Occupy Wall Street Campaign

The Occupy Wall Street campaigns have gained widespread national and international recognition as the ongoing series of demonstrations, beginning on September 17th, have spread throughout the USA.

Occupy Wall Street Campaign Intensifies

Founded by a Canadian anti-capitalist group, known as Adbusters, the protests have been compared to the activities of the “Arab Spring” movement.  The comparison is hardly fit as the “Arab Spring” is a conquest of liberalism and the people against the tyrannical powers of their rulers and the security forces, resulting in thousands of deaths in various countries.  Many Arab activists have loudly voiced their opposition to such claims, stating that such a comparison denigrates the “Arab Spring” movement.  So saying, the comparison may be lacking in any fundamental truth, but the Occupy Wall Street youths are using the “Arab Spring” as vindication for their movement, for inspiration and are drawing their own comparisons (for self-comfort).  Many demonstrators have views the “Arab Spring” as a reinforcing ideal, supporting the idea that sometimes it is necessary for citizens to take to the streets in order to effect political change.  Moreover, the police suppression in Boston, though nowhere near the true security force brutality in the Middle East, has been easily sensationalized by media assets and the movement, to draw public attention towards their mission.  Evidently, the disenfranchised youths behind the movement remain steadfast in their stated mission to topple their existing power structures and forge a major shift in the way of life for all Americans.

Despite evident sensationalist and radical methods, the message resounding from the movement is the most important part.  The infrastructure of America is in shambles with political gridlock fueling fiscal cancer that has broken the American spirit, the trust in Washington and the faith in reform.  Americans have grown cynical of any progress coming from Washington and with persistent political partisanship dividing Washington on key issues for the future of America, gloom and despair of American society only intensifies.  Now on day 27 of cyclical demonstration around the US, the national participants stand in opposition to the social and economic inequality, corporate greed, and the influence of corporate money and lobbyists on government.

“When your normal avenues of redress in whatever type of system you are part of are no longer open to you or are not there to begin with, there’s a breaking point, a point where people stop and say – we’re just not going to accept the way that things are done anymore.” – Ed Needham, Occupy Wall Street spokesman in New York.

Globalization has led to the escalation of pluralization, an increase in the number of participants in the global network.  Such connection has made evident the growing complex interdependence and instability of a growing complex interdependence of nations, in which one fault will, and has, led to global fiscal crises.  Not only has the crisis in America illustrated the dysfunction of both the political and fiscal structures, but it has also illustrated the inequalities of America.  America has become a nation where the rich have become the mega-rich while the middle class has steadily lost ground, where unemployment is stuck as levels once considered unacceptable, and where the political system is too dysfunctional to take bold actions for progress and reform.  With the readily available use of technology and all media assets, it is not surprising that some choose to protest.  Demonstrations, public frustration and widespread outcry are loved by the American populace.  The popularity of the Tea Party and MoveOn, radical political organizations, demonstrate the sensationalist appeal of America and the media.  Currently, Occupy Wall Street has proved the most fruitful, as the protests have inspired similar demonstration in some 70 cities across America, with news media coverage of the Occupy movement treading along.  Last week’s movement received coverage that was quantitatively equivalent to the early coverage of the Tea Party movement in early 2009.

“The result is a lot of angry people, to whom new information technologies have given the means to threaten the stability of the societies they live in and even to threaten social stability in countries of the wealthy zone.” – Robert Wade, economist

Such publicity and national coverage has its double edge, of course.  With demonstration in Boston, Washington and San Francisco resulting in scores of protesters being arrested, the outside perspectives and opinions of the Occupy movement have grown, spanning from Iran anti-capitalist view to a hypocritical movement that is funded by the very mega-rich that the protesters oppose.  For instance, reports have indicated that the disparate protest has received its main financing and sponsorship from George Soros, who in September debuted in the top 10 list of wealthiest Americans.  There is evidence of indirect financial links between Soros and Adbusters, the premiere anti-capitalist Canadian group that founded the Occupy Wall Street movement.  In the Forbes 400 list, George Soros is listed as 7th, with a fortune of $22 billion.  Like the protesters, Soros has been staunchly opposed to the series of 2008 bank bailouts and subsequent purchase of the toxic sub-prime mortgage assets amassed in the property bubble.  Along with Soros, the demonstrators have received support from an online fundraising campaign run by Kickstrater, as well as filmmaker Michael Moore.  On the opposite extreme, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has said that the Occupy protests will bring down capitalism in the US and ultimately lead to the Wests’ downfall.  The speech was broadcasted on Iranian state TV, as the Supreme Leader addressed thousands of Iranians to hear his messages of hatred towards Western capitalism.  Apparently, any opportunity to challenge American hegemon status is a gift to the Iranian leader, especially considering the recent foiled plot to commit acts of terror on US soil.

“The 1% (who are ruling America) launched the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but the remaining 99% have to suffer the deaths and pay for it.” – Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s Supreme Leader

The Problems Persist: Defense Budget

On Friday, Standard and Poor’s Credit Rating Agency downgraded the USA debt from AAA to AA+,the first such downgrade in the nation’s history.

The main reason the S&P downgraded the American debt is due to the reasonable doubts that President Barack Obama and Congress will not be able to come to a long-term solution regarding the nation’s budget deficit.  The credit rating agency is pessimistic about the capacity of Congress and the Administration to be able to leverage their agreement on a debt deal into a broader fiscal consolidation plan that stabilizes the government’s debt dynamics.  With the political arena more fragmented now more than ever, doubts on the difficulties of bridging the gulf between political parties over fiscal policy are arising domestically and internationally.  Nevertheless, was it not bipartisan efforts that led to the deal and are there not plans for a future bipartisan committee to resolve future reforms?

Yes, but that is where the moments of national rejoice has come to an end.  The political arena has begun to use the bipartisan committee as an excuse to kick touch choices down the road so that the bipartisan committee are the ones left with the consequences.  For instance, the current deal only calls for the cut of $21 billion of over $3 trillion budget in 2012, clearly marking the ineffectiveness of the current affairs.  The bickering and polarization to which the debt deal was produced has only added poison to an already toxic atmosphere.  The Democrats, essentially run down by Republicans hard stance on taxes, feel as if they must mirror the tactics of the Tea Party because of the fact that they did work.  This has led to Democrats becoming more unyielding on any cuts to entitlement programs like Medicare.  On the opposite pole of the clearly fragmented political floor, the Republicans have closed ranks more solidly around a no-tax agenda, emboldened by their past success.  Clearly,Congress is more polarized than ever as the filibuster, a tool used by the minority to overrule the majority, which had only been used maybe once in a decade in the past, has in current years been used to block 80% of legislation.    

Sadly, in efforts to rally the American support, articles and people of power have made attempts at slandering the downgrade and the credit rating agency, to mark the downgrade as inconsequential.  Lawrence Summers,the former Treasury Secretary under Clinton, stated that the downgrade as an attempt by S&P to “play” politics and that their past track record has ben far less than glamorous.  In the end, the words or actions do not matter.  Even if S&P had not downgraded the debt of America, the antics of the political arena have been enough for anyone to say that America has downgraded itself.  After witnessing the circus that the US government entered into for this deal, the international community was sickened.  The American nation can ill afford to have its reputation tarnished by further political antics, domestic alienation, and international ridicule.  With S&P setting the bar as a big brother for Moody and Fitch, Moody has warned the nation that it is considering downgrading the debt and Fitch is set to finish its overview of the American debt by the end of the month.  What can the nation do to counter the growing pressure for reform and spring back from an all time low?

The clear answer would be: to institute actual effective reform!  The American nation must expand its infrastructure and institute smart and effective programs towards education, immigration, and energy.  These forms of legislation would spur growth and bounce back the clearly faltering markets.  Without these forms of reforms, the government will be forced to continue its borrowing, leading to an additional $1.3 trillion in deficit in less than 10 years, making the current debt deal redundant due to its inability to deal with this situation.

“Every dollar uselessly spent on military mechanisms decreases our total strength and, therefore, our security” – President Eisenhower, 34th President of the United States of America

President Eisenhower, one of the 9 presidents to deal with the Soviet Union during the Cold War, was President during M.A.D., Korea, and intervention in the Middle East under the Eisenhower Doctrine.  So saying, what would Eisenhower’s stance be on the military spending currently being undertaken?  Considering that during the Cold War, the United States faced an ideological war against Socialism in Eastern Europe, proxy wars in Korea and Vietnam, as well as dictators throughout South America, Africa, and the Middle East; the defense budget was still $250 billion less than current spending, at a time when we do not face the same circumstances or direct enemy as the Cold War.  Both Eisenhower and Nixon, both President’s being Republicans and “pro-war”, were able to cut the defense budget by 21% for Eisenhower after the Korean War and 27% for Nixon after the Vietnam War.  Furthermore, the current defense spending having increased for 13 straight years which is already unprecedented, has only fueled the fears of a double dip recession which have sent the global stock markets crashing. Check out 1989’s blogs on financial situations: Global Integration, The Stock Market, Global Integration #2

In retrospect, rather than increasing expenditures in Iraq, Afghanistan or Libya (where rebels have already resorted to killing each other); a defense spending cut of $1 trillion over 10 years is not impossible, but easily feasible considering the amounts already being spent.

The Stock Market

Rather than rallying up from news of the debt ceiling deal, the markets have continued to fall, as reports find the debt deal as insufficient to relieve the US from potential downgrade by Standard and Poor’s Credit Rating Agency, and future dilemmas concerning tax revenues and entitlement.

Continuing its fall, S&P 500’s decrease has landed it in the negative for its yearly outlook.   The broad base index fell for a seventh day and crashed through its 200-day moving average, thus creating ominous signs for the future of the markets.  The seven days of losses marks the longest continuous loss since October 2008.  Although both Moody and Fitch have withdrawn their overshadowing threats of immediate downgrade, both agencies continue applying pressure for future reforms in the US fiscal system.  Moody has stated that future downgrade is possible if Congress is not able to resolve issues in 2013.  With Congress’ inability to resolve outstanding issues until hours before a default of a global power, the outlook for future mediation and collaboration for the benefit of the nation does not seem too promising.  If Congress was able to learn from its mistakes, as it should have before the debt crisis, then maybe there exists potential for a rallying cry to emerge from Congress and around the US, to help bring the nation back on its feet.

“Both parties share power in Washington and both parties need to take responsibility for improving this economy.  It’s not a Democratic responsibility or a Republican responsibility. It is our collective responsibility as Americans.” – President Barack Obama.

With Standard and Poor refusing to comment on the debt deal, as well as the US fiscal situation in general, the need for further reforms is evident.  As President Obama has oft-repeated, the debt deal will serve as a stepping stone for further spending cuts as well as taxes, an apparent forbidden word for Republicans.  Although the first step may be modest, America can hope that its will serve as momentum for continued bipartisan negotiations and constructive collaboration.  With the markets continuing to fall, Obama’s statement that “its pretty likely that the uncertainty surrounding the raising of the debt ceiling – for both businesses and consumers – has been unsettling”, has a loud ring of truth. Dow Jones fell over 260 points yesterday, and fears are only growing as rumors go around about another recession.  This is underscored by the downgrade of the US by a Chinese Rating Agency, the Dagong Global Credit Rating Company, which had downgraded the US back in November from AAA to A+ and has now downgraded the US to A.

The safety of the American nation is threatened by the foundation of the world, the financial system, which is interconnected throughout the world.  To read more about Global Integration, read my blog: Global Integration

Gang of Six

Breaking away from the short term relief plans, the bipartisan group has once again embodied the benefits of across the aisle negotiations.

Consisting of Kent Conrad (D), Max Warner (D), Dick Durbin (D), Mike Crapo (R), Tom Coburn (R), and Saxby Chambliss (R); the group has become a symbol of hope for the continued prosperity and longevity of the United States of America.  With the development of their current outlined plan for the resolution of the debt crisis, the political arena may be able to join forces and create a communal support for the bipartisan solution.

Though hardly a done deal, the plan does represent an alternative path, creating a middle to previously presented plans.  The plans presented before the Gang of Six have ranged from delaying the inevitable to nearly unrealistic.  For instance, one plan being supported by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor would only suffice in cutting at the most $1.5 trillion or merely a few hundred billion.  This plan would only serve to further escalate the debt crisis by permitting the government to persist on its current path of government spending, debt, and political squabbling.  The plan is comparable to Obama’s “grand compromise” and the “middle-deal”; both detailing intermediate spending cuts, welfare reform, and sweeping tax reform.  All of these plans only offer short term respite, allowing politicians to relieve themselves of a guilt conscious and leave off their work for another day.  These plans serve to deceive society, offering a facade of debt resolution and American prosperity, a gilded solution that serves only to mask the continued decay of the financial and political system.
On the other extreme, Tom Coburn (coincidentally a member of the Gof6), has presented a rather unrealistic long term plan consisting of cutting $9 trillion in government spending cuts over a duration of 10 years.  Coburn’s plan further targets the welfare program Medicare, raising the age to 69 by 2080, which also mirrors his plan to raise the Social Security age.  With politicians arguing about the extreme cuts involved in a $4 trillion plan, Coburn’s plan seems dead on arrival.  With all plans on the brink of defeat, an emergency relief package has seemed to emerge through the work of McConnell and Reid.  Their joint effort has brought to fruition another short term relief package in which decision would be left to the executive office.  The plan is fluid and under constant scrutiny.

So saying, the Gang of Six plan delivers a middle ground that has already received the support of President Obama and multiple members of members of Congress and Senate.  The plan would cut spending between $3.7-$4.7 trillion and lower the national debt to 70% of GDP  by 2021.  The plan also targets tax reform, welfare programs, and government spending.  (Read More)

In retrospect, the countdown is nearing its end and “crunch time” is now.  There are plans, there are “solutions”, but has America found a bridge to future?  Even though the Constitution states “to form a more perfect union”, America must focus on progress and not perfection.  America must focus on creating a “more perfect” union compared to the political immaturity being exemplified currently.