The occupiers themselves are pretty clear about the issues, so it’s a real sham that the television journalists on CNN and FOX claim not to understand. Perhaps they can avert the gaze of the media for a while longer, but it’s pretty hard to ignore tens of thousands of people gathering daily to chant against a political system that identifies itself with business interests instead of with the general population.
At issue is the system of injustice, which one could also call class warfare, whereby corporations and the wealthiest class continue to dominate all political decisions while demanding that the current crisis by shouldered by the poor and the middle class, in the form of lower income, lower benefits, lower security, and lower quality of life.
The occupiers are perfectly clear. One hears in protestors’ comments and signs a repetition of the same topics and themes. The system being called into question is the one which produces the following list of high frequency complaints among protestors: no jobs for people qualified and willing to work; no way to obtain basic educational qualifications (ie, degrees) without going into massive debt; rampant disregard for people’s well-being in the policies of foreclosing, hiring, union busting, wage-setting, etc.
What they are basically protesting is the prioritizing of profit-making over general well-being of ordinary people, an ethos that has thoroughly penetrated the White House. When AIG and other corporations were going to fall, they received a golden parachute and then a golden ladder right back up to the top. The CEOs still make bonus checks in the millions, while lowering wages, cutting benefits, and moving jobs offshore.
The basic complaint is that the White House is being run by Wall Street. It has already long been realized by the larger public that the president is elected based on the success of his PR campaign and his ability to attract corporate sponsors. The current administration anticipates the 2012 reelection campaign tab to run to 2 billion dollars. Little wonder that bankers, business, and big corporations are well serviced by the president. They are his means to reelection. The people, the middle class and the poor, well, there is just no incentive in the current system to care what they want. As current primary candidates Perry and Ron Paul have implied, let them die!
Since the problem is an entrenched political system and its devastating consequences, the symptoms are multiple. There is no single issue for the protestors, because the problem is they way things are done, and the poor and middle class are suffering from several directions. If you are a college student, you are having to pay ultrahigh tuition, even when you go to public universities. If you are a worker, your wages are getting lowered, your retirement age increased, and your benefits ripped out from under you…or you are just getting fired altogether as your company moves its labor operations off-shore in order to increase profits. If you have a medical condition, you are upset because your right to health care is becoming an unaffordable luxury and you are mortgaging your house just to get an operation or some medication. If you teach at an elementary school, your unions are getting busted, your pensions cut, your class size increased, and your salary lowered. And so on. Specific political decisions made all of this happen, and the decision-making is intensely biased in favor of business interests instead of ordinary citizens.
All of these symptoms, the sudden increase in burdens placed upon the poor and middle class, are the flip side of the privatization dream of financiers and big business, the very people who are controlling the White House. We’ve been going through wave after wave of privatization in the last three decades. The latest wave has used the recent economic crisis as an opportunity to push through new austerity measures yet again. The business class talks big about the free market, but when a corporation (GE) or bank (Citigroup, AIG) is about to fail, now suddenly it’s time for government intervention and taxpayer handouts. At the same time, millions of Americans have now been thrown out of their houses through this proceeding called foreclosure (as I write this, in in 600 homeowners are involved in foreclosure proceedings; in california 1 in 230). The banks got their debt all written off, and the executives went home with a fat wallet. Meantime, the middle class and the poor need to pay up or get their possessions taken from them. Priorities here are pretty clear, as are the injustices.
It’s gotten to the point where Reagan’s and Nixon’s own fiscal policies, on things like taxation and social welfare programs, would be to the left of Obama and utterly rejected by the current Republicans. Remember, it was Nixon who said “we’re all Keynesians now.”
The name and place of the protest, namely Wall Street, embodies the most obvious critique of the system. The protestors are literally confronting Wall Street culture with their crimes and the disastrous consequences of their practices. Not a single banker or CEO or trader has been charged for the now enormously documented “white-collar” crimes, yet are against the systematic immiseration of ordinary people in the name of increased profits for the business class.
So while Obama tells the black community, whose unemployment is currently at Depression Era levels (20%) to “Shake it off. Stop complainin’. Stop grumblin’. Stop cryin’,” the protestors, say: “this is our country not theirs” and “we’re not gonna be silent any more.”
Cornell West summarizes a common sentiment within the movement: It’s a democratic process, it’s a non-violent process, but it is a revolution, because these oligarchs have been transferring wealth from poor and working people at a very intense rate in the last 30 years, and getting away with it, and then still smiling in our faces and telling us it’s our fault.Vodpod videos no longer available.