Mayor Mike has a lot of egg on his face, so does Ray Kelly. Despite being derided, kettled, pepper sprayed, and generally treated like subhumans by the NYC government, Occupy Wall Street continues to rise above the pettiness that characterizes the behavior and assumptions of “various serious people.”
Continuing to think outside the box, OWS has two new initiatives: Occupy Sandy and Rolling Debt Jubilee.
I live on the North Shore of Long Island, walking distance from the beach, in an area full of very old tall trees and very old overhead wires. Oh, and spotty cellphone coverage. I have been virtually incommunicado for the past couple weeks. No electricity, no internet, no landline phones, no TV, no voice over cellphone and very limited texting over cellphone.
What little information I had access to, came from the car radio, and it told a tale of stranded victims on Staten Island and the Long Island South Shore and Brooklyn, left unaided by the City. No police doing door-to-door searches for the trapped and stranded elderly or infirm, no social service agencies coming to their homes to make sure they had a meal, nadda.
So, OWS called upon its stupendous logistical skills and filled the void left by Ray Kelly and Michael Bloomberg. Bloomberg holds daily press conferences, but for people with no access to mass communication, he was a tree falling in the forest with no one to hear. Did it really take him 2 weeks to figure out that squad cars have speaker systems on them and could be deployed like sound trucks?
BTW, Con Ed, LIPA and PSE&G: Would it have killed you to hire some sound trucks to make announcements, since people without power or internet cannot use your hopeless websites?
I digress. OWS did what they do best, rallied compassionate people, started cooking meals and gave them away, just like at Liberty Plaza (it’s hard to get me to call it Zuccotti Park). They organized blankets and flashlights and charging stations (including the Green Peace solar truck and those cool Gilligan’s Island bicycle generators), just as they did at Liberty Plaza. They knocked on doors to ask the stranded residents what they needed. They sent out tweets for “needs of the occupiers” and supporters from all over the world sent supplies, just like at Liberty Plaza. They even improved on that with an Occupy Sandy “wedding registry” on Amazon that helps doors to ship supplies quickly and easily. Genius!
So complete is their logistical competence that they are now holding training for the National Guard troops who have been sent in to help and…wait for it…for the Mayor’s Office representatives. Considering how poorly they have been treated by this administration, they could have refused to aid the government efforts and played tit-for-tat, but their goal is to help by any means.
The press has always had trouble covering OWS because it doesn’t play into their preconceived notions and because there is no self promoting “face” of OWS. So, the story of this movement has been consistently misreported and under reported. OWS transcended the typical media narrative and has left the press behind, left the government behind, and focused on just getting the job done on the ground.
They transformed the political dialogue in a presidential election year and without a single Super PAC ad, probably contributed more to the defeat of Mitt Romney than any deep-pocketed donor. Now they have are demonstrating the power of horizontal organizing to fill the void left by the City government, FEMA and the utterly underwhelming Red Cross. Another aside, a celebrity-studded telethon to raise money for the Red Cross did not result in the Red Cross being effective. I don’t know what they are doing with that money, but it is not being spent on Long Island, I can tell you that. Next telethon should direct donors to make purchases on the Sandy wedding registry.
Rolling Debt Jubilee
In another episode of thinking outside the box, OWS has discovered that an industry exists to buy distressed debt at pennies on the dollar. The companies that buy this debt then try to collect it and when successful, make their money on the spread. OWS has set up a fund to create capital to buy the debt, but intends to forgive it rather than collect it. There is going to be a telethon on Novemeber 15th at 8 PM.
Some have hollered that it creates a taxable event. However, if OWS is even more clever, they will contact the debtors, and stipulate to “settle” a pre-litigation case over the debt and the debtor will waive counterclaims and defenses in exchange for cancelling the debt. Since value is given, no taxable windfall. Since the most deeply discounted distressed debt has already passed through the hands of prior debt collection agencies, who no doubt have engaged in sketchy debt collection practices, it will not be a farce to say the debtors have counter-claims and defenses. This idea came from Masaccio.
OWS did a test run of this concept and was able to buy $14,000 of debt for only $500. This model should be used by the federal government to force the modification of mortgages, instead of bailing out the big banks, TARP money should have (and still could be) used to buy up the mortgages directly, reset the principle balance to reflect the current market value of the homes, and then reset the payments to fit the homeowners’ current incomes. Does that mean some homeowners, even with principle reduction, will end up with VERY long debt repayment terms? Yes, but it also means they can now sell those houses and get out from under if they choose, or they can pay for a long time and slowly rebuild equity.
The Triumph of Doing Over Talking
Over and over the MSM has whined that OWS doesn’t have a platform, it doesn’t have stated goals, it doesn’t have a message. Well, first of all, that tripe just demonstrates how lazy the MSM is. OWS has devoted many pixels to creating websites and online commercials explaining the programs and goals. The MSM is just too damn lazy to Google. OWS has devoted many pieces of cardboard and many yards of banners full of signs carried up major roadways full of slogans and demands. MSM couldn’t be bothered to show up and watch.
Nonetheless, OWS spends less time on messaging than any arm of government or any traditional interest group or charity. OWS doesn’t spend their donations hiring the “right” consultants who spoon feed puff pieces to reporters over meals at fancy restaurants. They don’t do ad buys for commercials with patriotic sounding music.
I’ve seen a ton of Red Cross commercials since my TV came back on, but not one Red Cross truck. OWS doesn’t play the game. Unlike the Red Cross, they don’t spend their time talking about what they would like to do or could do or did once before, they just go do it. It doesn’t matter if the “it” is changing the political dialogue to talk about the 1% vs. the 99%, or feeding a hungry person, or buying up student loan or medical debt. They spend much less effort talking about doing it and more effort getting it done.