Sunday, October 23, 2011

Occupy Wall Street - The Next Greatest Generation

Some say the Occupy Wall Street movement was first inspired by the uprisings in the Middle-East known as Arab Spring, while the current protest that was first initiated in New York City was started with the Canadian-based advocacy group called Adbusters. But I believe that the underlying sentiment, both here and around the world, has been brewing and simmering for decades. Anybody my age can remember their parents telling them when they were children, "The rich keep getting richer while the poor keep getting poorer."

According to new data from Reuters, in 2010 there were fewer jobs, and they paid less, than the year before... except at the very top where, the number of people making more than $1 million increased by 20 percent. But there were also 10 million people who didn't have a single hour of paid work last year.

Today America has 30 million people that are under-employed, struggling with one or more part-time and low-paying jobs to earn a living wage to support themselves and their families; while another 21 million Americans can't find any work at all. That's twice as many as there were during the height of the Great Depression.

There are also 46 million Americans who need food stamps just to eat and Medicaid for healthcare, but the Republicans want to cut these programs in the middle of a job crisis. Now there's a Super Committee that might take an axe to those programs (and to our cherished Social Security and Medicare as well). And there are still 50 million Americans without any healthcare insurance either.

But instead of jobs, the focus on Capitol Hill this year has been on tax cuts for corporations with untaxed profits held offshore. Just the non-financial companies alone are sitting on more than $2 trillion of cash. (The Republicans introduced seven pieces of legislation to limit abortions, but not a single jobs bill).

And let's not forget the banks. The conservatives continue to tell us we are heading toward socialism or even worse, communism, but this is far from the truth. The fact is, according to the Government Accountability Office and an investigation by Senator Bernie Sanders, it turns out our country’s economy is actually being run by Wall Street itself. A recent report shows that the Federal Reserve board is filled with business and financial executives, even though the law requires that common workers and consumers be represented.

And no, we didn't forget Goldman Sachs and AIG and the derivatives they sold that collapsed the housing market, and in turn, the economy. We didn't forget the bailouts. We didn't forget the millions of illegal and unfair foreclosures either. Nor did we forget the big banks' relationship with the Federal Reserve and our politicians on BOTH sides of the aisle. That's something that both the Right and the Left can agree on, even though both sides may hate to admit this aspect of their similarities.

There's one thing I did notice though, the Occupy Wall Street movement isn't comparing themselves to the Tea Party, and the Tea Party says the Occupy Wall Street movement has nothing in common with them. The Tea Party calls the protesters "anarchists" and that they are "terrorizing New York City". But they must remember the Vietnam War protests and the Civil Rights the Tea Party, they may have also been terrorists. But in reality, they are all just Americans expressing their grievances.

And to the best of my knowledge, the Tea Party never actually "occupied" anything. And I presume that most had jobs to go to the next day. But I can clearly see similarities to both the Tea Party and the Occupy Wall Street protesters. You see, as a former Reaganite who once sympathized with the Tea Party in 2009, and who now defines himself as an Independent Progressive, but who now sympathizes with the Occupy Wall Street protesters, I see their sameness. I was on both sides of their grievances at one time or another.

In a recent newsletter, the Tea Party railed against "rampant cronyism and corruption in Washington, D.C.", which is also something the Occupy Wall Street movement is protesting. So are they and the Tea Party really that far apart? After all, both groups (and everyone else in between, and at all the other OCCUPY protests around the country) make up the whole 99% together.

And maybe a few of the OWS protesters are communists and against capitalism, but they're still Americans. And by the way, with "free markets" and "free trade agreements", and when jobs go to China for cheap labor, maybe capitalism works very well over in China; but after closing 40,000 factories over the last decade, to be fair, capitalism really hasn't fared very well for most average Americans. Whole towns have died.

America's 99% has been on the losing side of a class war that's been waged against them for the past 40 years. But after the collapse of the economy by the reckless bankers in 2008, Americans began waking up. That's why protests like Occupy Wall Street have so quickly gained momentum around the country.

They were fed up of being lied to, cheated, and used. Their politicians were in bed with the large corporations and big banks, beholden to special interest's demands while THE PEOPLE suffered. The 1% had over-played their last card and had inflamed the rage of American citizens from coast to coast. People from every segment of America's neighborhoods, cities, towns, and rural areas were mad as hell and rose up in defiance to their government and the Wall Street mobsters. (See the documentary, Inside Job: The Film that Cost Over $20 Trillion to make!)

At first, it was the Tea Party on the Right. And then, almost three years later, we had the Occupy Wall Street movement on the Left. The two groups appeared polarized, both politically and ideologically, but they shared a common outrage against government corruption and the biggest and greediest banks. And America being ruled by corporations, not REAL people.

While the Tea Party was made up largely of middle-class middle-aged folks, the Occupy Wall Street movement first captured the younger generation's imagination, and quickly spread throughout the country. People from all walks of life joined in the protests. Old and young alike, from every background of race, color, and creed. And they were all in agreement...the unrestricted and corrupted power in the highest offices of government, the biggest of the banks, and the largest multi-national corporations, all had to be completely reformed.

Of course the media was slow to report on this phenomena at first. Especially Fox News, with their ultra-conservative view-points. They didn't want to see the apple cart overturned...they LIKED the status quo, because after all, they represented the politicians who worked for banks and corporations...the 1%...millionaires representing the view-points of other millionaires.

But THE PEOPLE have spoken. Enough was enough. They started declarations, petitions, and chain mails. Web sites and Facebook groups for the OCCUPY movement sprang up all over the internet. It became a central discussion on talk shows, even later, Fox News began muttering about the protests (but in the most deplorable way).

Bill O'Reilly had cited a poll and skewed the results to make all the protesters look like sex-crazed communists trying to destroy America, but I recently attended an OWS protest in Las Vegas, and the people I met there could have easily been at the mall or Wal-Mart...just a normal cross section of the average American public. Admittedly, yes, there were a few "colorful" people there, but that's the nature of any protest...even Tea Party protests. (That's yours truly there on the pun intended.)

But now the real work begins. THE PEOPLE of the Occupy Wall Street movement will also have to organize and mobilize politically to accomplish their well-meaning and well-deserved goals...much like the Tea Party did.

In order for the will of THE PEOPLE (on both the Right and the Left) to be heard and acted upon, they might need to first eliminate the Senate, get money out of politics (repealing Citizens United and outlawing SuperPacs), reform the banking system, and reform the House of Representatives. (Read this article before you say it sounds too crazy).

A Constitutional Convention, may, or may not be the answer to getting money out of elections. It would mean first getting rid of the Senate, so as to have a more proportionate form of representative government. Only after that, can we amend the Constitution to get money out of elections.

Then they would need to nationalize the Federal Reserve, reign in the commercial banks to meet the needs of the people (such as borrowing at the federal rate), and properly regulate investment banking by repealing the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, reinstate the Glass–Steagall Act, and give the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act it's full measure.

Yes, Chris Dodd and Barney Frank fell asleep at the wheel when they were supposed to be watching Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, but at least they tried to belatedly fix part of the problem (and that business with Chris Dodd and Countrywide wasn't forgotten either).

Maybe THE PEOPLE might also want a Congressional Reform Act to be implemented as well, and also eliminate life-time positions to the Supreme Court. (Outlaw monopolies too! We need fair competition for goods and services! End those damn mega-mergers!)

I would even go a step further than most people, and nationalize big oil too...a natural resource of the country that's being exploited for profit by a very few. Or at the VERY LEAST, I would end taxpayer subsidies for them. Now THAT'S what I'd call really crazy! (Even though one big oil executive called ending oil subsidies "un-American".)

One more thing...if a politician lies about their college education or military duty, they should be fired on the spot. They don't work in the private sector, and should not be able to lie on their resumes. They hold public office and work for THE PEOPLE. If they lie to get their job, they should be immediately subjected to termination...just like anyone else would. Members of the Supreme Court and Congress should not be "above the law", and should be held accountable for their actions, just as we would.

THE PEOPLE would need to do ALL those things that were previously mentioned, and not just one or two of them. And it begins by getting our elected officials to actually represent the will of THE PEOPLE. After all, in any representative form of government, in a true democracy, your VOTE is the most important and valuable Right you'll ever have. Do you remember when they risked their lives to vote in Iraq?

But if your vote is not counted, or it is being constantly ignored (or suppressed like the GOP is attempting to do now), and the politicians continue representing only special interests, then nothing can ever change to make America better for any one of the 99%. Then only the top 1% will continue to prevail, while the other 99% (both on the Right and the Left) will continue to be shackled into an increasingly impoverished and miserable existence.

THE PEOPLE would need to elect 60 new Kamikaze-like Senators, those who would be willing to run for only one term of office, and sign a legally binging document to vote on the above proposals, or agree to be immediately impeached (fired). And before their first and only term in office has expired, pass legislation that abolishes the Senate along with their own jobs. (Now those people would be true patriots, not like our present self-serving politicians, whose only concern is their own pockets.)

For the last 40 years they (politicians, bankers, and corporations) have had everything their way, and where did that get us, the 99%? Here. Right here, right now. This government and our economic system is broken and needs fixed, and very soon. It's already been far too long as it is.

Since those days many years ago, when my father first complained, the rich are still getting richer while everybody else is still getting poorer. Sure, we've had a few more millionaires in the last ten years, but we've also had millions of others who lost their jobs in the process, while those with jobs continued to see their wages remain stagnate while prices on everything kept going higher.

The politicians on the Right are always telling us to "take our country back!", and the politicians on the Left are calling for the same thing too. We, THE PEOPLE, need to take our country back from ALL the politicians if we want to be truly self-governing.

Before the economy crashed in 2008, most people would have thought this all sounded crazy (e.g. nationalizing the banks, etc), but not so much anymore. Maybe that crazy Chávez in Venezuela wasn't so crazy after all. Some of the greatest changes made in U.S. history were much more radical than this.

It's been a long time since the Civil Rights movement or the Vietnam War protests. Maybe this generation (with Occupy Wall Street) will be the ones to make another great and fantastic change for this country --- and mark their place in history and on this nation as well. If they do, they will have a grateful nation, and they will be the next "Greatest Generation".

If there were ever a book or movie, I'd like to see this, a David and Goliath story where the underdog triumphs...

Occupy America

ALSO READ: Occupy Wall Street: My One Demand

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