Don't Occupy Wall Street, Ditch It!
Don't Occupy Wall Street, Ditch It!
By Michael Shuman /

I personally support the spirit of Occupy Wall Street, especially the spotlight it has cast on the shocking level of inequality in our country. But the movement oddly conveys a very mainstream message that Wall Street can and should be fixed. Just clean up our existing financial institutions – make them more accountable, honest, transparent – and all will be well. Really?

I think it would be smarter to end our relationship with Wall Street. Just say “no.” There’s another 99% that begs our attention—the 99% of Americans who are not permitted to invest in local small business. A growing body of evidence suggests that these are the businesses that are essential for growing jobs, incomes, equality, entrepreneurship, smart-growth, and green communities.

If we were to legalize investment in local businesses, including co-ops, farms, and community investment funds, Wall Street would be history. And the good news is that it’s on the verge of happening.


For decades, we’ve lived under an oppressive system of investment apartheid. The 1% who are millionaires (known under federal securities law as “accredited investors”) are free to invest in anything they choose. With the referees in their back pockets and all kinds of home-court advantages, it’s easy for them to win the wealth-accumulating game. The other 99% of us are stuck with the slim pickings of the Fortune 500 public companies listed on Wall Street—the companies least connected to the well being of our communities.

Before small businesses can accept investment from the 99%, they have to spend many tens of thousands of dollars on legal, accounting, and government filing fees. While most of us would like to invest in small businesses in our community, practically speaking, securities laws make it impossible.

This is a far more extreme big-business bias than exists in banking, where we can easily move our money to local banks and credit unions. Worse, we have four times more money in Wall Street investments – stocks, bonds, mutual funds, pension funds, and insurance funds – than we do in banks We are the ones fueling the multinational companies we distrust.

If we could overhaul securities laws that we enacted during the early Jurassic Period, local businesses could be fabulous investments. They are the most important job producers in the economy. They account for more than half of private sector jobs. They are increasingly competitive—so much so that their their share of the national workforce actually growing. Stunningly, sole proprietorships are three times as profitable as C-corporations.

For the first time in decades, reform is finally possible. A remarkable coalition has emerged bringing together leaders of the Tea Party and the Obama Administration. They agree that investment apartheid should be abolished. Republican Representative Patrick McHenry of North Carolina is leading the charge in the House to legalize small businesses raising money through large numbers of small investments (aka “crowdfunding”), with minimal paperwork, for companies raising less than $1 million. Recent changes in his bill (HR 2930, The Entrepreneur Access to Capital Act) actually make it very similar to reforms President Obama proposed in his jobs package in September.

On November 3, HR 2930 passed the House with overwhelming support (407-17). But passage of crowdfunding legislation is still uncertain. Senate Republicans may be afraid to support anything that Obama has proposed as part of his jobs package. And many Democrats are defending the status quo, because they are understandably afraid of deregulating the financial industry. What Dems don’t appreciate, however, is that the key to Wall Street reform is to ratchet up regulation at the top and loosen things a bit for the 99% at the bottom.

The Occupy Wall Street protestors could make a critical difference here. They – and we – should occupy Congress until they legalize local investment. Once that occurs, we’ll see thousands of small companies owned by their customers. We’ll see the emergence of local stock exchanges that will provide investors with liquidity. We’ll see mutual funds with local securities (none exist today), and local pension funds.

Consider what happens when the first trillion dollars of our long-term savings move from Wall Street to Main Street. Stock prices of giant multinational public companies will go down, and the price of local business shares will go up. A stampede of investors moving their money could follow. We might quickly see the largest transfer of capital in human history, from increasingly untrustworthy Fortune 500 companies to the local businesses we care about.

Millions of Americans have already changed their buying habits to buy local. Now’s our chance to invest locally too! My dream is to transform the place into a quaint Big Apple tourist site, where we can pay our respects to the mistakes of the 20th century that we thankfully stopped making in the 21st.


Michael Shuman is director of research for Cutting Edge Capital, director of research and economic development at the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies, and a Fellow of the Post Carbon Institute. He is the author of Local Dollars, Local Sense: How to Shift Your Money from Wall Street to Main Street and Achieve Real Prosperity, forthcoming in 2012 from Chelsea Green and Post Carbon Institute.


photo credit: Spencer McCormick, creative commons license.

Get The End of Growth | Watch the animation Who Killed Economic Growth? 

Like this post?

Keep the information flowing: Donate to Post Carbon Institute
Stay connected: Receive our monthly e-newsletter
Reposting: See our reposting policy

0.0 ·
What's Next
Trending Today
Donald Trump Is the Mirror and Hillary Clinton Is the Mask
Chris Agnos · 12,917 views today · Disclaimer: I do not support Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton for president. I think the scope of the political debate is far too narrow for the kinds of actions that need to...
Noam Chomsky Has 'Never Seen Anything Like This'
Chris Hedges · 11,682 views today · Noam Chomsky is America’s greatest intellectual. His massive body of work, which includes nearly 100 books, has for decades deflated and exposed the lies of the power elite...
Gil Scott-Heron Deconstructs Colonialism and Black History in His Own Unique Style
3 min · 7,318 views today · His-Story: I was wondering about our yesterdays, and starting searching through the rubble and to say the very least, somebody went to a hell of a lot of trouble to make sure...
Your Lifestyle Has Already Been Designed (The Real Reason For The Forty-Hour Workweek)
David Cain · 5,248 views today · Well I’m in the working world again. I’ve found myself a well-paying gig in the engineering industry, and life finally feels like it’s returning to normal after my nine months...
For Those Who Don't Want to Vote for the Lesser of Two Evils
Peter White · 3,471 views today · Ranked-choice voting is catching on, and Maine might become the first state to help citizens vote for candidates they actually want.
Donald and Hobbes Is Genius
Various · 2,455 views today · Some clever folk have been replacing precocious 6-year-old Calvin, from the Calvin and Hobbes comic strips, with Donald Trump and the results are, well, take a look...
Anarchists - What We Stand For
unknown · 2,427 views today · Anarchism : The word “anarchy” comes from Greek and means “no rulers”. As a political philosophy, anarchism is based on the idea that organization does not require rulers—that...
Today I Rise: This Beautiful Short Film Is Like a Love Poem For Your Heart and Soul
4 min · 1,980 views today · "The world is missing what I am ready to give: My Wisdom, My Sweetness, My Love and My hunger for Peace." "Where are you? Where are you, little girl with broken wings but full...
HyperNormalisation (2016)
161 min · 1,957 views today · We live in a time of great uncertainty and confusion. Events keep happening that seem inexplicable and out of control. Donald Trump, Brexit, the War in Syria, the endless...
10 Quotes From an Oglala Lakota Chief That Will Make You Question Everything About Our Society
Wisdom Pills · 1,419 views today · Luther Standing Bear was an Oglala Lakota Sioux Chief who, among a few rare others such as Charles Eastman, Black Elk and Gertrude Bonnin occupied the rift between the way of...
What Makes Call-Out Culture So Toxic
Asam Ahmad · 1,301 views today · Call-out culture refers to the tendency among progressives, radicals, activists, and community organizers to publicly name instances or patterns of oppressive behaviour and...
Lessons in the Calais Jungle: Teaching Life Stories and Learning About Humanity
Aura Lounasmaa · 1,018 views today · I am part of a team of academics teaching a course to residents in the Calais Jungle, a camp for migrants and refugees outside the French city. Life Stories in the Jungle has...
Planet Earth II Could Be Best Nature Doc Ever Made
3 min · 787 views today · 10 years ago Planet Earth changed our view of the world. Now we take you closer than ever before. This is life in all its wonder. This is Planet Earth II. A decade ago, the...
The White Man in That Photo
Riccardo Gazzaniga · 782 views today · Sometimes photographs deceive. Take this one, for example. It represents John Carlos and Tommie Smith’s rebellious gesture the day they won medals for the 200 meters at the...
John Lennon's "Imagine," Made Into a Comic Strip
John Lennon. Art by Pablo Stanley · 683 views today · This is easily the best comic strip ever made.  Pabl
My Cuba - An Intimate Look at the Pleasures and Struggles of 6 Different People's Cuba
150 min · 500 views today · Cuba - diverse, vibrant and complex - is undergoing immense change. But what does it mean to be Cuban in this time of change? Six people. Six films. From the comedy and ballet...
Eckhart Tolle: Your Facebook Ego, That's Not Who You Are
2 min · 418 views today · “Identification with thoughts and the emotions that go with those thoughts creates a false mind-made sense of self, conditioned by the past: the "little me" and its story. This...
Schooling the World (2010)
66 min · 405 views today · If you wanted to change an ancient culture in a generation, how would you do it? You would change the way it educates its children. The U.S. Government knew this in the 19th...
The Untold History of Palestine & Israel
22 min · 357 views today · Previewing Abby Martin’s on-the-ground investigation in Palestine, The Empire Files looks at the long history of Zionist colonization, expansion and expulsion of Palestine’s...
The Top 100 Documentaries We Can Use to Change the World
Films For Action · 309 views today · A more beautiful, just and sustainable world is possible. Take this library and use it to inspire global change!
Load More
Like us on Facebook?
Don't Occupy Wall Street, Ditch It!