We can't wait for Wall Street or Washington DC to fix themselves. Here's what Oregon is doing.

By State Treasurer Ted Wheeler.

Two weeks ago, the around-the-clock occupation of two park blocks in downtown Portland came to a largely peaceful conclusion.

Yet while the daily visual reminder of the Occupy Portland encampment is gone, the daily angst that helped to germinate the movement remains as palpable as ever. We can keep expecting to see marches and hopefully peaceful demonstrations, as that dissatisfaction continues to simmer.

While only a relatively small percentage of people are participating in the protests, a strong majority of Americans share the Occupiers’ anger and concern about the state of our economy. They are struggling to get by on declining real wages, they wonder if they will be able to stay in their homes, and they wonder if they will ever achieve a secure retirement. Against that backdrop, they see that Wall Street and corporations are reaping robust profits and executives are making multimillion-dollar windfalls.

When I visited protesters in Occupy Portland and Occupy Salem, I heard a succession of saddening stories about the struggles faced by real Oregonians, who live in a state where our per capita incomes have fallen significantly below the national average. They come from all walks of life: elderly, veterans, and young people.

They all share something in common: They feel ignored, slighted, and frustrated. It just doesn’t seem right – and they want somebody to do something to address a system that seems too oriented toward Wall Street, and not enough toward their street.

While we’d like somebody else to increase the accountability of corporate America for us, the reality is that we can’t wait for Wall Street to just fix itself, or even for Washington D.C. to come to the rescue.

That means we need to use the tools at Oregon’s disposal, and at the State Treasury, we are doing just that.

Oregonians rightly expect their Treasury to be a voice for reason and to protect the public trust in these uncertain times, and to show the right kind of financial leadership. As part of that commitment, we also look for opportunities to work in concert with other state treasuries to advocate for positive change.

I’m proud of the work we’ve done, and it will continue.

I also want you to know that everybody can make a difference, and you don’t need to be a major investor or marching in protest. The recent decision by banks to forego a planned monthly fee for debit cards proves that your opinions matter, and businesses do listen. Get educated about financial issues, read your credit report, and be a smart consumer of financial services.

This is what you should do now: Make yourself heard! We know that one person can’t change the status quo, but many of us can. Send word to our representatives in Congress, asking them to support the efforts we are taking in Oregon. Or, contact my office and we’ll add your name to the list of those who support our steps toward positive financial change. You can reach us at [email protected]

The dialog is evolving, the volume is rising, and you can -- and should -- have a voice in it.

Comments

    • (Show?)

      I think so. I've suggested that the State amend its business organization laws to include provisions that require a vote on any political donation, and require the corporation to pay to any shareholder who didn't vote yes on that donation or expenditure to receive a special dividend equal to their share of the cost of that expenditure. Alternatively, the shareholder should be allowed to sell her stake in the corporation, and the corporation should be required to pay for all transaction fees.

      No one has really pointed out that when a corporation spends on a politicians account, that it is taking the money from shareholders who may not agree with that point of view. This is not just an issue of free speech by a corporation, it is also a matter of a shareholders right right NOT to have to pay for speech that you don't agree with.

      Paying the special dividend, or paying for the unwanted transaction costs seems like a very reasonable way to protect shareholders' rights to free speech.

    • (Show?)

      "greater strides to end a national robber-barron economic model that has stolen the hope of a middle class life style"

      Goldmann Sachs owns the Presidency, do you support Obama 12?

      "End Bush tax cuts"

      You need a new boogey-man.

      "End wars in the middle east"

      Again, do you support Obama 12? He greatly expanded the wars in the middle east.

      "one-sided job creation system that gives all the power to the employer to the detriment of workers"

      Huh? Who's going to create the jobs? The workers? They can do that already but, then, they become ... employers.

  • (Show?)

    "Against that backdrop, they see that Wall Street and corporations are reaping robust profits and executives are making multimillion-dollar windfalls."

    ... with the support of elected officials and bureaucrats at EVERY level.

    "We use the power of proxy votes, as an active shareholder, to exert pressure on corporations to make positive changes."

    ... in accord and harmony with Alinsky's plan, as outlined in "Rules for Radicals" which, by the way, was dedicated to Lucifer.

    "We have worked with other states to develop a new database of individuals that will hopefully increase the diversity and geographic representation of corporate boards."

    Yeah, because it's not about ability, it's about skin color, sexual orientation, political affiliation, and geography -- makes perfect sense.

    "We are carefully scrutinizing the fees that we pay for the management of our investments, and have shaved millions since I entered office."

    Excellent! This is your job right? Good job doing your job!

    "Send word to our representatives in Congress, asking them to support the efforts we are taking in Oregon."

    Good on specifics ...

  • (Show?)

    "We have asked the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to shine a light on the now-secret political donations that can be made by corporations, by requiring those corporations to report political giving to their shareholders. We also have asked the government to protect the rights of shareholders to nominate corporate board members."

    Excellent. But the my question is.. is this to ALL politicians or only to the ones Blue Oregon or OWS opposes?

    From Opensecrets.org the following organizations were the top contributors to President Barack Obama's campaign in the last Election.. Some you will be able to purchase stock.. some you will be unable too.. But the question remains...

    Microsoft Corp $171,573

    Comcast Corp $113,800

    Harvard University $99,975

    Google Inc $95,066

    University of California $85,941

    DLA Piper $75,375

    Skadden, Arps et al $69,374

    Chopper Trading $64,815

    Stanford University $62,928

    Time Warner $62,600

    Ballard, Spahr et al $62,300

    National Amusements Inc $62,100

    Arnold & Porter $54,700

    Goldman Sachs $50,124

    • (Show?)

      Sorry, but you're misreading the data. Corporations have been - and still are - barred from making direct contributions to federal campaigns.

      The totals you see at OpenSecrets.org are the total donations made by employees of those companies to those candidates.

      Now, it's true that some of the donations come from senior executives whose donations reflect the corporate interests of the company -- but there are plenty of examples where that's simply not the case.

  • (Show?)

    Columbia University $49,347

    Latham & Watkins $49,082

    Exelon Corp $48,625

    US Dept of State $48,077

    Mayer Brown LLP $47,700

    Sidley Austin LLP $44,825

  • (Show?)

    The Tea Party and Tea Party candidates like Rob Cornilles love to rail against the evils of crony capitalism, but the positions they advocate only entrench it further and would strip away any protections we might have against its depredations.

    No one, Geoff, is fighting harder on behalf of Wall Street in the Congress than the folks you & other Tea Partiers put in power.

    Jeffrey Sachs has a fine piece on the differences between the ways the left and right talk about crony capitalism: Fairness and the Occupy Movement Revisited.

    • (Show?)

      Dan, last I saw, Bonamici was endorsed by Tea Party members, not Cornilles. The Tea Party and myself have been talking about ending corporatism since the beginning (first Tea Party slogan: No Public Money for Private Failure). Your "protections" are the ties that support corporatism ... small business is failing because big business has aligned with government and sets the rules so small business fails ... stop supporting it.

      • (Show?)

        So then why, Geoff, are Tea Party caucus members taking millions and millions from big business PACS and going all out to kill any attempts to rein in the banks? Your rhetoric aside, it just doesn't pass the smell test.

        Oh, and at or near the top of the list of recipients of Wall Street money? Tea Party champion Scott Brown. And Mitt Romney's taken in nearly twice as much as President Obama for 2012 from the industry -- including around seven times as much as Obama from Goldman Sachs. So maybe you ought to compare ownership stakes?

  • (Show?)

    Dan,

    We can go back and forth on this.

    Scott Brown, not Tea Party. Mitt Romney, not Tea Party. I founded Oregon Tea Party and disown both of them. They are progressive Republicans, in the mold of Bush and Obama. For future reference, so is Gingrich. These flavors of "Republican" believe that the political system is the answer to economic problems ... Tea Party does not.

    If it is wrong that Romney and Brown have taken money from Sachs, is it not also wrong that Obama has?

    Why do you keep supporting it?

    It's wrong.

    • (Show?)

      I'm not supporting it, Geoff, I'm showing your hypocrisy in acting as if you're up in arms against the banks while in practice the effect of Tea Party activism has been to support the party that has been dramatically MORE servile to them. I mean, hell, here we've got our State Treasurer talking about how to hold the big banks accountable -- and instead of applauding those efforts you're ranting about Saul Alinsky and trotting out thinly veiled race-baiting??

      • (Show?)

        You have missed it -- I said if Romney and Brown were wrong, is Obama not? I'm not even talking about parties. Forget parties, they are marketing organizations. Focus on the outcomes, not the D's vs the R's, we will never have a meaningful conversation if you continue to make this about the razzle-dazzle of elected office. And, for the record, the Treasurer is NOT making them accountable unless that accountability is to "diversity" which, is of itself, racism.

        • (Show?)

          It would be hard to find a better example of crony capitalism, Geoff, than corporate boards of directors. I would have thought you'd agree with that. Paying off current/former politicians by offering them or their spouses very well paid board spots so that they can then grease the wheels in Congress and rubber stamp outrageous compensation packages for executives - at the expense of shareholders - is rampant.

          But is that what you're up in arms about? No. You seem to believe (a) that board members are currently selected on the basis of ability (rather than political connections, family associations, etc.), and (b) that seeking board members of color means you're automatically selecting members who lack ability. "Retro" may a hip way to dress, but not in racial stereotyping.

          The larger point about the Tea Party is that all your venom is directed at government for being in the pocket of corporations. Fine. But stopping there is like torching the puppets while giving the puppet masters a pass.

          I and all my colleagues who work on financial reform have been relentlessly critical of the Obama Administration for not being tough enough on the banks or providing real relief to homeowners. But we're also relentlessly critical of the big banks and corrupt servicers as well. I haven't seen squat from the Tea Party on holding Wall Street accountable.

        • (Show?)

          Geoff, I would ask you this - instead of just trying to attack another "side" here, what would you specifically have the Treasurer do (or a Congressional candidate do) to minimize influence of big business on government operations? How would you have someone change policies to reflect your support for small business over big business? What would you do to change the system?

          I am interested to see how you would solve problems instead of just yelling and pointing fingers - because that doesn't accomplish anything.

          • (Show?)

            Thank you Jon! You are absolutely correct. We have tried to limit the ability of the private sector to influence the public sector (Citizens United) and, we failed, the Supreme Court ruled that that is an infringement of free speech. We can go back and forth as to whether the Supreme's were correct which, will accomplish ZERO or, we can look for another way. How about instead of limiting free speech, we take away the incentive for corporations and government to get in bed together all together? Cut the flow of funds from the Government to the Corporations (via subsidies and other pork) and we'll have done what Citizen United could not ... we would END corporatism.

            • (Show?)

              do you really believe that's possible? in that scenario, instead of hiring contractors to work on roads, it would all be government employees. instead of buying construction equipment, government would have build it themselves (goodbye Caterpillar). instead of buying supplies, government would have to create them or mine them. If you were to take away the incentive altogether, it would mean true socialism.

              how do you feel about revisiting Buckley v. Valeo and saying money does NOT equal speech?

  • (Show?)

    I'm sorry, I forgot about this thread. I was not referring to limitations on infrastructure expenditures. I was talking about relieving the incentive that exists by virtue of arbitrary protectionist regulations (that favor one enterprise or group over another) and more overt forms of subsidy.

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