The stats are shocking. The top 1% of the U.S. population controls 40% of the nation’s wealth—a proportion unparalleled in recent history. Between 1979 and 2007, the top 1% earners saw their after-tax income grow by 275%. Meanwhile, the lower 20% only saw their income increase by 18%. Despite this great imbalance, public officials have largely betrayed their trust by ignoring calls to take action to level the playing field and restore balance to America’s economy. These were the facts which has catalyzed Occupy Wall Street's creation.
Occupy Wall Street's major demand is very simple: hold those responsible for causing the economic crisis accountable and prevent it from reoccurring. Other goals include an end to corporate money’s stranglehold on our government, compelling Wall Street to invest in creating jobs for Americans, stop foreclosures and other common sense approaches to level the playing field for the average American.
For the past year instead of focusing on creating jobs, growing our economy and protecting middle class Americans as a majority of voters support, the congressional majority has set a narrative demanding austerity. Outgunned by a right-wing fueled by special interest cash, Democrats largely acquiesced to Republican hostage taking in this regard, allowing them to pass their radical agenda.
Republicans have been busy working to reduce the already light burden on corporations while increasing burdens on middle class families including cutting access to education and eradicating the social safety net. There has been little push back—until now.
Even the most ardent detractor will admit: Occupy Wall Street has changed the narrative. No longer do we turn on the TV to hear about the newest austerity measures being proposed. Occupy Wall Street has changed the dynamic, and has grown dramatically in the process. Politicians have lost control over messaging as the media focuses on protesters putting their bodies on the line to demand a restoration of the American Dream.
The occupy movement is spreading like wildfire. Nearly two thousand local entities already exist. Through its growth, one message comes across clearly: Americans do not support a radical transformation of our society into one where social mobility is impossible. Americans do not support a return to Gilded Age conditions where the rich simply got richer while exploiting the rest of society and corrupt politicians look away.
With so many groups out there, it comes as no surprise that there are a few groups located around Pacific Union College. Recently, I had the privilege of witnessing one, Occupy Santa Rosa.
Like with most grassroots movements (as opposed to astroturf "movements" like the Tea Party), the corporate media has created caricatures of the protesters. It has fabricated stories claiming that the protesters demands are radical while simultaneously claiming that they have no clear goals. Apparently, they also attract fringe characters to unsanitary conditions at the protests. My experience at Occupy Santa Rosa vastly differed from these negative accounts. The protesters’ demands (summarized above) are reasonable. They are often supported by the country's top economists (Paul Krugman, anyone?). The protest did not attract any more fringe characters than other groups of its size. The conditions also showed notable actions to insure hygiene at the protest.
As an Adventist, I desire social justice and want to correct a banking system that causes massive damage to our economy, particularly the American middle class. We need to hold all our leaders accountable. Join with thousands (including many Adventists) across the country and globe who support Occupy Wall Street. Our future may depend on it.
—A freshman honors student at Pacific Union College, Giovanni Hashimoto is double majoring in journalism and American history.
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/3539