We know things are bad. In fact the data has been telling us for decades, even during boom times like the 90s, that things were bad. Every indicator, every trend line, every data point indicates a deep and fundamental problem in our democracy and in our economy. Yet somehow we feigned ignorance then and we continue to do so now. But we don't have to look at the evidence, we can simply consider the act of occupation. The act itself suggests that things must be terribly bad. Americans have not been particularly involved in the political process in recent decades, so for a group of Americans to rise up and take to the streets, day and night, for months, tells you all you need to know. Yet we still do nothing.
If you are one of those people who hates the "hippies and the bongo drums" then maybe you need more to convince you. Consider the following:
Middle class wages have been flat since the early 1970s. Over that period, virtually all income gains have gone to the top 10%.
2. Deliberate Economic Destruction
We know that the predatory lending practices of the major banks led to the financial crash and were premeditated and deliberate . We know that the credit default swaps and derivatives and all the other chicanery passed off as financial instruments were intended to bilk a largely unsuspecting public out of their money. We also know that it worked. Millions of Americans are underwater in their mortgages if they are lucky enough to have one. In fact, 28.6% or about 14.6 million borrowers have negative equity in their homes. Some experts put the number as high as 50% of homeowners. Millions of Americans are unemployed and even more are underemployed. Retirement funds and 401k plans have been drained of their value. Millennials are graduating off a cliff, and our troops return home and experience unemployment rates as high as 30.4%.
3. Inequality After The Bailout
As the Occupy Wall Street chant goes, "they got bailed out, we got sold out." We responded to the destruction of the worldwide economy with a $13 trillion bailout of the banks. In exchange for the bailout we essentially got nothing. While it is true we saved the worldwide economic system from collapsing, beyond maintaining the status quo we have not received any real benefits from our $13 trillion investment. While unemployment has remained high and the economy sluggish, Wall Street banks have been making record profits and paying record bonuses .
4. No Punishment
We know that the economic collapse was the result of deliberate behavior yet we have done little beyond the relatively weak Dodd-Frank bill to reform or regulate Wall Street. We know that laws were broken and continue to be broken as banks robo-sign people out of their homes and foreclose on the homes of active duty troops . Yet we do nothing.
5. No Remorse
If we are to believe that our Wall Street bankers are so vital, so brilliant, so diligent that our economy and the world itself will collapse without them, then it also follows that they must be intelligent enough to understand what they were doing. They must be smart enough to know what they have done. They must be bright enough to know what they are doing now. In the face of worldwide economic collapse and incredible human suffering for millions in America and around the globe, the 1% retain their deeply held belief that they are entitled to the extreme salaries and bonuses they receive. So entitled are they that they actually ridicule hard working Americans as undeserving. In fact, they go beyond ridicule, they literally think the suffering of millions that they have created is funny . It's difficult to imagine how any human being could be in such a powerful state of self denial that they could look in the faces of those who are jobless, those who are being evicted, those who struggle, and instead of feeling remorse feel contempt and find humor in the suffering of their own creation. Where there should be remorse we find a troubling sense of entitlement. Yet we do nothing.
We know why they are occupying . We don't need to have a national debate on the issue. What we don't know is why we have failed to act. The Occupy protesters aren't saying anything that hasn't been said before. They haven't discovered a new data point that wasn't known. They aren't highlighting an injustice experienced by a subset of the population distant from the rest of us, they are calling attention to the plight of virtually all Americans. We all know it. We all feel it. We can all see it in our towns, in our communities and literally in our own paychecks. Feigning ignorance is not to deny Occupy Wall Street but to put our head in the sand and ignore this unique historical moment and our need to act. For the first time in our nation's history the current generation is not expected to do better than their parents, yet we still do nothing.
As much as the Occupy movement is an indictment of the inequality of the 1%, perhaps it is equally an indictment of the inactivity of the 99%.
We paid to bail them out, and now we pay to silence our own voices. In doing nothing we have failed to bring the architects of our current problems to justice. In doing nothing we have failed to limit future action that will invariably bring us back to this very point in the years to come. In doing nothing we perpetuate the failed policies and the failed politicians who continue to work against our interests.
Worse still we pay our police officers to oppress our interests and the interests of their own families. There is no more American middle class profession than that of the police officer. The job is tough, the wages will never result in anything beyond a middle class household and yet there is no shortage of Americans willing to do the job. Police officers are public servants and the truest example of the plight of the 99%. Their wages have been flat too. Their houses are being foreclosed on too. Their sons and daughters return from Iraq and Afghanistan to high unemployment too. When they fire their tear gas, when they swing their clubs, when they pepper spray young girls in the face, it is their families, their interests and their country they are helping to keep down. This is not to condemn the police but to illustrate how backwards it has all become. Like so many other members of the 99% police officers work hard. They do what they are told. They have a faith that the orders that come down from above are in the best interests of our nation and in the best interests of the communities they serve.
But there has been no violence. There has been no breaking of laws by the 99%. So peaceful has been the movement that when a right wing agitator tried to incite them to riot in DC, the Occupy movement refused. So dedicated to peace is the movement that when a veteran, a US Marine who served in Iraq was shot in the face for expressing his first amendment rights in Oakland, there was no violence. When a single solitary window was broken by people not in the Occupy movement, the Occupiers protested the damage to property. When the 1% in Chicago proclaimed their superiority and dumped McDonald's job applications on the Occupiers, there was no violence.
On the one hand we know that the 1% has broken laws, we know of the great inequality, we know the system is working for the few. On the other hand we have an increasing number of people peacefully taking to the streets fighting for the interests of all of us, reacting to the elephant in the room we all see. How much longer will we do nothing?
The Occupy movement does not intend to run candidates, it is not going to lobby to pass laws, it will simply continue to shine a light on what we already know to be true. The Occupy movement isn’t a movement against wealth, it is a movement for fairness and equality. We know that when Americans at the bottom do well, Americans at the top do well. We also know that when only the Americans at the top do well there is no trickle down. Rather than occupy the police and our government with false concerns of public health and public safety perhaps we can occupy their time making the necessary arrests, prosecutions and systemic fixes that will lead to prosperity and justice for ALL Americans.
We know what it takes to make them occupy. What will it take for us to finally act?