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It Seems Wall Street Is Occupying Us

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Posted on Nov 10, 2011
Moyan Brenn (CC-BY-ND)

By Richard Reeves

The good news of the day is that Bill Moyers is coming back to television next January. The bad news is that Coca-Cola seems to be winning its battle to fill the Grand Canyon with empty plastic bottles.

The two stories came together last week. In a speech celebrating the 40th anniversary of Ralph Nader’s Public Citizen, among the things Moyers, a credible voice of the people, had to say to the Nader group were these:

“Why New York’s Zuccotti Park is filled with people is no mystery. Reporters keep scratching their heads and asking: ‘Why are you here?’ But it’s clear they are occupying Wall Street because Wall Street has occupied the country. And that’s why in public places across the country workaday Americans are standing up in solidarity. Did you see the sign a woman was carrying at a fraternal march in Iowa the other day? It read: ‘I can’t afford to buy a politician so I bought this sign.’”

“Barack Obama criticizes bankers as ‘fat cats,’ then invites them to dine at a pricey New York restaurant where the tasting menu runs to $195 a person. ... The president has raised more money from banks, hedge funds, and private equity managers than any Republican candidate. ... Our politicians are little more than money launderers in the trafficking of power and policy—fewer than six degrees of separation from the spirit and tactics of Tony Soprano.”

Quoting from The Economist, hardly a voice of liberalism: “A growing body of evidence suggests that the meritocratic ideal is in trouble in America. Income inequality is growing to levels not seen since the (first) Gilded Age. But social mobility is not increasing at anything like the same pace. ... Everywhere you look in modern America—in the Hollywood Hills or the canyons of Wall Street, in the Nashville recording studios or the clapboard houses of Cambridge, Massachusetts—you see elites mastering the art of perpetuating themselves. America is increasingly looking like imperial Britain, with dynastic ties proliferating, social circles interlocking, mechanisms of social exclusion strengthening, and a gap widening between the people who make decisions and shape the culture and the vast majority of working stiffs.”


Square, Site wide
Moyers then gives a concise history of the rise of the corporate right-wing takeover of a lot of American politics beginning in the 1970s. He cites a memo for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce by Lewis Powell, then a Virginia lawyer, later a Supreme Court justice, and a book, “A Time for Truth,” by a former secretary of the Treasury. Both men argued that it was time for corporate America to mobilize its people—and especially its money—to build a giant political machine including think tanks, university chairs and departments and college newspapers.

A brilliant idea—and it worked. Conservatives, helped along by the Reagan administration, changed American public opinion, harnessing a new populism that targeted big government rather than the old populist enemies, including Wall Street bankers, railroad companies, big oil and the like. Bureaucrats became the enemy. Plutocrats ruled and still do.

Take Coca-Cola. Last year, the National Park Service moved to ban the sale of plastic water bottles around the Grand Canyon. People were throwing their empty Dasani bottles (that’s Coke’s water brand) into the great gorge. Coke sent its lobbyists to Washington (and $13 million to national parks), and soon enough the bottle ban was ended and sent someplace for “further study.”

That’s the way it works: government of the corporations, by the corporations and for the corporations. And it will get worse. Mitt Romney and the Supreme Court have said and ruled that corporations are "people," with all the attendant liberties and privileges. I, for one, am with the guy who sent a letter to the New York Times asking if General Electric was single or married.

Welcome back! Give ‘em hell, Bill.


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By scottsgreen, November 13, 2011 at 11:39 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

now,who is gonna bring back mr. Bill from sat nite live?....and ummm zietblab..everthing is messed up and no one goes to jailthat is what OWS is about,corporate greed and corruption..favors for friends by corporations and govt’s are the hidden problem,the police corporations being the worst..always acted rating/flaging systems,no where to complain,..must sue them.FAVORS FOR FREINDS ,the fraud to keep dirt hidden is the elaphant in the rooms all over the corporate globe.nothing will be fixed untill those in power are wathched by someone who is not one of them,thats why corporations can pollute destoy,rinse and repeat all without paying their fair share of taxes,or criminal liability,or any taxes

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johndrachel's avatar

By johndrachel, November 13, 2011 at 4:44 pm Link to this comment

“Exxon Mobil . . . Will You Marry Me?:

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By stacy, November 13, 2011 at 1:50 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

He didn’t blame coca-cola for the trash in the Grand Canyon. He blamed
them from interfering in the process of finding a way to deal with the trash.
Progressives don’t think the government should take care of everything, we
think that the government is suppose to work for the common good of the
people, and regulate the commons. The national parks are part of the
commons. So are the roadways, the education system, the court system,
the postal service, the water, and even the air we breath. These are just
some of the things that belong to all of us and our elected officials have the
responsibility of regulation and maintenance of them to ensure they will
still be here for future generations.

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EmileZ's avatar

By EmileZ, November 12, 2011 at 2:47 am Link to this comment

That was a great speech Moyers made.

You can view it here…

As for pre-packaged foods and beverages….

It seems to me as though anything would be better than the way it is being done.

We need to stop thinking about recyclable and start thinking reusable.

It is all about marketing and shelf placement and maintaining monopoly capitalism. Is it really efficient???

Efficient for who???

Just like GMO crops that need more water and all kinds of chemicals so multinational corporations can dominate “agro-business”, so are our supermarkets with all the wasteful packaging of shitty food (even much of the good stuff comes with shitty packaging).

Also, do you ever wonder who sorts out all the shit you throw in the recycling bin???

I can’t help but think that much of it doesn’t even get recycled.

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By John Steinsvold, November 11, 2011 at 7:41 pm Link to this comment

An Alternative to Capitalism (if the people knew about it, they would demand it)

I would like to offer an alternative to capitalism for the American people to consider. Please click on the following link. It will take you to an essay titled: “Home of the Brave?” which was published by the Athenaeum Library of Philosophy:

John Steinsvold

Perhaps in time the so-called dark ages will be thought of as including our own.
—Georg C. Lichtenberg

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By Hectic Skeptic, November 11, 2011 at 6:41 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Pointing the finger anywhere other than the capitalist
system in America would be a mistake.  One need not be
smart to understand fossil fuels go “bye-bye.”  So quit
driving cars and see what happens to your prices.  Quit
smoking cigarettes and see what happens to your health. 
It’s fairly sensible to expect other people to do these
things for the good of the planet and themselves.

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PatrickHenry's avatar

By PatrickHenry, November 11, 2011 at 5:09 pm Link to this comment

I’m not trying to excuse personal responsibility but placing significant redemption values on ‘disposable’ food and beverage containers would create local business chains and promote responsible recycling.

I wish I had the money for the returnable bottles I’ve donated to my counties recycling facility for free since there is no where in Maryland they are redeemed.

If the State of Maryland doesn’t redeem them for sorely needed revenue, they are fools.

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By miroslav, November 11, 2011 at 4:17 pm Link to this comment

so does anyone actually believe that the occupy movement
will even dent that behemoth of wealth, those river boat
gamblers? if it ever becomes a real threat to those powers
they will behave as they did in the 19th century.

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By Azcat85, November 11, 2011 at 2:36 pm Link to this comment

By PatrickHenry, November 11 at 10:02 am Link to this comment
“We have to hold those corporations responsible for their packaging trash.”

How about holding the consumer responsible for their own trash?  Oh wait, that
requires personal responsibility, a trait missing in the gene of the present day
progressive.  They have no individual responsibility.  it is the government that
provides all and takes care of their WELFARE.

Placing a deposit fee on plastic is not solution.  It did not work with glass bottles
when I was a kid and it won’t work on plastic.  CA already has a fee and there are
plastic bottles all over the place!!  Personal responsibility, try it!!

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By Kevin A, November 11, 2011 at 2:30 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Thats it, blame Coca Cola for the trash in the canyon, not the filthy Americans and
tourists that actually throw it there!!!  How about attacking the problem at the
source not attacking the supplier.  But, that would be attacking the very liberal
core of anti-business so you can’t do that.  As in every other problem we are
facing, personal responsibility is at the root of the solution and the problem.  Our
scout troop had a motto that served us well growing up, ” If you trucked it in, you
truck it out.”

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PatrickHenry's avatar

By PatrickHenry, November 11, 2011 at 10:02 am Link to this comment

A national recycling law is long overdue beginning with a national bottle bill to mandate all bottles, cans and fast food packaging have a cash value for its redemption.

We have to hold those corporations responsible for their packaging trash.

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By Silence is Complicity, November 11, 2011 at 9:06 am Link to this comment

An excellent article indeed by Richard Reeves and an insightful first comment by Zeitgeist. Thank you both for your intellectual labor. I feel a little more informed by reading both of you.

However, my comment is limited to the label put on the protest movement against Wall Street and Corporate America. In my humble opinion, calling it “Occupy Wall Street Movement” is both a misnomer and degrading concept. Perhaps, due to my background, I am over sensitive to consider the word “occupation”
a politically positive term. The word “occupation” is anathema to me as a victim of the neo-Nazi-Israeli occupation of my old homeland of Palestine.

I believe that a name such as “Liberation Movement from the Oppression of Wall Street and Corporate America” is a more suitable label for this movement, which I fully support and participate in.

I do agree with the title of Reeves’ piece, “It Seems Wall Street is Occupying Us;” hence any movement to end and remove this evil occupation must indeed be a “Liberation Movement.” As a linguist by training and profession, I do disagree with the word “seems” in the title of the article, since Wall Street Occupation of Us, is not a seeming thing, but rather a sad, tragic, and an economic terrorism reality!

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By dorndiego, November 11, 2011 at 8:41 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Welcome back Bill Moyers, great teacher and reasonable man, and thank you, also,
Richard Reeves, for staying in the struggle.  We need every real journalist out there
to load up and dig in.  The truth can get lost in all the hamburger helper dished
out by Media mediocrities, but it gets out eventually, and it’s still not too late.

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By Zeitgeist, November 11, 2011 at 7:06 am Link to this comment

Hind sight makes everyone wise. There is no point in blaming bankers or corporations
or even the government of ” we the people “. The fault is every bodies..we all enjoyed
while the going was good ,unquestionably ,uncritically, unsuspecting believing blindly
Nobel Laurates , Economist theoreticians,forgetting ethics. By indulging in excessive
consumerism, we took pride that some of us could become unbelievably wealthy and
irresponsibly even dreamed that everyone could also, just by virtue of being an
American.. All of us who didn’t have the means also started behaving mindlessly like
millionaires reveling in rank consumerism, without tarrying to think where was the
money coming from.If the bankers and the corporations exploited our own debauchery,
who should take the blame? All of us were alike in our unreasonable pursuit of
happiness. So stop it !  Let’s get down to basic work. We all are now paying for our
over- vaulting ambition and “we the glorious 99% ” are in our ” finest hour” to borrow
the pithy phrase from Winston Churchill.
The bottom- line of the remedy is to bring back to America “manufacturing and

production of GOODS sending the money-grabbing “Financial Service industry” into the
back offices where they should have belonged to in the first place. We should not
allow the ” services ” to boss over industry.Abolish the designation,“Finance Manager”
They are there to SERVE the activity of Production and Manufacturing of Goods and,
Trade and Commerce, on the terms and conditions dictated by the manufacturing and
marketing sectors.The bankers must take orders and not give them. Our mistake was
in giving Finance Managers and the Economists, undue importance. Their fancy
theories were a total dis- connect from human beings ;  centering only on generating
greedy profits for a few shareholders. It was a zero- sum game touted as a win- win
game that has brought this “cancerous growth ” .We must now,together fight it out by
becoming more sensible and moderate and realistic in our habits .We have found out
that excessive consumerism does bring in prosperity to the rich only but not to the
consuming society that does not produce any Goods. Pollution brought out by
manufacturing could be dealt with effectively . SO, START MANUFACTURING AND

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