Monday, October 24, 2011

Occupy Wall Street movement has a clear message

Conservatives and their public relations people frequently misrepresent the Occupy Wall Street movement as “hippie-types” who are too lazy to work, unlike hard-working tea partiers.
Sunday, October 23, 2011

Demonstrations Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2011 in New York

OWS has been portrayed as small and insignificant while somehow also a large “mob” supported by the powerful, wealthy forces of organized labor. Slightly inconsistent, perhaps. Conservative pundits contend that the tea party protesters were largely ignored by the mass media while OWS is getting a great deal of unwarranted, positive attention. Reality says otherwise.

Tea party demonstrations were often small and limited in scope yet received front-page coverage. Only tea partisans seem to be fuming over the alleged lack of coverage or supposedly negative coverage. In contrast, OWS demonstrations are reported to have topped 10,000 participants in New York City and, according to the British newspaper The Guardian, there are more than 950 similar protests with similar grievances in more than 80 countries.

This seems rather large considering that it’s only recently picked up mainstream media coverage. However, coverage has been mostly negative. The pundits repeat the same talking points: What are the protesters’ demands? They are only protesting to protest. Reality check: They are at the financial center of the world holding up signs about the injustices perpetrated by both political parties to prop up corrupt financial institutions and an ongoing war against regular workers.

Here’s what Occupy Wall Street is about:
1. We need to get rid of the current system of kleptocracy, that is, a society that takes from the productive members of society and gives to the least productive — those who happen to be the ones that we are trained to worship as economic gods. Ironically, the tea party movement holds this same ire for a government that seems to have plenty of stimulus money for the financial sector but only financial grief for Joe Six-Pack.

2. Government isn’t taking the people seriously, whether it be opposition to unnecessary wars or a health care bill that’s nothing like the mandate that President Obama had been given for a single-payer system, but a sure handout to health insurance companies.

Ron Paul, loved by many tea partiers, consistently opposes our imperial-interventionist policies that not only inspire anti-Americanism abroad but add enormously to the deficit. Republican politicians often tout how fiscally responsible they are while supporting a big-spending foreign policy and reducing the standard of living for those who benefit the least from “the system.” On top of that, taxes go down for corporations.

3. Governors and the executive branch allow energy interests to dictate use of state and federal lands without regard for the environment. From Gov. Corbett pandering to Marcellus Shale drillers to President Obama’s support for environmentally hazardous gas pipelines, energy interests trump human and environmental health and safety.

4. Austerity programs hit the working classes while an economic bonanza continues for the rich and managerial classes through the dismantling of living wage standards, now legalized union busting and massive layoffs in the name of the bottom line and cutting spending at the government and corporate level (which happened to be the jobs of other people).

5. Others chastise OWS for lacking serious movement for electoral change. This is inconsistent with accusations that the demonstrators are mindless pawns of Barack Obama, Van Jones and the Democratic Party rank and file.

Many demonstrators understand that electoral politics is impotent for bringing about real systemic changes. The electoral process brought a president who promised to take environmental protection seriously, rein in corporate power and to work toward meaningful reform of the American health care system. None of this has come to pass because the system is not built to beget meaningful change.
These are but a few of the obvious concerns of those who are using their weekends, like many tea party patriots, to try to get their message heard. It’s about time that they at least get a fair hearing rather than being marginalized as a bunch of left-wing nut jobs who invaded Fidel Castro’s closet and enjoy protests.

Jonathan Gainor writes from East Pennsboro Twp. He is a professor at HACC.