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A Blueprint for Occupy

January 21, 2012

Read the short article Budget Fairy Tales, Left and Right by economist Robert Samuelson if you are susceptible to fairy tales. And let’s face it, we all want to believe whatever fits our worldview – political parties have always exploited this tendency. But fairy tales have caused actual suffering in Greece and are now coming horrifyingly to roost here in the United States. If only there were a party, movement, or even an ad hoc group based on something more substantial than utter nonsense . . .

Occupy Wall Street is our latest embryonic political party. They are an inspiring group with a compelling message of fairness. Unfortunately, the tiniest speck of cynicism leads to the conclusion that their ultimate contribution will be an American version of the now-famous Greek complaint: “Why can’t we have more free money?!”

If you want to know what fairy tales have done to Greece and to the rest of Europe, read Boomerang: Travels in the New Third World by Michael Lewis. He should have called it, “Democracy: A Worst Case Scenario.” Are we next? Is Occupy just another whine-fest?

Hope springs eternal. Maybe Occupy will decide to champion actual governing. Sure, start with Wall Street. Then get really radical and look beyond the fraction of the 1% involved in banking and demand fiscal responsibility from everyone. The 8 “demands” listed below are things we are going to have to do sooner or later anyway.

In at least one parallel universe, there is an Occupy that is not irrelevant. This is its blueprint.

1. Ban financial weapons of mass destruction.

This is an easy one.

Derivatives with cute names like credit default swap, collaterallized debt obligation, asset-backed security, and structured investment vehicle are almost always pure gambling and have strayed so far from their original purpose that bankers talking about efficient markets have to take acting lessons to keep a straight face. Some derivatives trading is even more toxic: a complex derivative may be purposely designed with a “bad” side and a “good” side the idea being to find a bank stupid enough to take the “bad” side.

Gambling and gamesmanship don’t make an ounce of sense at the societal level: they create economic instability. The risks don’t even make sense at the institutional level: the founders of Lehman Brothers (1850-2008), Bear Stearns (1923-2009) , and Merrill Lynch (1914-2008) are rolling in their graves. The risks do make sense for individual traders because a good trader can quickly vacuum up enough cash to guarantee lifelong wealth for himself, his children, his grandchildren, and his great-grandchildren. Worst case, the trader has to update his resume when his institution collapses.

If individual traders were getting rich losing reckless investors’ money, that would be fine. But they’re using taxpayer money, money belonging to conservative investors, and money they don’t have to play roulette with the world economy. When the banks went under en masse, we found out we were all all in whether we liked it or not.

There was a law against gambling taxpayer money but the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933 separating federally-insured banking from private investment was repealed by Bill Clinton and a Republican Congress in 1999. The vote was 90-8 in the Senate and 362-57 in the House despite dire warnings from a handful of people who knew better. Glass-Steagall must be reinstated immediately; anyone who disagrees should be heckled off the podium.

Once we’ve taken this obvious first step, the foulest derivatives, starting with mortgage-backed securities, should be banned outright. Other, less toxic derivatives can exist in a separate market open only to standalone companies specializing in high risk. A smart and/or well-connected trader, no longer backed by trillions in free public insurance, might only be able to make 10 million dollars a year. Too bad.

Congress is not on our side. Even mild proposals to curb the banks were dead on arrival. Obama gave the bankers cabinet posts and signed a slap-on-the-wrist financial reform bill called Dodd-Frank. Meanwhile, Obama’s opponents bemoan Dodd-Frank as too much (!!!) regulation and quietly celebrate. No doubt you are shocked . . . shocked to learn of the banks’ influence in Washington.

The oval office is empty and we have few friends in the Capitol. The crisis is building. The proportion of high-risk investments in banks’ portfolios has actually increased since 2008. Consolidation has increased too: banks that were too big to fail are now too big to bail. When the next collapse comes, there may not be enough money in the whole world to save our financial system.

Are you concerned about a final financial collapse? Are you willing to risk living in a world full of capitalism-hating radicals chanting I TOLD YOU SO forever?

Can you accept a government that won’t regulate the banks?

2. Stop extending the Bush tax cuts.

A mindless pledge to never raise taxes gives our politics the feel of a shot of heroin. Even worse, we hear politicians saying if Congress ever honors the sunset clause built into the Bush tax cuts, that’s raising taxes and that’s a no-no. So heroin isn’t enough, we’re supposed to sip cyanide. I’ll drink a little tea (see demand #8 below) but I draw the line at heroin and cyanide.

The Bush tax cuts included a sunset clause for a very good reason – to prevent the country from going bankrupt. We are ignoring our own rules and digging ourselves into a hole at the rate of 25 million dollars an hour. Companies aren’t hiring because the solvency of the government itself is in question. This is insane.

The Bush tax cuts must be allowed to expire for everyone as originally planned. The part of the Bush temporary tax cut disaster that applies to the middle class costs $200 billion a year in increased deficits; the upper end of the tax cut hands a small number of wealthy people a relatively large amount of money but only adds $30 billion or so to the total cost. If Occupy wants to be taken seriously, they should make a clean break from both dysfunctional parties and back the full expiration of the Bush tax cuts.

Suppose you are attempting Mount Everest climbing above 27,000 feet where life is tenuous at best and suppose you and your team had been smart enough to set a firm turnaround time so that your bodies wouldn’t be added to the dozens that litter the landscape. Would you keep climbing even after the agreed-upon turnaround time had long-since passed? Let’s say yes just for the sake of argument. When you reach the top of the world hours late, watch the sun setting, and note the needle on your oxygen canister halfway into the red zone, you may, finally, begin to worry. Congratulations are in order. You are a member of that select group who summited Everest by blowing off the turnaround time, that quaint safety rule established so long ago by high-altitude climbers averse to death. More than likely, you aren’t coming home.

It’s 1986. NASA ignores its own carefully-designed safety rules and allows the Challenger to lift off even though the engineers are saying NO, NO, NO. Two technical types who were over-ruled by their off-site bosses watch the lift-off. Some seconds after ignition they turn to one another, relieved. “We just dodged a bullet,” one says. A minute later, the space shuttle explodes. Everyone on board dies instantly.

Are you sure you’re okay with ignoring the sunset clause that was so carefully built into Mr. Bush’s tax cut?

3. Set the capital gains tax rate to 35%.

Another no-brainer.

Cutting the capital gains tax rate all the way down to 15% as we have is criminally stupid. A fair capital gains rate has never hurt economic growth or held back investment at all. There is a mountain of data proving this way beyond a reasonable doubt. In the 1990’s, we had fair capital gains taxes and fantastic prosperity. When the government decided it could cut taxes and increase spending, prosperity disappeared and the slow-motion train wreck we are now experiencing began. Go ahead, have a cozy little tea party on this particular train – just don’t bring your finest porcelain.

Is the 15% capital gains train really the one you want to be on?

4. Invest the social security surplus.

Social security has been larded with accounting gimmicks and has been long on promise and short on investment. The result is a financially weak system. This can be fixed if we demand it. We have to get past the myriad misunderstandings and reform the system as a straightforward exercise without killing ourselves coming up with partisan arguments about every aspect of what is an inherently simple idea.

Social security as currently constructed is not a retirement program. If you actually invested 12% of your salary in a real retirement program (e.g., a stock-based 401k) for 45 years, you would most likely retire quite comfortably. But our social security program does not include investment so it functions essentially as a safety net. Social security taxes are used to provide a minimal income for current retirees; anything left over (the surplus) is put into the federal treasury and spent like ordinary taxes. The system protects the elderly from poverty and helps the government’s bottom line, but it is pathetic at best as a retirement program. This has to change.

In 1983, Reagan presided over a huge increase in the social security tax which created a large surplus in the social security system. This was a great idea except for one thing – the law Reagan signed did not require the surplus to be invested; instead, the surplus was spent on day-to-day government operations. Since then, the government has carefully kept track of the total amount of money it has removed from the social security system: special non-marketable securities have been issued to the program every year since 1985. These are internal IOU’s – one government program, social security, is owed this money by the rest of the government –and they now add up to 2.5 trillion dollars. The government even included a small interest rate in its record-keeping.

You may feel that it is fine for the government to take money out of the social security system that it can spend on whatever and pay back later. But it is not fine. In 2011, the social security system spent 45 billion dollars more than it took in and therefore had to “cash in” some of its IOU’s. But in order to actually get the cash it needed for social security payments in 2011, the government had to borrow the 45 billion dollars from China (and other sources). This is because the securities, aka the IOU’s, are non-marketable, aka worthless. So it was a nice idea to think, “we’ll spend the social security surplus now and borrow it back later” but it didn’t work because “later” has come and we are buried in debt. The $2.5 trillion is gone (had it been invested in stock-based 401k’s, the amount would be more than triple this figure) and we can’t afford to take on enough debt to replace it.

Some people say the social security surplus was stolen. It was not actually stolen of course; it was spent on all kinds of important things that our government does for us every day. But it wasn’t invested. People who are wedded to the old, broken social security system will say that the $2.5 trillion is already counted as part of the $15 trillion national debt and so, they will say, we actually can borrow the money to pay back social security. But these people are wrong. We cannot allow social security to live off of budget deficits or we’ll wind up like Greece. It’s true we haven’t borrowed the whole $15 trillion yet, but we never should. If we want a strong economy we have to get our deficit spending under control (if you don’t believe that, you should stop reading now).

We can fix the system but first we must accept what has happened, resolve that it will never happen again, and understand that there’s no magic fix – there will be sacrifices. The system needs to have a surplus again and that surplus must be invested.

If a social security surplus is invested in personal retirement accounts, then over the long term, more people will be able to retire comfortably. These people will not need to collect social security and this will create a larger surplus which will allow more money to go into personal retirement accounts which will allow even more people to retire comfortably which creates an even larger surplus . . . . and so on. That’s how investment works – it builds on itself. Under this system, no one is left out in the cold because retirees in need of income are always paid first. If, someday, the invested surplus builds to the point where almost everyone is able to retire comfortably on their personal 401k, that would mean the social security program had been tremendously successful; it would not mean it had been “privatized.” Had Reagan and his cronies done it this way in 1983, social security would be rock solid now.

The first step to making social security solvent and creating a surplus is to insist that everyone actually pay social security taxes (see demand #5 below). At the moment, social security taxes are not charged to incomes above $110,000 and many public employees don’t pay into the system at all. This obviously has to change. This change would increase the tax burden on higher income earners who now effectively don’t have to pay social security tax. But it is nevertheless in their interest to pay up because top earners have the most to lose if social security renders our government insolvent. If necessary, to keep social security working, we might have to set the rate above the current 12.4%. This would affect everyone; however, as long as we have a guarantee that the government won’t blow the surplus, this is also okay.

Once the system has a substantial invested surplus it will be fine essentially forever so this is really the only important change we need. However, there is an accounting gimmick currently in place that should probably be dealt with while we’re at it. Right now, if you earn less than $110,000 your social security tax is about 12% of your income. But it isn’t listed that way. The government likes to pretend you are only paying 6% and your employer is paying the other 6%. In fact, your employer pays the whole 12% and sends it to the government before handing you your paycheck. Of course, all of the extra money it costs for your employer to hire you is a tax on you. This is money that is directly connected to your job and it affects everything about it including whether your employer can afford to hire you in the first place, what salary they can offer you, how big your raise is, whether you get laid off in difficult times, whether or not more staff can be hired etc. The actual social security tax rate currently stands at exactly 12.4% and this is all a tax on you.

To sum up, all salaries should be listed as the full amount before the 12.4% is removed (this is a mere accounting change but it would make the size of the tax clearer to everyone). The now-worthless $2.5 trillion in IOU’s might as well be placed in a museum as a reminder of past mistakes. The government must continue paying social security to retirees as usual and should gradually phase in a system in which Warren Buffet, lesser billionaires, and eventually millionaires don’t collect social security. No one gets a pass on social security tax (demand #5). Government-held social security surpluses must be strictly outlawed – all surpluses must go into individual taxpayers’ retirement accounts, NOT into the federal treasury. We demand this, all of us, republicans, democrats, idealists, realists, even the nutjobs. It’s as obvious as hell.

5. Apply the social security tax to everyone.

If you make a lot of money right now you basically don’t have to pay social security taxes because you only get taxed on the first $110,000 you make. So if you bring in 10 million dollars, 9,890,000 dollars of that is 100% social security tax free and your social security tax rate comes out to less than 1% instead of the 12% most people pay. Medicare/medicaid taxes used to also only be charged to lower incomes but that was fixed in 1993. It’s time to fix it for social security too.

If you are a millionaire, you should be congratulated for your success and perhaps also for creating jobs. But you do not need to “get your share” of social security. What you get is a stable economy in which to live and in which to invest. Stability hugely and especially benefits you and other millionaires so let’s not hear any whining about all those poor multimillionaires we should feel so sorry for who have to pay social security tax on their entire income and won’t “get it back” when they retire. You’re already getting it back – with interest – every day.

Removing the cap would make social security fiscally sound and would create a surplus. The surplus, rather than being dumped into the treasury and spent on whatever, would be divided equally amongst all workers and invested in each worker’s personal retirement account. Eventually, a social security system based on investment would be far wealthier than it is today and would not add to the national debt. Low income workers would be much less of a burden on the system when they retired; higher income workers who voluntarily pour money into their 401k’s would retire luxuriously just as they do today. Had we not squandered the surplus, there would be approximately $7.5 trillion of invested money in the social security system right now (using the S&P 500 as a benchmark). It is true that without a social security surplus to blow, the government would have to be more frugal in its spending habits, but this is a reasonable price to pay for a working social security system.

In addition to not taxing incomes above $110,000, the current system also allows many people to not pay any social security at all. Public employees in ten states – Alaska, California, Colorado, Illinois, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Ohio and Texas – pay no social security at all. In Massachusetts, state workers are allowed to put all of their social security money (the whole 12%) into their own private 401k’s. This is legal because the original law creating social security said public employees with their own retirement plans could opt out of the system. For obvious reasons, getting to bank your entire social security tax into your private account or even into a pension fund for state workers is a much better deal than paying into social security which supports low-income workers when they retire and, until recently, had a surplus that was spent by the government like an ordinary tax. The “public employees don’t have to contribute” loophole must be closed if we are going to have a healthy social security system.

If you’re rich and you don’t like the idea of paying your 12% and having the money divided evenly, keep in mind that the whole point of reforming social security in this way is to keep the U.S. from plunging into dangerous levels of debt. You have fine clothes, pleasant and warm vacations, a new car every few years, art on your walls, many memorable meals in your past, and more fine dining in your future. Are you sure you want to risk it all just so you don’t have to pay social security? Are you willing to watch your stocks and your houses lose value over the next 10 years? What do you think will happen to your wealth if your government goes bankrupt?

The goal here is not some unrealistic perfect equality of wealth (we are very, very, very, very far from that). People who claim they are “conservative” often speak as if any tax reform is aiming at some impossible (and unfair) ideal and they have made “redistribution” a dirty word. But some redistribution is necessary if we want a solid middle class and a fiscally sound government. And we need both of those things for our economy to work and for the rich to stay rich. Sensible tax reform is in your interest even if you have to pay more. There are no communes in our future, but there will be a crash if we keep acting like Greece.

If you are currently banking your whole 12% in your personal retirement account as a public employee in Massachusetts or elsewhere, you have it really good. What can I say? You should probably fight tooth and nail to keep such a great deal. However, I’m afraid it is in the interest of the rest of us to take this away from you and I’m afraid we outnumber you. I certainly understand your wish to remain fully exempt from social security but I’m sure even you can see how unfair it is. Sorry.

6. Extend medicare to everyone.

We have no choice.

Suppose you make $50,000 per year. Your employer must set aside much more than that in order to pay you. For healthcare, it’s $6,000 or so for the benefit on top of $50,000 for the salary. Nationwide, employers now pay more than 800 billion dollars a year for healthcare – this is where your raise went in case you were wondering. In any case, your actual income is really more like $56,000 if you include your health care benefit.

Here’s the good part. You’ll like this. After you’ve paid for your private health care, you get to pay almost exactly that same amount again in medicare/medicaid taxes and income tax that goes toward another 800 billion dollars for our public health care program. Health care spending in the U.S. happens to be about evenly split between the private system and the public system.

It might be okay to have two systems. But it isn’t. For what we pay just for medicare and medicaid, other industrialized nations cover everyone. If our health care system was as efficient as in the rest of the industrialized world (where life expectancy is longer than it is here, by the way) we would all have health care but your employer wouldn’t have to buy it. Imagine what that would do for the economy. All that extra money in the system would mean more expansion, more hiring, and more profits. You might even get a raise.

The current system has two big problems that are bleeding it to death. First, most doctors are currently paid for every patient they see, every test they order, and every procedure they perform. Paying doctors salaries instead reduces costs, cuts down on unnecessary medical work, and improves patient outcomes. Second, a relatively small number of patients with multiple chronic conditions account for most of our health care costs because of frequent, entirely-preventable hospitalizations. Plenty of follow-up care including administrative house calls (not by a doctor of course) keeps these patients out of the hospital, improves their overall health, and hugely reduces costs.

These reforms (and others) are critical and have been successfully tried on a small scale but will be difficult or impossible to implement until we switch to a single-payer system.

The only real alternative to single payer is switching to a free-market system heavy on personal responsibility. This would work: free markets are extremely powerful. But applying free-market principles to health care would also be extremely harsh; it hasn’t been seriously considered even by hardcore conservatives. Being denied triple bypass surgery because you can’t afford it is quite different from being denied a Mercedes because you can’t afford it. Most people would balk at the idea of having to take a fitness test in order to get a clerical job with insurance benefits; they would positively riot if they had to pay extra for gaining 15 pounds. Conservatives need to face the truth: For all intents and purposes, no one is in favor of free-market health care.

There’s an idea floating around that instilling just a wee bit more but not too much free-market principle into our broken health care system would fix it. Please, give me a nickel for every fairy tale . . .  Yes, free markets work, but they work because they are harsh.

So we’re stuck in the middle. Our current system minimizes personal responsibility and is completely disorganized and out of control thereby combining the worst aspects of a public system with the worst aspects of a private system. No wonder we pay double.

Vermont is the first state to get this; they have passed single-payer health care into law. Everyone in Vermont will soon be eligible for the equivalent of medicare regardless of age. When Vermont implements its system in 2014, payroll taxes will go up but take-home pay will stay the same because employers will no longer have to shell out massive amounts of cash for health care benefits.

Yes, I know, it’s socialism. But so is the military and so are roads. Sometimes there isn’t a choice and this is one of those times. We’d start saving money on the first day medicare or its equivalent was made available to everyone. Our worst-of-both-worlds system is mathematically doomed; in many ways, it has already failed. American businesses are being crushed by health care costs and we face a long-term employment crisis. What are we waiting for?

7. Cut welfare and defense spending.

It would be just lovely if we could balance the budget by eliminating waste and public radio, but we can’t. We have to focus on the two biggest parts of the budget: welfare and defense.

Many people need government assistance and there are many threats out there, but if we spend ourselves into bankruptcy, everyone will be poor and our ability to respond to threats will be severely compromised. A U.S. bankruptcy is (probably) not yet imminent but we should not forget how precipitous was the failure of those venerable banking institutions that marked the beginning of our fiscal crisis nor should we ignore the fact that Europe is in enormous, probably irredeemable financial trouble.

We can have responsible government. We can have a safety net without allowing it to be abused. We can have a well-equipped military without arming for a fight against the entire world. This isn’t easy but it can be done. We need to reduce our most expensive government programs to sustainable levels and we need leadership, not nonsense about more stimulus in one ear and mindless rants about making the Bush tax cuts permanent (!) in the other.

Unfortunately, a variety of hot and sweaty issues distract us enough so that we end up accepting nonsense and mindlessness on the real issues. Yes, Mexican nationals here illegally now account for the majority of U.S. agricultural workers because they work so cheap, and yes, some gay people are in long-term monogamous relationships very similar to traditional marriage and are politically active, and yes, every year, millions of women get pregnant despite being unprepared financially or emotionally and they terminate their pregnancies. No doubt you have strong opinions on all of these issues. They get people’s adrenaline flowing and make great distractions.

Are you willing to put up with budget fairy tales as long as your party says the “right, proper, and correct” things on the adrenaline issues? Is the financial health of your country so boring to you that you’re okay with politicians constantly changing the subject?

Do you really want to argue about who picks your lettuce while your government hurtles toward bankruptcy?

8. Pass a balanced budget amendment.

This is the inevitable outcome of the fiscal crisis which is slowly but surely becoming a nation-defining event.

We crossed a line and became a debtor nation in 1985. Today, our debt has reached levels that used to be the province of third world countries. It will take a decade or more to get ourselves out of the hole we are in. Exactly when we finally crawl out depends on when we decide to stop digging the hole deeper. For the time being, the hole will remain cavernous, we’ll be lucky if we can keep unemployment out of double-digit territory, and sitting presidents are going to have interesting times getting second terms.

Unfortunately, the sacrifices we have to make to embrace fiscal responsibility and crawl out of the debt hole before it caves in are politically impossible because the voting public knows that only suckers make sacrifices. We need to convince people that their sacrifice won’t simply be stolen by someone with a better lobbyist. We need a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution.

Here’s a sentence that is definitely not in the Constitution: “We want to spend more money, but we don’t want to raise taxes on people who are alive right now so we’ll borrow the money and our children and grandchildren can pay it off or, if they’d rather not, they can borrow even more money until the debt becomes a horrifying existential threat.” Here’s a sentence that should be in the Constitution: “We pay as we go.”

We can do it. We have a huge tax base and a mature economy; we can set our taxes to the proper level to pay for the infrastructure, military, and public services we want. Taxing our unborn children instead just so we can have free money is unconscionable; it’s also stupid. We already have amendments guaranteeing freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and freedom from unreasonable search and seizure; we need an amendment freeing our unborn children from crushing debt.

What should perhaps have been the 11th right in the Bill of Rights would have to be implemented over a 10 year period with maximum deficits spelled out along the way. Once the budget is balanced, this will not mean low taxes or high taxes or small government or big government – these philosophical decisions will still be ours to make. However, presidents like Bush will no longer be able to cut taxes without also cutting popular programs and presidents like Obama will not be allowed to try to spend their way out of recessions with unpaid-for stimulus plans. Only a national emergency, declared by 2/3 of both houses of Congress, would allow a president dig a debt hole.

Whatever your belief system – social democrat, libertarian, isolationist, hawk, dove, or fundamentalist wacko – ask yourself this: do you want to be Toyota with plenty of cash and no debt or GM with its “give me a bailout or give me death” business plan?

Countries like Greece and Italy and even France are proving every day that perpetual deficits and snowballing debts are no better at the level of developed nations than they are at the level of mature corporations. As the warnings from Europe float across the Atlantic and as our day of reckoning draws near, we have a choice: do we make modest sacrifices now or is catastrophe looming ahead so inevitably that we should all just make like bankers and grab as much as we can before we hit the iceberg?

Okay, as Inigo Montoya says, “Let me sum up.”

In the 1930’s when corporate profits fell to zero and the national debt was less than half of GDP, a lot of government spending combined with low taxes (i.e., what we are doing today) was okay policy under the circumstances. That was then.

Today, corporations have plenty of money and profits and the government’s debt to GDP ratio is already over 100%. What we need to do now is actually the opposite of what we did in the 1930’s. We need to raise taxes and cut spending. Everyone has to contribute, especially the top 20% who hold essentially all (85%) of the wealth in the United States.

Here’s our wealth distribution in a nutshell: You are having a pizza party and 100 people show up, but you only have 24 slices so you give 20 people a whole slice each and let 80 people fight over the 4 remaining slices. If you are lucky enough to have a whole slice, it is decidedly in your interest to pay significantly more taxes – remember, if we wind up like Greece, Warren Buffett loses more than anyone.

We’re all scared. Our monstrous national debt looms like a giant anvil poised over everyone’s head and its shadow is making companies extremely cautious about investment and expansion. That’s why they’re not hiring. It’s not because the government isn’t spending enough money on stimulus (Fairy Tale #1) and it’s not because companies are over-regulated or over-taxed (Fairy Tales #2 and #3). The combination of an insolvent government, an unstable banking system, and out-of-control health care costs increases the risks inherent in every business decision.

No one knows when the anvil will come crashing down. At 150% of GDP? 200%? Will there be a domino effect when France runs out of money? Your guess is as good as anyone’s. One thing is clear: when our debt finally becomes unmanageable, there will be no recourse. When the time comes, Occupy protesters will probably set up tent cities in an unbroken chain from coast to coast, but by then it will be just so much nylon, powerlessly flapping in the breeze, making noise and making a stink, too little too late.

Unfortunately, even if the Occupy movement gets organized and puts together a clear set of demands, they will likely push for tax increases but only on rich people. And means testing for Social Security? Oh, well, it’s okay to stop sending checks to billionaires but there will be absolutely no sacrifice whatsoever for anyone in the 99%, including millionaires, because “we’ve sacrificed enough already.” (That’s what you think. You want sacrifice? Wait until we have to stop borrowing money.)

The Occupiers probably aren’t going to go for a balanced budget amendment either, even one that kicks in after ten years because they have been shooting up with free money fairy tales just like the rest of us. The amendment is essential though, a sine qua non if we want fiscal responsibility from the government and trust from the voters. Occupiers act as if all we have to do is get the 1% to spread their wealth. That’s Fairy Tale #4.

Do the fairy tales own us?

In my dreams, Occupy makes common cause with the 1%, goes mainstream, and pushes for achievable change. Wouldn’t it be great if we all “got it,” pulled together, and decided we wanted to contribute to a full recovery and to future stability? What if all 8 demands – and it only works as an all or nothing proposition – were embraced by a broad and sane swath of the American public?

I vote yes. That’s one.

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