What is the Core Issue For the Occupy Wall Street Protest?

“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 peopleSOURCE

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

Related Articles:

Panic of the Plutocrats (Paul Krugman, NY Times)

Occupy Wall Street Ends Capitalism’s Alibi 

Against the Institution: A Warning for ‘Occupy Wall Street’ (YouTube video)

Critique From the Outside 

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14 responses to “What is the Core Issue For the Occupy Wall Street Protest?

  1. Larry, from all I have observed it is an organic movement many different bitches (if you will)….but the one thing that ties all of they together is the hatred for what Wall Street has done to the economy and the country……my concern is with the approach of the primary season this may all go the way of the do-do if the protesters are not careful….they need to bring the protests to DC and in a massive way…….the right is already calling them a “mob” and that they are “pitting Americans against Americans”…….I say make the cowards in DC face their cowardice head on…….

  2. One of the most glaring problems with the supporters of Occupy Wall Street and its copycat successors is that they suffer from a woefully inadequate understanding of the capitalist social formation — its dynamics, its (spatial) globality, its (temporal) modernity. They equate anti-capitalism with simple anti-Americanism, and ignore the international basis of the capitalist world economy. To some extent, they have even reified its spatial metonym in the NYSE on Wall Street. Capitalism is an inherently global phenomenon; it does not admit of localization to any single nation, city, or financial district.

    Moreover, many of the more moderate protestors hold on to the erroneous belief that capitalism can be “controlled” or “corrected” through Keynesian-administrative measures: steeper taxes on the rich, more bureaucratic regulation and oversight of business practices, broader government social programs (welfare, Social Security), and projects of rebuilding infrastructure to create jobs. Moderate “progressives” dream of a return to the Clinton boom years, or better yet, a Rooseveltian new “New Deal.” All this amounts to petty reformism, which only serves to perpetuate the global capitalist order rather than to overcome it. They fail to see the same thing that the libertarians in the Tea Party are blind to: laissez-faire economics is not essential to capitalism. State-interventionist capitalism is just as capitalist as free-market capitalism.

    Nevertheless, though Occupy Wall Street and the Occupy [insert location here] in general still contains many problematic aspects, it nevertheless presents an opportunity for the Left to engage with some of the nascent anti-capitalist sentiment taking shape there. So far it has been successful in enlisting the support of a number of leftish celebrities, prominent unions, and young activists, and has received a lot of media coverage. Hopefully, the demonstrations will lead to a general radicalization of the participants’ politics, and a commitment to the longer-term project of social emancipation.

    To this end, I have written up a rather pointed Marxist analysis of the OWS movement so far that you might find interesting:

    “Reflections on Occupy Wall Street: What It Represents, Its Prospects, and Its Deficiencies”

    THE LEFT IS DEAD! LONG LIVE THE LEFT!

  3. I think the ” hatred for what Wall Street ” perception is to generic Dr. Chuq and that’s why they need to be able to articulate specifics about that hatred so corporate media won’t denigrate them with what can come across as a lack of comprehension of what they are protesting, like Erin Burnett did.

    But I’m in agreement with you on bringing this altogether to coalesce in Washington, D.C. prior to the elections.

  4. Larry,

    My father in-law is beyond rightwing and so I decided to ask him his thoughts on the Wall Street protests. His response was predictable. “Oh, those people are idiots. Why aren’t they mad at that half-baked n***er Obama? He bailed Wall Street out.”

    Clearly the bank bailout was a necessity by, I think, any reasonable measure. Now the people want those banks to behave more responsibly and also to return the favor. Explaining that to my father in-law is like talking to a rock, as he hasn’t the good sense God gave a goose.

    I have also noticed that the Wall Street protestors are “crybaby, anti-American idiots” according to the right, while the Tea Party protestors are “great Americans.” I don’t recall many on the left disparaging the Tea Party in that way after they burst onto the scene. That speaks volumes too.

    My father in-law also wanted to warn me about Seasame Street and their “leftwing, neo-Paganism, homosexual agenda.” And no shit wanted to buy access to Glenn Beck’s new kid show for my children. I was like NO.

    That was a trip considering Lobotero’s post on the issue recently. LOL.

    And even though my father in-law uses racial epithets in reference to President Obama, he is a strong supporter of Herman Cain, if you can believe that.

    He is far right but he is good to my children and doesn’t use that language around them, so I can’t complain too much. He doesn’t give me much trouble because he can’t figure me out. I never give my opinion to him on any issue. I remain mostly silient when I totally disagree because I don’t like to cause trouble, and nothing I say will ever change his mund. I in my conservative days pale in comparison.

    • I feel pretty certain that if my father or father-in-law were around today that that would be there sentiment toward the black President too, even though both were blue-dog Democrats.

      It is interesting that your father-in-law would use the “N” word for Obama but not see any conflict with that in his support for Cain. But I have seen a lot of that down here in the South and it all relates to how that n—– acts. If he or she acts “white” and speaks “white” then they can overlook the skin color but deep down they’re still inferior in the mind of any real white person.

      I know you want to avoid conflict with your wife’s dad but you might subtly remind him that Bush initiated the bank bailouts and did so without any accountability to the government. When Obama came in he completed what Bush and Paulson designed but he at least set standards that would determine who got what and how it was to be paid back. All of the banks have in fact repaid that bailout money with interests so it turned out NOT to be a bad thing for the deficit. The auto bailouts are mostly paid back and should be completely so before Obama’s first term is up. But the OWS protesters would argue that after being bailed these financial institutions are now making it tough for people to pay off their mortgages and too tight on credit for small businesses with good credit ratings.

      As for the Sesame Street show is a “gay, pagan” thing. That can only come from the warped mind of people who view anything on PBS as socialism since it does receive some of its funding from government.

      Thanks for sharing Terrance.

      • Larry,

        I honestly don’t know the reason for the dichotomy, but my suspicion is that he really hates Obama and wants to disparage him in the worst way possible. But I really don’t know because I try not to discuss politics with him very often because I get nothing out of him that I didn’t already hear on Beck, Limbaugh, or Hannity that same day. He merely parrots the B.S. they spew.

        He is incredibly right-wing. I don’t think you can appreciate how far to the right he is because you don’t know him. I can only help your imagination along by saying that I was a RINO in comparison. It’s unbelievable. I hate talking politics with him because I’m bombarded with so much discredited nonsense that I can hardly stand straight. Only once in a blue moon will I ask him a political question, and usually only when I’m bored. LOL.

        His wife is Republican as well, mostly because he is, and not very involved in politics. She goes around bashing Obama but she’s not a very bright person, so she doesn’t really delve too far into the reasons why we should vote for someone else. But I discovered something interesting about her while visting the other day.

        My wife and I were discussing the medical problems of a woman we know who is stuck with a colostomy bag because she cannot afford to have it removed. My mother in-law overheard the conversation and said, “Why won’t the government help her? They should.”

        I was baffled because this is a woman who parrots everything her husband says. He is totally against welfare, food stamps, Medicare, Medicaid, WIC, you name it. He’s totally against all of it. He says people should get off their ass and work and if they don’t get by, it’s their fault. Seriously.

        Anyway, the point I’m making is that so many people on the right are so incredibly clueless and stupid. If we could figure out a way to educate them all, we might be a helluva lot better off in this country. Because too many just don’t understand what exactly they’re opposing when they stand up and scream “socialism.”

      • There will always be those Terrance that hear what they want to hear. Your father-in-law is probably one of those but your mother-in-law may be open to a conversation about what good government can do for working class people.

        Best regards

    • Terrance, I live in good old Mississippi and his comment about the president is more norm than exception down here…….I mean there are still places that refuse to celebrate MLK day and instead call it Robt E, Lee’s BD…..and his observation about OWS is pretty norm also……unfortunately my father is a screaming racist and him and I get into some real pissing contests…usually it ends with me being called a Godd*mn Communists and then he sulks for a couple of days….

      • Lobotero,

        I can somewhat relate because while my father is very liberal, he also harbors some racist beliefs. I’ve heard him uttered the “N” word probably more than anyone I’ve ever met. He believes that African-Americans should have equal opportunity, but he doesn’t want to be around them.

        My experience is that it’s not so much the color of the person – not at all, really – but instead how and where they were raised. There are certain parts of my town that you had best stay away from and most of the inhabitants are people of color. But the white people in that area will cause you just as much trouble. So color doesn’t matter, in my view. It’s your environment. I don’t think my dad fully understands that.

  5. Great post! I admire these people. Like all grassroots’ movements, it started a little disorganized but as the message got out, the group became more organized. As for Erin Burnett, I am not surprised at her quick draw to condemn. These people have valid concerns and valid goals. I am too tired of being in the forgotten majority. I have seen this country go from a country by the people to a country by the CEOs and elite. I read that one of the activists from Egypt joined them in NY and gave the protestors a surge of optimism that they can accomplish what they want to accomplish. Fear keeps people from taking these protestors seriously. For some reason, many still think that if the rich lose power, the country will cease to exist. Really? Wouldn’t it be nice to try and do without the Koch Brothers?

  6. 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.

    This right here. If I were to protest, this would be my reason. Ugh!!!

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