foundation have launched a website where you can vote on some of the most infamous members of the 1 percent -- financial fraudsters, union-busters, weapons contractors, and more. Then we'll make a series of videos exposing the ones that you rank as the very worst. As our friends at Fox News might put it: We film. You decide.
Let's look at some examples. Lloyd Blankfein, the head of Goldman Sachs, is one of our nominees. He touted mortgage assets to clients while privately betting $10 billion they'd fail. Then he lied to Congress by claiming that Goldman Sachs had not, in fact, bet against its own clients. These actions helped spur the excessive risk-taking that led to the financial meltdown and put millions out of a job.
Or take a look at Paul Singer, who has earned the nickname "the vulture capitalist." He exploits poor nations by buying their defaulted debt for cheap and forcing them to pay in full -- plus interest. The Congo was one of Singer's victims. That country had just gotten out of a civil war and half of its citizens live on less than a dollar a day. To Singer, that was a business opportunity. He bought the Congo's debt for pennies on the dollar and then sued to win far, far more than he had paid for it.
Of course, simply bandying names about isn't the point. The point is that the activists fueling social movements like Occupy need to be able to understand exactly how oppression works and which individuals are controlling the process. Where would our nation be if, in the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 60s, activists had spoken only of the systemic issue of segregation and didn't have George Wallace and Bull Connor to single out as perpetrators? We at Brave New Foundation are helping build a narrative so that citizens can draw a straight line between the cheats and bullies misusing their wealth and the economic predicament in which our country is now ensnared.
We aren't alone in this effort. Our partners include progressive media truth tellers like AlterNet, TruthOut, the Nation, PoliticusUSA, CARE2, the Center for Media and Democracy, the Young Turks, Campaign for America's Future, Free Speech TV, Thom Hartmann, and MichaelMoore.com.
So who do you think deserves to be exposed? Vote and make your voice heard. With the Occupy movement at a critical point, this is the moment to double down on illuminating our nation's vast inequalities and -- just as important -- how things got this way. This is a chance to take our democracy back.