Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Octopi Wall Street

Credit goes to my husband for the title.

So first of all, there's this thing going around like a bad cold:

Don't get me wrong: I'm firmly on the side of the 99%. Things are, to put it simply, [bleep]ed, and we need to un[bleep] it pronto.

But here's what I posted to one friend in response to the above:

Item #1 means that people who aren't independently wealthy can't afford to run for Congress. They'd be giving up retirement plans in the private sector to do so.
The Congressional pension operates much like pensions in any other job, where you get credit for the time you were there; it's not a free ride for every Congresscritter ever. It's to ensure that people can afford to leave jobs with decent retirement plans to run for and hold Congressional seats.
Item #2: Congress pays into Social Security just like everyone else (which means that they only pay on their pay up to $106,800/year).
Item #3: Some jobs still have pension plans, but they're evaporating. There's also a lot of concern about the baby boomers, as they reach retirement age, often with inadequate savings for retirement. Also, Congress members DO pay into their pension plan, just like most public-sector employees. Also, there's some serious problems with suddenly going BACK on a system; what would we do to a private company that had a nice pension plan if they suddenly said "Um, we're changing it for EVERYONE from this point forward, no matter what we told you in the past (on which basis you made certain decisions about your financial planning)?
Great summary here:
Item #4: 3% is too low a cap. 6% is more realistic. During the late 1970s, we had runaway inflation that got into double digits... a few years of that and Congressional pay would lose a ton of value with a 3% cap. Inflation has only dipped below 3% a handful of years in the last three decades.
Item #5: Congress DOES participate in the same health care system as The American People: a system of private insurance tied to employment, where the employer subsidizes the premium (if you're lucky). There is *no* public insurance plan for the general population.
Item #6: I'm perfectly fine with Congress getting parking tickets. Otherwise, not sure which laws they're categorically exempt from. They enjoy the same benefits with respect to law enforcement that ANY affluent white person does.
Item #7: Term limits encourage ambitious people who are always looking at their next campaign, rather than people who really want to do *this* job. They also create huge inefficiencies due to turnover; anyone who's ever been in management knows that you take a hit every time you have to get a new person up to speed on a job.

Now, some of those are fairly cut-and-dried; others are more nuanced, and perhaps simply opinion... but informed opinion. Still, you start right off with this being based on things that simply AREN'T TRUE (I mean, a quick Google of Congress Social Security gets you a Snopes link for crying out loud; are they even TRYING?), and you go to things that probably will have negative effects... hard to take any of it seriously.

And for all I know, that's the point. This was started by some troll who wants to embarrass or distract the progressives. It's working; people are passing this on without a single thought.

But the conversation continued. And I was asked my opinion on how we DO fix it. So I answered:

First: amend the Constitution to more strictly define a "person" as an organism. Corporations aren't people; they can't die, or be imprisoned, or be left destitute... they can be formed and dissolved at need, they can be immortal or ephemeral as their creators determine. They are shells, not people; they need no rights, because the people who created them have rights.
We also need to realize that money isn't speech, but that's secondary to taking personhood away from immortal legal entities. Maybe we need to define rights about how people use money, but equating it to free expression doesn't work.
And we need to remember that WE elected Congress. Not "They," WE THE PEOPLE. We can't divorce ourselves from the constituency we are part of. We need to talk to our friends, our neighbors, our community groups, churches, families... and teach them to really see it through; think about how various policies will affect them, personally, and the world they live in. We need to adopt a habit of long-term, big-picture thinking.
I happen to think that getting free of TV advertising would go a long way to helping with this last part; it affects *everyone* who sees it, even on fast-forward. If you don't believe me, go on a strict no-commercial diet for, say, six months. DVDs (or books and talking to friends ;-) only. You'll be AMAZED at what you thought was normal when you were exposed to it every day.
The advertising bit is something I'm trying to work on in a bigger way. First it was going to be a blog post, then I started realizing the scope was more like an article, and now it's kind of turned into a book. The impact of advertising on politics is its own chapter. But I digress.

I went to the rally on the International Day of Action, October 15th, here locally. It was stupendous. I took my kids; they were impressed (hey, we get to walk in the STREET!). I had intelligent conversations with random strangers all around me. I was amazed at the variety and creativity of the signs people were holding.

And most of all, I'm excited that it seems like we're finally doing something. I can't wait to see where it goes, and hopefully, to be a part of it.

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