What Occupy Wall Street Wants: Parsing the Unofficial Demands List

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Mike Segar / Reuters

Figuring out just what the Occupy Wall Street movement wants has been difficult for even reporters who are steeped in policy and liberal platforms. Ezra Klein of the Washington Post heads down to ground zero, both literally and figuratively, for Occupy Wall Street, and comes away with this:

Some of the people camped out Zuccotti Park for the Occupy Wall Street protest want to End the Fed. Others want to tax Wall Street. One woman assured me that “very few” of the top one percent live in New York, or even in the United States. “They’re in gated communities all around the world,” she said. Someone else saw this as a cultural revolution. When I arrived, the crowd seemed almost entirely under-30. By the time I left, it was considerably less homogenous.

There is not, in other words, all that much you can say with confidence about what Occupy Wall Street is or isn’t. At the moment, it’s different things to different people. And, depending on your perspective, that may be the nascent movement’s biggest strength or its fatal weakness.

(PHOTOS: Scenes from the Occupy Wall Street Protests)

Each night the group holds a general assembly meeting, and Nate Rawlings, who has been following Occupy Wall Street for TIME.COM  since the protest started, says the group seems to be moving closer to voting on an official policy statement. But what we do have for now is an unofficial list posted on one of the more or less official Occupy Wall Street blogs. Here’s what it says:

Just to be clear there is no indication that the demands on the list reflect the desires of the entire group. It could be a random list, and the website has a disclaimer saying the list has not been ratified, or anything like that. But as a proxy for what the Occupy Wall Street crowd wants, I think it’s probably not a bad place to start. Even if the list was put up by a rogue protester, I think the list is interesting in how unrogue it actually is. I think that is important to think about when trying to determine whether Occupy Wall Street is a serious movement, or just a bunch of young kids out to have an experience. My guess from this list is that it is the former.

(MORE: Who is Occupy Wall Street)

To be sure, the list is somewhat of a wish list of liberal desires that aren’t likely to happen and aren’t even that feasible. One of the demands is free college for all. And at least one of the demands seems to come from someone who is still bitter that George W. Bush won the presidency:

Demand ten: Bring American elections up to international standards of a paper ballot precinct counted and recounted in front of an independent and party observers system.

The protesters and liberals and President Obama have been accused of participating in class warfare. But the interesting thing here is there’s no radical take back the wealth ideas in the list. The list doesn’t even call for raising taxes on the wealthy. That would seem to be the most direct and fastest way to lower the wealth gap between the rich and the rest of us. There are a lot of ideas like education, and raising the minimum wage (to $20!), and allowing for Unions to freely organize, that would produce more wealth for the poor, but they are solutions that would lower the wealth gap over time. And like empowering Unions, the list generally contains practical solutions to the wealth gap that don’t really strike me as class welfare. Mostly I think the policies are ones that make sense, perhaps taken to a somewhat of an extreme. We can’t eliminate all the debt that people have – that would destroy the banks – but we should start to do something about all the people who are underwater on their homes. The wealth gap is a real problem in this country and this list is a good place to start.