Practical solutions and a Comprehensive vision for America

Occupy Movement, Middle class and the American Dream

Contributed by Henckel Miranda None
February 06, 2012
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Part of the Cluster:

#OccupyThought

Practical solutions and a Comprehensive vision for America

 

Part A: Human Need

  • Its very important to reduce poverty

Part B: Homelessness & Poverty Symptom of a larger problem

  • Making the case for infrastructure spending and investment in public transportation. Use persuasive information from Transportation for America (T4 America) to make my case.

Part C: Economy: Taxes, Green Technology and Innovation

  • Fair taxes that lessens the burden on the poor and middle class
  • Power of green technology to transform our country for the better.
  • Looking at our economy from a different angle

Part D: Rising Cost of Higher Education

  • Colleges must reduce operating cost and take advantage of a wide range of technology to reach students

Part E: Perfect Storm

  • How the threat to the middle class, dismal economic outlook and policy created the perfect   storm for the Occupy movement and the 99 % group to threaten the establishment?

Part F: Leadership? What Leadership?

  • How lack of political leadership is compounding current problems

 

In examining the issue of homelessness and poverty we cant overlook the current state of the economy and how best to provide access to economic opportunity  for those living in poverty and near poverty. A strong economy depends on an educated workforce. As a result, we must provide a good education at the elementary and high school level plus make higher education affordable. There has to be an increase in affordable green technology homes. There also has to be a greater understanding of making affordable homes in a way that promotes a healthy community. The current income gap demands action; we have to create a more balanced society but that will depend on political leadership.

 

Part A. Reducing the rate of Homelessness and Poverty is important

A safe home, sufficient healthcare and ample food are three of the most fundamental needs for a human being. The rising rate of poverty is the biggest challenge for this nation. The current economic challenge has compounded the matter. According to the U.S Census 42, 868,163 Americans lived below the poverty level in 2009 by 2010 it was 46, 215,956. In Florida the percentage of those living below poverty was 16.0 or more according to the U.S Census. In Washington State it was between 13.0 and 15.9. The rate of poverty and the struggle to live above it has lead to some changes in the way Americans live. According to the NY Times “Four million additional Americans found themselves in poverty in 2009, with the total reaching 44 million or one in seven residents. Millions more were surviving only because of expanded unemployment insurance and other assistance “.  The author of this article from the NY Times goes on to say that one way Americans are changing their life’s in light of the economic downturn is to share homes with siblings, parents and even non relatives. Included in the trend of multifamily households is James Davis. According to the NY Times Mr. Davis, “Lost his job as a package handler for Fed Ex in February 2009. As he ran out of money, he and his 2 year old daughter moved in with his mother about a year ago.” Another story is that of Danise Sanders who according to the NY Times her and” her three children have been sleeping in the living room of her mother and sisters one bedroom apartment in San Pablo Cali., for the last month, with no end in sight. They doubled up after the bank foreclosed on her landlord, forcing her to move. “Poverty with no hope to get out of it is a problem. It’s a problem because it leads to discontent and a loss of spirit. If it continues to grow in large numbers it could lead to a questioning a system that no longer works for them. Poverty grows out of lack of income mobility. Jason DeParle is the author of an article in the New York Times titled Harder for Americans to Rise from Lower Rungs.  According to the article “Benjamin Franklin did it. Henry Ford did it. And American life is built on the faith that others can do it, too: rise from humble origins to economic heights. ‘ Movin; on up,’ George Jefferson style, is not only a sitcom song but a civil religion. “However, the author goes on to say that we enjoy less income mobility than other developed nations. The statistics for income mobility shows a lack of promise for the United States.  A report by Markus Jantti an economist at a Swedish university found that 8 percent of American men at the bottom rose to the top fifth compared to 12 percent in Britain and 14 percent of Danes. In the same study Mr. Jantti found that 42 percent of Americans raised in the bottom fifth of income stayed there as adult. This was done in comparison to Denmark with 25 percent and British 30 percent. We cannot and should not accept the argument that those in poverty are there because of their own fault or any other excuse. Poverty projects a bad image of our country. It threatens economic mobility which has provided hope for many and is part of the American Dream. There is a high monetary cost to this national tragedy in terms of real money and spirit. As a result, we have to get serious about this issue. Using different tools we can significantly reduce poverty and homelessness or at the very lease provide an opportunity for people to keep their homes.

Executive Director of Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness recently state that:” Housing people is more cost-effective, and brings us more immediately to good outcomes for those families and individuals, than building more shelter."  The question is how long will it continue and how much will it really save over time. There is also the question of maintaining the new homes up to date. Those that assist homeless individuals must make sure that families or individuals are provided with support once in housing. My fear with housing first is that a rush in placing homeless individuals in housing will make the matter worst. The Institute for Children. Poverty and Homelessness was critical of NYC aggressive re-housing saying that “Certainly many families move on to permanent housing with success, but an increasing percentage have not and cannot. They lack the self-sufficiency skills such as work experience and education to obtain, let alone maintain gainful employment “. Those families or individual who lack certain self sufficiency skills should get the help so that permanent housing can be possible. Ultimately every person and family has the right to life in a secure and permanent home. Although I don’t think shelters are long term solutions they still need to be maintained. Many Americans are having difficulty hanging on because their wage is less than the cost of maintaining a home. This reality brings me to the next question, how to build and keep housing affordable around the country and in particular Massachusetts where I reside.

The Image above is courtesy of Geeknizer.com

 

When constructing a home everything from land to material needs to be affordable in order to pass on the savings to the consumer. I believe that building green will save a lot of money in construction and upkeep. Government at the federal and state level should create a way for organizations like Build It Green to construct more green homes with the help of private and public professionals. There has to be an emphasis on construction technology to build for efficient homes with less costly materials. In the Bob Vila website it’s stated that:” An experienced builder can help the homebuyer keeps costs down through careful design and material selection. This process is called "value-engineering" and, as a buyer, it is in your best interest to find a builder who thoroughly understands it. But while the building industry certainly Benefits from innovations in materials and methods, the independent builder is generally not able to have much of an impact on overall housing affordability”.  I think that community land trust groups are an essential part of addressing the homelessness issue. Furthermore, the tax incentive to buy homes should be extended. There should be careful planning in how architectural design will revitalize a community. The idea that design plays an important role in developing a sense of stewardship for the community is reflected by an article written in a NY Newspaper on the Housing Partnership Network website by Justine Davidson “If ever architecture needed a shot of altruism, it does now, The boom seduced many excellent architects into turning out ever- pricier baubles and feats of vertiginous engineering, but the world requires modest space that, in theory meticulous simplicity, can lend difficult lives a little more grace. “ There are many examples of designs that helped lend grace to those with difficult lives. An architect named Anna Heringer went to Bangladesh and found a way to improve on an ancient technique to build village schools. In the Bronx construction has begun on Via Verde which is an affordable green housing complex. Andres Lepik is a curator at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) he stated that “Design can help people take ownership of the spaces that exist to serve them. Sure, the homeless can find refuge in miserable shelters, and children can learn to read in dingy cinderblock boxes. But good architects can give people paces they want to go – places where they can belong “

 

Image above is courtesy of www.co.marin.ca.us/…/comdev/ADVANCE/index.cfm

 

I believe that when housing and community planning are done in a smart way everyone benefits. On Thursday June 24th, 2010 there was a report published on the Eastsider about a housing developer who wants to construct a big project in a low income neighborhood. Although it will provide housing for a lot of low income families there are those who were worried about density. Another criticism is there won’t be any architectural creativity to inspire care for the buildings or green space. For developers construction within cities prevents sprawl and will stop exurban growth. A good start for development is establishing necessary services around them such as public transportation, supermarkets and health services. Smart housing must go hand in hand with smart development.  In order to develop in a smart and sustainable way there was to be political will, data to allocate resources appropriately along and long term planning.

Part B: It’s the Economy Silly

A quality tax reform will have the effect of lessening the tax burden on the and middle class while spurring innovation in key areas of our economy for long term growth and stability such as green technology.

I don’t think that lowering corporate tax is a good idea nor do I believe there should be an exaggerated tax increase. When talk about tax reform there is typically an allusion to making it simple. But we need to look the issue of tax reform differently. At a time when the United States is facing fierce competition for the global markets we should be focusing on how tax reform will spur innovation. According to Robert D. Atkinsons who is the author of Effective Corporate Tax Reform in the Global Innovation Economy the definition of innovation economics goes as following “The overarching goal of economic policy generally, and tax policy specifically, is not to facilitate the efficient allocation of scarce goods and services by reducing distortions, but rather to spur the effective creation of new goods and services and increase productivity through robust innovation policies. “ One of the recommendations written by Robert D. Akins is to broaden the credit for collaborative energy related research to any area of collaborative research and to expand the credit. Besides sharing the findings of the research companies are more likely to collaborate on this matter as it exposes them to less of a lost. We need a tax system that is fare and spurs innovation. Mr.Atkinson rightfully so points out to the importance of making sure American workers get the skills needed to compete in the modern globalized worlds. The current regressive tax system has led to a selected few to pay little to no taxes at the expense of the majority. The website MotherJones.com posted several highly indicative charts showing the gap in income and who pays what in taxes:

The image above is courtesy of Motherjones.com

 From this graph you can see the top one-hundredth of one percent make an average of $27 million per household. The average income for the bottom 90 percent of us is $31,244. The amount of income for the wealthy after taxes is untouched but for the rest the story is different as indicated by data provided by MotherJones.com. The following chart indicates the distribution of economic control:

The image above is courtesy of MotherJones.com

it’s clear that that the top earners don’t need more money at the expense of the rest of us. Green building is an area with a lot of potential for entrepreneurship

Nathan Brown is the author of Three Reasons Why Green Building Could Jump start the Economy. According to Mr.Brown“It’s no secret that the construction market has been in a slump for the past two years. Home values are at an all time low as well. In fact, the Zillow Home Value Index has now fallen 26 % in five years which is a larger decline than that during the great depression. “As suggested by Mr.Brown one of reasons behind why green building could jumpstart the economy is that non residential building market is estimated to reach about $145 billion in new construction by 2015. It’s understandable that non residential buildings will go green as it saves money and it’s a great public relations move. Most importantly this could provide the boost need in the construction market which could leak to residential housing. It will also spur innovation in construction that could create savings in materials. The second reason is a rise in the use of energy management market. According to Mr. Brown “This type of technology that detects environmental factors and building characteristics in order to automatically regulate energy usage. Otherwise known as ‘smart buildings’ this technology will, for example, adjust thermostats and turn off lights during low occupancy hours.” A third reason is an in increase in incentives which in the view of Mr. Brown has made it more affordable for developers and homeowners.  I think incentives have indeed gotten better but more needs to be done. One of the things I have been advocating in relation to affordable housing is exploring the materials for housing construction. Ben  Sandzer Bell  is the creator of CO2Bambu and according to Green America his mission behind this company is to create “ An eco-conscious enterprise that can provide lasting housing and economic change”. In the Green Economy article it’s explained how Mr. Bell had to try hard to convince farmers not to throw away the bamboo. The work he is doing in Nicaragua is really amazing. The great thing about this business is that farmers are trained to grow and collect the bamboo. In turn jobs are created and it leads to a better care for the environment. Other benefits are that CO2Bambu only buys from bamboo seeds from Nicaraguans trained in seed collection and maintenance and donates seeds to local farmers that grow seedlings and transplant bamboo in reforestation projects of which 60,000 plants have been planted in 2.5 years. The reforestation re-establishes riverbeds and other forested areas which helps to improve the quality of water, retains the soil and natural habitat. At the rate the world population is going we can’t sustain the current economic model where value is simply judge by how much we have without giving second thoughts to the possibility of running out of sources. We are digging our own grave unless we find a solution and find it fast. With this in mind by marrying the Innovation economic theory and the great promise of a green economy I have come up with the term Greenconomics. Sustainable and affordable energy could free up a substantial amount of money for low income and middle class families which will allow them to meet other needs. It will also cut pollution in our air and water which will lower health related problems. Green economy has the power to lower the cost of building new homes by lowering the cost of materials. For those caught in natural disaster it will make rebuilding easier. With affordable sustainable energy and

other goods people could have more capital to invest and buy things. With stable and sustainable demand there could be long term growth. Another possible effect is that it could finally lead to greater income equality. In the long run we could have a larger and more stable middle class.

 

 Cities across the nation have made significant progress in living green. According to sustainlane.com Portland, Oregon was ranked the greenest city in the country.  The image above is courtesy of SustainLane: The 2008 US City Rankings

New York Citywas ranked 5th in the 2008 listing of the greenest city. Green America offers some insightful thoughts on the Green economy. One of the issues we face in this country is dependence and some would say addiction to oil. Green energy as well pointed out by Green America offers a chance to end dependence on oil while living in a clean environment. Renewable energy has the potential to reduce the cost of energy consumption.  With a reduction in cost for energy consumption it will free other resources and allow people to live better life’s. According to a blog or article on GreenAmerica.com written in 2009 “ A crucial starting place to rejuvenate our economy is to focus on energy. Its time to call on the superheroes of the green energy revolution- energy efficiency, solar and wind power, and plug in hybrids and out their synergies to work in rapid, large scale deployment. This is a powerful way to jumpstart the economy, spur job creation ( with jobs that can’t be outsourced), declare energy independence, and claim victory over the climate crisis.” The most interesting idea that is worth exploring is a clean energy victory bond. This could be a way to get the public behind a movement in an effective way. Green America stated that “Clean energy victory bonds. Modeled after victory bonds in WWII, Americans would buy these bonds from the federal government to invest in large scale deployment of green energy projects, with particular emphasis in low income communities hardest hit by the broken economy. These would be long term bonds paying an annual interest rate, based in part on the energy and energy savings that the bonds generate.” Consumers have an important role to play in creating a green economy. By choosing to buy green it creates a demand for green technology. Cities and states also play an important role in strengthening the green economy. What we are missing in this country is a clear long term plan not only for energy but to create a green sustainable nation. Innovation economic theory could provide a solid foundation for a green economy.

I was first introduced to the idea of Innovation economics by Robert D. Atkinson and David B. Audretsch who are writers of the article Innovation Economics as an Alternative to Neoclassical Economics. Innovation Economics is a new economic doctrine which opposes both the conservative and liberal neoclassical economic theories. According to the article, the new realities of a global, knowledge based economy in the 21st century require a “New approach to economic policy based more on smart support for the building blocks of innovation and entrepreneurship and less on capital accumulation, budget surpluses, or social spending. Without an economic theory and doctrine that match the new realities it will be very hard policymakers to take the steps needed to foster economic growth. “Mr. Audretsch goes on to say that Innovation theory reformulates conventional model of economic augmentation so that knowledge, technology, entrepreneurship, and innovation are situated at the center of the model rather than seen as sovereign forces fundamentally impervious by the policy. The two primary tenants of this new economic hypothesis according to Mr. Audretsch are that it’s of outmost importance for economic policy architects to set a goal of higher productivity and greater innovation. The second is that markets relying on price indication alone will not always be successful as smart public private partnerships in spurring higher productivity and greater innovation. Before Mr. Audretsch makes his case that Innovation Economics is the wave of the future he explains principles of the Neoclassical Economic dogma. The first principle is that accumulation of capital drives economic growth. The second principle is that economic growth is realized by maximizing allocative efficiency. Third is a focus on market and prices; in other words “Allocative efficiencies revolves around the responsiveness of economic agents- firms and consumers to price signals. Consequently, neoclassical economists tend to rely on mathematical models rather than on actual studies of how businesses, industries and national economies work. And their emphasis is more on factors like interest rates, currency values, inflation, and other monetary factors than on factors like the rate by which firms are developing and adopting new technologies or the effect of culture on entrepreneurship. “Fourth is that the economy tends to equilibrium. Such event occurs when“A market price is established through competition such that the amount of goods or services south by buyers is equal to the amount of goods or services produced by sellers. Because the economy tends toward equilibrium in the neoclassical view, the main task of economic policy is simply to reduce artificial barriers and impediments to market equilibrium, particularly by

 

ensuring that prices are aligned with costs. “The final one is that individuals and firms are rational maximizers and act in response to motivation. Indeed as well noted by Mr. Audretsch both sides of the neoclassical economic doctrine hold some truths; “Markets are important, especially at the macroeconomic level (e.g., markets for electricity, for gasoline, for “widgets” generally). Helping to ensure that prices usually match cots can be important to promoting allocative efficiency, especially when there are little or no compensating benefits to productivity or innovation.” The author goes on to say that tax rates at too high a level can limit enticements. Budget deficits at too high a level can limit capital accessibility. Despite these ‘truths’ there are some flaws which were pointed by Mr. Audretsch. Two of the most significant are that the economy progressively more doesn’t tend to reach equilibrium. As rightfully pointed out by Mr. Audretsch it’s hard to reach equilibrium in the economy when technology is changing at a dizzying paste. For example it did not take long for the cassette player to be replaced by the CD player and eventually the IPod which created the iTunes store and spurred innovation in how music is marketed and sold. It did not take long for us to move from a desktop computer to a laptop and now the tablets. The tablets spurred other companies to make their own products and have increase the accessibility of online shoppers to products without doing much work. The other flaw is believing that individuals and firms are balanced actors. This assumption was challenged by Mr. Audretsch author of The Origin of Wealth, where he explained that “Peoples decisions are affected by a host of ‘problems’, including framing biases, difficulties judging risks, superstitious reasoning, and other ‘human; biases. Often, for example, people tend to overestimate the likelihood of low probability events. Finally, research on the process of organizational change and innovation increasingly shows that the process is path depend, locationally specific, and institutionally shaped. New discoveries in the realms of behavioral economics and complexity theory such as these are calling into question the ‘Newtonian’ simplicity of the neoclassical worldviews. “Its not as simple as saying we need to innovate.

The question we need to be asking ourselves is where we want to be ten, twenty, forty years from now as a nation. What type of economy and society do we want to have? Before innovation takes place we need long planning and ability to create the right atmosphere. The right atmosphere is created by making education and job training a priority. A society that is knowledgeable is creative, vibrant and innovative

Part C:  Education

Higher education is important to any country that wants to innovate. The rising cost of American higher education could put it out of reach for many students. As a result, higher education institutions must do more to lower the cost of education in partnership with the government for continual sustainable support of higher education. Education is not the magic cure for poverty but it does provide a strong base. We must do better in high school completion rate, improve the curriculum and improve the learning of students at the higher education level; this is referred to as pre market by Mr. Adkinson. A well educated workforce will attract companies to settle in the United States and spur growth. Jared Bernstein is the author of Is Education the Cure for Poverty. In his report he indicated the importance of combining general education with training specific to labor market in the area.

Dan Lips from The Heritage Foundation wrote an article in 2010 called Ways to Make Higher Education More Affordable. In the article Mr. Lips proposed many ideas on how to make college affordable. The author is critical of the president’s proposal that would cap student loan payments of the borrowers discretionary spending at 10 %. For borrowers whose income is 150 percent of the poverty line none of their income will have to go towards payment of student loans. While it’s true that some students will take out more money than they could ever pay back I don’t think it tells the whole story. For the majority of students who are of the responsible king even if they take out a modest loan they will have a hard time paying it back. So I support the president’s plan but will agree with Mr. Lips in that it doesn’t address the root of the problem. The root of the problem is the cost of college going up faster than inflation. The graph below is an estimate by Wells Fargo indicating the rising cost of higher education.

 The image and data above is courtesy of Wells Fargo

The focus should be how to lower the overall cost of college while keeping subsidies at a modest level. One idea to lower the cost of college offered by the author is embracing the idea of online learning. According to Mr.Lips “Rather than continuing to expand federal subsidies for college students  and student  loan borrowers, policymakers and private sector should focus on strategies to lower college costs. A promising strategy is to strengthen competition between higher education providers by harnessing the power of technology and online learning. This is already happening in k-12 education. Increasingly, states and school districts are using technology or online learning to improve the delivery and efficiency of elementary and secondary education. “I think that harnessing the power of technology could potentially lower the cost of higher education and attract more students to universities offering online options. MIT Opencourseware (OCW) is perhaps the best example of how free online course material can help students learn concepts and therefore save money.

 According to MIT’s open courseware website the school published 50 free courses in 2002. A year later it was 500 courses and the Chinese translation was added. By 2009 1950 courses were published and 225 mirror sites were established around the world. For example, according to the OCW stories section Kunle Adejumo is finishing his fourth year of engineering studies at Ahmadu Bello University located in Zaria, Nigeria. The instability of the country has added more time to Kunle’s studies. The university has limited internet access. Luckily Kunle is able to use OCW using his home computer.  He has used the lectures at OCW to better understand the material being taught by his professors. Nevertheless, despite the promise of online learning we should make sure that programs offered online are interactive and offer the same deep learning offered in a regular classroom. Along with online learning Mr. Lips proposed the idea of credit by examination programs and goes to say that “These programs, similar to Advanced Placement and the College-Level Examination Program, allow students to earn college credit by studying and completing an exam remotely. Through these types of programs, a student can earn college credit through self-study at a fraction of the cost of a traditional college course”.  Higher education institutions must look for ways to lower operating cost.

The Center for College Affordability and Productivity (CCAP) released a research paper titled 25 Ways to Reduce the Cost of College. In the report CCAP advocated moving more classes online as a way to reduce the cost of college. They provided many compelling reasons why more courses should be moved online. One of those reasons was” The savings that can occur from reduced commuting and room and board cost when students can’t take courses from their home”. The biggest reason why CCAP advocated for more classes to be moved online is that online classes will decrease the physical space needed to hold classes and offices thus reducing the operational cost in maintaining these services. It will also reduce the cost for universities to update their buildings. I think that CCAP is right in saying that more classes should be moved online. Online classes are convenient and could safe students a lot of money. Technology makes it easy to communicate with one another and allows us to do more with less higher education will have to adjust. Embracing online education could reduce the cost of higher education and lead to students having less student debt. In turn when they leave college options for what to do next won’t be so limited. As a result, there could be an explosion of entrepreneurship thus helping the economy. As previously stated online course hold great promise but I would approach it carefully. We all have different learning styles and online education might not work for everyone. Universities need to continued investment in controlling operating cost and increased efficiency. NAICU  or the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities is going in the right direction by advocating implementing environmentally friendly systems, increasing partnership efforts, exploring non tuition revenue streams. Other ideas are outsource services, make more efficient administration, assimilate information technology and provide incentives to employees to cut cost. According to Tamar Lewin from the NY Times, “Overall, the report found, published college tuition and fees increased 439 percent from 1982 to 2007 while median family income rose 147 percent. Student borrowing has more than doubled in the last decade, and students from lower-income families, on average, get smaller grants from the colleges they attend than students from more affluent families “ The crushing debt of students who come from low to middle income families is a big obstacle as they try to establish their careers.

Part D: Perfect Storm

In order to have long term prosperity in this country the middle class must be protected. There are still some who falsely believe in the trickle down economics. Believe income mobility and the American dream forms an important part of the American story.

 The situation with Occupy Wall Street movement, also known as ‘Occupy’ is the culmination of bad government policies that has widened the wealth gap. It’s the middle class that provides stability for our economy. Those that are wealthy are unlikely to invest and spend money if there’s no demand. Trickle down economic theory makes no sense because it doesn’t provide a good foundation. A shrunken middle class could lead to instability as it creates a feeling of hopelessness. The feeling of hopelessness is created by seeing a small population accumulate and hold on to mass wealth while the majorities are struggling or in poverty. There is an unfortunate assumption by politicians that middle class is replaceable or can be taken for granted. A strong middle class that feels like its status is preserved creates optimism. Optimism leads to innovation and risk taking. It’s that risk taking that leads to entrepreneurship and growth in our economy a stable middle class leads to good governance. The middle class gives low income peoples something to aspire to and keeps the wealthy in check.  David Madland is the author of Growth and the Middle Class First Principles: Arguing the Economy from the Democracy Journal where he stated that “The wealthy in unequal societies simply do not consume enough to drive a modern economy. The wealthy save more than the middle class and they consume less. This means that when incomes are stagnant or declining for most people, there isn’t enough demand in the economy to encourage productive investment-unless this demand is debt fueled. But debt driven consumption can’t last forever: eventually credit stops flowing –often during an economic crash exacerbated by high levels of consumer debt. And it can take years to recover from deep recession, slowing growth for long periods. “

In the article written by Mr.Madland there is evidence established by Political Scientist Frederick Solt’s 2008 study that  inequality from low to high tends to reduce political discussion by percentage 12 points and voting by 13. This study makes sense because it’s the middle class that balances everything and without that balance power disproportionally shifts to another. As a result, we should be trying to expand the middle class. Mr. Madland stated that “In a 2007 article in The Review of Economics and Statistics. Economist Alberto Chong and Mark Gradstein developed a theoretical model explaining the relationship between inequality and governance and then empirically tested it, finding that economic inequality has a harmful effect on bureaucratic quality, government stability, and democratic accountability. Moreover, actual corruption in government becomes much more common without a strong middle class. In short, a weak middle class hollows out governing practices and institutions, so that the bureaucracy no longer delivers for its citizens. “

If you haven’t gone to the Occupy Wall Street website you should. Once you’re in the website a person should look at the declaration made by the movement. It’s stated on the Occupy website that “As we gather together in solidarity to express a feeling of mass injustice, we must not lose sight of what brought us together. We write so that all people who feel wronged by the corporate forces of the world can know that we are your allies. As one people, united, we acknowledge the reality: that the future of the human race requires the cooperation of its members; that our system must protect our rights, and upon corruption of that system, it is up to the individuals to protect their own rights, and those of their neighbors; that a democratic government derives its just power from the people, but corporations do not seek consent to extract wealth from the people and the Earth; and that no true democracy is attainable when the process is determined by economic power. We come to you at a time when corporations, which place profit over people, self-interest over justice and oppression over equality, run our governments. We have peaceably assembled here, as is our right, to let these facts be known”. To this end the movement has so far answered to one of its numerous criticisms. I will be honest and say that I did not think the movement was going to last as long as it has. The danger of the movement loosing steam is still present as there is no leader and thus ‘Occupy’ movements in different places don’t act as one. At the same time those

seemed to be its strengths. The fact that each group acts autonomous means that adaptability to prevent local authorities from ending the movement is strengthened. It also makes it difficult to classify an entire group based on the action of its’ leaders’. The current economic depression continues to fuel the movement. The movement has found some ingenious ways of activism. The most serious threat to this movement is patience.

            This brings me to an article I found online by Lawrence Meyers who wrote the article How the Occupy Movement Will End. In his article he wrote that “Eventually the police will move in. Protesters will get hurt of their own accord. There will be recrimination and the strong leaders will dismiss them, reminding everyone that they showed extraordinary patience and waited until something truly had to be done. The MSM will crow and scream over fascist mayoral regimes, and eventually the whole thing will be forgotten well in advance of the election.”  We are in a deep economic funk, the wealth gap is widening, and students are getting crushed by debt. The level of poverty has increased and corporate influencing our government has become ever present. Bank regulations are being relaxed to the detriment of the economy. For the rich their taxes are being lowered while the middle class and those below are burden with taxes. So no it will not end with people being dislodged from a park. Ideas cannot be arrested fined or forcibly moved. The American dream and income Mobility are intertwine

The Image above is courtesy of Indian Creek Ithaca

The American dream has different meanings and some would say that it doesn’t exist. In fact according to an article on HowStuff works.com author and social critic George Carlin once famously said “It’s called the American dream because you have to be asleep to believe it.” Before we explore the American dream I would like to trace its origin. According to Patrick Kiger author of How the American Dream Works, “Historian James Truslow Adams often receives credit for first popularizing the idea of the American dream. In his 1931 book The Epic of America, Adams described ‘that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement “Another individual that made reference to the American dream was John Winthrop in which he alluded to a believe that everyone would have an opportunity to prosper so long as they worked together and follow the biblical traditions. Mr.Kiger stated in his article that gradually, that dream of opportunity evolved in colonist’s minds into a God- given right. As rightfully stated by Mr. Kiger to some the American dream means believing that anyone who lives in this country even the most poor can become wealthy. To me the American dream is getting an affordable education, decent and stable job along with having a good retirement. Right now it seems that all those things are being threatened. As previously stated for some the dream never existed. The vast majority if Americans are having difficulty hanging on to that dream. 

John A. Quelch a professor at Harvard Business School stated on his article on the American dream that “Our political leaders are guilty of defining the American dream in material terms, in encouraging Americans to live beyond their means in its pursuit, and then putting in place policies that enable them to do so”. According to John Quelch both parties are to blame for selling out the American Dream to over spending. Mr. Quelch blames the Right wing politicians for touting lower taxes in trusting that more money in citizen’s pocket will lead to spending. The result of this policy is a greater budget deficit. For the left wing Mr. Quelch blames them for “Framing the American dream in material terms. They claim the dream is increasingly out of reach of middle class American, pointing to $2000 decline in median family income over the past eight years. On this basis, they justify policies to redistribute wealth so that we can cross subsidize each other’s dreams “

The American dream has led this nation to have great confidence in itself. This in turn has led to extraordinary accomplishments. As a result,  we should not loose sight of such dream. We need to revive the dream of affordable higher education and quality education from elementary to high school, good paying jobs and good retirement. The survival of such dreams depends on how well we weather the nations gloom. The Occupy movement has had great success in putting the spotlight on ideals that encompasses the American dream such as education, jobs, affordable healthcare and other issues. Is it time for a third party in congress?

The strength of the Occupy movement is supposing that the system is working against them and is unfair. It comes from a notion that a few at the top are controlling the majority of wealth at the expense of the poor and the middle class. Despite much strength in the movement it will be difficult to survive unless an effective third party is formed. A portion of the reason why we are in such an economic hardship is because of political failure. Democrats and Republicans are the two major political parties but there are other lesser know ones. The list and descriptions of the political parties I am about to mention were provided by politics1.com /parties.

According to the website the party was founded by a former Nixon administration official and one time Conservative Coalition chair Howard Philips in 1992. The website also states that some of the parties believe are strong pro life, anti gun control, anti tax, anti immigration and trade protectionist. Another party mentioned by the website is the Green Party of the United States. The Green party is described as an affiliate of the environmentalist European Greens Movement. A big third party is the Libertarian Party which for many years has been led by the current Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul. The party was founded in 1971. The website politics1.com /parties describe them as centrist who believe in total individual and economic freedom. Many of the Libertarian views are shared by the Republican Party. So the big three third parties are the Constitution, Green and Libertarian Party. The next third parties that I will be describing are smaller ones.

            The America First Party (AFP) was founded in 2002. According to politics1.com /parties AFP“Vows to protect our people and our sovereignty….promote economic growth and independence… encourage the traditional values of faith, family and responsibility…. Ensure equality before the law in protecting those rights granted by the creator and to clean up our corrupted political system”. The American Party is described by the website as a conservative, Christian party. They advocate for things like an end to farm price supports/subsidies, privatization of the US Postal Services, opposes federal involvement in education , supports abolition of the EPA, supports the repeal of NAFTA, believes that federal government has no place in education, opposes minimum wage, and land use zoning regulations. The American Independent Party (AIP) was founded by Governor George C Wallace and was a nominated by the party for President in 1968. Mr. Wallace ran on an anti Washington platform, anti racial integration and anti communist platform. Running on these topics Mr. Wallace was able to win nearly 1.1 million votes and 5 southern states. The America’s Party (AP) was created by Alan Keyes. The party believes in pro life without exception, is anti gay rights, pro gun rights, believes in the concept of peace through strength, anti tax and opposes any programs that aren’t clearly authorized by the constitution. The Boston Tea Party supports reducing the size, extent and authority of government at all levels and on all matters, and is in opposition of increasing the size, scope and power of government at any level, for any reason. The Communist Party USA (CPUSA) calls for free universal health care, elimination of the federal income tax on people earning less than $60,000 a year, free college education, big cuts in military spending, public works programs, elimination of corporate monopolies. CPUSA also wants the public ownership of energy and other basic industries as well as huge tax hikes for corporate and the wealthy.

One of the most interesting third parties I have come across is the Modern Whig Party (MWP). In case your memory is short the historical Whig Party lasted from 1833 to 1856. The Modern Whig Party was launched in 2008. The party stands for fiscal accountability, strong national security and bold social development. The Working families Party (WFP) is an established third party. It was founded in 1998 by a coalition of labor unions. For many years it operated exclusively in NY but by 2006-08 the group had expanded to other states. WFP stands for the advancement of labor union in the political arena and has focused on liberal economy and employment issues. I mentioned these groups because it’s important to be politically active. Unless the Democrat and Republican get more competition by a third party little will change; both parties have monopolized the political arena. The discontent towards both parties has reached such height that if a third party is able to motivate and mobilize the American people both parties would be in trouble.

            According to an article on the Daily News Politics section “The Republican Party and Party seemed to be a natural political pairing. But what may have seemed like another politically beneficial alliance-Democrats and Occupy Wall Street-hasn’t happened. Although both Democrats and Occupy protesters have similar views on economic inequality and corporate responsibility, each holds at each other arms length. “It would make sense to do so for the Occupy Movement as it might alienate participants that are fed up with the two party system. It could also limit the movement’s ability to morph itself. James made a great point in his article in the online magazine “In These Times” in which he stated that “The question is: How can this movement be sustained? Part of the answer lies in the willingness of traditional progressive organizations-labor, environmental, women’s, civil, human , gay and disability rights movements and faith based organizations to coalesce around it, to turn people out and to provide resources

.The current approval rating for congressman is very low and there is general dissatisfaction with both parties so the Occupy movement is in a good position to garnish political support. In spite of having legitimate reasons to protest the movement risks being burned out by continuous protest without results. This becomes a realistic possibility because even though many agree with the movement there is still a significant amount of people that don’t think anything will change. Most recently a group of people from the Occupy Wall Street movement have created the Demands Working Group which listed a list of solutions to help this country get on the right path. At the same time it has announced a national convention to be held in Philadelphia on July 4, 2012. According to Tyler Kinkade from the Huffington Post the plan includes electing delegates by direct vote.  It will be one male and female per each of the 435 congressional districts. The 870 delegates would then create a list of grievances.

Part E: Leadership? What leadership?

Fault for failure to get this country moving in the right direction falls on both parties. A third party in congress could force both parties to get along. The whole situation with raising the debt ceiling and failure of the super committee magnifies the current toxic political climate. The Super Committee was creating as a compromise during the debt ceiling debate. The Super Committee was made up of six Democrats and six Republicans from both chambers. Their job was come up with a bill that cuts at least $ 1.5 trillion by Thanksgiving, entitlement programs and others will automatically be slashed. Considering that both parties were going to suffer cuts in some programs they deem ‘sacred’ I was very optimistic. The debt ceiling debate was bad and it didn’t project a good image of the United States to the outside word.  Failure of the super Committee should not be taken lightly and it has become a national tragedy. This group of twelve members had a chance to do big things; something that politicians on both sides were afraid to do. We cannot and should not accept the concept that we can wait until the 11th hour to get things done. Heather Boushey who is a senior economist at the Center for American progress said it best when stating that the super committee had within its power the capacity to progress our economy. They could have taken steps to encourage growth and to support job creation which would, in turn, help improve our long term budget picture. The failure of the super committee highlights politician’s inability to work together. The countries debt is going up and up and our credit rating has suffered. The clear solution to shrinking our debt is raising taxes, reducing spending and moderate budget cuts. However, when it comes to cutting budget along with raising taxes, poor and middle class should not carry the burden. It is not fair could stunt significant growth in the long run. What we are missing are politicians willing to make the hard decisions and ready to cross the traditional political stance to get things done. The time for political squabbles is not now and with all of the serious facing this nation congress has failed to show any urgency.

Act of urgency on the part of Congress will not take place until you the people demand action. For now politicians are betting on complacency on the part of the American people. They are betting that we will sit home and watch the circus that is happening in Congress but we can no longer afford to be spectators. You have heard this before but we are at a crossroads. With China and other rising powers closing in on us we will either define the future or we can let others define it for us. If you don’t care about what goes in than sit down and watch but remember that by the time you decide to force politicians to act like grown ups, compromise and do what is right for this country it might be to late. The stupidity and immaturity of this zero sum game in Washington must stop. It must because while they fight and squabble we the people who elected them to govern are drowning.  The problems in this country are many what’s missing are practical solutions and a comprehensive vision for America


  

Conclusion

Our economic state is in a depressive condition the middle class is being squeeze and the American dream which has helped us accomplish remarkable things is being threatened. I believe that in order to jumpstart the economy we need serious infrastructure spending. We must reform out tax system to lessen the burden on the poor and middle class. An effective tax system could divert sources to key sectors of our economy that leads to stable long term growth and innovation. Something must be done to slow the rising cost of higher education. If it continues at the current rate it will be out of touch for many Americans. The dwindling of our middle class poses a threat to the image we project to the world and our civic society. At the same time the rising rate of poverty, homelessness and lack of income mobility is making it harder for Americans to achieve the American dream.  If we are still the country of opportunity than let’s show it; let’s show it by narrowing the income gap and supporting the middle class while creating economic opportunities for low income families. While government can not do everything it can provide the right environment for economic prosperity and other things that help its citizenry. We have a congress that has failed to lead. Rather than taking action they embarked on a zero sum tactic and political grandstanding. Ethics and efficiency of our government depends on civic participation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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