I strongly agree with Shamus Cooke
that a few easy to understand, short term demands would be very helpful to OWS in the USA. Of course OWS hasn’t been unclear about what they want in general terms. They oppose the stunningly undemocratic power wielded by the 1%, but should they be more specific about how exactly to get rid of that? I think they should for the reason Cooke points to:
“If Portland's Occupy movement had a strong list of demands — or even a firm statement of principles — the Democrats in Oregon would be unable to associate with Occupy, since the Democrats’ objectives would so obviously clash with those of the anti-corporate movement. But for now "99%" is vague enough for political impostors to enter the fray and inject ideas from the wealthiest 1%.”
However, I fear that a vague call for "jobs" (that Cooke suggests) would easily be conflated with Obama's pathetic "jobs bill" that the Republicans are blocking. Short term demands must be ambitious in my opinion – i.e. ambitious enough to pressure the Democrats even more than the Republicans. A very bad list of specifics demands would merely encourage people to vote for the Democrats. That kind of list would fatally wound OWS. It is therefore understandable why activists would adopt a dangerous “no specific policy demand” strategy. But a good list of demands could educate and excite people enough to realize that they will need to fight both the Republicans and the Democrats very hard in order to win them.
A few ideas off the top of my head (I stress these are short term demands)
1) Demand that political parties reject funding from the 1% (i.e the purchase of elections -something that disgusts a wide range of people)
2) Demand Central Bank (Fed) policies that target full employment instead of setting inflation targets that require unemployment.
3) Demand the reduction of inequality as a fundamental goal of economic policy. In other words, in addition to full employment as a target, why not have in equality targets (again, in stark contrast to inflation targets) based on what countries like Norway and Sweden have been able to achieve?
4) Demand taxation of the 1% that would bring US over tax levels in line with other rich countries. Overall the USA is a very low tax country. The funds should be used to expand – not just eliminate cuts to – social security and medicare.
I excluded from the list above a demand that shouldn’t be controversial among leftists but might be – aggressive action by the US Treasury to reduce the value of the US dollar. As Dean Baker has pointed out, that would provide a huge boost to US workers (and blow to the 1%). It would do even more for workers than tearing up trade agreements like NAFTA. Some US politicians have dishonestly cast China as a villain that prevents them from doing this.
Surely OWS can hammer out a few clear, ambitious, non-divisive and wildly popular short term demands that prevent the Democrats from slithering into the OWS movement.