OccupyWallSt (OWS) recently released the 99PercentDeclaration that outlines the process they envision to bring about meaningful change. While far from finalized, the document lays out a very specific agenda for the changes they hope to see. The following comments reflect my preliminary thoughts on the OWS agenda.

I read the OWS Declaration and think it’s a good start but it still has some very serious weaknesses. Worst among these is that it seems to do very little to assert sufficient public power over corporations.

Without question, reversing Citizens United and banning corporations from spending political capital are both critically important. But, and I see this as a failing mostly of Democratic Party progressives, the Declaration is too heavily invested in the campaign finance reform mantra as an ultimate solution to corporate abuses. It’s just not enough.

Corporate charters must be revised to mandate that corporations serve the public will. Nothing I read, for example, would prevent corporations from spending billions on lobbyists. They couldn’t directly give money or other remuneration to the political class but they can still hire a million lobbyists to swarm all over Washington. They could even “bribe” elected officials by offering to open a factory or office in their district. Nothing I read precludes that.

We need a new governance model to put we, the people, in charge of corporations. We also need to look at empowering workers instead of continuing the current system that allows “profit above all” investors from controlling what corporations do. The Declaration leaves in place a corporate system that will still do all it can to lessen regulation and pollute the environment. It is a self-serving system that puts the interests of corporations ahead of the public interest. This cat and mouse regulatory model needs to be changed because, at least to some degree, it will be ineffective. Cats will never catch every single mouse. Instead, the people and the workers need to hold positions of power from WITHIN each corporation so that the best interests of citizens, not investors, are a core part of each corporation’s mission.

Also, more needs to be done with the issue of outsourcing jobs. Subsidizing companies that don’t outsource and / or penalizing companies that do is a good start. Still, this is not sufficient to protect workers. We need to look at the effect on jobs of our various “free trade” treaties. If we’re losing jobs, end the treaties. We also need to take a very careful look at the impact of NAFTA and the WTO. It’s hard to see how either of these organizations is benefiting workers in the US.

And, finally, I think far more discussion needs to be held about term limits (which the OWS Declaration recommends). The idea of a citizen government, i.e. one that is not staffed by “lifers”, sounds good on the surface. Maybe it’s true that “long-term” is not good for democracy. I worry, though, that we will be throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Perhaps there’s something to be said for an experienced legislator. In some ways, term limits is just plain undemocratic. Shouldn’t we, the people, be able to return to the Congress someone who has done very well for us? As I said, more discussion is needed on this issue.

I’m very glad to see that this process has been initiated. I’m concerned, however, that its proponents may be constrained to some degree by current governance architectures and that they may thus fall prey to seeking reforms rather than revolutionary change. Many of the evils we now face have evolved from the core systems put in place at the founding of the Republic. Perhaps, rather than remediation of the damage, the core systems themselves contain cancerous cells that have multiplied over time. Perhaps instead of treating the symptoms we need to treat the disease.

In my view, we simply cannot allow a system where excessive wealth, i.e. excessive concentration of wealth, can be amassed to the perverse degree we see today. The idea that we can create safeguards such that those with massive wealth cannot abuse our political system is, in my view, extremely naive. Until we learn that even the best regulations will ultimately not be able to overturn the “money is power” paradigm, we will return to corrupted governance time after time after time. Ultimately, the solution is to cap wealth. All other approaches are little more than pretense. We’ve been there and done that too many times.