Dissecting the New Declaration of Independents

Dissecting the New Declaration of Independents

Claiming to represent the "99%", Salon.com drafted up it's own version of a demand list, in an effort to "begin to make the richest nation on the planet fair for those of us who can’t afford a congressman." That's a very loaded statement, and I'd like to dissect their demands list in a little more detail because, in my opinion, they're coming at many of these problems from the completely wrong direction. While you can read the entire thing at salon's website, I'm going to highlight specific passages from each section that I think are worth noting.

1. Debt Relief

We demand immediate relief for the 99 Percent [...]. It is not in the national interest to force the impoverished to become wage slaves to pay off insurmountable debts owned to payday lenders and hugely profitable bankers. [...] We force mere kids to mortgage their futures, then ensure that the debt follows them the rest of their lives, regardless of their living circumstances.

Notice the use of the word "wage slave". Slavery is forced servitude. No one compelled these individuals to go into debt in the first place. And while exempting student loan debt from bankruptcy was not a smart decision, who forced these kids to take on this debt? Shouldn't the students bear responsibility of living up to their obligations? If you want to complain that college is expensive, that's fine, but like most things -- look to government first.

2. A substantial jobs program

A real, direct jobs program, done in the WPA style, would rebuild our cities and towns in addition to putting thousands of people back to work.

First, we already tried a stimulus program that pushed money towards "shovel-ready projects," and as we found out, there really weren't any. Second, even if we send a whole bunch of people out to the highways to fill potholes and such, that won't do anything to address the real, substantive problems we have with our infrastructure -- namely too much congestion. We have the technology now to address these issues, but it would require we start charging people for the roads they use, which is politically difficult, to say the least.

3. A healthcare public option

Medicare is probably the single most popular government program in the country

That should come as no surprise. Why wouldn't someone support a program in which they receive more in benefits than they pay in premiums? More government has rarely, if ever, been the solution to any problem. Healthcare and health insurance are no different.

4. Reregulate Wall Street

[I]t seems painfully obvious that Wall Street deregulation undid the stabilizing effects of 1930s-era Wall Street regulation.[...] It’s hard to imagine that we wouldn’t be better off with a worldwide network of small, independent credit unions than massive financial institutions daily innovating new and more arcane methods of shifting vast sums of imaginary capital around, but in lieu of smashing the banks with brickbats why not just reinstate the rules that effectively limited their behavior for 40 years or so? Bring back Glass-Steagall. Pass the Volcker rule, too. Ban banks from trading derivatives. Limit their behavior and tax their earnings.

What "deregulation"? On the balance, government regulations have never decreased. While part of Glass-Steagall was repealed, we had the Community Reinvestment Act and Fannie and Freddie mandates which were ever-increasing throughout this time. "Massive deregulation" is a myth, plain and simple.

5. End the Global War on Terror and rein in the defense budget

If 10 years of war have weakened al-Qaida, we should draw down. If it hasn’t, we should seriously rethink our tactics. Regardless, there’s no way the world’s sole remaining superpower can justify spending more than every other country on Earth combined on its military.

I actually agree wholeheartedly with this sentiment. The "War on Terror" is both ineffective, and arguably unconstitutional. I've contended for quite some time that terrorism is simply a guise under which those in power take more power for themselves at the expense of the liberties of the citizens. When your SOP involves sacrificing your best men, it's not a very sustainable model of operations. Our actions overseas have significant blowback as they create just as many enemies, if not more, than friends. If we want to stop being targeted, we need to stop giving people reasons to hate us.

6. Repeal the Patriot Act

Speaking of expensive wastes of resources that are also in direct violation of the nation’s founding principles, let’s dismantle the expansive domestic surveillance state, hurriedly established at a panicky period of national crisis and then enshrined as permanent without a word of serious debate.

Again, another position of agreement. The militarization of our police force and the running roughshod over the Constitution is largely ignored by those on the right (and left) who like to use fear-mongering to take more power. Ben Franklin said it best: "Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."

7. Tackle climate change

We may be rapidly approaching the catastrophic point of no return when it comes to preventing major, devastating climate change. To keep warming below “dangerous levels,” one recent study says, we’d need to “reverse the rise in emissions immediately and follow through with steep reductions through the century.” Immediately — like now.

There's a great deal of fear mongering going on in that statement -- "point of no return", "dangerous levels". While I'm not discounting the existence of a changing climate (remember how it used to be called global warming?), I think we as a species overstate our impact on this planet. The Earth is far more complex than we understand. It existed before us and will likely exist long after we go the way of the dinosaurs.

8. Stop locking everyone up for everything and end the drug war

Full legalization of marijuana would lead to many fewer people being jailed for victimless crimes and immediately destroy a critical income stream for gangs and increasingly violent drug cartels. Legalizing marijuana would also give states and cities a desperately needed infusion of tax revenue. (Legalization or decriminalization of other drugs would be similarly beneficial, but a good deal more controversial.) Those who commit nonviolent drug offenses should never be sent to prisons for years. Those currently in prison for nonviolent drug offenses should be freed and rehabilitated into society.

That's 3 now. The "War on Drugs" has caused a great deal of harm to innocent people and yet has done nothing to achieve its stated goals of decreasing drug use. It has however lead to a large increase in the police state, an erosion of personal liberties and as the section noted, a perverse incentive to lock up even more people.

9. Full equality for the queer community

Gay marriage is a no-brainer — rights granted to a majority are being denied to a minority based on arguments founded solely on bigotry — and should be recognized nationwide.

We're on a role here... there is no logical reason some people should be denied privileges the state grants to other people based solely on their sexual orientation. In fact, that would appear to be a clear cut violation of the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment. But alas, social conservatives don't like the idea that gay people should get married, so they use the force of government to enforce their world view on others.

10. Fix the tax system

But it is an inescapable fact that for most of the 20th century, federal income tax rates were very high on the wealthy — very, very high, in fact — and most of that period also happened to be a time of widespread prosperity for rich and middle-class Americans alike. The experiment in slashing taxes on the rich seems to have failed everyone but the rich.

And the roll ends. While I agree that the tax system needs fixing, that's where the agreement ends. From 1932 - 1981 the top tax rate was greater than 63% and topped out at a whopping 91-92% from '50-'63. A correlation appears to exist between high tax rates and high prosperity, but as any rookie statistician will tell you, correlation does not equal causation. Think about it -- would you be willing to work for $0.10 on the dollar? Of course not, and neither would the high income earners, so in reality no one actually paid those rates because those high income earners lobbied Congress for tax loopholes in order to bring the effective tax rate down to something they considered more reasonable.

I sympathize with the initial #Occupy movement in it's railing against crony capitalism (even if they don't know that's what they're really doing), but they're really barking up the wrong tree. While there were bad agents on Wall Street, it was government that set the stage for this mess to happen. After all, the banks didn't force themselves to lower their underwriting standards to increase loans to subprime borrowers, and the banks couldn't bail themselves out. While there are some agreeable points to their "declaration", there is enough wrong that it sounds more like a group of people who don't want to take responsibility for their choices and want others to bail them out, than a real group of people who want to make legitimate change.