Thursday, September 29, 2011

Occupy Wall Street's Grievances Are Not With Wall Street

I vaguely heard something on the news about a group of protestors near Wall Street who were getting pepper sprayed, and police violence, and whatnot. Oh, here’s an update on their situation. They are at Zuccotti Park (near Wall Street) and are planning to stay there “for the long haul” and have organized a “winterization committee” to prepare for the winter. It’s like the mother of all sit-ins, and they have already been there for twelve days, with surprisingly little media attention. It appears they have basically set up camp:
Zuccotti Park is festooned with placards and anti-Wall Street slogans. People sleep wrapped in blankets or sleeping bags, some on donated mattresses. There is a makeshift kitchen and library and celebrities from filmmaker Michael Moore to actress Susan Sarandon have stopped by to show support.
(Of course Michael Moore and Susan Sarandon showed up.)  After hearing about this, I began to wonder what exactly they are protesting. The organization is called Occupy Wall Street. Here is their unofficial web site, and here is another web site linked from there. Neither states who or what they are really protesting. There is the usual chatter about the 1% getting it all and the 99% getting nothing (which seems a little extreme to me), but other than that there are no stated goals, demands, purpose, or anything else. In fact, apparently when they got the bright idea to gather, they did it without any formal message in mind, and have struggled to define the message. After a little more Googling and digging around, I finally found their official list of Grievances:


1.Campaign Finance Reform
All votes are no longer equal in our Democracy. Money must be put outside of politics, or politicians will continue to pander to those who contribute the most to their campaigns, rather than their own constituencies. Specifically, we abhor the decision by the Supreme Court in Citizens United v. FEC. Corporations are NOT people.

2.True Shared Sacrifice
While corporate profits have been skyrocketing and the wealthy have been getting wealthier, the average worker’s income has dramatically dropped. While the cost of living has exponentially increased, wages have not followed. It has been shown time and time again that tax cuts for the wealthy are NOT effective. Taxes on those who practice greed should be raised.

3.Equality in Justice
This great nation was founded on liberty, but also, on equality. When the balance of justice is swayed in favor of those with wealth, the very fabric of this nation is torn apart. The decision of a judge should not be based upon the race, creed, or wealth of an individual, but rather, the content of the case.

4.The End of the Revolving Door
The Obama administration was supposed to bring change and hope to our country, but instead, brought us into despair and insecurity. Those working in his administration are the very people whom we are fighting against. Those who enter Washington should not be representatives of the elites, but representatives of the people. One cannot simply enter an administration, reap its benefits, and simply exit.
Doesn’t it seem like they should be protesting Congress (who makes the laws relating to campaign finance reform, taxes, and equality) or the Supreme Court (who interprets the laws relating to campaign finance reform and equality) or the White House (point four is a direct complaint against Obama) rather than Wall Street? All of the grievances listed relate to things that nobody on Wall Street is in a position to change. Did this occur to any of them? What really do they hope to accomplish? While they may be getting some attention, it may not be the best kind of attention, because the lack of leadership and a defined message, as well as the failure to protest the right people makes it much too easy to write them all off as a bunch of morons. I would think the 2012 elections might be a great time for them to push their grievances. Aren’t there any candidates who agree with their positions? The change they seek simply isn’t going to happen through Wall Street. It has to happen through the Federal government.  Presidential or Congressional candidates might be a better option here.

Through my brief research on this, I also found out that Occupy Chicago has been going on for an entire week. I read the Tribune and Sun Times every day (not cover to cover, of course), and I haven’t heard or seen anything about this. It’s up to around sixty people hanging out in front of the Chicago Federal Reserve – who also can’t do anything about the Grievances they are protesting. Hell, they might as well go sit in Grant Park. According to their Twitter Feed, the police have told them no personal property on the sidewalk, so they are considering renting a U-Haul. It all sounds pretty awesome to me.

I suppose if people want to hang out in the cold protesting in front of the wrong organization for months and into the winter, that’s their prerogative. I just don’t see how they hope to accomplish anything. Additionally, I have some questions about this:

1. Where are they going to the bathroom? I’m going to assume it isn’t at a Starbucks, Macy’s, McDonald's, or any other big greedy corporation.

2. Where are they showering? Is it bad form to leave a protest to go home and clean up each day, or are you beholden to stay there? I really have no idea.

3. How are they eating? Again, I’m going to assume they aren’t frequenting the big greedy corporations like Jimmy John’s, Potbelly, McDonald’s, and the like. It seems you can donate to the cause, so maybe people have, so they are buying food with that money. But from where? Not the big greedy grocery stores, right?

4. I suppose it’s safe to assume that none of them have jobs? From the articles I’ve read, the majority of the protestors sound to be either college students (who are skipping class?) or recent college graduates who can’t find work. I’m sure hanging out in Zuccotti Park or in front of the Chicago Federal Reserve is a great way to find a job.

5. Why didn’t they do this starting in May to ensure warmer weather for the “long haul”? It gets freezing cold in Chicago and New York, so to the extent that anyone is still doing this in December, they are not going to have fun.

I think there is something to be said for the nostalgia of the sit-ins and protests of the 1960s and 1970s, but all of this seems incredibly poorly organized and a little sad. Maybe it will get there; maybe it won’t. It seems to me that the larger the crowd gets, the more difficult it will be to control and to come up with a unified theory or plan, which is what they really need. The tea party sprang out of a unified group of people with similar goals; the same could happen here, if they play their cards right. However, my bet is that within a month they will no longer be sitting in Zuccotti Park or in front of the Chicago Federal Reserve or anywhere else in the country they are currently gathering in any large numbers. They could stand around and picket and protest forever, but is it really going to do any good?

1 comment:

  1. I hadn't actually paid much attention to this protest, but I assumed they were angry with big banks. But yeah, based on their grievances, their protest site makes no sense.