NEW YORK (MarketWatch) — Occupy Wall Street, the month-long protest centered near the New York Stock Exchange, has the establishment scared.
How else can one explain the sudden explosion of media coverage at Zuccotti Park, the discussion of the protests by the Republican field of presidential hopefuls and a shout-out by President Barack Obama last week?
Nonetheless, the media still doesn't know what to make of this growing movement. Is it a liberal tea party? Is it Marxism run amok? Is it an Arab Spring on Wall Street? Is it a hippie gathering? Will Radiohead show up?
Having covered the protests for nearly the month they've been camped out downtown, I want to clear the air on some of the myths surrounding this movement in American society and politics.
Fact: Many of the protesters are seeking jobs, are students or are underemployed. Not one of dozens of Occupy Wall Street protesters I spoke to want hand outs, or to overthrow democracy. Rather, they want a return to a democratic process free of corporate and special-interest money. The protests are a month old and have been mostly peaceful.
Fact: It's true Occupy Wall Street has become a melting pot of causes: environmentalism, anti-war peace protest and workers rights to name a few. But the protesters are uniformly opposed to a system that favors what they call the 1%: the super rich who have consolidated nearly 40% of the nation's wealth. It's no accident that they've picked Wall Street as their base. Big banks are responsible for creating the bubble that led to our recession and high unemployment.
Moreover, bank executives who have failed nevertheless continue to get eye-popping rewards: for instance Sallie Krawcheck and Joe Price were ousted from Bank of America Corp. a few weeks ago. Their exit packages totaled $11 million. The bank lost $14 billion during the last year, announced it will charge debit-card holders $5 a month and is foreclosing on thousands of mortgages.
The bottom line: you don't have to be an expert on the machinations of global finance to know something is wrong here.
Fact: Like the tea party, Occupy Wall Street is concerned about the deficit, the Federal Reserve and mounting U.S. debt. But they don't lay the blame on a government (they don't absolve it either). Consider that banking and corporate profits created a bubble during the last decade at the U.S. Treasury through tax revenue. When the bubble popped, it bankrupted the government and thrust us into unsustainable long-term debt and annual deficits that this generation of mostly young protesters will have to pay off.
That sounds an awful lot like the tea party with one exception: they have a more sophisticated view of how the U.S. got into this debt quandary.
Fact: No one is getting paid to protest. In fact, many protesters have sacrificed income to march. Moreover, almost every protester I've spoken with has complained about Obama and how he's pandered to Wall Street interests.
Fact: It's actually true. Occupy Wall Street protesters do buy products and services from corporate America. But does that make them hypocrites? Consider that most of these protesters are NOT against banks. They are against improper actions of banks: foreclosures, inequitable compensation. Nor are they against the bailouts. They just want the same opportunity for homeowners. Would they be less hypocrites if they grew their own zucchini at Zuccotti Park, made their own clothes and all banked at a credit union? The funny thing about credit unions: usually you need a job to join.
And from this example you can see why Occupy Wall Street is confusing to many Americans and threatening to powerful financial interests. In more ways than most Americans know, they are like them. They're at the mercy of banks and big corporations.
With the 2012 election just a year away, Occupy Wall Street has some tough decisions to make. Will they allow themselves to be co-opted by union interests and political candidates who want to turn their numbers into votes? Or will they remain fiercely independent, challenging the status quo?
Wherever the movement goes, one thing is certain. Wall Street and Washington are paying attention. And they recognize Occupy Wall Street is a dangerous threat to the system. You can bet that 1% knows that part isn't a myth.
God bless you all!
IN ADDITION, WE URGE YOU TO DOWNLOAD THE NEW ANTIPAS PAPERS, PRINT THEM OUT YOURSELF, AND STUDY THEM CAREFULLY; SHARE THEM WITH YOUR FRIENDS.
FINALLY, WE URGE YOU TO DOWNLOAD AND PRINT OUT THE FLYER WE SENT TO YOU RECENTLY.
Then make copies and take these copies out to the campuses where you live; pass them out; OR if that seems too "daring" for you right now, post them on telephone poles, the sides of buildings, on campus bulletin boards; post them in union halls, in the neighborhoods of the poor and downtrodden, near employment offices, wherever you can.
Once again, we URGE you to read (or re-read):