For a long time I have hoped for a genuine populist movement that recognizes the inequity and unsustainability of the corporatist plutocracy we now live under, and demands change. Occupy Wall Street seems finally to be that movement.

But we hear the establishment punditocracy, mediacracy, and “kleptocracy” denounce Occupy Wall Street because, they claim, protesters are nothing more than lazy, uninformed hippies. Echoes of the 1960s (and more) reverberating to the present.

There are two important facts to note: (1) This criticism is patently false. (2) You don’t have to understand the medical details of cancer or its treatment options to be angry that you have it and assiduously demand that something be done about it.

To mix metaphors, the Occupy Wall Street movement is simply a lot of us pointing out that the emperor does not have any clothes, despite establishment claims to the contrary.

We are saying things are severely and dangerously broken, and we want the people who actually broke them held to account, and we want things fixed. There is nothing abstruse about this message.

What Think Tanks Owe the People in the Park

by Janice Nittoli

I run a progressive think tank (this one), and as I wander around this Fall, I see conditions that should mean boom times for my business. Occupy Wall Street protesters are passionate, committed, numerous and widespread. They have made clear that many on the left are finally as angry and restless about the economy as the Tea Party on the right was in 2009 and 2010. But I don’t see our supply keeping up with their demand for new ideas. (And theirs is not the only demand: polls actually still show that a new Democratic presidential term will most likely begin in 15 months. For what will it stand?)

To be sure, there is much good work being done, here at the Century Foundation and elsewhere. But leading progressives practically need to run to get in front of the OWS parade. How did that happen? Part of the reason is that we are spending a lot of time these days thinking about the past and too little about the medium-term future – the missing policy agenda for the people in the park. We obsess about President Obama’s first year and what didn’t happen, what might have been done (and might not have been possible), who could have been appointed (and who couldn’t have been).

At the same time, we devote too little precious time and thought to ensuring that the most significant progressive legislation in 45 years, the Affordable Care Act, is made sustainable, not so much politically as administratively. (The politics, despite much of the chatter, will likely be easier: Who among us truly believes, for instance, that today’s Republican Party has demonstrated the foolhardy courage to take away health coverage from young adult children now covered by their parents’ plans, or to re-introduce refusals of insurance for pre-existing conditions?)

We devote ourselves to too much reminiscing about when industrial unions represented a third of the workforce and too little to building new organizations for the third of workers who are now independent contractors. We’re unwilling to acknowledge the unquestionable imperative, if not now then soon, to pay down some of our debt because that’s the narrative from the right (one we gave them during the Reagan years, when they first, obliviously, ran the debt up). And we seem to have almost given up on the idea of promoting American values through non-military means in a world where power is more diffuse, informal and dynamic—even though those seem to be conditions especially conducive to civic, social, networked engagement.

It’s never been the task of the people in the park to come up with the ideas. It’s their job to call attention to injustice, to demand that the powerful be held accountable, to just plain get angry at massive inequity. It’s the job of others to articulate an action plan for thinking progressives – and not just by repeating the same ideas that we had five, ten or even 15 years ago.

Core progressive values endure, of course, but they must take new shape in current contexts. I still enjoy listening to Bruce Springsteen but I wouldn’t use a Walkman to do so today, even though both first became popular at the same time. I’ve benefited from collective bargaining, but never enjoyed the protections of a burial association or hiring hall. A new progressive agenda similarly needs to take into account the current context for ideas. That means the inevitable need for fiscal responsibility, for imagining what’s next for a post-industrial economy, for negotiating politics and economics in a world with many more and more diverse actors. In the face of new situations, we need new, truly creative thought.

Edward Filene, the successful progressive Republican who founded TCF, said in 1934 that, “The superstitions of today are not the superstitions of yesterday. More often, they are the formulas of yesterday, which applied very well to the conditions of yesterday but which must be edited and recast if they are to become applicable to the conditions of today.” More than three-quarters of a century later, that is still precisely true.

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32 Responses to “Occupy Wall Street and Progressive Organizations”

  1. you’re listening to right wing propaganda. I walk the main street of town and there are increasing numbers of people of all types–not just degenerates, begging for money, living in shelters at night. I don’t see any TV’s in their 2000 people were living in the woods of town this winter because the shelters were full. Don’t think they were plugging in any TV’s out there. Go down to your local soup kitchen and find out what’s really happening.

  2. I thought the video was him trying to kill himself by driving into water then he gets pulled out. just what I think of it.

  3. Wall Street rejoices, hope that change of season will mean a change in our spirit, our commitment to stop them

  4. Ivy League News: Op-Ed: Slow Down the School Reform Factory: MacInnes is a fellow at The Century Foundation in N…

  5. valettkarr says:

    Only in the U.S. are the protesters arrested and the CEO criminals get a free pass to continue stealing …

  6. And for all the time and you have invested on analysing and summarising you too should also be very proud. Well done.

  7. plons tou says:

    October 18, 2010
    Economic Policy Institute
    The Century Foundation, Demos and the Economic Policy Institute launch “Our Fiscal Security” today, a that will present a new framework for thinking about the federal budget. The project launches one day before the Pew-Peterson Commission on Budget Reform publishes its recommendations.  
    read more

  8. The deficit commission that couldn’t come to enough of a consensus to send an official to Congress will apparently still play a role in the President’s budget for next year and the State of the Union speech. That’s straight from the Press Secretary’s mouth, or fingers. In a Twitter conference this morning, he was asked: “Will the President use SOTU to push recommendations of the Deficit Panel?” The reply: There have been plenty of other proposals the administration could consider. There’s the proposal by Rep. Jan Schakowsky, one of the many catfood commission members to reject its findings. There’s also the fiscal blueprint developed by Demos, Economic Policy Institute, and the Century Foundation, which has excellent recommendations for growing our economy. Likewise, the Citizens’ Commission on Jobs, Deficits and America’s Economic Future, featuring some of the progressive economists and analysts around, created a solid proposal for growing our economy. But the one…

  9. nult ayuki says:

    NEW YORK — As spring approaches, Occupy Wall Street protesters who mostly hibernated all winter are beginning to stir with plans for renewed demonstrations six…

  10. An Occupy Wall Street protestor is arrested by the police during a march from Zuccotti Park to Union Square on…

  11. kawa fabrof says:

    Why on would occupy Wall Street want to cheat the 99%? Isn’t this a terrible thing to do to the public?

  12. 5 Things “Mad Men” Can Learn From Occupy Wall Street And 3 Tips Madison Avenue Can Offer OWS In Return -HuffPost

  13. nelgevi says:

    only kidding you guys are the best. Thank you for all the information and Maybe occupy wall street will show up

  14. shidaya says:

    adam carolla said “we’re dealing with the 1st wave of pussies who endured the trophy” on the occupy wall street movement haha

  15. Pakistan an Afghan-led and inclusive reconciliation process in Afghanistan to pave the way for durable peace and stability in the war-torn country, Pakistani Ambassador Abdullah Hussain Haroon has said.“We have a stake in a peaceful and stable Afghanistan,” he said while in a discussion panel at the United Nations on the subject of “Afghanistan: Is a Negotiated Settlement Possible?” The well-attended event was organized by the Century Foundation and Mid-Atlantic

  16. care shimundela says:

    Why the right, the GOP and some Dems fear Elizabeth Warren and Occupy Wall Street – The Hill’s Pundits Blog –

  17. beulard says:

    Traders today at noon central Bernanke will speaking to the russell Sage Foundation and The Century Foundation on “Rethinking Finance” –

  18. “As for duplicity, I would say that diplomacy is not single tracked. We all follow many different tracks; sometimes, apparently, working against each other,” a retired senior official from Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI) told me and my colleagues during a private gathering in Islamabad in July 2010 that was organized as of The Century Foundation’s International Task Force on Afghanistan. “Double games or triple games are of the big game.” The ISI has long cultivated ties with militant groups as of the country’s national security strategy, in order to mitigate considerable gaps in conventional military capabilities with its principal adversary, India, and to check regional competition within Afghanistan. The United States and its international have been somewhat tolerant of this Pakistani game-playing. While it has long been known that Pakistan continues to and harbor Afghan insurgents, American dependence on Pakistani supply…

  19. Project of the Day: Two of Occupy Wall Street Doc Here’s your daily dose of an indie film … –

  20. Should The U.N. Admit Palestine As A Full Member State? He is a senior fellow at both The Century Foundation and the European on Foreign Relations. Levy… –

  21. I like the byline “a fellow at the Century Foundation.” I’m going to using “a dude at the Atlantic Council”

  22. seoh bich says:

    Twitter is appealing a judge’s ruling to hand over to prosecutors the tweets and account information of an Occupy Wall Street protester. The protester, Malcolm Harris, is being tried for disorderly conduct in connection with the Occupy Wall Street march on the Brooklyn Bridge last fall.

  23. Sure, I’d love to do so. Everything is good; working for The Century Foundation now, looking to get back to DC in the near future.

  24. kwa salairn says:

    See Naomi’s note below. I urge you to visit her new blog. I also am no longer working at The Century Foundation. Please note: This website no longer accepts Comments . It may appear that you comment has been accepted,…

  25. solgosalak fujit says:

    The forum was held by the Century Foundation. They had great panelist. The case is Fisher v Uni of Texas. I am all for affirm action.

  26. The silence has been deafening from the unwashed Occupy Wall Street crowd. Funny how Obama distanced himself when he sa …

  27. How Occupy Wall Street Won Tuesday’s Election: The Occupy Wall Street movement may have lost the battle, but it … …

  28. piermunaou misanne says:

    This was written by Richard D. Kahlenberg, senior fellow at The Century Foundation . It first appeared on the foundation’s website . By Richard D. Kahlenberg Americans value equal educational but our system has always undercut that goal with housing, zoning, and school assignment policies that consign low-inc …
    Divina Edgett liked How zoning policies affect student achievement on 23 April 2012 (5 months ago).

  29. Why would an occupy Wall Street resident invite me to share his queen size foil bed and promised that ill be warm! Major hysterics right now

  30. daufeliski critz says:

    i heard something about this jubilee on NPR this morning, if they can do it for the fat cats, they can do it for…

  31. occupy Wall Street was a collective movement across regions. It demonstrated a right to protest. But did it really succeed?

  32. Occupy Wall street seems like a success. Unless you’re watching Fox News. Then it was a Neo-Nazi Rape-a-thon while tri …

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