For the past week, Occupy Wall Street has been the focus of much media coverage, and community concern in New York City. Many people, myself included, have asked "Just what is it they want?" I received this unattributed missive, from a friend who knew I was looking for more specific information on OWS's goals, and post it here as a subject for consideration. This is not an "Official Document". To this point, as far as I know, there have been no "official documents" released from OWS, but this communiqué does present general concerns and demands.
What Do They Want?
You’re going to pretend you don’t know what they want? Okay. I’ll humor you.
They want jobs. There aren’t enough, because small businesses can’t afford to stay in business, or hire them, or pay for healthcare or retirement plans or the other typical parts of a compensation package that it takes to maintain a standard of living suitable for living in a first-world country. They’ve done everything they were supposed to do to earn a decent living and now they want the rewards that make the work worthwhile.
Let’s break that down.
Because of the cost of healthcare and credit, small businesses can’t compete with corporate giants. Corporate giants can outsource labor overseas at a fraction of the price. And are happy to do so.
Because of the greed of Wall Street, because of outright fraud from trusted financial institutions, because of the insane avarice of the five hundred family dynasties that have captured half the wealth from the sweat of an entire nation by decades and decades of constant niggling and lobbying and legislation from pet powermad senators and representatives and justices and key committee members for whom they’ve bought positions of influence…. Because of this, the system we should count on for justice, for providing equal footing among children no matter who their parents are, is warped beyond repair, draining every last penny from the pockets of those who are the most defenseless into the bulging wallets of those that have thousands of times more than they need. Because of this, there is, finally, just not enough money to go around, and the people — the flesh-and-blood human beings whose sweat is the lubrication for all of this mighty machinery — are starting to falter, and starve, and lose all hope for any reward worth their work.
Because of this, it’s finally starting to hit the children of those who were rewarded for integrity and hard work. And retirees. And veterans.
Parents can’t afford to pay for worthwhile education for their children.
People can’t afford medical care or nursing care for their elderly parents.
Students can’t afford to pay back the loans they have to take out to get even a basic degree.
Students with degrees — and advanced degrees, which we’ve been preaching for ages is the key to success and a reasonable standard of living — can’t get jobs that would allow them to have a place to live AND food AND pay back their loans, and now there is no way to defer those payments or even seek the crippling relief of bankruptcy. Because you THOUGHT you were voting for “personal fiscal responsibility”, and what you ACTUALLY voted for was for the vampire banks to be able to suck the last drop of life out of your children.
The 40-hour work week — not a luxury, but a target for a good balance of work life and private life and social life and mental and physical health — is a joke. Some people can’t find one job, while others work themselves to death with one and a half, or two, or three — and still can’t afford healthcare or daycare or sick days, vacation days, or dropping spare coins into a savings plan. Or whatever joke a retirement plan would be. Everybody has something on the side to try to fill in the gaps and it’s not paying off. It just makes people literally sicker.
Look up the figures. Worker productivity: all-time high. Worker salaries: decreasing. Unemployment: sky-high. And STILL there is actual growth, but none of the proceeds make it to any American who isn’t a company officer. And if your share does increase, it’s at the expense of someone below you on the food chain.
“Work hard and you can get ahead,” is what we’ve been telling our kids since we pulled out of The Great Depression. But working hard doesn’t get you ahead anymore. It’s treading water at best. And maybe the reason you don’t hear the voices of all of those people behind you who have already fallen down the slope is because you’re concentrating so hard on not losing your footing while you watch your own feet slide backwards.
Trust me, though. You’re next. All it takes is an expensive, lingering death in the family. An illness that your own private death panel of an insurance company won’t cover. A car wreck. A fire. An altercation at work. A spurious lawsuit. A branch office closing. A corporate merger that eliminates YOUR job. Even bad weather. These are inevitabilities. You have already taken a number. You’re just waiting for your number to be called.
If you’re wondering why the media hasn’t been covering it, first, think of who owns them. The Free Press has all been bought up by corporations that are either owned by banks or owe money to them. Second, you really don’t want to hear about poverty, sickness, and starvation. You’ve been telling the press that for years. The media only reports on blood, sports, and celebrities because you have zero interest in anyone else’s pain or troubles. You have enough troubles of your own. You don’t want to hear it. You’ve ignored it. And now it’s in your own goddamn house and you still ignore it.
“How do we get out of this mess?” you ask. “Does anyone have a plan other than whining and chanting slogans and making broke-ass cities pay their cops overtime?”
Well, yes. There is a plan. And it’s a simple one.
1) Reinstate all the restrictions on banking and securities that have been removed since The Great Depression, seeing as those restrictions were put in place to prevent another one. You can see what’s happened with them gone.
2) Figure out why healthcare has gotten so damn expensive — in the USA alone of all the countries in the world — and fix that. I guarantee you that the insurance companies and drug manufacturers are at the bottom of it, so I suggest you start looking there.
3) Revoke any idea of the “personhood” and “rights” of a corporation. They don’t need freedom of speech — all of their constituent members already have that. They don’t need ANY rights — until they can also be held as responsible and accountable as an actual human being, who can be imprisoned and stripped of possessions and, in some cases, executed for the levels of villainy we’ve been seeing.
4) If a corporation makes money from US labor, resides on US land, uses US agricultural resources, manufactures products or improves materials to be later used in production in the US, provides services to US residents using US infrastructures of road and pipes and wires and satellites, excretes wastes into US environmental resources of land or air and water, then it should pay taxes to the US people for the use, upkeep, and repair of the commonwealth and its valuable infrastructure. NO EXCEPTIONS. Practices allowing shuffling of assets overseas to prevent paying owed taxes should be banned as fraudulent.
5) The tax burden on individuals should be rebalanced. People need a certain amount of spare cash to live and eat and have a roof. Above that, the more you make, the more you should be taxed. Let’s be serious: If you can afford a car, you can afford to buy a bike for someone less fortunate so he can get to work and back. If you can afford a yacht, then you can afford to buy a couple of buses for your city municipal transit system so a hundred people can get to work and back. Everyone should pay their taxes. NO EXCEPTIONS.
6) The government is NOT FOR SALE. Huge campaign donations from individuals and corporations are nothing but bribes. EVERYONE KNOWS THIS, yet the Supreme Court says this kind of bribery is a right of free speech for corporations. MY ENTIRE ASS. Everyone knows this is a crock. Every two years, every four years, every six years, our elected officials go trick-or-treating for enough dribblings from the corporations and the wealthy — basically begging for their bribes — to buy television spots and talk shit about one another. They do this campaigning INSTEAD OF DOING THEIR JOBS. Every two years, every four years, every six years, people are elected based on the shininess of their ads and the cleverness of their sound bites and the number of newspapers they could get pictures of their faces in and, amazingly enough, nobody knows what anyone stands for. Except they’d really like you to buy a $1000 plate of spaghetti to help fund it all. Seriously, figure out where to draw the line and arrest anyone who crosses it. Dissolve any corporation that crosses it.
7) Who are we at war with again and why? Playing supercop policeman to the world is an expensive hobby. If our friends out there want us to do this, then they can help finance it. If we’re going to do it, we should do it for good reasons — not so we can sloppily slide tax revenues into the back pockets of our friends who make weapons and bunkers and tanks and jet fighters and armored transports or sell us oil on the cheap. As a non-economic aside, anyone who takes part in these things, as soldiers or US contractors or foreigners in US employ, should be held to our criminal codes, our Constitution and Bill of Rights, and our rules of civilized society no matter whose soil they’re standing on, or whether they’re in international waters — or any other lame excuse for weaseling out of being a human being and acting like animals.
8) Stop encouraging people to profit from someone else’s misery. This is just a guideline to measure things by. This means looking at the effects of rulings and legislation and corporate practices to make sure the people who are hit hardest aren’t the ones already at the bottom end of the economic spectrum, the sick, the young, the elderly, the disabled, cultural minorities, etc. Every time something slips past this test, our humanity takes another knife to the neck. People die from being poor, disadvantaged, depressed. Unchecked greed literally kills people.
So this is what those people out there chanting want. Maybe they’re not eloquent enough to say it — or maybe they’re just too angry to be coherent. Or maybe this stuff is too complex for a kid with nothing under his or her belt but a watered-down public high school education to even understand without a good run-up. But they have no hope of ever being paid what they’re worth, of being rewarded on scale with their work, of ever getting out from under the crushing debt you encouraged them to take on, and they’re unhappy.
And they’re doing all this for you, because you’re next.
Join them from your chair — or keep waiting until you have no choice but to join them on the street. Your choice.
If you think these words speak for you, use them. I don’t care about credit or attribution or any of that stuff. Just say what needs saying. Put it out there. Link, rephrase, cut-and-paste — whatever you need, whatever works. And good luck.