Occupy Wall Street – Why are They There?

by L J Furman, MBA on October 19, 2011

in Economic Democracy, Occupy Wall Street

_Follow LJF97 on Twitter Tweet  Sometimes the “Invisible Hand” shoots itself in its “Invisible Foot.”

I’m here and most of us are here because we see dramatic inequities in the system.  We play by the rules.  The banksters are playing Three Card Monte and we are captive players – marks – in the game. They’ve marked the cards and stacked the deck. Bank of America, for example, took $45 Billion in TARP money and then started charging $5.00 dollars a month to depositors who hold a debit card. The bank borrows money for which it pays next to nothing. The bank charges usurious fees to customers who borrow money using credit cards, and it charges depositors absurd fees to access their funds on deposit in the bank.

This is one issue. Other issues include taxes, access to health care, education, jobs, and energy. All have to do with our nature as economic actors within the larger communities of the nation and the world. The question we are trying to answer, with a resounding “YES!” is “Should we live in an economic democracy?”

The Deepwater Horizon is, sadly, the textbook example. BP seems to have allowed the spill to occur. Then seems to have acted to protect its interests – the interests of the stockholders – at the expense of the interests of the stakeholders.

Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes once said, “Taxes are the price we pay for civilization.” It’s not that wealthy people should pay taxes because they are wealthy.  It’s that wealthy people should pay taxes because they benefit from living here.  When Warren Buffett needs a new roof on his house he hires a contractor. When he goes to the doctor he doesn’t care about the doctor’s wealth; he cares that the doctor is a competent physician. When he gets on a plane he wants to be confident that the plane is going to land safely.

Access to health care is controlled by for-profit insurance companies and rationed on the basis of wealth.  I see that this and the “Fee for Service” model is inequitable and inefficient. I think that health care should be distributed as needed by non-profits or government agencies, along the lines of the Veteran’s Administration.

To be a physician or a pilot; to effectively perform any useful skilled work, requires education and training. Young people today are told that they need undergraduate and graduate degrees, and they must shoulder the burdens of Hundreds of Thousands of dollars of debt to attain those degrees. Yet after graduation they are told that the best jobs they can hope for are part time, pay minimum wages and offer no health insurance or other benefits. Why should young people go into debt for an education when they have no reasonable expectation of meaningful and fulfilling work for compensation at a rate with which they can reasonably expect to pay off their debts?  And what do we say about ourselves when we ask our children and grandchildren to shoulder the burdens of supporting our parents and ourselves in our old age, and yet refuse to give them the means to do so?

And when you consider 14 million unemployed, millions more who have been out of work so long they are not counted, millions more who are underemployed, 45 million with no health insurance, events like the meltdowns at Fukushima, the flooding at Fort Calhoun, the Deepwater Horizon spill of 60,000 barrels of oil each day for 85 days, the coal ash flood of 1.2 billion gallons of toxic ash into the Clinch and Emory Rivers of Tennessee on 12/22/08 … you have to conclude that sometimes the invisible hand shoots itself in its invisible foot.

I’m a capitalist.  I own stock in Apple, Ford and a couple of other companies. Buffett has said that he would never have become wealthy had he not been born in the United States. The US, he says, had an educated workforce comprised of people who could build things and buy the products his companies made and sold.  That is no longer the case.

Buffett, I think, has always had a long term view.  While most of the people on Wall Street look to the end of the quarter or the end of the month, and day traders look to the end of the day, Buffett says he buys stock to hold forever – there is no longer term view than forever.

If you apply the long-term view to energy, you have to realize that our dependence on fossil fuel and nuclear power is not good.

  • August, 2011, several nuclear plants shut down because of the earthquake in Virginia and Hurricane Irene.
  • June, 2011, Fort Calhoun, Nebraska, shut down and stayed down because of flooding.  And it’s costing the operators – who pass on the costs to the ratepayers – $1.0 Million per day.
  • March, 2011, the Fukushima accident in Japan. Melt-downs in three of the 12 reactors.  TEPCO is now a $100 Billion liability. A semi-circle area of Japan with a 50 mile radius around Fukushima needs to be isolated from the biosphere. I don’t know if anyone knows how much radioactive material washed into the Pacific Ocean.
  • April, 2010,the Deepwater Horizon accident in the Gulf of Mexico. Sixty Thousand barrels of oil gushed into the Gulf of Mexico each day for 85 days, while BP and other corporations worked to safeguard their interests. Today we see the shrimp catch in the Gulf of Mexico is about half of what it used to be.
  • April 2010, the tragic accident at the Upper Big Branch mine in West Virginia.
  • December, 2008: 1.2 billion gallons of toxic coal waste flood the Clinch and Emory Rivers near Kingston, Tennessee because of heavy rains.

Solar, Wind, Geothermal, Marine Hydro, Renewable Bio-Fuels

Like nuclear, solar doesn’t generate power during hurricanes. But when the rain stops and the sun comes out solar systems automatically restart. You don’t have to do anything to turn them on.  They don’t consume fuel or produce carbon dioxide, arsenic, lead, mercury, uranium, zinc, or any of the other toxic materials produced by coal or nuclear power. Solar and wind power installations are composed of hundreds, thousands, or millions, of identical, mass-produce-able and interchangeable parts. They do not need a national security infrastructure. They are not targets of terrorists or hostile neighbors.  And solar and wind are predictable.

Wind, solar, geothermal, Marine Hydro, and renewable biofuels are predictable, and can be produced for less cost, with much less waste.  Efficient use of those technologies is the way we will power the future. And we can do it in 20 years.

100 GW of wind $300 billion
100 GW marine hydro another 300 billion
50 GW of solar, $200 Billion.
50 GW of geothermal: $200 Billion.
200 GW equivalents of efficiency: $200 Billion.
A Smart grid: $100 Billion.
500 GW or the equivalent: $1.3 Trillion.
About what we spent in Iraq – without the loss or risk to soldiers.

Save the world: Priceless.

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