Wednesday, October 26, 2011

We Are the 53%?

(I wrote this yesterday, but just getting around to posting it today)

So now, most inevitably, counterprotests have popped up that are meant to serve as a refutation of the themes and messages of the Occupy Wall Street movement.  The "We Are the 53%" moniker refers to the 53% of Americans who pay taxes, and these counterprotesters argue that messages of personal accountability, responsibility, and work ethic are missing from the themes being expressed by the Occupy protesters.
Well, maybe the Occupy Wall Street movement might win over more adherents by including messages of personal responsibility.  This is America, and, of course, we want our citizens to stand on their own two feet and be self reliant whenever possible.  In general, though, I think that the "53%" response just isn't really on point in terms of responding to the central messages that are beginning to solidify within the Occupy movement.
Perhaps I've been missing a big part of the Occupy message, but I haven't heard many demands for government handouts or insistence upon welfare programs as a key part of their message.  Instead, what I've mostly heard from them is a certain frustration over what they see as a lack of a level playing field when it comes to the influence exerted by corporate America, the financial sector, and the absolutely wealthiest percentage of the country, especially as compared to the rules that middle class citizens and everyone else are expected to play by.  Recent Supreme Court decisions (see Citizens United) have recently given corporations almost unfettered rights to engage in political lobbying and involvement in the political process (thereby granting unprecedented first amendment rights to metaphysical "persons" which are, in fact, only powerful profit making machines), and there's a corporate tax structure in this country which allowed General Electric to owe no money in taxes in 2010 despite generating $10.3 billion in pretax income.  Banks have been engaging in extemely risky practices in areas like derivatives and the mortgage markets, and tax dollars have been the ones bailing them out when things went south.
So yeah, we can always do with a greater sense of responsibility, self reliance, and principled behavior, but I think that the Occupy protesters would probably argue that large parts of Wall Street, Washington, and corporate America have been failing to live by those same responsible principles themselves for a long time, and, in fact, in recent years the American tax payers have been the ones bailing out corporations and the wealthy when they engage in irresponsible behavior- not the other way around.
I'm not saying that there isn't room for people to encourage personal responsibilty during the Occupy protests.  I'm just saying that I don't think that the search for fairness expressed by the Occupy protesters and the expectations that individual citizens will strive to be self reliant are really mutually exclusive goals.  I really do believe that there are plenty of hard working American citizens out there who have done their best to play by the rules who have ended up being seriously harmed by an economic downturn brought about, in large part, by companies who weren't held to reasonable rules of fairness.

I guess, like some of the people out their protesting, I just don't want to see the same mistakes repeated that led to our economic deterioration in the first place.  It seems like now might be a good time to reassess and move forward in a healthier way.

That's all I've got.  I hope everyone is doing okay!!

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