An â€œOccupy Wall Streetâ€ demonstrator chants during a demonstration in response to an early morning police raid which displaced Occupy Oaklandâ€™s tent city in Oakland, California October 25, 2011.
In the United States – the worldâ€™s lone superpower and a beacon of hope for many the world over – 14 million people are officially unemployed and two million of those have given up looking for a job. And thatâ€™s the tip of the iceberg: half a million people are homeless; nearly 50 million people are without health insurance; and 46 million Americans live below the poverty rate, yet banks and large corporations received billion dollar bailouts from taxpayersâ€™ hard-earned money and bank executives never stopped receiving million dollar bonuses, on top of their seven figure incomes.
In response, the Occupy Wall Street movement – in the midst of its fourth week – continues to escalate, protesting against corporate greed, government inefficiency and income inequality. Many people are debating what the real message of this movement is and, more importantly, what impact it will have on the country itself.
Writing in the New York Times recently, Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman said: â€œWith unions and a growing number of Democrats now expressing at least qualified support for the protesters, Occupy Wall Street is starting to look like an important event that might even been seen eventually as a turning point.â€
Of course, as with most controversial issues, the end of the political spectrum one is viewing the events from greatly influences oneâ€™s interpretation of said events. Speaking on the television show Cross Talk recently, radio talk show host and Tea Party organizer Tony Katz said that the Occupy Wall Street movement looked like a bunch of anarchists and he cautioned that the movement has the potential to turn violent.
Jason Del Gandio, assistant professor of rhetoric and public advocacy at Temple University, responded that the Occupy Wall Street movement is a nonviolent movement, expressing a deep desire for democracy that responds to the wants and needs of everyday people, not corporations.
Sensing the growing popularity of the movement, President Obama and his team are now saying that the demonstrators have a point; but with a team of Wall Street veterans as advisors, making all the important economic decisions that Obama lacks the expertise to make, the demonstrators consider Obama to be part of the problem, not part of the solution.
Meanwhile, on Cross Talk, Kevin Zeese, a political activist and one of the organizers of www.October2011.org said he and many others in the Occupy Wall Street movement see the Obama White House as part of the crony, capitalist, corrupt economy which has resulted in 400 people having as much wealth as 154 million – not because theyâ€™re smarter or work harder but because theyâ€™re politically connected and essentially bribing through campaign donations.
â€œOur goal is to shift the power to the people and end the corporate rule. Corporate rule does affect the cost of college; corporate rule does put our students in the greatest debt theyâ€™ve ever been in. Theyâ€™re coming into a job market thatâ€™s absolutely terrible. These kids are in the streets because theyâ€™re being treated poorly by this economy…The empire economy with 1100 military bases around the world is not good for the United States; itâ€™s not good for our national security; itâ€™s not good for our democracy; itâ€™s not good for our economy. We need to remove the power of corporations.â€
Similar to the G20 protests, where citizens were expressing legitimate concerns about government policies, a minority of protesters always engage in destructive â€“ and at times unlawful â€“ conduct; and unfortunately itâ€™s these acts that tend to make the evening news, and become the focus of right wing commentators. Not surprisingly, this is what Tea Party organizer Mr. Katz sees when watching the Occupy Wall Street movement.
â€œIf you take a look from the outside looking in, it looks like a bunch of people who donâ€™t care about the land, who are willing to abuse businesses around them and defecate on police cars. Thatâ€™s the evidence base. Youâ€™re not going to get the Tea Party to favor a concept where everyone gets paid for doing nothing. We donâ€™t accept that. We believe in capitalism; we believe in the free market; we believe you should keep what you earn. Governments shouldnâ€™t get what you earn and Wall Street shouldnâ€™t get what you earn. You should keep what you earn.â€
The mantra of a free market is constantly trotted out by the right, as they continuously demand that government get out of the way of business and let the market decide. However, the reality is often quite different: Columbia University professor and Nobel Prize winner Joseph Stiglitz pointed out in his book Free Fall, that over many years, governments have had to continuously bail out banks and large corporations when their bets went sour. And the current crisis is just a part of this continuum.
Mr. Del Gandio, and many others, can see this.
â€œDo we actually live in a free market society? Because the last time I looked it was the richest corporations and the richest banks on the face of the planet that were getting bailouts. So itâ€™s communism for the rich and capitalism for the poor. We do not live in a free market society. Thatâ€™s a myth. Weâ€™ve never lived in a free market society. Itâ€™s always privileged the rich,â€ Mr. Del Gandio said.