I complained yesterday that you can’t just occupy Wall Street, you also need some concrete demands. I think Mike Konczal and the good people of GOOD must have been thinking along the same lines, because they published his proposed three concrete demands to hold Wall Street accountable:
1. Cancel the debts
2. Investigate Wall Street
3. Create a Financial Transaction Tax
For the record, I’ve thought for a while now that the IMF’s concept of a Financial Activities Tax is a slightly sounder way of getting at the spirit of an FTT. But that’s hair-splitting. And note that the IMF is not a hotbed of radical anti-capitalism, so even though this isn’t a “politically plausible” idea, it’s certainly one worth pushing onto the political agenda.
My view is that the best demand of all, somewhat in the spirit of item number 1 but more radical, is “free money for the rest of us.” There are a lot of different specific ways this can be implemented, but the basic shape of things is that the Powers That Be are great believers in the importance of the credit channel to economic recovery and thus have been willing to provide all manner of free money to players in the banking system. Debt cancellation is a form of free money for the indebted. But why give free money only to banks? And why give free money only to the indebted? Why not free money for everyone? “Everyone,” of course, includes the indebted. But it also includes ordinary people who didn’t happen to avail themselves of the credit binge. It’s an idea so good that it sounds almost silly. “Everyone knows” that you can’t just hand out free money to everybody. Except actually you can. Most of the time it wouldn’t be advisable to do this. In the long run money is neutral, and making more money can’t make you more prosperous. But in the short term, free money for everyone impacts prices. Most of the time it would do so in a dislocating bad way, but under today’s circumstances, it would do so in a useful way. I don’t know what the best way to turn this into a slogan is, but the point is that if the different institutions that together constitute “the government” worked together, they could put more dollars into our hands. Creditors won’t like it because doing this will devalue their existing debt claims, but so what.