Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Occupy Wall Street Movement

     It was no surprise that all the articles on the National News page of Monday's newspaper were concerned with the “officially” ended recession and various reactions to it. The major story discussed whether the ongoing “Occupy Wall Street” (OWS) movement is here to stay or will just fade away as so many social movements have done in the past. I will get to the other articles shortly.
     The OWS movement is based on the premise that the one percent of households who control the “vast majority” of the nation's wealth do so while the remaining 99% are suffering as they struggle to make ends meet. Just as the Missouri mule skinner had to get his student's attention by hitting him with a baseball bat, I believe the term “vast majority” was picked out of the blue in order to get the attention of potential sympathizers; I do not believe that using fictitious figures will help the movement.
     Don't misunderstand me – the true figures are daunting enough. According to a study conducted by the Sociology Dept. of the University of California at Santa Cruz, as of 2007 the top one percent of households owned almost 35% of all privately held wealth – a substantial amount, but nowhere near a vast majority. However, if one includes the 50% wealth ownership by the next 19% of households, it indeed becomes a vast majority; the bottom 80% of households holds just 15% of the wealth.
     And the situation is deteriorating – another of the articles reports that during the “official” recession – December 2007 to June 2009 – the median household income fell 3.2%; during the period from the end(?) of the recession and June 2011 the median income fell 6.7%. The article speculates that the drop has been a result of (1) an increased number of unemployed people who have given up looking for work, and (2) the pay of the employed has not risen as fast as the inflation rate.
     A third article illustrates what Congress is doing to remedy the situation. Actually, when our representatives could not agree on whether to raise taxes or cut spending, they shuffled the whole problem onto a “Super committee,” which apparently cannot agree on what to do any more than Congress as a whole could. The committee has until November 23 to come up with $1.2T in additional deficit reduction steps to be undertaken over a ten year period. Any such recommendations by the committee are subject to an “up or down” vote by the Congress. If they don't pass, a “trigger mechanism” would automatically make across the board cuts of $1.2T in both military and domestic spending.
     Personally, I don't see how this translates to more stability for the nation's economic situation, but perhaps I don't need to; there is an emergency exit – none of the cuts would take effect until 2013, which means that next year Congress could pass new legislation which would void the whole thing.
     The last article quotes House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi as to the hypocrisy of certain Republican Congressmen. In particular, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor is concerned about the “growing mobs,” and criticized “Occupy Wall Street” rooters as supporting “class warfare” by the “pitting of Americans against Americans.” This is the same Eric Cantor who, on September 12, 2009, told Tea Party partisans that they were “fighting on the fighting lines of what we know is a battle for our democracy." Pelosi is correct – when it comes to being two-faced, Cantor puts the god Janus to shame.
     Back to the movement; the mule skinner has an agenda to follow once he gets the mule's attention. According to Adbusters, a primary protest organizer, the central demand of the OWS protest is that President Obama "ordain a Presidential Commission tasked with ending the influence money has over our representatives in Washington." Good luck with that – neither the President nor any other politician is going to bite the hand that feeds his campaign.
     Among the rank and file OWS participants there seem to be two lines of thought about creating a formal agenda: (1) Draft specific demands about the unequal distribution of wealth in the United States, or (2) Keeping the agenda non-specific and allow the protest to grow. Hopefully the average voter will be persuaded to elect representatives sympathetic to the movement's central demand.
     All of this is going to require a huge amount of money, and getting money from the very people OWL is opposing, the well-to-do, is tantamount to a gnat bringing down an elephant.
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     My books, “There Are Only Seven Jokes” and “The Spirit Runs Through It” are available in paperback, or at the Kindle Store.

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