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Frances Fox Piven Tries To Breathe New Life Into The Occupy Movement


"It will take an upheaval of historic dimensions... to move in new directions."

As the police are shutting down Occupy camps across the country, and consensus grows that the protest's time has come and gone, one of the movement's chief architects must be a little worried about the future of the cause.

Perhaps that's why she decided to sit down and write an article for The Nation.

Frances Fox Piven, in what appears to be an attempt to galvanize the Occupy movement and bring about her Utopian economic revolution, has reentered the "income inequality" debate by penning (or typing, rather) an article titled, "A Proud, Angy Poor."

And although her article is so overrun with outrageous claims (e.g. religion in America fosters a “culture of insult” towards the poor) and oft-repeated falsehoods (conservatives hate black people, poor people, etc.) that it makes it extraordinarily difficult to decide where to begin, we can still try to evaluate the veracity of her claims, can we not?

That's the spirit!

Piven writes:

Occupy Wall Street has thrust the issue of extreme inequality into the spotlight. The movement has spread so quickly and alarmed politicians not because of its rather small encampments but because its message resonates.

That's debatable. If Gallup polling data is correct, the Occupy message isn’t resonating.

As reported earlier on The Blaze, a majority of Americans (including a plurality of Democrats) are actually more concerned with the threat of big government than they are with "big business." In fact, perhaps as a result of multiple riots, rapes and cases of public defecation, goodwill towards the Occupy movement has actually seen a sharp decline.

She continues:

Most people know, or at least half-know, that our problem is growing inequality, and they also know that government is complicit in the financially driven capitalism that is in the driver’s seat.

Let's take a serious look at this whole notion of "income inequality." Seeing as how Miss Piven is a university professor, perhaps a little perspective will add to this conversation.

Consider the following facts:

  • Harvard Professor Average Salary: $193,800
  • Columbia Professor Average Salary: $191,400 
  • University of Chicago Professor Average Salary: $190,400
  • Stanford University Professor Average Salary: $188,400
  • Princeton University Average Salary: $186,000

Now compare these numbers:

  • U.S. Marine 20+ Years Median Salary: $76,200 
  • U.S. Marine 10-19 Years Median Salary: $53,100
  • U.S. Marine 5-9 Years Median Salary: $40,000
  • U.S. Marine Less Than 5 Years Median Salary: $28,700

Maybe Piven should instead be asking, “When do we occupy the quad?”

To be fair, the difference in salary between a tenured Harvard professor and a U.S. Marine may not be as extreme as, say, the difference between a Goldman Sachs executive and a New York City police officer.

However, as far as one can tell, the Occupy movement isn't just about a difference in numbers. It’s about a specific socio-political theory that says, "It's not fair that so few should have so much."

When the Occupiers say that we should protest Goldman Sachs because hedge funders are paid more than the police, wouldn’t that same logic apply to Harvard because its professors are paid more than the U.S. Marines?

It would seem that both of these examples are flawed in their logic because, at their root, they are dependent on one’s personal understanding of what “too much” is.

Who gets to decide that?

Furthermore, these examples ignore the fact that, as private institutions, Harvard and Goldman Sachs are entitled to pay their employees whatever amount they feel is just.

If, for example, protesters are upset that the U.S. Marines and NYPD are not paid enough, then why attack private institutions that have nothing to do with their payrolls? They should be protesting whoever it is that cuts the checks for these public employees. Think about it: unlike a private institution, the taxpayer actually has a legitimate claim to how much the state and Federal government should pay its employees.

Therefore, instead of attacking the banks and calling for the end of capitalism, here's a compromise: the government could dramatically slash the salaries of cushier public sector jobs and relocate that money to the payrolls of U.S. servicemen and women.

Which "cushier jobs" should be targeted? Maybe the government could start with a thorough and comprehensive review the salaries of state university professors.

Which brings us back to Frances Fox Piven: according to the City University of New York (CUNY) website, Piven is a “Distinguished Professor” of Sociology and Political Science at the CUNY Graduate Center.

Guess how much Piven makes:

Well, would you look at that: an annual salary of $144,958

Unlike Harvard or Goldman Sachs, CUNY is a public institution where salaries are dependent on tax revenues. Therefore, rather than starting a riot and sputtering somewhat flawed theories on "just" compensation, Occupiers could simply demand that the money that’s already being taken from them to pay Piven's salary instead go to those who are "more deserving."

And it's those two words ("more deserving") that are really at the heart of the problem: it seems that much of what has been said on the subject of "income inequality" has revolved around someone else's own mutable and fallible idea of "fair." So, unless someone produces a fact-based proof for what "equal" looks like, then the entire idea of "income inequality" will continue to go in circles, one side arguing in favor of prosecuting CEOs while the other argues in favor of slashing public university salaries.

Piven continues:

The slogan “We are the 99 percent” stresses our commonality and lays the basis for a movement ethic of democracy, inclusion and solidarity. This is a big and welcome step. After all, we need an ethic that goes beyond the incessant liberal (and union) talk of “the middle class.”

Based on the gravamen of the Occupier's complaint, albeit convoluted and disjointed, we know that “inclusion” and “solidarity,” in their literal senses, are not being promoted.

While preaching “inclusion and solidarity,” Piven and the Occupy movement have repeatedly claimed that these lofty goals can only be achieved at the expense of others--the "1 percent." Technically, this is not inclusion in the full sense of the word. It is "inclusion" as the Occupiers would like to define it.

Is this what "a movement ethic of democracy, inclusion and solidarity" looks like?

"Still, the movement has to respond to the police sweeps of its encampments by becoming broader and more hard-hitting," Piven adds. Please define “hard-hitting.”

It has to firmly include [split infinitive] the vast number of people who have been marginalized by the rhetoric of American politics and by the realities of the American economy. In many places the homeless have joined the encampments. That is a beginning. But it’s not enough. To fully realize [split infinitive] an ethic of inclusion, the poorest and most benighted Americans should become part of our protest movement. We need to increase their numbers at our demonstrations, and we need to undertake the protest actions that deal with their most urgent needs—including the attacks on the social safety net that hit them hardest.

There are two problems with this passage.

First, as pointed out by the astute Joel B. Pollak of Big Government, the fact that someone—let alone Piven—has to beg the Occupy movement to include more poor people may prove what many have long suspected: that this protest is made up primarily of well-to-do, upset, affluent, and, most importantly, bored college students.

Ecce! Poverty in America. What a country.

Secondly, Piven seems to be laboring under the delusion that various labor groups haven’t already been including (i.e. paying) homeless people to participate in the Occupy protests.

As Big Government documents in this video, an activist named "Channing" claims that the former ACORN organization–through its new front group, New York Communities for Change–was paying homeless people $10 per hour and $100 per day to attend various Occupy demonstrations.

"She suggests that ACORN’s involvement is unwelcome, alleging that its homeless employees are 'being paid to come here and mess things up,'" reports Big Government.

The homeless are at the Occupy demonstrations--but usually only if they're paid. This has Piven scratching her head and wondering why "the people who have been hurt the most by the trends of the past several decades have so far remained quiescent."

And although she believes it's because American society has embarrassed them into submission, the notable absence of the poor from Occupy protests is more likely due to the fact that those who are actually destitute, and not just "upset" because a professor offered them extra credit to go protest, have been discriminated against by the wealthier Occupiers.

Her article keeps going:

Occupy Wall Street presents the possibility of a new and massive national protest movement capable of forcing a reversal of course, for the city and the nation. This could be one of those big turns in American political history, set in motion by indignant people who take to the streets or occupy the factories or the schools.

So, is she calling for all-out revolution?

And it will take an upheaval of historic dimensions to force the reigning financial and business interests and the politicians who kowtow to them to move in new directions, to cede a measure of democratic regulation of finance and business, to give in to policies that empower workers and their unions, to go along with policies that limit the corruption of electoral politics by big money and its propaganda and, not least, to restore and expand the safety net.

I guess that answers that question.

For this to happen, the movement has to grow, and it has to include in its ranks the people who have been scorned and abused by corporate domination of our politics. Not only would OWS gain strength from the participation of the poor; participation in a great movement dedicated to reducing extreme inequality would also transform the poor. Our society would benefit from that transformation. A proud and angry poor could help to remake America.

Maybe people would take you seriously if, you know, you weren't playing make-believe

After reading her article, one’s first inclination may be to commit her ideas and philosophies to the dustbin of “No thanks.” However, this may be unwise.

As Pollak writes:

… her views are influential within the radical American left–and familiar to its graduates in government, who are less a minority in the Obama administration than they have been in any other.

Apparently, Piven's philosophies of economic revolution and total social upheaval are more widespread than one would assume. If those in power do indeed subscribe to said theories, this could prove to be dangerous. What possible good could come from a politician who, backed by the force of law, enforces or pursues an economic state wherein "fair" and "equal" are defined by hazy and illogical philosophies?

It is therefore the responsibility of the American voter to ensure that those running for public office, whether it's their first time or not, are free from the stain of Piven-esque doctrines.

Otherwise, things may get awfully interesting, awfully fast.

Read Piven's full article here.

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