Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Occupy Wall Street?

People ask, “What is it about.” Most simply put, it’s about inequity.

Let me outline a thought. The world has always had an extremely wealthy class. It has also always had the poor. Since The Enlightenment (17th-18th centuries) the thing that has changed has been the rise of the middle class. My thought is this: The middle class acts as a buffer between wealth and power on one hand and the peasants with torches and pitch forks on the other hand. The middle class offers hope to the poor in terms of the possibility of upward mobility; it also offers a consumer base that supports the very wealthy. A strong middle class is essential to both peace and prosperity.

In recent history, since the market crash in 2008, those hurt most have been the middle class. The poor were suffering to begin with and when you have nothing to begin with how much can you possibly lose? The wealthy haven’t suffered; virtually 100% of the income growth over the last 20 years has gone to the top 10% of our population … leaving nothing for the other 90%. Those most hurt have been the middle class. Pensions have been cut. Retirement “nest eggs” embodied in home ownership and retirement mutual funds have lost their value. The American Dream, an ideal of the middle class, has been destroyed.

Extraneous thought: "The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread." (Anatole France, from The Red Lily, 1894)

Suddenly, the American middle class is confronted by the prospect of sleeping under bridges, begging in the streets and stealing bread - issues with which the poor have had to contend from time immemorial and the very rich have never had to consider.

This inequity coupled with the threat of the withdrawal of community support (like modifications to Social Security benefits and Medicare benefits, the threat of higher taxes for the middle class and lower taxes for “job creators” who aren’t creating any jobs) is, I believe, the prime motivator for the OWS movement. It is the expression of concern for the overall direction which is leading to greater inequity at the continued expense of the middle class.