Occupy Wall Street, and the Straw Man Who Worked Hard For His Money
Traditional media coverage of OWS has been obviously and expectedly flawed, biased, spun, and sensational, but what the 1% should understand, is that this movement isn’t personal, it’s institutional.
Reason begs that we address every argument to gain insight and perspective when there’s conflict. For all of the compelling and thought provoking “We are the 99%” snippets out there, there are also a few “1%” diatribes that make solid arguments, but miss the entire point of the OWS movement.
There is a disconnect between the institutions, both public and private, and the people of the United States. Every argument ever made against capitalism, from Marx to your next door neighbor, seems to have come to fruition in the last few years. The banking and corporate leviathans have embedded themselves into our democratic government processes, and are now able to game the system at will to avoid oversight and create poisonous financial instruments that are time-bombs, and when these bombs explode, they call for, and get, cyclical bail-outs with taxpayer money, avoid their fare share of taxes, and hold their record breaking post-recession profits hostage overseas demanding even MORE tax breaks to bring the money back (just to name a few grievances). This has consequently “trickled-down” into record unemployment, income inequality, detriment to public services and infrastructure, and ultimately, detriment to the quality of life for the rest (99%) of the American populous. The arguments are real, the people are real, the crimes are real (although largely unpunished), and, our democratic process will prove to be real if OWS can facilitate the change it is fighting for.
A Difference in Perspectives
There are different perspectives and opinions at play here. Simply dissect media (traditional and new-age alike) coverage, and there are enough opinions on OWS to make your head spin. Depending on the underlying biases and dispositions of various groups, the OWS movement goes from a fervent democratic necessity to nothing more than unemployed and lazy youngsters looking for welfare. Some mainstream favorites are “OWS doesn’t even know what they’re protesting about”, or “They’re a bunch of dirty, pot smoking hippies looking for a hand-out”.
Regardless of which categorization of the movement you subscribe to, you’d have to be living under a rock not to notice that our government, and the banking cabal that runs it, hasn’t really been making decisions in the best interest of the people these last few years. Those informed citizens capable of critical thinking, however, whether conservative, liberal, or in the middle, are able to understand that movements like these don’t arise from ambiguous ambitions and disorganized “hippies”. They arise because the people demand change, and the OWS movement will end up being the ultimate barometer of the health of the democratic process in this country.
The Straw Man Who Worked Hard For His Money
The individuals and families who make up the “1%” aren’t to blame. This begs to be repeated, the 1% of the people in this country that hold a disproportionate amount of the nation’s wealth in their coffers are not the ones to blame for the state of the union. The problem isn’t personal, it is institutional in nature. Society has evolved past the “let them eat cake” dynamic, and the ambitions of the OWS movement don’t call for the 99% to raid anyone’s fridge, or drink from anyone’s milkshake. Free market dynamics have been all but obliterated by the disproportionate infiltration of corporate interest into the democratic arena of the United States. Tax loopholes, cyclical tax-payer subsidized corporate welfare, corporate personhood (which alleviates liability for greedy executives), de-regulation, market manipulation, and corruption facilitated through lobbying, have transformed the upper echelons of the American economy from free market capitalism, to a plutocratic system that has numerous fascist undertones.
The individual or the family, who has worked hard, contributed goods and services that the market has demanded and consumed, and created wealth are not to blame for this new, unfair dynamic. The issue at hand is the disproportionate power that institutions (banks, corporate cabals, and the FED) have, allowing them to game these organic markets, creating and obliterating massive amounts of wealth with almost zero real contribution to the nation’s GDP.
Elizabeth Warren, Democratic Senate candidate in Massachusetts and former White House financial reform advisor (She was actually put in charge of overseeing where the TARP, ie, the bail-out funds were allocated) sums up the argument nicely, as she highlights the fact that a robust economy is not individualistic in nature, but a dynamic institutional and societal creature that needs to be nurtured.
You built a factory out there? Good for you. But I want to be clear: you moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for; you hired workers the rest of us paid to educate; you were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for. You didn’t have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory, and hire someone to protect against this, because of the work the rest of us did.
Now look, you built a factory and it turned into something terrific, or a great idea? God bless. Keep a big hunk of it. But part of the underlying social contract is you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along.
– Elizabeth Warren
The OWS movement is the ultimate test of this generation; how we approach this new era, either through fervent democratic change, or passive apathy, will determine the rest of our lives, and the lives of those yet to be born.