Home National Politics Why #OccupyWallStreet Matters

Why #OccupyWallStreet Matters


A couple of us were talking about how, unbelievably, a reporter at NPR yesterday suggested that, unlike the so-called Tea party, which, she claimed, grew spontaneously, the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement was more contrived.  Spontaneous?  Paid for by the Koch-Brothers-infested Freedom Works and Peter Peterson’s inaptly and ironically named Americans for Prosperity, the TP (a more apt name) is anything BUT spontaneous.  

The OWS protestors are neither slick nor packaged.  So, now all manner of reporters and commentators lecture the protestors about how to be successful. We are told they need a list of demands, spokespersons, and more.  But these suggestions seem more critical than helpful. Despite claims to the contrary, there are themes, woven into the protests: 1) Fundamental fairness; 2) Ending the coddling of Wall Streeters; 3) Bringing jobs; 4) Getting the money our of politics; 5)Re-regulating banks; 6) Building infrastructure; 7) Saving public education, including higher ed; 8) Protecting the safety net; and much more.  Most Americans, 81% of them, agree that we should raise taxes on wealthy persons, even most wealthy people!  Only Republican leaders diverge on this.  So, I think  the OWS protestors do know why they are there, the media’s effort to portray them as clueless notwithstanding.  But they know something many others do not.  

If we know anything, we now know the disadvantage of Balkanized issue politics where we all head off to focus on our various interests and fail to build a coalition toward real progressive change.  So when a group is welcoming to all peaceful persons who want to work together and harness their efforts to stand up for the 99%, the critics no doubt fear such a coalition.  

It’s ironic, but to be expected, that the so-called MSM’s predominant reaction to Occupy Wall Street has been primarily derision.  CNN’s Erin Burnett  was at the ready to seek out those who looked the most like a hippie stereotype  and to propose those individuals as the symbols of the occupation (and not tangentially to be laughed at).  Maria Barteromo, the lippy dimwit of a profligate Wall St Cheerleader, did the same thing and conducted herself with smirky snark.  The two of them unwittingly showed themselves for what they are.  And it is not journalists.  

Over at FAUX the derision and name-calling is more overt.  They are part of the problem too. Though I do not agree with him all that much, Michael Smerconish, put it well.  The  media has a lot of power here…to decide who are the faces of this movement. The question is do we let them frame it for us or do we do it ourselves?  

Yes, over and over we are told that the people protesting in lower Manhattan can’t articulate what they are about. Those not used to the glare of the national spotlight are trotted out as “proof,” when all they show is the true grassroots of the protestors.  And yet they are offered: Disrespect.  Disrespect of our fellow humans.  Human beings mean nothing to the Wall Streeters and their media enablers, except insofar as they can be exploited.

If the OWS protestors are so clueless, why is it that they listen attentively when famed economists such as Joseph Stiglitz and others give teach-ins? Our nation has some real treasures in economists such as Stiglitz, Paul Krugman, Dean Baker, Jeffrey Sachs, Robert Reich, and others who are un- or under-represented among decision makers, and whom our leaders should listen to more.

Where the media are concerned, there are exceptions, of course. Ezra Klein has written an excellent article about this. Tamryn Hall and Dylan Ratigan and others at MSNBC have covered the protests respectfully, though certainly not as well as they could.  (I wouldn’t bother watching “Morning Joe,” however.)  

But the extant media are best illustrated by what followed NPR’s put-downs yesterday.  A so-called “expert” from the American Enterprise Institute was trotted out to imply that all the little people are ignorant fools. According to him, “head count” (how HR “professionals” view human beings) is excess baggage to be squashed (snark). Corporations must strip away jobs to reap more profits.  Therefore we can forget about job growth.  Cut. Cut. Cut.  (Protest. Protest. Protest.)

I wish those protestors at Wall Street had heard these words.  But, then, maybe they do not need to.  After all, they are living the pain of the already-lost decade and the soon-to-be second lost decade in America. Most of us have lost ground in the past few years. Where is everyone who has?  

Most Democrats have stood idly by, failing to support them. Even Ben Bernanke says he can’t blame the protestors. We are talking really  mainstream here. What are we waiting for?  This is peaceful protest, for God’s sake. This is the time-honored way we make our voices heard.

I do not normally like either/or statements.  They tend to oversimplify.  But now it is that simple. You are either with the 99% or you are not. This is not about being for or against capitalism. In one way or another, we are all capitalists. Rather, it is about building one groundswell coalition that binds many of us together. When polled on the issues, time and again, the majority of Americans agrees with a progressive agenda.  But it doesn’t  matter if we agree on every point.  

What matters is that together we work to overthrow (by Constitutional Amendment, if need be) “Citizens United’s” bogus purchase of our US Supreme Court. It matters that we stand united in our resistance of contrived austerity to enrich only the 1-2% of the richest Americans, while everyone else is squeezed out of the middle class and into into poverty. It matters that we make a beginning to right our course. Thank God someone finally got off their sofas and peacefully into the streets. Will you join them?