While they are not in all the headlines anymore, the Occupy movement is still going strong around the country. From Occupy Wall Street in New York to Occupy Denver in my neighborhood, the movement has gained media attention and thousands of supporters, but what are they really doing and what are they all about?
Why They Are There
There is a lot of confusion, even among some of the protestors, about what the Occupy movement stands for. As far as I have been able to draw out from the New York, Denver, and Boston websites, they are there because they are mad and frustrated.
Distribution of Wealth – The occupy folks are mad that the top income earners make such a large share of income and hold such a high percentage of wealth. The growing inequality is a primary reason for their anger. The top 10% of Americans hold 80% of all wealth in the United States. The top 20% of Americans earned 49.4% of income in 2010 while the bottom 15% earned only 3.4% of the income in the country. Over the last five years, studies have shown that the United States has one of the top income inequalities of comparably developed countries.
Corporate Greed – The movement has been vocal about corporations gouging the middle class for higher profits. While many banks are making record profits, they are evicting people from their homes. The protestors have gone so far as to ask for the banks to forgive debt to some people that can’t afford their payments.
A Clear Goal?
While we know why they are protesting, the movement has been slow and unclear about clear goals. They are mad at banks and rich people and politicians, but they lack a clear message and direction.
Like the Tea Party protests in 2009, the Occupy movement has potential to make an impact in the United States. In the most divided political time in recent memory, the far right is well represented in the government but the far left is not. To make an incredibly nerdy reference, they have potential to “bring balance to The Force.”
I absolutely hate the Tea Party and I don’t hate the Occupy movement. However, I do not agree with everything they have to say. I do support freedom of speech and both groups’ rights to speak their mind and peacefully assemble. Free speech, a First Amendment right, is a higher law than any municipal ordinance or state law, and these people have a right to be on public land to make their point.
I do support higher taxes on the top 1% (people who make over $550,000 per year can afford it) as a way to help balance our budget. I do support higher taxes, but not as dramatic, on the top 2% (about $200,000 and up).
I do support a simplified corporate tax code that would bring our corporate taxes back in line with the original rates. There are so many deductions and write offs that some of the biggest companies do not pay any taxes at all. We have one of the lowest effective tax rates in the OECD, and you can see what that has done to help our deficit.
I do not support a Robin Hood steal from the rich and give to the poor scenario. Income disparity happens, but life is not fair.
I do not support a debt forgiveness program. People signed the papers to take out a loan. If they signed up for something they could not afford, it is not the bank’s fault. The banks were stupid to give out loans to people who could not afford them and they deserve some losses, but they should not should the cost of stupid people’s homes.
Where It Is Going
I don’t think anyone knows exactly what is going to happen next. I watched live (on TV) as 24 protestors were arrested six blocks from my home for being in a park after hours. These people are not going away without a fight.
If they were smart and really wanted to impact the banks, they would close their accounts and move their money to credit unions or just start a bank of their own. Some are closing their accounts, but unless they act as a whole they are not going to make an impact.
I do expect that the “99%” will press for a unified voice in government. Just as the Tea Party holds a caucus, the Occupy movement will likely see more structure going forward. However, unlike the Tea Party, there are not a ton of millionaire supporters that are going to pay for the campaigns of its members.
I hope this group is able to establish a single voice and make progress toward a more logical tax system for both people and companies. I do not want to see such dramatic change that businesses are wiped out, but the excesses we see today while wealthy Americans and corporations pay such a disproportionate share of the taxes relative to their income needs to come to an end.
What Do You Think?
Do you support Occupy America? Are you part of the 99%? Do you think the 1% should be treated differently? Why? Why not? Please share your thoughts in the comments.