OWS: Down, But Not Out …
While some might assume that the Occupy movement is dead – given that scenes of large protests have been absent from the news recently – but the truth is quite different.
The city of Cleveland has passed a resolution endorsing the Occupy movement, calling on congress to reform financial regulations, and to prosecute the big banks. The vote passed 18-1. Other cities have passed similar resolutions.
The “Occupy Our Homes” campaign started today:
While the general media may be ignoring the latest peculiar twist on the “Occupy” theme, or in this case the “occupyourhomes.org“, Bank of America is taking it quote seriously. As a reminder, “Tuesday, December 6th is the National Day of Action to stop and reverse foreclosures.
The Occupy Homes movement is holding actions around the country in support of homeowners and people fighting to have a home. Find an event near you and join in our day of action tomorrow!. There are actions happening in over 20 cities nationwide. Events are taking place in Brooklyn, Buffalo and Rochester New York; Los Angeles, Oakland, San Francisco, San Diego, San Jose, Petaluma, Sacramento, Paradise and Contra Costa California; Lake Worth, Florida; Atlanta, Fayetteville, and DeKalb Georgia; Chicago, Illinois; Bloomington, Indiana; Minneapolis, Minnesota; Cleveland, Ohio; Denver, Colorado; Detroit and Southgate Michigan; St. Louis, Missouri; Portland, Oregon; and Seattle, Washington.” And if you have not heard about today’s protest on the conventional media that is understandable: as BAC says internally, this event “could impact our industry.” Here are the specific warnings to BAC “field services” agents: i) Your safety is our primary concern, so do not engage with the protesters; ii) While in neighborhoods, please take notice of vacant BAC Field Services managed homes and ensure they are secured; iii) Remind all parties of the bank’s media policy and report any media incidents.
Aside from the superficial implications, what is more important is that the big banks are showing precisely what the weakest links in the system are, and what makes them the most nervous: it is not protesters living in tents in a major metropolitan city: it is protesters disrupting the lifeblood of the broken banking system – the home selling/repossession pathway. Expect many more such protests now that Bank of America has tipped its hand.
Richard Eskow writes:
Widespread criminality … created the Wall Street mortgage boom and led to our ongoing financial crisis. [There is] overwhelming evidence of illegal activity on the part of big banks, [yet] none of those banks’ executives have been prosecuted.
As ugly as the situation is, there is some logic behind the government’s actions — and its inactions. They’re acting on a tragically incorrect (but internally coherent) set of assumptions that can be summed up in one sentence. It goes something like this:
“To preserve the health of the American economy, banks must be allowed to keep preying on their consumers.”
That’s it. That’s the logic.
But there are two exciting ‘Occupy’ developments this week that could change the equation — ‘Take Back the Capitol’ in the District of Columbia, and Tuesday’s ‘Occupy Our Homes’ events around the country. Think of them as complementary actions: One is taking place at the site of our greatest government power. The other is bringing the action to homes where people have been victimized by bankers.
The thinking goes something like this: Our largest banks are too big to fail, and since we lack the will or the motivation to break them up or regulate them we must protect them at all costs. We’ve propped them up with TARP, quantitative easing, and $7.7 trillion in secret Federal Reserve loans, but they’re still shaky as hell. If we prosecute any of their executives, their stock prices will fall and they’ll collapse again. And they’ll take the entire economic system with them.
That leads to some grotesque miscarriages of justice. Nobody at Wells Fargo has been indicted for money laundering, for example, despite the fact that the bank has paid millions to settle charges of laundering cash for the Mexican drug cartels that have murdered more than 35,000 people. As an experienced bank investigator working for the Senate observed, “There’s no capacity to regulate or punish them because they’re too big to be threatened with failure.”
Some powerful folks are afraid the banks will fail if they’re forced to write off the bad loans on their books, or to stop profiting from loans sold deceptively or irresponsibly.
TARP may be over, but there’s another massive bank rescue going on. Who’s funding it? We are. Every time we pay a usurious interest fee on a credit card, we’re propping up the banks. Every time we make another month’s payment on an underwater mortgage, we’re propping them up too. Every time we pay an overpriced consumer loan of any kind, we’re making another payment into the consumer-funded bailout that’s keeping the big banks afloat.
It would be great if politicians in Washington stopped using American consumers to subsidize banks that shouldn’t even exist. But they haven’t. That’s where “Occupy Our Homes” comes in.
Tuesday, December 6, has been declared a National Day of Action to Occupy Our Homes. Its goal is to focus attention on the corrupt banking practices that led to the mortgage boom and today’s ongoing economic misery for most of the 99 percent.
It’s also a day for helping people in our communities who have been victimized by predatory lending, criminal bank forgery, unfair or illegal foreclosure practices, and other bank abuses that victimize the public. Occupy Minnesota has already occupied an illegally-foreclosed home, and plans to do the same thing with another home tomorrow. Here in Los Angeles, where an inspiring victory has already taken place, OccupyLA will help two brave families re-occupy their illegally foreclosed homes.
Resisting illegal foreclosures is a good first step. It brings attention to Wall Street’s criminality, venality, and plain old inhumanity toward the people they call their”customers” – but treat like serfs.
It does something else important: It counteracts the brainwashing, driven by Wall Street and dutifully echoed by the media, which has demonized the victims of bank misbehavior….
What about the millions of people who have suffered because of the banks’ predatory mortgage lending but aren’t behind in payments or in the foreclosure process? We need to re-open the debate about the fairness of forcing any underwater homeowners to pay underwater principal on homes that their banks knew, or should have known, were going to decrease in value. After all, the same conglomeration of banks and corporate media that demonize homeowners as “greedy” and “irresponsible” spent most of the last twenty years convincing people that real estate was a sure-fire investment.
What will happen if consumers stopped blaming themselves? What if they demanded that the banks take responsibility for their irresponsible and/or predatory lending? What if they refused to stop this country’s perverse economic role reversal, where customers have become the ATMs while banks keep making the withdrawals?
If 10% of America’s homeowners declared a mortgage strike it would rock the banking world. If everybody paying exorbitant credit card interest declared a moratorium on payments all at once, Wall Street would change forever.
Think about it: “Occupy ALL Our Homes.” “Occupy Our Credit Cards … Our Payday Loans … Our Buy-and-Drive Loans …” I’m not saying these are necessarily the right tactics, although they very well may be. But what’s most important is that we understand that consumers have far more power than we usually realize – provided we act together.
Many of Washington’s leaders will cringe at the thought, of course. “That could hurt our biggest banks,” they say. It would be tempting to reply, You say that like it’s a bad thing. Here’s a better response: Then start planning to break them up in an orderly fashion. We’re done living a life of indentured servitude just so we can subsidize their greed.
Those are the discussions that we should be having. If powerful people on Wall Street and in Washington aren’t worried about Occupy Our Homes , they’re not paying attention. But with any luck, they soon will.
(If you are understandably squeamish about deadbeats not honoring their debts, please read this.)
Occupy is also attempting to shut down all West Coast ports on December 12th.
Occupy protesters have started to arrive in Washington, D.C. to protest political corruption:
They are aiming for one million protesters in D.C. by January 17th.
A top Republican strategist – and the world’s top expert on framing mainstream Republican ideas in language which persuades people, Frank Luntz – said (via Think Progress):
Luntz told attendees that he’s “scared of this anti-Wall Street effort. I’m frightened to death.” The pollster warned that the movement is “having an impact on what the American people think of capitalism.” So the pollster offered some advice for them about how to fight back. Here’s a few snippets of what he said [:]
Luntz instructed attendees to tell protesters that they “get it”: “First off, here are three words for you all: ‘I get it.’ … ‘I get that you’re. I get that you’ve seen inequality. I get that you want to fix the system.”
(The other top framing expert – George Lakoff, a liberal – supports OWS.)
Ron Paul also respects the Occupy movement:
While police have resorted to brutal military tactics to try to shut down the protests, such tactics have drawn world-wide condemnation, including condemnation from the United Nations, former police chiefs (and see this), and the inventor of pepper spray.
And do you know how the police have denied protesters the use of megaphones as a way to try to silence them (hence the famous “Human Mic”)? There’s a new iPhone App the ‘Inhuman Microphone’ which circumvents the megaphone ban by unifying all the smart phone speakers into one voice.
So Occupy is down, but not out … and arguably growing stronger than ever.