October 02, 2013

#Occupy brands itself, could rip people off

Felix Salmon is the starting point for this discussion about an "Occupy" debit card that could be more onerous than what it would seek to replace, and various and other sundry things. From there, we go to lack of transparency and end at a capitalist sellout.

Salmon points to Naked Capitalism, where Yves Smith asks Rolling Jubilee: "Where's the money?" As in half a million of it, or more.

Rolling Jubilee answers in ... well, in typically barf-inducing Adbusters-type Occupy language.

As Yves notes, the "horizontality" that RJ and other Occupy groups trumpet is itself part of the problem:
But the big problem seems to be the lack of a proper governance structure. A board, be it for a profit-making organization or a not-for-profit, is not supposed to be identical to the people running the venture. ...

And there red flags even in what little we can see of what Rolling Jubilee has been up to. ... All Board members are authorized to individually sign checks up to $10,000....
To put it politely, a $10,000 signing authority for a board member is simply unheard of.
On this, one wonders if, again, some of Occupy is not more equal than the rest.

Back to Salmon, who talks about that would-be credit card:
Occupy Money says in its FAQ that its card is “more than just a prepaid card since it features additional services. It’s our aim to make the card and its associated charges less expensive than other cards on the market.” But it doesn’t feature an explicit price comparison. And if you look down the list of fees ($0.99 per month, $4.95 to load cash onto the card, $3.74 to deposit a check onto the card at a store, 4% for instant check deposit via your smartphone, $1.95 to withdraw cash from an ATM, $2 to speak to an agent, $0.99 for a balance inquiry, etc) then it’s hard to come away convinced that the cost of this card is really going to end up being lower than the cost of its competitors. As for the “additional services”, there’s no indication of what those might be. I find it hard to believe that they include anything you can’t get from Simple or GoBank.
Oy. Salmon also adds that this can't be an official credit card yet, because it doesn't have a Visa (or MasterCard) logo. But, scroll down on that.

This not only isn't cheap, it lacks the very transparency that allegedly is part of Occupy's core.

As for the 'branding" that catches Salmon's eye? Is not that part of the whole Adbusters background to Occupy?

Beyond that, Occupy and Adbusters-fluff are simply reinventing the wheel (while adding the fluff of "branding.) The whole Islamic private banking system has been around for centuries.

As Salmon notes, running a bank is hard work, and that's even for people who, whether as owners/operators, or investors, have less tendentious relations to capitalism or similar economics. As a fellow skeptical left-liberal, Doug Henwood of Left Business Observer, noted at the time of OWS, most of its non-leader spokespeople had myths in their minds about businesses in general and banks in particular, to boot.

Finally, out of pure snark: With "horizontal leadership," how can anybody claim that any one particular website is "THE" website for Occupy Wall Street? Doorknob, I love the sound of petards hoisting in the evening.

And, from the new issue of the Baffler, it's even worse: "Occupy" has addressed Felix Salmon's note that it doesn't have a Visa logo on its credit card and officially sold out.

Damn, Baffler really kicks ass and takes names on this:
Occupy, being loosely defined in its goals and its membership—a movement, not an organization—has long been a theme waiting for its marketing opportunities, despite the apparent withering of the brand. Not much is being occupied by Occupy, anymore, but it still looks good on a T-shirt. Or splashed across a debit card, with a low $1.95 fee for cash withdrawals, because fight the power.
Yep, it's all about the branding and marketing. "Thanks," Adbusters.

But, wait, that's not all. It gets better!
As the seminal 1967 book infamously stated, the poor pay more, and a transition from a big corporation’s prepaid debit card to a social movement’s corporate-supported prepaid debit card won’t turn off the darker realities of the socioeconomic bottom. Maybe it’s time for Occupy payday loans, Occupy check-cashing storefronts, and Occupy pawn shops. 
I couldn't have said it better myself.

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