Václav Havel passed away today. In December 1976, he and others signed the “Charter 77”, a demand for a civil society in Czechoslovakia. He spent some years in jail, as did others, as a result. The communists knew that words can be the most powerful blow against an oppressor. Twelve years later the “Velvet Revolution” began and the oppressors were driven from power and into disgrace. Václav Havel, a writer and poet, then became the first democratically elected president of Czechoslovakia since the fall of Iron Curtain.
A week ago a draft “Three Line Occupy Manifesto” was published here, and some thoughtful comments were added by other FDL readers. Thank you. A revised version follows with some additons added [in brackets] as a result of those comments.
This “Charter 99″ Occupy Manifesto will never be, nor should it be, everything for everybody. It is meant to be a straight forward set of demands to be presented to politicians to level the playing field between the 1%’ers and the 99%’ers, by ending institutionalized corruption in American politics.
Many will say this is unrealistic and can not be done, as the 1%’ers have the politicians in their pockets, control of the mainstream media, and have the ability to field armies of well paid mercenary lobbyists to bid their will in Washington.
The 1% does have that power, but they can not silence us. The power of the 1%’ers is nothing compared to that of the police states that existed in Eastern Europe during the Cold War. The advocates of a civil society in Eastern Europe braved the fear of poverty, imprisonment or even death to speak out and win. We have no excuse for remaining silent.
Reach out to the politicians. Politely but clearly, forcefully, and when needed, loudly.
Let them know that we have principals that transcend the narrow self interest of the 1%’ers. Let them know that America is about the 99%, not the 1%. Let them know that their job is about the 99%, not the 1%, and that their job is on the line if they fail the 99%.
We must raise our voices until we can not be ignored.
A revised “Occupy Manifesto” follows; From now on let’s call it the “Occupy Charter 99”.
(The following is revised from the “Three Line Occupy Manifesto” based on FDL reader comments. FDL, Monday December 12, 2011 12:37 AM)
[Occupy Charter 99]
It is easy for a manifesto to become a laundry list of demands, as there is so much to complain about these days. Each additional item reduces the chance of obtaining consensus. What follows is a try at a “short list” that might work. Fix it, rewrite it, whatever, but a movement without a written agenda will either fade away or be co-opted.
[Much of this is about “getting the money out of politics”, but money is needed to run an election, and to give a way of making the freedom of speech real. (This blog is hosted on a server that costs money.) It is the connection between the money and government decision making that needs to be disconnected. Small anonymous donations can be allowed. The fear of the rich self-funding a campaign is real, but just look at the past elections in California, the wealthy trying to buy their way to the Governorship and a Senate Seat failed miserably. At the end of the day the people get the government they deserve and we will always have to be vigilant.]
Yes, many of us worry about war or peace, the environment, social justice; the list is endless but each additional concern divides us. We need to focus on the keystone problem only, the institutionalized corruption that give the top 1% of earners and large corporations 99% of the voice in our society. If we can fix this we will be able to address the other legitimate concerns that we have. [This manifesto is not meant to be perfect prescription, it is only meant to give the 99% a fighting chance against the 1%, but do not underestimate the power of many voices calling for justice in unison.]
[Let’s keep the list short and focused on the critical few items needed to level the playing field; later we can try to hit the home runs.]
1. End the institutionalized corruption in government
2. End the political power of corporations
3. Limit the political power of the 1% to 1%
Yes, that’s it. Three little statements. Some details on how it might work follow.
1. End the institutionalized corruption in government
The Freedom of Speech can not be compromised, and lobbying is a form of speech, often serving the public good. [In any case, controls on donations run into court challenges.] The control on lobbyists must come from controls on government officials and employees, not on the lobbyists [to avoid the constitutional issues]. Politicians are government employees and their freedom of association can be limited as a condition of employment. [It is true that not all bribery takes the form of monetary compensation, but if we can stop the money we will have a chance of establishing a level playing field and start to deal with other forms of unethical pressure used to influence government.]
It must be a felony for any elected official, judge or government employee to meet in private with a lobbyist or their agents under any circumstances. Sometimes lobbyists are useful experts, let them explain their points of view in public to all of us instead of in closed rooms with politicians. [This will apply to all lobbyists, not just those in the pay of the 1%]
It must be a felony for any elected official, judge or government employee to fail to fully recuse themselves from any discussions or votes where they, a family member, or a business associate, has an appearance of a conflict of interest, or would benefit financially from the outcome of a decision under consideration. Any giver of gifts or campaign donations to a politician [of more that $100 in a year] will be defined as a business associate for life. Travel, food, cigars, drinks, bundling, facilitating, whatever, all count as donations.
It will be said that these rules would prevent most politicians from continuing in office. That is correct.
2. End the power of corporations
Corporations exist as the result of legislation based on the belief that they provide a benefit to society, and legislation can be used to limit their power and rights. If the Courts don’t understand this then Congress will ban the existence of corporations, or tax them into oblivion. There are other ways to do business without them.
The Bill of Rights does not apply to corporations. They have no freedom of speech, no right to remain silent, nothing. If the Courts don’t like it, then corporations cease to exist.
The executives, directors and major stock holders of corporations, and their beneficiaries, will bear unlimited personal liability for a corporation’s damage to the environment, public health or the economy. The corporation can and must protect its owners and managers from the damages resulting from simple bad business decisions or bad luck, but not from acts of greed, or from situations where they knew or should have known about the risks to others.
“I hope we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our monied corporations which dare already to challenge our government to a trial by strength, and bid defiance to the laws of our country.” — Thomas Jefferson, 1816
3. End the disproportionate power of the rich
It is supposed to be one person one vote, not one dollar one vote.
All income; salary, interest, dividends, inheritances and short term capital gains, whatever, gets taxed at the same progressive rate necessary to balance the Federal budget now. Long term (>5 Years) investments that create jobs in America might be eligible for a lower rate.
Lawyers, accounts and financial advisors that fail to report attempts to avoid taxes by the rich will be considered their co-conspirators in tax evasion.
There can be no tax deductions of any kind for the rich. Donations are nice, but the 99% should not have to subsidize the public relations campaigns of the 1%.
The pro-rich tax policies have created an unreasonable Federal Debt, a wealth tax will be used to eliminate the debt held by the public [“Wealth” means total assets, as opposed to “income”, which is what was earned in a given year.]
It’s just 3 simple easy to remember points.