Forget Wall St. – Occupy Needs to Head to DC
I have been sitting back and watching the Occupy Wall Street, or now simply Occupy, movement that is taking the country by storm.
We are all trying to figure out exactly what this movement is about, who is taking part in it, and what they want. And some of us are even joining in on the peaceful protests because they know something just ain’t right.
The movement’s greatest strength, and perhaps its biggest weakness is its ambiguity.
The Occupy Wall Street mission statement, found on the official website, lacks clarity,
Occupy Wall Street is leaderless resistance movement with people of many colors, genders and political persuasions. The one thing we all have in common is that We Are The 99% that will no longer tolerate the greed and corruption of the 1%. We are using the revolutionary Arab Spring tactic to achieve our ends and encourage the use of nonviolence to maximize the safety of all participants.
The mission appears to be the act of protest itself. But who’s decision is that in the first place? The organization claims to be leaderless… but someone is sitting behind a keyboard somewhere leading the narrative on the ‘official’ Occupy website.
As a strength, this ambiguity has allowed the movement to quickly pick up steam. We are all passionate, angry, vocal, or uncomfortable with a political or economic issue at the moment. Protesting is a unifier.
As a weakness, this ambiguity has made it difficult for many, myself included, to see what the end goal is. Getting out in the streets and protesting a wide variety of economic and political issues may seem thrilling or unifying at first, but what exactly do people want? Every revolution must have an end goal in order for it to succeed. What is the end goal of Occupy?
If I had to sum up what “Occupy” means to me in one word, it would be “change”. But again… that is an ambiguous term.
We are at a period of time in our country where we KNOW we need change – but we don’t know how to achieve it.
Politicians on both sides, who set the course of our country, have failed us. Is there any doubt that special interest and corporate money has compromised what is in the best interests of the country?
The negative attention given to Wall Street seems a little misdirected, in my judgment. It is true that the banks put us in the present economic downturn, but Wall Street greed is more of a symptom of a society gone wrong than a true cause of the discontent in this country.
The REAL problem is that the American Dream is eroding for all but the income elite. The middle class is taking blow after blow, like an underdog fighter on his last legs in the 12th round.
Let’s look at the big picture:
1. Health Care
We’ve seen health care costs increase 6X vs. a 3X cost of living increase. In 2011, it will have increased 7.6% more. The health of entire families are beholden to one or two family member’s job prospects.
We’ve seen educational costs increase 10X in that same period of time. The boomer generation graduated mostly debt free, but for gen x and gen y it’s more common these days to graduate six figures in debt and student debt has surpassed credit card debt.
Globalization has led to the U.S. losing over 5 million manufacturing jobs in the last decade and some of the very same decisions made by our politicians ensured this result. It’s a huge reason why the unemployment rate in the wealthiest country in the world is still over 9%.
We’ve also seen the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. The Occupy group likes to state the top 1% of income earners possess 40% of all assets, but the top 10% possess 80% of all financial assets. The other 90% of the country only holds the remaining 20% of the wealth.
Due to greed and malpractice by banks inflating property values, we’ve seen the housing market in the U.S. (once a sure bet as a wealth builder) completely ruin the financial lives of many families as they’ve had to foreclose and take losses on their homes, resulting in a destroyed credit history. Ironically, those credit histories are now being used as a job applicant screening tool.
5. Work/Life Balance
The average productivity per American worker has increased 400% since 1950. One way to look at that is that it should only take one-quarter the work hours, or 11 hours per week, to afford the same standard of living as a worker in 1950 (or our standard of living should be 4 times higher). Is that the case? Obviously not. The American family could once live comfortably on one income. Now they live very uncomfortably on two. Someone is profiting, it’s just not the average American worker.
According to the ILO, “Americans work 137 more hours per year than Japanese workers, 260 more hours per year than British workers, and 499 more hours per year than French workers.” We have less days off than any other industrialized nation. Our employers are clearly doing more with much less people in order to boost profit.
Check out my post for more on how Americans are overworked. With over 9,000 Facebook likes, it struck a nerve.
We’ve compromised our environment and seen CO2 emissions skyrocket. Despite the obvious fact that should this continue, our existence as a species will cease to persist, the problem has grown exponentially. And our politicians and corporations have watched (even encouraged) it to happen.
7. Money & Political Influence
Money buys ads and resources, which buys elections. If it wasn’t bad enough already (and it was bad), Citizens United Vs. the FEC, a landmark Supreme Court Case, made it legal for corporations and unions to spend from their general treasuries to finance independent expenditures. These ‘Independent Expenditure Only Committees” are unofficially dubbed “Super PAC’s” and they can raise and spend unlimited funds from individuals, corporations, unions, etc.
The Goal to Achieve All Goals
It’s not that Americans want “something for nothing”, as many critics of the Occupy movement have stated. It’s that we want to stop seeing every part of the American dream erode due to decisions that are completely out of our control. Just as our country fought for its own independence from the British empire, we are now fighting to restore and maintain the American dream as it is being ripped away from us. This is what our country was founded on. Can you blame us?
IF the Occupy group wants that to change, their one demand should be to end the influence of money in politics, as it is the one problem that influences all others. Politicians no longer fight for the citizens of this country. They fight for corporations and special interests so that they can get the advertising representation to keep their jobs. It is killing our democracy and our country and it is the most fixable problem. Start there. Three changes will achieve this result, as I called for back in August:
1. Limit political contributions to individuals only, and only $100 to level the playing field for citizens.
2. Eliminate all independent expenditure contributions and immediately overturn Citizens United.
3. Break up the two-party political system (#1 and #2 will help ensure this).
That is it. That is what we need to get change in this country.
Nothing will come from protesting Wall Street bankers. They are the leeches that have been feeding off a system gone wrong. They should be addressed, but they are not the root of the problem. The root is corruption by our elected leaders.
We should be occupying D.C. first. Wall Street’s time will come.
Let the Occupiers know.
What does the Occupy movement mean to you?