Jeffrey Sachs Sings the Praises of Occupy Wall Street
One of the features of Occupy Wall Street is that various celebs, public intellectuals, and experts show up, and give mini pep talks to the hundreds of activists and hangers on who literally occupy Liberty Plaza/Zuccotti Park.
On Friday afternoon, it was the famous—and to some, notorious— Columbia University economist Jeffrey Sachs, who arrived to show solidarity with the protestors one day after his quasi-nemesis, Naomi Klein, spoke to the crowd.
AlterNet's Kristen Gwynne and I were chatting with Arun Gupta of the Indypendent, who had just buzzed down to the site on his bicycle, when there was Sachs strolling into the site. So we snagged him for a 20-minute round of questions, as a crowd quickly formed, joined by a CNN camera crew.
Sachs was very much with the anti-corporate program, saying that the "country has gone haywire, with all the money going to the top." "We have to take the country away from the corporate lobbyists," he said.
Sachs was very supportive of the Occupy Wall Street effort as well, saying that "social movements take off when people see that other people are suffering. They know they are not alone."
He criticized Obama for hedging his electoral bets, appearing to raise much of his money from small donors, but actually raising the majority of his money from the wealthy and from the hedge funds.
Sachs feels it is possible for a candidate to get elected without taking the big corporate bucks. He said that one of these days, "people will understand that spending all that money on TV ads is a waste, and that social media is the future" which can get people elected.
As many are aware, Jeffrey Sachs has made a transformation from his days when he was the boy wonder of international economic austerity advice, in places like Russia and Bolivia. Arun Gupta pressed Sachs about Naomi Klein's critique of him in The Shock Doctrine, in which she accused Sachs of taking advantage of crisisto impose radical austerity plans that caused tremendous hardships. He defended himself, essentially saying that he has long been misunderstood. According to Sachs, he has been on the right side of things for 26 years, and the major global economic errors were mostly Larry Summers fault, not his. We'll have more on this down the road when Arun writes up this potion of the interview in more detail.
When Sachs went over to speak to the crowd he continued his critique. "When Obama has dinners all the time with people who pay $35,800 a plate," said Sachs, "he is talking to the 1%. That is who he is listening to. We need to elect people who listen to the 99%"