“Today’s protesters have chosen a fixed target: Wall Street, a symbol of the corporate takeover of democracy. And they have put no end date on their presence. This gives them time to put down roots, which is going to make it a lot harder to sweep them away, even if they get kicked out of one physical space.” Naomi Klein
Much has been written about the early stages of the grass-roots movement “Occupy Wall Street” that started in New York City and now has spread to most major metropolitan areas across the country. There was scant coverage by major corporate media stations in the early going, including mostly-publicly owned PBS . One publication, Newsday, even dismissed the nascent movement in this way with their headline on the story: “Protests Close Wall Street Second Day.” Nothing to see here–move along!
Other pro-corporate media types like Erin Burnett, formerly of CNBC, now hosting her own show OutFront on CNN, displayed the conservative anti-government credentials they possess. Burnett informed her audience that she “went to Wall Street today to see those protests for myself. I saw dancing, bongo drums, even a clown…. I asked several protesters what it was that they wanted. Now, they did not know…. They did know what they don’t want. …[I]t seems like people want a messiah leader, just like they did when they anointed Barack Obama.”
But after nearly 3 weeks, this movement has expanded and many in it are beginning to articulate points that justify the need to hold corporate America to account for much of what is wrong, not only with our economic system but with the failure of our elected officials to address those issues that pit the wealthiest Americans against the rest of the population.
The right-wing punditry would like to say those who march in these protests are trouble makers, anarchists and are attacking capitalism, the system that has brought great prosperity to the inhabitants of this country. But this is either a naive perception or merely a smoke and mirrors tactic to conceal the real discontent that underlies what so many people have finally recognized – that corporations, not just government, are guilty of issues that weaken working families and their resources.
CONSTITUTIONAL CRISIS ISSUE
When a small group of people have more power than the majority in determining how legislation is written or even blocked, then the basic premise of our Constitutional government is at risk. Being equally represented in the legislative branches of our local, state and federal governments as opposed to being frequently dismissed over wealthy constituents is more apparent and brazen today than perhaps at any other time in our history.
Equal access to our representatives and them responding to that message ensures a level playing field that prevents one group from exploiting the others. Right now the rich are getting richer while the rest of us struggle to make ends meet. This may sound cliche’ but the facts are out there to support and confront those who obscure, omit or even deny this reality.
The past thirty years have seen a substantial increase in economic inequality in the United States. The exact magnitude and timing of this increase depend on exactly how one defines economic inequality, but a variety of plausible measures suggest that the income gap between rich and poor has widened considerably. For example, the Gini coefficient for the distribution of individual earnings of full-time workers increased by almost 25 percent (from .326 to .406) between 1970 and 2000, while the income share of the richest five percent of U.S. households increased by more than one-third (from 15.8 percent to 21.5 percent) between 1980 and 2000.2 – SOURCE
[W]hile productivity, or output per hour, rose an average 2.5 percent annually between 2000 and 2007, compared to just 2 percent in the 1990s, real median household income declined by 0.6 percent, or $324. During that same period of “growth,” poverty rose from 11.3 percent to 12.5 percent.
Unqualified reliance on output figures like productivity or Gross Domestic Product (GDP) can be misleading, as they mask the inequality that marks the U.S. economy. As GDP grew and real median household income fell between 2000 and 2007, the bottom 20th percent of households saw a remarkable 6 percent decrease in income; meanwhile, between 2002 and 2006, the income of the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans increased nearly 50 percent (Economic Policy Institute, 8/26/08) – SOURCE
Encouraged by the credit card companies to spend spend spend, American consumers are partly responsible for poorly managing their resources and allowing themselves to go into debt. But these people have paid for their decisions whereas those on Wall Street who lost billions of other people’s money in risky financial ventures were not only NOT punished but were rewarded for their malfeasance. Of TIME magazine’s list of “25 people to blame for the Financial Crisis” only Bernie Madoff has been brought to trial or prosecuted. Most others have walked away with handsome retirement benefits or are still operational in big finance.
In his Rolling Stone piece this last February, reporter Matt Taibbi exposed the fact quite graphically how the law has failed to deal with those crooks on Wall Street that were part of the scams that collapsed our economy beginning in late 2007.
Nobody goes to jail. This is the mantra of the financial-crisis era, one that saw virtually every major bank and financial company on Wall Street embroiled in obscene criminal scandals that impoverished millions and collectively destroyed hundreds of billions, in fact, trillions of dollars of the world’s wealth — and nobody went to jail. Nobody, that is, except Bernie Madoff, a flamboyant and pathological celebrity con artist, whose victims happened to be other rich and famous people. SOURCE
The fact that wealthy corporate interests have power over our representatives, mainly in state legislatures, has been exposed by the Center for Media and Democracy as they revealed the secretive organization ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) that couples corporate interest with legislators, writing “model” legislation that serves to protect the self-interests of their particular industries. Not all of their model legislation impacts the pocketbooks of consumers but they do tweak the laws in this land that protects corporations from competition and lawsuits that occur from product and performance failures.
This unequal status between this wealthy minority and the “99%” that have the door closed on them by corporate-friendly legislators has allowed a handful of people to do things that line their own pockets while the rest of us suffer the consequences of their actions. Wealthy self-interests like the Koch Brothers put people in political power like Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker to kill resources for state-funded jobs while allowing deeper tax cuts for private corporations. This all leads to less revenue that forces legislatures to make even deeper cuts to social programs that benefit the most vulnerable in our country.
These vulnerable groups have always consisted primarily of the elderly, children and the handicapped but now, as we are seeing from those who make up the crowds at these OWS rallies, twenty-something college graduates are being hurt by the politics of greed oozing out of the small-minded self-interests centered in Wall Street. These young potential workers and entrepreneurs are finding employment opportunities closing on them after they have worked hard to earn their business degrees. Fewer jobs are being created as large corporations sit on billions in cash reserve that could generate new jobs; all under the false reasoning of governmental uncertainty.
So, if there be any uncertainty by the those who would disparage the efforts of these rallies, let it be clear that what they’re asking for is not to overturn the system that people like Erin Burnett of CNN imply but simply want fairness in all things, especially when it comes to setting standards and rules by those who are supposed to be representing us all. Corporations are clearly tying the hands of the electorate simply because they can influence those who hold elected office with their deep pockets, thanks in large part to the corporate-friendly Roberts Court following their majority ruling in the Citizens United vs. FEC case.
The inevitable revolution will not be because there are “socialist” in government but because there are monopolists within the free markets and who own the politicians that our vote aided in putting there.
As a final note, perhaps a good theme for this crowd, though the title might be suggestive otherwise, is the refrain from Crosby, Stills and Nash’s, Helplessly Hoping, that declares there is strength in numbers
They are one person, They are two alone
They are three together, They are for each other
Panic of the Plutocrats (Paul Krugman, NY Times)
Against the Institution: A Warning for ‘Occupy Wall Street’ (YouTube video)