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The 99 Percent Solution

"Bart Naylor" "Financial policy reform"Four years ago this month, the world’s financial sector exploded, shooting shrapnel through the economy. Wounds fester to this day.

Last year this month, public outrage at Wall Street and general corporate corruption exploded in the form of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Benefits abound.

Defying easy definition, with no leadership structure, no official spokesperson, no office, not even a proverbial mission statement, “Occupations” rapidly proliferated through the United States and overseas. And the accomplishments of this otherwise amorphous energy have been concrete and sweeping. Here are a just a few:

  • OWS unburied from overlooked economics studies and made common knowledge the harsh reality of income inequality. “We are the 99 percent,” declared this movement. Among the alarming statistics: The wealthiest 400 Americans have more savings that half the entire national population.
  • Sniffed at by some for unformed/nebulous views, the OccupyTheSEC group penned an authoritative 300-page analysis of the complex Wall Street Reform Act Volcker Rule. While Wall Street’s high paid lawyers publicly complained about the rule’s difficulty, this Occupy group, composed of former derivative traders surgically dissected each detail of the federal proposal, identifying strength and weaknesses. Since then, senior staff at Washington regulatory agencies have consulted these Occupy experts.
  • Oppressed American workers, including those in beleaguered unions, drew energy from Occupy help. In New York City, for example, Occupy protestors joined in a symbolic 99 picket lines at work sites and banks. Occupy’s support for Con-Edison workers in New York locked out of their resulted in reciprocal support for specific OWS actions.
  • OWS increased attention to the corruption of corporate money in politics. Occupy proved important in approval of the STOCK Act, making members of Congress subject to the same anti-insider trading laws as average Americans. Occupy drew attention to the Supreme Court’s decision in “Citizens United” that reduced restrictions on corporate spending. That resulted in further support for the DISCLOSE Act as well as a constitutional amendment to reverse the court’s decision.

Movement or moment? Traditional conflict has supplanted OWS in the media, namely political elections. But self-identified Occupy members remain vigilant. The OccupyTheSEC gang, as noted, has continued its expert efforts on a widening front. But just as communication revolutionizes yearly (email, social networking, Twitter, livestreaming), it may be impossible to track the trajectory of Occupy. Rather, Occupy may be shattering such distinctions as movement and moment. This non-organization organization Occupy, may, in fact, be a verb.

Bartlett Naylor is Public Citizen’s financial policy advocate. Check out his piece, “Wall Street and the Cost of Forgetting” and follow him on Twitter @BartNaylor.