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The Buddha and Occupy Wall Street

The Buddha’s concerns with politics — or at least those what found their way into his teachings and have been recorded — were very limited.

Perhaps this isn’t surprising, since he lived at a time when kingdoms ruled by absolute monarchs were expanding their territory at the expense of clan-based republics and other kingdoms. The rise of monarchies was probably unstoppable, and there was little chance of any alternative for the foreseeable future.

Some of the kings were notoriously paranoid, placed spies in religious communities, and would literally kill their own parents to consolidate their power. It would have been very dangerous to criticize them directly, and so the Buddha’s emphasis in talking about politics tended to be on presenting models of how kings could rule well. And often those — no doubt for protection — were framed as myths.

In one of these myths, the Buddha indicated that one of the duties of kings was to prevent social unrest and to promote economic well-being through making sure that wealth was fairly distributed in society. He has no communist — he clearly recognised that there would be wealthy people and people with less wealth, and he was after all talking about a monarchy — but he recognized that a fair distribution of wealth was essential to a healthy society. The alternative, he suggested, was a repressive regime that kept people in line through heavy-handed law and order tactics.

Do you see any relevance to Occupy Wall Street?

As Frank Reynolds observed: “When the very large volume of the early Buddhist Dhamma literature is taken into account, it is evident that the amount of material devoted to kingship and political affairs is actually rather modest. Nevertheless, the presence of these elements in the early tradition is significant in that it indicates that even among the supposedly world-renouncing monks who were responsible for the preservation and extension of the Buddha’s teaching, such matters constituted one important focal point of interest and concern.” [1]

As for the actual content of the material on kingship and political affairs, Gombrich has pointed out that there are two approaches to kings in the Pāli canon. The first deals with real kings, and is literal and historical, while the second approach is what Gombrich calls “fantasy,” although the latter might better be described as a “mythic” approach. Uma Chakkavati makes a similar two-fold distinction, referring to passages describing “the actual or existing exercise of power by contemporary kings” versus “the ideal or normative exercise of power by the king.”[2] The two categorizations are broadly equivalent. The passages dealing with real, historical kings tell us much about attitudes to and interactions with royalty at the time of the Buddha, including the “exercise of power.” The mythic passages are also normative in that they posit an ideal society where rulers are themselves governed by Dhamma.

Mythic Kings in the Pāli Canon

A number of texts (suttas and Jātakas) deal with the topic of with kings in a non literal and mythic way. Such suttas include the Kūṭadanta , the Cakkavatti, and the Agañña. As myths, precisely in what manner they are to be interpreted is, and no doubt always will be, open to question. While the stories are fantasy, these stories can still, I believe, reveal useful perspectives on broader ethical and social issues that Buddhism concerned itself with.

Northrop Frye posited that there are two social conceptions that can be expressed only in terms of myth. “One is the social contract, which presents an account of the origins of society. The other is the utopia, which presents an imaginative vision of the telos or end at which social life aims.”[3] Buddhist texts contain elements both of a social contract and of Buddhist utopias. Frye continues: “ These two myths begin in an analysis of the present, the society that confronts the mythmaker, and they project this analysis in time and space. The contract projects it into the past, the utopia into the future or to some distant place.” We may also add to this that utopias could even be projected into the distant past in the form of a myth of a “golden age.”

If social contract and utopian myths do, as Frye puts it, “begin in an analysis of the present,” then an analysis of them may be useful in throwing light on the views of the Buddha. I argue here that the utopian elements in these myths may cast light onto the telos — and the social contract — that the Buddha saw as being desirable.

The Kūṭadanta Sutta and the 99%

The Kūṭadanta[4] frames a Jātaka tale concerning the realm of King Mahāvijit (Great Victor). The Jātaka is framed by the story of a Brahmin, Kūṭadanta (we could translate this as “Gnasher”), who comes to ask the Buddha’s advice on the correct way to perform a sacrifice. Since the social role of a Brahmin is to perform sacrifice, and since the Buddha was known to oppose animal sacrifice, the scenario is absurd, but the story allows the Buddha to get some points across.

In his reply to Gnasher, the Buddha tells the tale of King Mahāvijit, who wished to make a sacrifice “which would be to his benefit and happiness for a long time.” Instead, Mahāvijit’s purohitaṃ (minister-chaplain) persuades him that he should rid his country of a plague of robbers. He should not attempt to do this “by executions and imprisonment, or by confiscation, threats and banishment.” These methods would only postpone the problems because of future retributions from survivors of the punishments.

Instead, he should distribute grain and fodder to those who are engaged in cultivating crops and raising cattle; give capital to those in trade; and give proper living wages to those in government service. As a result of implementing these policies, the king is able to announce: “I have got rid of the plague of robbers; following your plan my revenue has grown, the land is tranquil and not beset by thieves, and the people with joy in their hearts play with their children and dwell in open houses.” The Buddha later admits that he was the purohitaṃ who gave advice to the king.

This sutta, with its utopian elements, is interesting for the specific policy objectives that are advocated by the Buddha, in his previous life as minister-chaplain to Mahāvijit, as well as for the results of those objectives. Peace, harmony, and freedom from crime are posited as the telos of the social policies of redistributing wealth and paying living wages to government employees. More conventional policies such as “executions and imprisonment,” and “confiscation, threats and banishment” are abjured.

There is a clear suggestion that crime arises from poverty, and if prosperity were achieved, then crime would be eliminated. This might seem paradoxical as part of the belief system of a religious tradition which has full-time property-less practitioners, but there are, as Mavis Fenn has pointed out, two notions of poverty in the Pāli canon.[5]

One is the practice of what could be called “voluntary simplicity,” and represents “the rejection of human relationships based on differentiation and hierarchy.” As Fenn puts it, “poverty undertaken for religious ends can promote spiritual development.” This it does by creating a life-style of such simplicity that ample time is created for self-developmental pursuits such as reflection and meditation.

The second form of poverty that Fenn discusses is “deprivation.” Involuntary material poverty, far from conducing to spiritual development, “results in dehumanization that severely restricts, if not destroys, the possibility of spiritual progress.” In terms of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs,[6] if the individual is struggling to meet the most basic needs for food and shelter, the need for self-actualization is unlikely to be a priority.

A fair distribution of wealth and investment in infrastructure are advocated, and since this wealth comes from the King’s own surplus, which can only have come from the people themselves, there is an implication that over-taxation has resulted in poverty-related crime. A fair and moderate taxation system which protects the poor would be logically consistent with the moral of the sutta. As a result of these policies, everyone benefits. Citizens are no longer forced by poverty into criminal activity, and therefore escape the risk of dire punishments. Ordinary citizens enjoy peace of mind, and can “with joy in their hearts play with their children and dwell in open houses,” and the King’s job of maintaining a stable society is made considerably easier.

There are strong resonances here with the Occupy Wall Street phenomenon, which has moved far beyond Wall Street, to over 1500 places at the time of writing.

The corporation is king

We no longer have a literal king, but the corporation is now our metaphorical monarch. The mechanisms of the Republic are now controlled, in large part, by the rich, and by the corporations that made them rich. More than half of congress-people are millionaires. It can cost literally tens of millions to run for Senate, and our incombent president is likely to spend a billion dollars running for reelection. Where does this money come from? Much of it comes from corporations. You do not accept the money of the rich without making an implicit promise in return. That promise is, in effect, “I will represent your interests.” Our political system has become a subsidiary of Wall Street. We live in a metaphorical monarchy, and the corporation is king.

What kind of monarch do we have? A rapacious one, it would seem.

Ordinary people are being asked to tighten their belts. Although the country as a whole has been getting morse prosperous (see “US GDP per capita” on the graph above) ordinary people’s income has stagnated. Meanwhile, costs have risen. Just to take one example, according to Time,

Today, the average cost of a family health insurance offered by an employer is $13,375. That’s up 131% over the last decade—a period in which inflation rose only 28%. And one estimate says that if costs continue on their current trajectory, premiums will go up another 166% in the decade ahead.

The cost of a college education has been soaring as well, also by much faster than inflation.

Look again at the graph above, and you’ll see that the incomes of the richest — those who control the corporations who control the government — have been rising faster than GDP, or the nation’s wealth as a whole.

It gets worse when you look at the incomes of the top 1%:

Compare the lines for the top 5% and the top 1%. Since 1992, the bottom 90 percent of Americans have seen their incomes rise by 13 percent in 2009 dollars, compared with an increase of 399 percent for the top 400.

So we have greedy kings, and the people are suffering.

Compassion before anger

What is our response to that? Obviously there’s no one response. Some will watch the incomes of the top 1% soar skyward, and cheer — even as their own incomes stagnate. Americans like to think of themselves as temporarily distressed billionaires. Some will look at those who are suffering, and scold them for a lack of initiative and entrepreneurial spirit. As presidential aspirant Herman Cain said, “if you don’t have a job and you’re not rich, blame yourself … it is a person’s [own] fault if they failed.”

But more and more people are living in anxiety, in this culture where GDP has been growing, insecurity has been mounting, and median wages have been falling. And more and more people are realizing that our economic and political system is not working for them.

It behooves us to look at a website like We Are the 99%, and to see that even if we’re doing alright just now, we’re one crisis away from disaster. And if you’re not, most of the people you know and love are. Lose your health and you lose your job. Lose your job and you lose your health insurance. Lose your health insurance when you’re sick and you may well lose your house and your savings. Lose your house and you may lose your family. It can happen to anyone — anyone in the bottom 99%.

Some people may feel anger, and anger can be healthy. I’m not advising people to get angry, but it may happen and it’s natural. The thing is to handle anger skillfuly. Anger is energy, and handled properly our anger can lead us to accomplish much good. Listen to Martin Luther King, Jr., and you hear an angry man — one who helped transform a political system that was not working for all people, but only for those with white skins (and not even all of those). If the energy behind our anger (a desire to overcome injustice, for example) is handled properly, it can be used constructively. But if it’s not channeled properly, anger can turn into hatred. Anger doesn’t necessarily want to cause harm — it can just want to overcome an obstacle. Hatred wants to hurt people, and anger can turn into hatred. This is the danger that faces us.

How do we handle our anger? Anger needs to be experienced within the context of compassion. Compassion is a natural response to other’s suffering. Read some of the stories on We Are the 99%. Feel for those people. Then if you’re still angry, feel compassionately and angry. Let compassion soften your anger so that your desire to change things is “clean” and free from the desire to hurt, despise, or belittle. Let go of hatred. Despising the 1% isn’t going to help.

It’s about the hundred percent

And realize that Occupy Wall Street is about all of us. Despite the language of “We are the 99%,” realize that this is not about the 99% versus the 1%. It’s about the 100%. The king was troubled by robbers. Kings should be worried about robbers, because the king is the wealthiest and has the most to lose. What’s happening now, with the incomes of the richest soaring and those of ordinary people falling — is unsustainable. No economy can endure under those conditions. What happens when cutbacks to education leave us without enough skilled people to create a vibrant economy? What happens when our crumbling infrastructure hinders commerce even further? What happens as fewer and fewer people are able to buy the goods that allow the corporations to flourish? What happens when the economy is milked dry, and plunged into a depression?

Perhaps the 1% will then take their wealth and flee to tropical islands, investing in the now-vibrant economies of India and China. Do the wealthy really want to destroy the largest country in the world? Do they want to have that on their consciences (and I assume that they have consciences)? Perhaps they’ll hang in here and make do, staying within gated communities, protected from the rabble by private police forces, and scraping by on $5 billion instead of $10 billion. Is that how they want to live?

Are they even happy? The 1% are getting richer and richer, but they’re not getting happier. Economic dissatisfaction arises when we compare ourselves to others. Most people would prefer to earn $50,000 when others earn $40,000, than to earn $60,000 when others earn $70,000 — even if the cost of living is the same. Who do billionaires compare themselves to? Other billionaires. The top 1% are in a race to the top that has no end. Or it will end, because the economy will be destroyed. It’s in the interests of the happiness of the rich to inhibit their craving. This has long been recognized as one of the benefits of progressive taxation.

The king recognized that for the good of the entire country — and for his own good — he needed to pay fair wages and invest in the infrastructure of his country. As a result, the king himself becomes more prosperous, and so do the people. Both the 1% and the 99% benefit.

What Occupy Wall Street is about

I’ve heard many people say that they don’t understand what Occupy Wall Street is about. Here’s what it’s about: Our corporations, and the rich, own our political system. Nothing that protects ordinary people from the harm that unrestrained corporations can cause — whether it’s protecting people from pollution, ensuring a fair minimum wage, or even just making it easier for people to get access to health care — can go through Congress without enormous sums being spent on lobbying to prevent those benefits from coming about. Even a modest tax increase on the top 1% will be met with a tsunami of money sweeping over Congress. Politicians depend on money from corporations in order to run for office. If they displease the rich, they know that corporate money will be used in attack ads, which frequently twist the truth out of all recognition.

Our corporations are king, but they shouldn’t be. I don’t believe the framers of the constitution had our current system in mind. They wanted government of the people, by the people, and for the people. Right now we have government of the rich, by the rich, and for the rich. [Actually, this is wrong. For further details see the comments below. The framers of the constitution despised the idea of democracy as we undertand it today, but as the US evolved socially, the understanding of "government of the people, by the people, and for the people" -- as expressed by Lincoln in the Gerrysburg Address -- emerged.]

That’s what Occupy Wall Street is about. Thomas Jefferson talked about a “wall of separation between church and state.” And the constitution itself, realizing that religions could co-opt entire political systems in order to further their own agendas, creating theocracies, prohibits government from from becoming a subsidiary of any church. It’s time to erect a wall of separation between corporate money and state. It’s time to stop our political system from being a subsidiary of Wall Street. It’s time that the economy worked for the 99% as well as the 1%. It’s time for government of the people, by the people, and for the people.

That’s what Occupy Wall Street is about.


Notes
1. “The Two Wheels of Dhamma: A Study of Early Buddhism,” in Gananath Obeyesekere, The Two Wheels of Dhamma, AAAR Studies in Religion Number 3, AAR Chambersburg, Pennsylvannia 1992.

2. Uma Chakravarti, The Social Dimensions of Early Buddhism, Dehli, OUP, 1987, p158.

3.Utopia, Robert M. Adams (tr. and ed.), Norton, (NY 1992), p205.

4. DN 5.

5. Mavis Fenn, “Two Notions of Poverty in the Pāli Canon,” Journal of Buddhist Ethics, Volume III, 1996.

6. The American psychologist Abraham Maslow devised a six-level hierarchy of motives that, according to his theory, determine human behavior. Maslow ranks human needs as follows: (1) physiological; (2) security and safety; (3) love and feelings of belonging; (4) competence, prestige, and esteem; (5) self-fulfillment; and (6) curiosity and the need to understand.

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About Bodhipaksa

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Bodhipaksa is a Buddhist practitioner and teacher, a member of the Triratna Buddhist Order, and a published author. He founded Wildmind in 2001. Bodhipaksa has published many guided meditation CDs and guided meditation MP3s.

He teaches at Aryaloka Buddhist Center in Newmarket, New Hampshire. You can follow Bodhipaksa on Twitter, join him on Facebook, or hang out with him on .

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Comments

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Comment from Cory
Time: October 14, 2011, 1:51 pm

The best thing that could come about as a result of these protests would be the separation of Business and State except in matters of Fraud. Just as we have the separation of Church and State except in matters of abuse.

Also getting rid of Fiat currency, which allows the state to print money out of thin air, make their interest payment on the debt, pocket the difference, and thus devalue the currency further. It’s why we are ten years into these brutal, deadly wars, there’s no way they could fund them without printing more money.

Capitalism itself is not to blame, because we do not have capitalism, but a sort of crony capitalism (or Corporatism, or as Mussolini called it, Fascism). This is a charade of ‘Capitalism’ where profits of the large corporations are private, but the losses are socialized. The Corporations keep the money if they do well, but when their failed policies would otherwise result in bankruptcy, the taxpayers are forced to bail them out.

It’s a hard thing to reconcile one’s metta practice with what’s going on in the world sometimes.

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Comment from Rocketbuddha
Time: October 14, 2011, 4:35 pm

Thank you for bridging the gap between my meditation practice and my obsession with Occupy. I actually feel guilty about my 20 day retreat starting next week! Your article helps, we need more wise voices such as yours, in these and upcoming times.

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Pingback from Buddhists speak on Occupy Wall Street | Wildmind Buddhist Meditation
Time: October 15, 2011, 5:00 pm

[...] The Buddha and Occupy Wall Street [...]

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Comment from Yuttadhammo
Time: October 15, 2011, 10:42 pm

“For in days to come kings shall grow unrighteous; they shall rule after their own will and pleasure, and shall not execute judgment according to righteousness. These kings shall hunger after riches and wax fat on bribes; they shall not shew mercy, love and compassion toward their people, but be fierce and cruel, amassing wealth by crushing their subjects like sugar-canes in a mill and by taxing them even to the uttermost farthing. Unable to pay the oppressive tax, the people shall fly from village and town and the like, and take refuge upon the borders of the realm.”

— Jat. 77

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Comment from Cory
Time: October 16, 2011, 5:34 am

Fly from the realm indeed. What though when the realm is the globe entire? It makes the system all the more intolerable.

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Comment from Algernon
Time: October 16, 2011, 10:54 am

This is an excellent contribution, thank you. Historically, however, I should point out that the intent of the framers of the Constitution is apparently not quite as democratic as we are taught to believe. Quite explicitly, in the Federalist Papers for instance, the founders expressed the view that government’s cardinal function — cardinal! — is to protect the wealthy from the poor. This follows John Locke, one of the inspirations of the American revolution, who also held that the purpose of government was, first and foremost, the protection of property — not to level a playing field or guarantee liberty, equality, or fraternity. Not at all. James Madison and many of the founders would likely have seen Occupy Wall Street as an insurrection dangerous to the social order, although what they would have made of corporations is a matter of speculation.

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: October 16, 2011, 3:15 pm

You’re entirely right, Algernon. The Founders were actually terrified of the idea of democracy, which to them was a dirty word. John Adams said, “Democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts and murders itself. There was never a democracy yet that did not commit suicide.”

I only the other day realized this as I was doing some further research. Of course their idea of democracy was not a representative democracy, but a “pure” democracy with direct decision-making by all the people.

One day I’ll get around to reading the Federalist Papers. I’m not an American and have a lot of catching up to do!

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Comment from Cory
Time: October 17, 2011, 10:32 am

There were two schools of thought around that time period. There was Hamilton and Madison who were the primary force behind the Federalist papers (believing property to be the sole right of the rich), and there were Jefferson and Franklin (who later influenced Frederic Bastiat) who were against a strong central government.

Bastiat has a lot to say about the concept of Property Rights in his pamphlet “The Law” saying that “Man can live and satisfy his wants only by ceaseless labor; by the ceaseless application of his faculties to natural resources. This process is the origin of property.

But it is also true that a man may live and satisfy his wants by seizing and consuming the products of the labor of others. This process is the origin of plunder.

Now since man is naturally inclined to avoid pain — and since labor is pain in itself — it follows that men will resort to plunder whenever plunder is easier than work. History shows this quite clearly. And under these conditions, neither religion nor morality can stop it.

When, then, does plunder stop? It stops when it becomes more painful and more dangerous than labor.

It is evident, then, that the proper purpose of law is to use the power of its collective force to stop this fatal tendency to plunder instead of to work. All the measures of the law should protect property and punish plunder.

But, generally, the law is made by one man or one class of men. And since law cannot operate without the sanction and support of a dominating force, this force must be entrusted to those who make the laws.

This fact, combined with the fatal tendency that exists in the heart of man to satisfy his wants with the least possible effort, explains the almost universal perversion of the law. Thus it is easy to understand how law, instead of checking injustice, becomes the invincible weapon of injustice. It is easy to understand why the law is used by the legislator to destroy in varying degrees among the rest of the people, their personal independence by slavery, their liberty by oppression, and their property by plunder. This is done for the benefit of the person who makes the law, and in proportion to the power that he holds.”

Thomas DiLorenzo exposes Hamilton (in his book Hamilton’s Curse) and the Federalist’s want of a strong central government which, irregardless of the will of the people, takes part in such plunder that Bastiat defined in his pamphlet as “lawful plunder” or “plunder that is sanctioned by a system of law perverted”

To be sure, the Federalists had a chilling effect on the Constitution, which is why I’ve always preferred the spirit of the Declaration of Independence.

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Pingback from Reduce Poverty or Reduce Democracy: A Buddhist Take on Occupy Wall Street. | elephant journal
Time: October 20, 2011, 11:42 am

[...] Bodhipaksa, a Buddhist writer and teacher based in New Hampshire, has offered a thoughtful response to the Occupy Together protest movement which can be enjoyed here. [...]

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Pingback from Occupy This Very Moment « Rev. Danny Fisher
Time: October 22, 2011, 12:07 am

[...] slowly catching up on all of them. I especially loved my e-pal Bodhipaksa’s piece for Wildmind. I wish I’d looked at it before I did mine — we both talked about the Kutadanta Sutta [...]

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Comment from Jason Lee
Time: November 10, 2011, 9:00 am

With the high prices of yoga classes and yoga becoming a billion dollar industry, the yoga community at large is part of the 1%.

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: November 10, 2011, 9:12 am

That, Jason. Is just absurd. I know several yoga teachers, and all of them are living at a basic level.

Of course if you add up the total earnings of any “industry composed largely of small businesses, you’re going to end up with a large figure. But how many billionaire (or even millionaire) yoga instructors do you know? To what extent does the yoga lobby in Washington influence policy and shape legislation?

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Comment from Maryanne
Time: November 18, 2011, 7:24 am

Thank you for this article, it is very well written. I am not quite as articulate but i would like to pose a question. Isn’t this why we have the right to vote? Isn’t this exactly why people around the world and throughout history have fought and died for the right to vote?

Now, I understand it may seem like a small force against the big and powerful corporations, but it’s not. We have the ability to pay attention and vote them out. We have the power to show up at our representatives offices, at their appearances, at our local town halls, and show them we are watching in very large numbers and to educate our family and friends about it. We have the ability to not buy from these corporations. We have the power to live consciously and realize that every time we buy from them we are digging our own graves, no?

There is just no way I will give into the idea that we are helpless which a little bit of what I’m getting out of this article. “Please rich people, take care of me, spread your wealth around” is not something I would ever feel comfortable with. The Buddha was very much balanced in his approach regarding helping others but he was also clear that we must rely on ourselves for liberation in all facets of life.

I’m sorry, I’m not trying to place blame but the reality is that a big part of the reason we are in this mess, is our own fault, we have not been paying attention to what has been going on and now we don’t like it. I’ve seen the power of what an ordinary group of citizens can do in my own town and state and it is possible to go up against the powerful and win, but you’ve got to pay attention and you’ve got to show up. It looks like this is now happening from all ends of the political spectrum in the last two years and this is a good thing. But please, no violence, be respectful and clean up after yourselves.

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: November 18, 2011, 10:10 am

We do have the right to vote, but who do we get to vote for, and how do people get into the position where they can be voted for? Sure, you or I could get our names on the ballot, but how are people going to hear about us? It costs millions to run for office, and it’s very hard to get into office without corporate backing. If you did manage to run an insurgency campaign based on truly grass-roots funding, you’d face vicious attack ads funded by corporations.

No one is saying “Please rich people, take care of me, spread your wealth around.” Occupy Wall Street is a protest against the way that corporate interests have hijacked almost the entire US political system, and rearranged our laws and taxation system in order to further enrich the already rich at the expense of ordinary working people.

Take a look at this graph. You’ll see that until the 1970’s, average wages rose, closely tied to productivity. As US workers became more productive, they were rewarded financially, and everyone (the rich included) benefited. Then the idea kicked in that the real wealth creators are not all of us who work, but only the rich. And so tax policies were rearranged in order to benefit the wealthy. The rest of us were to benefit by “trickle down.” As you can see, that didn’t work out.

Imagine the kind of country we’d have at the moment if wages had continued to track productivity, and the average person was 60% or 70% better off than at present. Imagine if the wealthy had not been emboldened to loot the economy and cause a financial meltdown.

So I’m not saying “Please rich people, take care of me,” i’m saying “Corporations, your time of owning our government is over. We’re going to take our government back, and prevent you from being able to buy our politicians in future, by constitutional amendment if necessary.”

“Clean up after yourselves.” Indeed. The banks were gambling with our money, lost a packet, and ordinary Americans had to clean up after them. Millions of jobs and homes have been lost. The cost of the clean-up has been enormous. And the corporations and the wealthy people who run them carry on as if nothing has happened.

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Comment from Maryanne
Time: November 21, 2011, 7:51 am

I appreciate the time you took to answer me and I do agree with you on many aspects of this. I’m frustrated too. So many of us are suffering and it really does appear that the ones who are not suffering don’t seem to care. But imho, there is much more going on here than just corporate hijacking and capitalistic greed.

It does cost millions to run for office and lots of money to get legislation passed. The Dems out-number the Rebups nearly 5-1 in raising campaign financing. Our current President needed $1 billion to run against McCain’s $400 million. These are insane numbers I agree.

Wages may have rose steadily until 1970 however, during the 1970’s we experienced some of the worst economic times in this county since the Great Depression, I remember them well. Then Regan came in with the trickle down idea. From what I understand, the reason why some of our laws and taxation system were rearranged at that time was not intended to further enrich the rich. It was intended to benefit the job creators or I guess you could call them wealth creators which was sorely needed at the time to stimulate the economy that way (instead of bailing out banks and hoping that trickled down.) The real job creators are not us who work, we are the spenders (who support the corporations with our money if we choose). If we we take our money and open a business that will produce and hire labor, then we are job/wealth creators for everyone.

As I understand it, the rest of did benefit from trickle down. According to the US Dept of Treasury “Income Mobility In The US” report and The Congressional Budge Office, from 1987 to 1996, the richest of us lost out by 65% and the poorest of us gained 109%.
http://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/tax-policy/Documents/incomemobilitystudy03-08revise.pdf

I think the kind of county we have at the moment may not be due to the rich looting the economy and causing the financial meltdown. First, we’d have to define rich. Second, not all of the rich participate in unethical and immoral practices like hedge funds (George Soros) and mortgage bundling. I think the beginning of the financial meltdown did not begin with Regan’s policies but with Congress and Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and a gradual build up over time or rewarding and incentivising banks to give loans to people who could just not afford it (again the idea of please just give me the money be it from the rich or the government). The average private bank could not compete against the government. Some Congressional members warned of what was coming, but to no avail and the rest is the history we are all arguing about now. http://www.powerlineblog.com/archives/2011/11/what-caused-the-financial-crisis.php

We could go on like this forever with our graphs and “facts”. But Occupy will not bring us all together unless we broaden our view of what is really going on here. I think putting it all on the corporations is rather narrow given our history. Not to mention the groups funding a lot of this and what they have stated their true goal is – total economic collapse and total destruction of capitalism. That is truly frightening to me because what will replace it will also be filled with greed, every system is filled with greed because it’s in us, not in the systems themselves.

I have not responded to you to offend you so please don’t take it that way. I realized later that by saying “Clean up after yourselves” that it may have been taken personally and I did not mean it toward you personally. I appreciate the conversation and the difference of opinions. (I apologize for the links, I’m have some issues on my end.)

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Pingback from Buddhism, wealth, and happiness | Wildmind Buddhist Meditation
Time: May 2, 2013, 4:49 pm

[...] is his “dangerous idea.” Or one of them. One of his other dangerous ideas was that for the long-term stability of a nation, there has to be a fair distribution of wealth — something that’s been notably lacking in recent years, where productivity has soared, [...]

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