We Are the 99 Percent: Rising from the Ruins of Reaganomics


In his New York Times op-ed on Monday, Paul Krugman gives a short-version history of the financialization of the economy. He says: “… the financialization of America wasn’t dictated by the invisible hand of the market. What caused the financial industry to grow much faster than the rest of the economy starting around 1980 was a series of deliberate policy choices, in particular a process of deregulation that continued right up to the eve of the 2008 crisis. … More broadly, the same political forces that promoted financial deregulation fostered overall inequality in a variety of ways, undermining organized labor, doing away with the ‘outrage constraint’ that used to limit executive paychecks, and more.”

There’s a lot more that could be said about it, but it’s important to stress that the policy choices Krugman is talking about were part of an ongoing attack on the gains unions had been able to make in the 1960s and early 1970s. The liberal-labor coalition that lay behind the politics of the New Deal had broken up with the rise of the civil rights movement, leading to a class compromise between business and unions based on an economic boom and unions’ political support for the U.S. war in Vietnam. But in the inflationary economic crisis of the 1970s this gave way to a long-term effort to cripple the labor movement with outsourcing and legislation.

Labor had been able to keep pace with and even achieve raises above the level of inflation. Sociologist William Domhoff explains how, to counter union strength, large corporations headed by US Steel created the Construction Users Anti-Inflation Roundtable. “Its purpose was to help the many small firms in the construction industry resist further wage hikes. It encouraged members to use nonunion firms when possible, worked to coordinate construction firms, and aided unionized firms in starting nonunion subsidiaries. … The corporations began to resist unionization as the 1970s rolled on. They hired antiunion consulting firms to organize campaigns against any attempts at unionization. They fired workers who tried to create unions, even though such an action was illegal …

“The tightening of labor markets coincided with and intensified the movement of American manufacturing facilities overseas. This had two direct effects: a rise in unemployment and a further weakening of industrial unions. … The conservatism of the Reagan years, then, represented what business had been waiting to do for a long time, but couldn’t because of social activism and the Vietnam War. Now all was quiet and labor was on its knees, so business retaliated with a vengeance even though that meant destroying needed infrastructure, creating a homeless underclass, and crushing many small businesses.” (G. William Domhoff, The Power Elite and the State: How Policy is Made in America (Aldine de Gruyter, NY, 1990: 276-282)

So it’s significant that unions, which in the 1970s were hostile to social reform movements, today are not only backing the OWS/99 percent, but recruiting out of their success. Greg Sargent reports in the Washington Post that “Working America, the affiliate of the AFL-CIO that organizes workers from non-union workplaces, has signed up approximately 25,000 new recruits in the last week alone, thanks largely to the high visibility of the protests. Karen Nussbaum, the executive director of Working America, tells me that this actually dwarfs their most successful recruiting during the Wisconsin protests. ‘In so many ways, Wisconsin was a preview of what we’re now seeing,’ Nussbaum says. ‘We thought it was big when we got 20,000 members in a month during the Wisconsin protests. This shows how much bigger this is’.”

And a new poll by Quinnipiac University finds that 67 percent of New Yorkers agree with the views of OWS; 72 percent say they understand the protesters’ views “very well” or “fairly well.” Ordinary people identify with the protesters and the occupation resonates with them despite a lack of formal objectives.

A new pluralist coalition of labor and progressives is rapidly forming, one that channels the working and middle class resistance to the decline of their living standards. The 99 percent will take on the Washington consensus that sees finance as essential to the economy and is beholden to it.

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15 Comments

Filed under austerity measures, credit creation, debt limit impasse, financiers, marxism, monetary economies, occupy wall street, political analysis, populism, strikes, We are the 99 percent, Wisconsin

15 responses to “We Are the 99 Percent: Rising from the Ruins of Reaganomics

  1. Well Would Ya Look At That

    A Guide To The Smear Campaign Against Occupy Wall Street

    The right-wing media have engaged in a relentless smear campaign against the Occupy Wall Street movement, including calling the protesters socialists and Marxists, saying they represent the “fringe of the fringe of the fringe,” and claiming they “sound like the Unabomber,” among other attacks.

    The Protesters Are “The Fringe” And “Lunatics”

    OWS Website Reads Like “The Ravings Of … The Unabomber”

    They’re Only “Little Rascals” And “Petulant Little Children” …

    … Who Don’t Know What They Want …

    … But We Know They’re Socialists, Marxists, And Anarchists Bent On “Destroy[ing] Capitalism” …

    … And They Don’t Even Pay Taxes!

    They’re Not Diverse Enough (Maybe)

    Their Protests Are Astroturfed

    Iran And Chavez Support The Protests …

    … And So Do Nazis!

    The Protesters Don’t Shower Enough

    So Don’t Support The 99% — Support The 53%

    http://mediamatters.org/research/201110180014

  2. Well Would Ya Look At That

    Thirty Days of Occupy Wall Street

    Do you remember a time before Occupy Wall Street? At this point, the tarps and sleeping bags have weathered a month in Zuccotti Park, and there’s no end in sight. The Occupy movement now spans the globe, with more demonstrations popping up every day, but it’s the New York City contingent that’s leading the push. Marches have taken crowds to Times Square, the Upper East Side, and the Brooklyn Bridge, and hundreds of arrests have just mobilized more people. The clashes, cleanup, sleeping arrangements, and the signs, of course, are all represented in this visual look back on these first few weeks.

    http://nymag.com/daily/intel/2011/10/thirty_days_of_occupy_wall_str.html

  3. Well Would Ya Look At That

    More Than 70 Percent of New Yorkers Are Okay With Occupy Wall Street

    That’s the key takeaway from a Quinnipiac poll released today: 72 percent of city residents said that as long as the protesters continue to follow the law, they should be allowed to remain in Zuccotti Park indefinitely. That also tracks fairly closely, by the way, with the 73 percent of New Yorkers who support stricter regulations for financial firms. 61 percent of New Yorkers (including a majority of Republicans) support the extension of the state’s “millionaire tax.”

    But the most interesting finding shows that lower-income residents are actually less likely to support the Occupy Wall Street movement. Only 16 percent of resident polled making more than $100,000 thought the occupation needed to be stopped “at some point,” compared with 34 percent of people making less than $30,000.

    It is puzzling the largish numbers of low-income people with some apparent animus toward the protesters. It’s not that unusual for Americans to hold political views that are at odds with their pocketbooks (that’s the whole premise behind What’s the Matter With Kansas?, for instance), but it’s a little unclear precisely what cultural factors might be at work here to turn off such a significant chunk of the city’s lower-income population.

    One possibility: It could be the stylistic tradition the protest grows out of, at least historically.

    http://nymag.com/daily/intel/2011/10/more_than_seventy_percent_of_n.html

  4. Well Would Ya Look At That

    Occupy movement: from local action to a global howl of protest

    A month after its launch, more than 900 cities around the world have hosted protests affiliated to the Occupy cause

    “This is not a battle by youth or Chilean society,” said Camila Vallejo, a Chilean student leader who has become a key figure in that country’s protests. “This is a world battle that transcends all frontiers.”

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/oct/17/occupy-movement-global-protest

  5. Well Would Ya Look At That

    We, the undersigned writers and all who will join us, support Occupy Wall Street and the Occupy Movement around the world.

    view the lengthy list at >>> http://occupywriters.com/

  6. Well Would Ya Look At That

    Marine Sergeant Shamar Thomas stands up to shameful NYPD

    Decorated war hero, Marine Sergeant Shamar Thomas voiced his objection to the New York Police Department’s treatment of Occupy Wall Street protesters.

    Sergent Thomas’s impassioned speech to the officers was caught on video by various protesters who were being moved on by police officers who were allegedly threatening protesters if they did not move along.

    Shamar pointed out to the mob of police officers who were intimidating the protesters that there was “No honour” in their actions and said “It takes a coward to harm an unarmed civilian” he went on to say “This is not a war zone, these are unarmed people, it does not make you tough to hurt these people.”

    “If you want to go fight, go to Iraq and Afghanistan, Leave these people alone, they are US citizens, why are you doing this to our people?” said Seargent Thomas who then asked where in their contract does it justify hurting US citizens.

    “I’ve been to Iraq 14 months for my people and you come here to hurt them, they don’t have guns, it doesn’t make any sense, how do you sleep at night? there is no honour in this, you’re here to protect them, protect us.”

    “You’re all walking around in riot gear like this is a war, these people don’t have guns.”

    http://www.economicvoice.com/marine-sergeant-shamar-thomas-stands-up-to-shameful-nypd/50024716#ixzz1b5kBhlxG

  7. Well Would Ya Look At That

    NYPD use strobe lights to stop Occupy Wall Street filming

    RT cameras had strobe lights and bright flashlights shone into their cameras to prevent them from filming during Occupy Wall Street demonstrations.

    This could be a new tactic by the New York Police Department to deter journalists from effectively documenting night time news as it unfolds and that means that the main weapon of the protesters (constant livestream footage), which holds officers’ actions to account will be rendered useless.

    And that means we could expect an increase in police brutality at night and an increased usage of flashlights by the NYPD as the protests grow to the point where conventional restraint techniques will not be adequate in protecting the 1%.

    http://www.economicvoice.com/nypd-use-strobe-lighting-to-stop-occup-wall-street-filming/50024706#axzz1bACP0shD

  8. Well Would Ya Look At That

    The financial oligarchs whose power over the political economy is strangling the United States don’t seem to understand just how lucky they are to be dealing with orderly, mature protesters who believe in the tenets of nonviolence. In any other historical epoch these same oligarchs might find themselves facing the gallows or a firing squad or a “re-education” camp. Those who find themselves on the wrong side of history often end up in precarious positions. Just ask Hosni Mubarak.

    I might add that it was the bankers who left behind higher rates of child poverty and increased incidents of child abuse, suicides, and property crimes; and they left in their wake over-crowded classrooms, layoffs of teachers and child protective services workers and the closing of public parks, clinics, and homeless shelters; they’ve severely damaged once great systems of pubic higher education across the country, and they’ve ushered in a concerted assault against public employee pensions and their unions, even those of the “first responders” (police and firefighters) who went from heroes after 9/11 to goats after Wall Street got done with them.

    Not one teacher or police officer, social worker or firefighter should have been fired; not one public park closed; not one public school downsized; not one person working for the public sector canned because of the reckless failure of Wall Street’s high rollers. Yet over 300,000 teachers have been fired in the last few years and another 200,000 public employees.

    There’s something inherently wrong with a political economy where those in power sell the people a bag of goods: Tax cuts for the rich and corporations; deregulation; “free trade” bills; wars and excessive military spending; slashing social programs. We were told these measures were for our own good. They would be helpful to the lives of the 99 percent. But they never work. Prosperity never “trickles down.” And people are finally catching on. The housing bubble went too far. It destroyed too many lives and livelihoods to go unquestioned and unpunished, as Wall Street (and Washington) would like it.

    http://josephapalermo.com/?p=294

  9. Well Would Ya Look At That

    Fact: More people have now been arrested for protesting financial crimes than the # of bankers arrested for committing those crimes.

  10. Well Would Ya Look At That

    Any politician who wants to be in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street needs to start by taking their side against the police.

  11. Well Would Ya Look At That

    Why Rush Limbaugh Is Freaking Out About Occupy Wall Street

    People like Rush, Romney and Obama are all becoming cognizant of the deep frustrations that exist across the political spectrum and are growing desperate to prevent the powder keg from blowing completely – hence the intense effort to describe OWS as a top-down manipulation.

    People out there do not need media figures to tell them how f***ed things are, or how pissed they should be that the same bankers who caused the crash are now enjoying state-supported bonuses in the billions, while everyone else gets squeezed. As someone who has been covering this stuff for three years, I can say with confidence that people across the country don’t need a push to be angry. They’re already there, and have been there for years. Rush should go hang out outside a foreclosure court in his home state of Florida for a few hours, if he wants to see where the rising heat under these protests is coming from.

    The hysterical responses from the Rushes of the world are just more signs that these protests are working.

    I never thought I’d see it, but some of the dukes and earls high up in America’s Great Tower of Bullshit are starting to blink a little bit.

    They seem genuinely freaked out that OWS doesn’t have leaders or a single set of demands, which in addition to being very encouraging is quite funny.

    http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/blogs/taibblog/why-rush-limbaugh-is-freaking-out-about-occupy-wall-street-20111018

  12. Well Would Ya Look At That

    Cost of the cheney / bush-Era Tax Cuts Since 2001

    http://costoftaxcuts.com/

    some eye Popping numbers !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  13. Well Would Ya Look At That

    Obama’s Chance to Kiss Wall Street Goodbye Is Now

    Dear Mr. President:

    You’ve been waiting for your moment?

    This may be it.

    I know you’re sick of people always running that FDR clip all up in your grill, the one from 1936 in which the offspring of New York patroon society gets up in Madison Square Garden and says,

    “They had begun to consider the Government of the United States as a mere appendage to their own affairs. We know now that Government by organized money is just as dangerous as Government by organized mob. Never before in all our history have these forces been so united against one candidate as they stand today. They are unanimous in their hate for me — and I welcome their hatred.”

    He pretty much screwed the rest of you guys into infinity with that one. But here’s the deal: It was a very popular line. People rallied to it. People looked past the plummy accent, and the cigarette holder, and the family wealth, and they saw something worth standing for, and someone who was not much like them, but who was willing to stand with them.

    Read that story from Politico closely. What these various whiny hyenas are saying, quite clearly, is that they bought both halves of the American political process fair and square, and that both sides of the American political process better damned well stay bought. This isn’t even the first time this week that someone from the Jean Lafitte School of High Finance has made this point. It is a bald assertion of the rights of oligarchy in the face of rising popular outrage. The only way it would be clearer is if somebody built a Bastille.

    And that’s your opportunity, Mr. President. Cut your ties with these people. Give back the money you’ve collected from the financial-services industry. That’ll hurt, but you’ve been saying since the middle of 2007 that the future is in small donors. Prove that now.

    http://www.esquire.com/blogs/politics/obama-wall-street-6518328#ixzz1bAn9NgFA

  14. A Shift In Optics

    Why they hate Occupy

    Because the news cycle is now dominated by stories of economic inequality instead of the deficit stories they were using to push their policies.

    http://susiemadrak.com/?p=26764

    Coverage of Wall St. Protests Keeps Growing, Gets More Political

    The US economy topped the news last week, powered in large part by increasing attention to the Occupy Wall Street protests.

    At the same time, the narrative about the protests became decidedly partisan and political.

    http://www.journalism.org/index_report/pej_news_coverage_index_october_1016_2011

  15. Caught In A Riptide

    Douglas Foshee, El Paso CEO, To Get $95 Million Exit Package

    As protesters demonstrate against income inequality in Zuccotti Park and around the world, one company CEO will likely net nearly $100 million to stop doing his job.

    Douglas Foshee, CEO of El Paso — the natural gas pipeline operator that will be acquired by rival Kinder Morgan in a $21 billion deal — is eligible for an exit package worth approximately $95 million.

    http://news.google.com/news/story?gl=us&pz=1&cf=all&ned=us&hl=en&q=El+Paso+CEO+$95+Million+Exit+Package&ncl=dmgYkCpx-p3mFCMB1x0pWfxLlY6XM

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