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Demos v. Cato Round III: Occupy Washington In Addition To Wall Street

David Callahan
It’s not clear that it makes a difference whether protesters occupy Wall Street or Washington, since both places are dominated by an American wealth elite that has grown vastly richer and more powerful in the past few decades. Indeed, a core point of the 99% Movement is that economic and political inequality have soared in tandem, and that these two trends are entwined. Great wealth nearly always translates into outsized political power and, in turn, that muscle is invariably used to grant even more privileges and perks to the wealth elite. It’s a dangerous cycle – dangerous to democracy and dangerous to the middle class – and not since the 1920s have we been more deeply trapped in that cycle.
Occupy Wall Street is a hopeful sign that perhaps this cycle can be broken before America moves too much further down the path to plutocracy. But, clearly, real change requires that this movement translate its demands into public policy. The 99% Movement should Occupy Washington in addition to Wall Street.
Any movement that aims to reduce corporate power in Washington would do well to consult Cato, which has done groundbreaking work on corporate welfare. Given the central concern of the 99% Movement – too much power in the hands of business – I would think that Michael Tanner would have used this forum to share some of Cato’s ideas and research on corporate welfare and crony capitalism. Plenty of 99 percenters would be receptive to this work and there are clearly some strong possible alliances between that crowd and libertarians.
For starters, both groups want government to stop subsidizing business with billions in tax breaks. Corporate tax reform, which is likely to be on Congress’s agenda next year, would have a better chance of succeeding if this cause drew support from an unusual libertarian-progressive alliance.