Manifesto for the Occupiers
John Kay pointed out in today’s Financial Times: “The problem is not simply that we do not know what the protesters are for. It is that we do not really know what they are against, except those things that almost everyone is against – war, poverty, man-made climate change and overpaid bankers and executives.”
In light of the confusion surrounding the occupiers, and in the absence of any coherent leadership, let me suggest the following for them. To begin with, they should all denounce loudly and continually corruption, tribalism, prejudice, intolerance, tyranny, despots and dictators. Where were they when Gaddafi was found and killed? Their silence was deafening! As it continues to be as Assad murders his people.
At the same time they should champion freedom, democracy and meritocracy. So that their words actual mean something (“talk is cheap”), they should organize boycotts of: all companies that deal directly with the 30 or 40 most corrupt and tyrannical countries in the world; companies that violate human rights and circumvent Western labor and environmental standards; and companies that receive subsidies from governments.
Next they should compel all pension funds, many of which invest money on behalf of union workers, to change corporate governance and executive compensation practices. As a start, there should be term limits for directors; as well, they should be randomly selected and not include individuals with full-time jobs. Further, no senior executive should ever be a member of the board of his/her company.
Compensation consultants should not be retained. Thresholds for bonuses and long-term compensation should be greatly elevated and be set relative to the performance of competitors. No longer should any senior executive receive performance-based compensation when underperforming his/her competitors.
At the same time, the occupiers must turn their attention to the political arena and work hard to support politicians who favor the following – of course they also should work hard to defeat politicians who are opposed:
– carbon taxes that would push the price of gasoline above $10 per gallon (30% of the revenues should be used for transportation initiatives; the remainder should be returned in lower income tax rates);
– the elimination of all tax expenditures including but not limited to capital gains, charity donations, retirement savings, healthcare plans, mortgage interest (everyone must make some sacrifices, not just the 1%);
– the elimination of all subsidies to companies and farmers (why are tobacco farmers still receiving huge subsidies from Washington?);
– serious reform of corporate governance (ineffective governance practices are the rot in the capitalist system);
– real reform of healthcare;
– strict enforcement of laws that make sense and the repeal of those that do not;
– full reinstatement of Glass-Steagall (commercial banking should be boring retail banking);
– a Tobin tax on all financial transactions;
– mandatory trading of all derivatives on regulated exchanges with complete transparency in pricing and collateral;
– term limits for all politicians and election spending limits.
These reforms provide a good start and should meaningfully occupy the time and efforts of the occupiers.
The opinions expressed in this blog are personal and do not reflect the views of either Global Brief or the Glendon School of Public and International Affairs