Driving to work this morning, I was listening to the Diane Rehn Show and the discussion on the global “Occupy” movement. I hovered over the radio dial, contemplating changing it to some nice FM radio station because I knew my anger would likely flare – and it did. Speakers from the American Enterprise Institute tend to make me angry, and that is because the speakers I have hear sees only numbers. Economics baked in a number cake where the social element removed is dangerous. It is nothing less then theorizing in a vacuum. Regardless, this morning on the Diane Rehn show, I heard how economists are not in the business of politics, not in the business of ethics (the fair comment above), and not in the business of social policy. And yet …. the economic factor challenges, colors, and changes each: politics, ethics, and social arrangements.
With that said, the thing I have noticed about this new media focus on the Occupy movement is that either the media is still suggesting that they don’t understand the demands of the protesters, or the media marginalizes the demands to a simple argument: the protesters want to tax the rich. Really, that is not it folks, it is far more complicated than that.
It is not simply about taxing the rich; those who have over a million dollars in the bank. Many of the protesters may want that, but if you spend some time listening to the protesters, they want a fair society with safeguards in place for potential economic break down, many want a return to the unions, many are looking for jobs, for corporations to get out of politics and start paying the taxes they are getting out of because of tax breaks and other “tricks” that allow a skirting of the law. They want their retirement back. The young want to work. The older, 50+ group, would like to be hired again and not viewed as obsolete workers. they need to hired again – many have lost everything.
What the 99% want is to see substantial fairness in economics, politics, and social life. You should not have to be rich to run for office – and yet that is the actuality now. The retirement we worked for should be there for us. The unemployment we paid into should be there for us. It is not simply about taxing the rich, it is about changing an entire paradigm that has crippled the 99% of people in this WORLD who have been made the scapegoat by a system that could care less about them. That is the point. Listen to what this one protester, Kyli Rhoads a 26 year old college graduate working toward a master’s degree, in Seattle had to say to local KING 5 news about why she was protesting and pitching a tent, against city laws, in Downtown Seattle:
It means we’re here to stay, we’re not going anywhere. … This is not something that’s going to settle down, we’re not going to be quiet. We’re going to do this until somebody listens. I’m not lazy, I’m a very motivated person, … and I feel like having to go through these obstacles and wind up in debt and work a ridiculous amount of hours a week in order to accomplish happiness and what you want in life is ridiculous. It shouldn’t be this way.
Rhoads is not alone in her anger regarding being called lazy. Indeed, at the protest there are many older protesters, 50+ and older, who lost their retirement, lost their jobs and now lost any chance of a financially good end of life. Does this turn of events make them lazy? No. Yet I have heard, time and again from mostly conservative political heads that these people are lazy: You can’t get a job? Relying on public assistance? Your are lazy and not taking responsibility for your self. Hump! Public goods and benefits are cut and so these folks will not even have that to rely on. It is a problem. We are going to have hundreds of thousands of people living in tents very soon if we do not do something NOW.
But that something, I fear, will not come fast enough. I also hear chants around the world for wide justice, and against an extreme capitalism. Capitalism does not care about the average person, after all, it only cares about profit and the mechanism in place for making profit – not creating jobs, health care, or any social benefit. As such we are now hearing a new chant: Revolution.
As for the success for the current movement, I think Immamual Wallerstein (a social economist theorists) did a good job at projecting:
As to the future, it could be that the movement goes from strength to strength. It might be able to do two things: force short-term restructuring of what the government will actually do to minimize the pain that people are obviously feeling acutely; and bring about long-term transformation of how large segments of the American population think about the realities of the structural crisis of capitalism and the major geopolitical transformations that are occurring because we are now living in a multipolar world.