Reuters blog archive
By Jeffrey Goldfarb
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.
This U.S. election provided a valuable math lesson for those worried about the consequences of income inequality: the 47 percent of the population dismissed by Mitt Romney during his campaign can wield greater power than the richest 1 percent.
Ultra-wealthy Republican candidates included professional wrestling maven Linda McMahon, who ran for a Senate seat in Connecticut. Rich GOP supporters like the billionaire Koch brothers also worked spreadsheets hoping to somehow reverse the algebraic reality. They learned the hard way that money can’t buy everything in America.
The Occupy movement’s 1 percent label distinguished the haves from the have-nots. And Romney, for many the personification of that financially elite group, inadvertently provided the 47 percent reference. Roughly speaking, he quantified that mostly Democrat proportion of the U.S. population as irredeemably reliant on the government.
from John Lloyd:
Socialism – real, no-private-ownership, state-controlled, egalitarian socialism – has been off the political agenda in most states, including Communist China, for decades. The mixture of gross inefficiency and varying degrees of repressive savagery that most such systems showed seems to have inoculated the world against socialism and confined support for it to the arts and sociology faculties of Western universities. But what was booted triumphantly out the front door of history may be knocking quietly on the back door of the present. The reason is inequality.
Pointing out inequality is a political attraction these days, and as good a dramatization of that as any is in the comparison between what Tony Blair, Britain’s Labour Prime Minister, said about it in 2001, on the eve of his second election, and what Conservative leader David Cameron said about it in a speech in 2009, soon before the 2010 election that made him Prime Minister. Blair, questioned about rising inequality, responded that while he was concerned with poverty and its alleviation, he didn’t lose sleep about the rich being rich. “It's not”, he said, invoking Britain’s most popular sports figure, “a burning ambition for me to make sure that David Beckham earns less money.”
from The Great Debate:
If there’s one thing that united Occupy Wall Street with the Tea Party movement from the very beginning, it’s a virulent aversion to being compared to each other.
The Tea Partiers started sharpening their knives before the Occupation even began. Two weeks before last year’s launch Tea Partisan blogger Bob Ellis wrote a post entitled “Socialists Plan to Rage Against Freedom on Constitution Day” – all but daring the lamestream punditry to compare the “infantile” plans of “spoiled children” to “throw tantrums” and “thumb their nose at the American way of life” to the beloved movement that “sprang up from nothing a little more than two years ago in the face of a Marxist president and Marxist congress.”
from Photographers' Blog:
By Lucas Jackson
It has been one year since a group of protesters began sleeping on the ground in Zuccotti Park to protest growing income inequality, corporate influence on politics, climate change, and a number of other issues.
One year ago no-one had heard of Occupy Wall St. and it was fascinating to watch the excitement and size of the protest grow over time. What began as a rag tag group of people who came together to make a semi-permanent presence near Wall St. to spread their message in the heart of the New York financial district quickly grew. For those of us who live and work in New York it was a refreshing change to have a news story grow organically in a city where everything is always polished and shined to dullness in order to present to the media.
from Reihan Salam:
This coming Monday, Sept. 17, is the first anniversary of the day when protesters gathered in Lower Manhattan’s Zuccotti Park under the banner of Occupy Wall Street. The occupation was first dreamed up by Kalle Lasn and Micah White, the close collaborators behind Adbusters, a slickly produced, high-art magazine that uses the tools of commercial culture to make the case against capitalism. Having decided that America needed an uprising akin to those that had shattered authoritarian governments across North Africa, Lasn and White chose a date, created an arresting image emblazoned with the Occupy Wall Street slogan, reached out to potential collaborators and then watched as their creation seized the imagination of millions of Americans.
One year on, the encampments that had sprung up in Lower Manhattan and in cities, college campuses and foreclosed homes across the country have for the most part been abandoned. And so at least some observers are inclined to think, or to hope, that the Occupy movement has been of little consequence. That would be a mistake. Occupy’s enduring significance lies not in the fact that some small number of direct actions continue under its banner, or that activists have made plans to commemorate “S17” in a series of new protests. Rather, Occupy succeeded in expanding the boundaries of our political conversation, creating new possibilities for the American left.
from Hugo Dixon:
This piece first appeared in Reuters Magazine.
Is it possible that rebel leaders are overrated? In the wake of the Arab Spring, the Occupy Wall Street movement, and other populist uprisings around the world against autocracy and corruption, geopolitical analysts are asking fundamental questions about what leadership means in such struggles. What sort of leadership is needed in nonviolent uprisings? And in this digital age, do rebellions even need leaders?
The romanticized answer is that nonviolent struggles no longer require a charismatic leader – they can emerge spontaneously as oppressed people rise up and communicate through Facebook and Twitter. This lack of organization or hierarchy is said to be well suited to the goals of such movements. Where insurgents are fighting for democratic rule, it is appropriate that nobody is bossing anybody around. What’s more, this alleged lack of leadership has a side benefit in that it precludes the authorities from destroying a movement by rounding up the ringleaders. You can’t lop off the head if there is no head.
from Photographers' Blog:
By Andrew Burton
When the Occupy Wall Street movement began their Spring Training sessions earlier this year, I realized I had focused much of my coverage throughout the fall of 2011 on the most sensationalistic events - large marches, mass arrests and sporadic violence. It dawned on me that I had seen very little photojournalistic work, from myself or other photographers, looking at Occupy Wall Street's more mundane or personal aspects - essentially, who the protesters were beyond the demonstrations.
I decided to approach Austin Guest to see if he'd be interested in allowing me to follow him as an individual. Guest is an organizer, videographer and creative-action planner in the movement. I had seen him lead marches, moderate group conversations and give speeches - in essence, I had been impressed at his ability to speak to groups and lead large rallies. Austin was open to the idea and over the past month I've tried to spend as much time with him as possible - before, during and after events, with friends, at the bar, eating dinner, shopping for supplies and training for future events.
from The Great Debate:
This essay is adapted from a chapter of From Cairo to Wall Street: Voices from the Global Spring, recently published by The New Press.
There had been small flutters about an upcoming demonstration on Wall Street through the occasional mention on mailing lists that I mostly ignore. I assumed it would be like so many other actions I’ve been to in my life, where a small group of the usual suspects in the activist community showed up, tried to make a small ruckus, and went home, or the protest got broken up by the police. That said, I was still intrigued by the idea of mounting an occupation, even if temporary, in the heart of the financial district, which even many professional economists hold accountable for much of the inefficiency and inequality of recent years.
By Rob Cox
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own. It’s easy to spot vestiges of the old Predators’ Ball at this year’s Milken Institute Global Conference. The Ferraris and Bentleys jamming the Beverly Hilton driveway, for example, are evocative of the annual shindigs that Michael Milken put on for his Drexel Burnham Lambert clients in the go-go 1980s. Yet there’s a consensus emerging even among this elite demimonde that the rising disparity between the rich and the rest is a problem in need of attention. They disagree, however, on the solutions.
from Chrystia Freeland:
We know now that trickle-down economics doesn't really work – the past decade in the United States has seen incomes at the very top soar, while the earnings of the middle class stagnated or declined. But a growing body of academic research is suggesting that this benign force’s wicked stepsister, a phenomenon two economists have dubbed ‘‘trickle-down consumption,’’ is having a powerful impact on the economy and politics of the United States.
The idea is that income inequality has a significant impact on the 99 percent: It drives the rest of us to consume more, whether we can afford to or not.