A passel of Occupy Wall Street activists will meet with leaders of the Congressional Progressive Caucus today, specifically about legislative issues:
Ten organizers from New York’s OWS group will speak to the caucus about their legislative priorities, according to an email sent to Members and obtained by Roll Call.
“This is the very first meeting of national occupy organizers and members to discuss specific legislation in the country,” the email to Members states.
An aide with knowledge of the meeting said the protesters “are uniquely concerned with getting money out of politics and with a jobs agenda.” The aide also said OWS representatives “may be reaching out to other caucuses both Republican and Democrat in the future.”
(UPDATE: Apparently this meeting has been cancelled, because of pressure from other Occupy members over how these 10 came to represent the movement. “Somebody’s taking the reins in terms of representing the group to Congress. But the rest of Occupy’s not ready for that yet,” said one protester.)
For a protest movement with allegedly no agenda, they sure are doing a lot of agenda-setting. Without setting foot in Washington, the Occupy movement changed the conversation around inequality in America, putting that issue at the top of the agenda. They led to a prioritization of jobs over deficits, as the Super Committee petered out with a whimper while stimulative measures (albeit inefficient tax-side ones) have become the dominant debate in Congress. Issues of corporate governance and campaign finance have advanced, as Occupy protesters railed against Citizens United. A coherent agenda about reforming a country and economy that only works for a privileged few has emerged. And it’s worth seeing whether there are any allies in Congress to carry the flag for that agenda.
As it turns out, the Congressional Progressive Caucus just released today a new bill called the Restore the American Dream for the 99% Act, a combination of stimulative job creation measures, progressive taxation, a funding cut to draw down current wars and reduce the Pentagon budget and other measures popular with the mainstream of the country. It’s obviously message legislation, but it sets an important marker for the future. The sponsors of the bill, co-chairs of the Progressive Caucus Raul Grijalva and Keith Ellison, claim that it would create 5 million jobs over the next two years while saving $2 trillion over the long term. Here are some of the highlights:
• Direct job spending to hire 2.2 million public safety, education, maintenance and construction workers. There’s also an infrastructure bank to leverage private capital on more construction projects, with a $50 billion up-front investment in infrastructure.
• A Buy America provision for all government-contracted materials.
• The Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans would expire, saving $800 billion.
• Ending “unnecessary” weapons programs and other defense spending for $280 billion, and accelerating withdrawals from foreign wars to save $1.2 trillion.
• Canceling fossil fuel subsidies for the oil and gas industry.
• A financial speculation tax to capture $350 billion with a tiny 0.03% tax on all trades.
• Changing the payroll tax extension to a Making Work Pay refundable tax credit, similar to what was in the original Obama stimulus, and extending it for two years.
• Instituting a robust public option to compete in the exchanges with private insurance.
• Allowing Medicare to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies on the price of prescription drugs.
• Scrapping the Social Security payroll tax cap (with a donut hole between $106,800 and $250,000) to fully fund Social Security over the long term.
This legislation defines the progressive agenda in a variety of ways, even if it’s not fully comprehensive. And it sounds like the kind of agenda an Occupier could support.
You can see a wider explanation of the legislation here. You could see this being used as a Contract with America-style expression of principles for a progressive agenda.