I wish all Americans could have seen firsthand the amazing crowd at the Occupy Oakland general strike Nov. 2. Contrary to media stereotypes, this was America — young, old, professional, working-class, black, white, Latino, Asian, gay, straight, lawyers, Ph.D.s, people who barely made it through high school, you name it — and they came for a purpose.
These Occupy protests really have come to embody the 99 percent for whom they speak. This group is us. It looks like America, while the wealthy and powerful 1 percent doesn’t.
And we know what we want: a society that lives up to its promise of equal opportunity and fair treatment for all.
So how do we get there? Here are a few places to start:
A fair tax system: A study we did over the summer at The Greenlining Institute found that America’s wealthiest corporations avoid some $60 billion a year in taxes by hiding profits overseas. This nonsense must end.
And as Warren Buffett has so eloquently said, let’s end the insane system that lets millionaires and billionaires pay less of their income in taxes than their secretaries. We can begin by taxing capital gains at the same rate as wages and salaries. Why should someone who makes their income by moving money around pay a lower tax rate than someone who builds things, teaches our kids or puts out fires?
Bail out the 99 percent: It’s time to rescue the real America. Reduce the principal on underwater loans, establish a system of credit repair for good people who were caught in bad circumstances and forgive student loans so that our young people don’t start life already crushed by debt.
Stop blaming the victims, and start giving them a voice: When even people who should know better, like New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, spout nonsense about the economic meltdown being caused by loans to poor people made under government pressure, we have a problem. It’s well documented that predatory practices and inadequate regulation tanked the economy, not responsible lending to low-income Americans. The solution to our economic problems lies with the 99 percent who were victims, not the elites who collected multimillion-dollar bonuses selling dubious financial instruments.
Regulate Wall Street. Really: The best thing to come out of the meltdown was the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a desperately needed “cop on the beat.” But Congress and President Obama should think beyond just this bureau and look at systemic reforms like reinstating the Glass-Steagall Act, which kept banks separate from investment houses and insurance companies.
Ultimately, this is about fairness, something that used to be a fundamental American value. It must be so again.
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