Explore Harvard's Nieman network Nieman Fellowships Nieman Lab Nieman Reports Nieman Storyboard

In DC, an 'Occupied Supercommittee' outdoor public hearing

COMMENTARY | November 07, 2011

Freedom Plaza occupiers, planning economic fixes, have scheduled open-air hearings with some noted experts. Subjects include job creation, taxes, concentration of wealth, poverty, military policy, Social Security, Medicare for all. The protesters, nothing if not modern, will live-stream the event.

By John Hanrahan

Occupiers at Freedom Plaza in Washington, D.C., have scheduled a unique, outdoor public hearing Wednesday (November 9) on creating “a fair economy for the people.” The hearing is intended to contrast with the congressional Super Committee, which protesters see as heavily weighted in favor of the wealthiest 1% of the population to the detriment of all other Americans.

The event, which organizers are calling “Occupied Super Committee Hearing for the 99%,” will also be live-streamed on www.OccupyWashingtonDC.org beginning at 11 a.m. Wednesday. It will, in the words of the organizers, “include testimony from people with great understanding of the issues facing the country,” as well as comments and questions from Freedom Plaza occupiers and other audience members “who are directly affected by the economy.”

The hearing is emblematic of how Occupy movement members nationwide use “the commons” – public parks and plazas – not only as encampment sites, but as open-air forums to discuss and debate ideas, opinions and solutions to the nation’s economic woes. While Occupy organizers have frequently brought in individual speakers to address and get feedback from protesters, a full-scale hearing, with several highly-regarded speakers that tackles thorny economic issues and proposes solutions, seems to present yet another initiative from the new movement.

The participants include people who, in a just world, would be among those making the decisions on the economy and foreign and military policy. Among the issues the witnesses are to address – along with recommendations for change – are job creation, a fairer tax system, the growing concentration of wealth in fewer and fewer hands, strengthening Social Security, reducing poverty, Medicare for all, ending the Afghanistan war and preventing future wars, reducing military spending and curtailing the military-industrial complex, and reigning in Wall Street and the corporations. The source of campaign funding for members of the congressional Super Committee, “and the limited policy choices they are considering,” will also be addressed.

The scheduled witnesses are: Gar Alperovitz, historian, political economist and author, and president of the National Center for Economic and Security Alternatives; Dean Baker, author and co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research; Carl Conetta, co-director of the Project on Defense Alternatives; Andrew Fieldhouse, federal budget policy analyst at the Economic Policy Institute; Margaret Flowers, a pediatrician, an organizer of Occupy Washington DC, and congressional fellow for Physicians for a National Health Program; and Kevin Zeese, an attorney, an organizer of Occupy Washington DC, co-director of It’s Our Economy and co-chair of Come Home America. (A seventh possible participant, Barbara Ehrenreich, noted author, commentator and authority on low-income jobs and joblessness, had not confirmed her participation as of this writing.)
Based on the testimony and comments at Wednesday’s event, OccupyWashingtonDC.org will release one week after the hearing its own “proposals that should be enacted to fairly fix the economy” and that “put the necessities of the people before the interests of the wealthiest Americans.” Organizers emphasized that “these proposals should not be considered our demands, as our demands are much more transformative than a short-term fix of the economy and budget.”

The NiemanWatchdog.org website is no longer being updated. Watchdog stories have a new home in Nieman Reports.