“We’re mad as hell, and we’re not gonna take it anymore!”
Occupy Wall Street and the death of the American Dream
by Scott Patrick Humphrey
“All day, all week, occupy Wall Street”, “The people united can never be defeated”, “The whole world is watching”; these were just some of the rallying cries heard throughout downtown Manhattan as I attended the march on Wall Street on Oct 5th, 2011. I marched along with 20,000 other American citizens who have had enough of the United Corporations of America. I was there for my own reasons, and to support the growing movement to take on the powered elite in this nation of tilted control.
The original occupation was substantial, yet small; something that didn’t garner any attention in the mainstream media until it became apparent this was no joke. These people were here to be heard, and to wave the middle finger in the face of corporate America. I, for one, salute their efforts. I joined the biggest march in NYC at the beginning of this movement, not knowing the impact of what we were doing, but feeling it was absolutely necessary.
The supposition from initial media reports was one of dismissive condescension. Whenever the status quo is challenged and people criticize the American political and economic systems, they are branded as “lefty, hippy, lazy, do nothing, radicals that just don’t have what it takes”, and are patently un-American (except if you are with the Tea Party, of course). I wonder how the Marines and Army vets taking part in the protests feel about Sean Hannity’s and Fox News Corp’s characterization.
Yes, the movement started out a bit thrown together, unorganized, and without a clearly designed message; that is the beauty of this movement. It sprang from the collective unconscious that is burdening every American who is out of work, has lost their home, has lost their retirement, has an expensive education, sees no hope for employment, is kneecapped by their healthcare and heating fuel payments, and just wants the human race to start progressing again.
The issues are as far as they are wide; they range from sea to shining sea. The elite 1% of the population, or more so the 1% of the 1% who own and control all major industry along with the media, has effectively kept main stream Americans under their spell. The media is conglomerated and owned by a few hands, and it has vested interests in sending pre-approved messages that tell you what an exclusive few want you to hear. There are exceptions, but overwhelmingly, this country is being misdirected and lied to on a daily basis, and many of them are immune to it. “Reality” T.V., hyper-sexualized advertising, violence in video games, and most media outlets DO have an impact on the collective consciousness.
This movement has grown to include many, and not all of us agree on the direction or nature of it, yet we do come together on some core truths about the state of our country. The truth is we have a monetary system based on incredible amounts of debt issued by the Federal Reserve Bank. This debt exists as merely numbers on a computer screen within the fractional reserve banking system. This debt overstretches which devalues the products and services; the Federal Reserve Bank then prints money to keep interest rates low and make sure the system does not crash. This is a near term fix, and mainly serves to inflate the currency. For much of the 20th century and into the 21st, the dollar has lost much of its value thanks to the fiat money system created by the Federal Reserve Bank, and our government. That, coupled with the casino atmosphere on Wall Street, has forced the public into the streets.
This movement is forcing the conversation to be had and is to be continued. The issues include fraud in the financial sector regarding mortgage lending practices, along with the fraudulent AAA ratings given out by Standard & Poor’s, among others. That is only a small piece of the puzzle; the underlying criminal activity was with the investment banks selling financial instruments (derivatives) they knew to be toxic and without value to anyone they could convince to buy them. In the grand scheme of the global economy, this turned out to be catastrophic.
The fiat money system, in itself, is burdened with the boom and bust syndrome. There are more sustainable ways to operate a free market system; the first one being, don’t let the top tier of the banking system buy and sell every single politician in the United States government. The problems begin there, but this is only a slice of the “all American corporate pie.” The policies that have been enacted over the past few decades have been molded, implemented, and paid for by big business and their Wall Street criminal investment cronies. ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) is an organized corrupt collusion between corporations and their corporate political puppets.
The businessmen and corporate lawyers draft legislation that benefits their interests on a macro-economic level, and then they convene to have a “mock” vote on it. The ALEC participants claim this is merely a harmless exercise to advise legislators on the needs of the business and financial world. The fact is, the corruption exists right out in the open and only a small portion of the population is aware of what is actually going on. That is not completely their fault: although they do hold responsibility for being apathetic to some degree. When it comes down to it, the media is full of primal distractions and misdirecting narratives for the folks to enjoy while wondering what the f$$k has happened.
This country is reliant on a so called “free” market system. I say “so called”, because it is obvious that with government bailouts, we have a free market if you are too poor to pay and a socialist mentality when you are too big to fail. I can only wonder who the Right is referring to when they say “entitlement mentality”. The super-rich in America are overwhelmingly entitled when it comes to tax burdens that the rest of us carry on our backs.
The progressive tax structure was working just fine until the 1970’s, and was one of the major catalysts for the middle class expansion after WWII. Since the 70’s, the household incomes and wages fell considerably for every bracket except the highest bracket in the U.S. The wages have been stagnant or in decline for the middle class on down, while the 1% has made the largest profits in the history of the country (with illegal practices mind you). These figures are from the non-partisan CBO. ~ http://www.cbo.gov/doc.cfm?index=12485.
While the CEO’s are buying politicians, providing 7 lobbyists to every 1 congressperson, writing their own legislation and introducing it to legislators via a relatively unknown entity (the American Legislative Exchange Commission), and getting everything they have demanded.
All of this is primarily to gain more power, to take over natural resources and extract them in ways that are overwhelmingly harmful to the environment and the human race, and to make sure that laws are changed in order to ensure the small group of elite CEO’s and business men at the very top have control over our food supply, our media, how often we go to war, and of course our government. This country has been in decline ever since the progressive policies that safeguarded our economy and taxed our citizens relatively fairly were systematically removed by the collusion between big business and pre-paid political puppets.
Regardless of what people on the Right say, we do need taxes to keep the country going; businesses need to be taxed, but on a fair progressive tax structure that has been the reason we HAD a robust middle class and low unemployment rates. I do agree they should stay out of our home, but you shouldn’t have to bust your ass as an individual to set up alternative forms of energy, which can and should be more heavily subsidized by our state and federal governments.
Most people in the U.S., and many other countries around the globe, can agree on one thing; something is wrong with our individual societies. They are all controlled by a central banking system that is rigged towards rewarding the liars, cheaters, and stealers at the top of the corporate heap. There is mass inequality in wealth distribution and more people are poor, homeless, and/or starving than ever before. The fantasy financial instruments called derivatives were a bloated hot air balloon inflated by Federal Reserve money and heavy selling of mediocre products to unsuspecting clients, all while the financial institutions were heavily leveraging more and more debt until the whole thing crashed and took trillions of dollars of wealth out of circulation.
The fiat system is set up to always screw the mainstream public (the average working and middle class people). The amount of debt introduced into the system currently outweighs the actual currency. When a part of the economy stretches the limit of debt to currency, the value of the products start to drop and the entire system will crash. This happened with the internet bubble, and most recently to the housing market. The banking system is the catalyst for corporate power over our government. Instead of checking against this type of behavior and changing the system, our wholly owned elected officials have worked vigorously to deregulate it further and allow the elite to game it as much as they want.
The money is being hoarded by the top 1% and being reintroduced into the economy; we have massive defaults and foreclosures because, as I already said, there is vastly more debt in the system than actual money. It is a mathematical fact that when the debt is over leveraged, people will not have the money to pay the debts. Of course the top 1% will always be just fine; they have amassed an enormous stockpile of dough based on the service fees and bonuses allotted to the most successful criminals in the derivative scheme.
Corporate control over our government and administrative agencies like the FDA, USDA, and EPA are possibly the most concentrated, destructive force burdening our democracy. Have you paid attention to those drug ads being displayed on your television set every ten minutes or so during prime time? Pharmaceutical companies are advertising drugs, approved willingly by the FDA. Campaign finance laws allow corporations to contribute vast amounts of money to candidates for elected office; corporate personhood has blasted this concept into the stratosphere. Now they can contribute vast amounts of money to candidates, and that is the deciding factor to who wins an election, in most cases.
Wealth has been stockpiled in the vaults of the super-rich while the rest of us fight for crumbs. Our food supply is owned by a handful of corporations that inject the livestock and produce with chemicals, antibiotics, and genetically modified organisms. What’s worse is they are aided in their efforts by the USDA, which has given us an agriculture policy that has created a toxic, disease-laden smorgasbord of antibiotic, hormone dosed, corn, soy, and other dead-animal-parts-eating vestibules of sickness. Our media is owned by a similarly small group of shiny suit wearing ruffians, and the FDA allows drugs to be introduced to the population that “may cause suicidal thoughts, rectal bleeding, severe cramping, headaches, etc.” The environment has been treated like a college dorm community toilet.
The criticism from the corporate media is that Occupy Wall Street protesters are either illiterate about the capitalist system and don’t understand finance, or they are lazy kids looking for a handout. None of which are true. Granted, there are some fringe elements within the crowds, or at least there were on October 5th; and some, not all, are a bit lacking in a sophisticated understanding of the issues our country is facing. Some are anarchists, some are communists, some are WWII veterans, some are Vietnam veterans, some are senior citizens, and some work on Wall Street.
Fox News seemed to zero in on those protesters (who did not speak clearly straight away), in an attempt to discredit the movement. Yet, they missed the tens of thousands who were very clear about the defunct American political and financial systems; these people are not simply dirty, lazy college kids with nothing else to do with their time.
On Oct. 5th 2011, I was surrounded by the beauty of the diverse American tapestry; all walks of life, all manner of socio-economic status, all colors, and all political affiliations. WWII veterans, Iraq war veterans, PhD’s, iron workers, grandparents, college professors, and everyone in between were there in solidarity. To the main stream media it was insignificant. They have no stake in exposing government corruption anymore, not that they ever really did. Most reporters on every network ask questions that are about as challenging as a 2nd grade math problem. What they do instead, is to promote and plant psychological seeds that serve to, as Noam Chomsky called it, “manufacture consent”. The way I judge how seriously the MSM takes this movement is how steadfast they are to discredit it.
It’s no secret that Big Business runs the world, as well as the media which provides much of the tainted information poured onto the public. The overwhelmingly negative content displayed to us is a strategic occurrence, which is geared towards instability. I don’t think this is a radical assumption, although it may have been back in the 80’s when it was new and popular to have a renewed vigor for violence. Now, the impact of fantastically dysfunctional multi-media imagery is quite apparent for anyone involved with the education system.
Right now the media is playing the tune that this movement is not to be taken all that seriously, or we are anarchists, communists, anti-Semites, and are ultimately anti-American. They are also currently helping the Pentagon ramp up its rhetoric for the impending war with Iran. Iran happens to be an important strategic target for U.S. economic interests in the Middle East. We have continually expanded our reach throughout the last 5 decades, looking more and more like every other empire throughout history. This seems to be lost on many Americans; yet some of us are paying close attention. What I witnessed as a participant was something that has been building in this country for the last 4 decades.
Soon after arriving in Foley Square I met Ethan Perlstein, Ph.D., a Princeton fellow who had to teach the next day, and he sparked up a conversation with me about how we might avoid being arrested so that he could be sure to make it to class the next day. We had a lively discussion about the nature and state of our current democracy, or lack thereof. We shared a lot of different perspectives on the financial system and the crippling austerity policies coming out of Washington. He is a Ron Paul supporter, which I am not, but it was a passionate exchange of ideas; which is what this country is about. He and I both know what it is like to spend tens of thousands of dollars on an education and work for a modest salary, we both want the social fabric of the country to be strengthened, not set on fire, which seems to be the goal of both Democrats and Republicans.
Both are willing pawns of the fat cats on Wall Street who have let their kleptomania and sociopathic tendencies run us into the ground. Those who don’t understand our need to stand up and occupy the streets of lower Manhattan are asleep at the wheel, and quite honestly, if they choose to sit on their couches and criticize, they are only part of the problem. This country is in real trouble and everyone needs to look closely at the root causes; they lie in de-regulation, tax loopholes, corporate tax holidays, Citizens United, and unlimited corporate contributions to political candidates; you name it, and we have it.
Although the tacit collusion between big business and state and federal government officials is well documented, it remains virtually unknown to massive numbers of ill-informed citizens. This sad fact shows that at this moment in history that the participants in this charade no longer feel the need to hide it from the public. Few Americans recognize the seemingly mellifluous way in which corporate policymakers become government policymakers in the very same field dominated by their particular corporation. Corporate prostitutes like Clarence Thomas don’t suddenly get appointed to the Supreme Court by accident.
I am absolutely fascinated by the interchangeable relationship between big business and government; fascinated because it goes on, and only a very small percentage of the population seems to care or notice the profound effect it is having on the way our nation operates. Heads of major corporations move back and forth between their C.E.O. positions and high positions in government. As of now, the working class is not in the position of power; too many people are uneducated, disinterested, intoxicated, squandered, and hypnotized. The ones who are plugged into the propaganda machine will continue to make life difficult for the rest of us. But, here are many of the facts that the tea-baggers have never seen (because facts are found in books): in 1988, 63 percent of workers in large private sector firms participated in defined benefit pension plans; last year it was 30 percent; pensions are disappearing. (BLS, National Compensation Survey: Employee Benefits in the US for firms with more than 100 employees – retirement benefits)
Fewer firms are offering retiree health care benefits. Among firms that had 200 or more employees in 1988, 66 percent offered retirement health care; last year it was 28 percent. Apparently even if you work your whole life with a company, there is no guarantee you will be able to have care during the stage of life when you will need it most. (Kaiser Family Foundation; Employer Health Benefits 2010 Annual Survey)
Private sector unionization rates are at their lowest point in the nation’s history; a mere 6.9 percent. The slow deterioration of the foundation of the working middle class has hit critical mass. The reason for the all-out assault on public sector unions is because their rates of unionization have remained consistently above 35 percent since 1979. (http://unionstats.gsu.edu/)
During the early 1970s when “the business round-table” was drafting its neo-liberal doctrine, the one-sided class war had effectively begun. In the 1980s it was kill or be killed, and Reagan set the tone for the nation by firing 11,300 air traffic controllers. The green light to billy-club the labor unions were glaring.
Since around 1972, the gap between productivity and wages has exponentially increased. When we look at the ratio of the top 100 CEO salaries to the average worker’s salary in 1970, it was 45 to 1. In 1990, it more than quadruples to 321 to 1, and now the top 100 CEOs in America are making $1,723 for every dollar you and I make. This is due to wage stagnation and decline for average workers. (Non-U.S. values from Michael Hennigan, “Executive Pay and inequality in the Winner-take-all society,” Finfacts Ireland, August 7, 2005, U.S. value from author calculation based on Hennigan and BLS at www.bls.gov/oes/2000/oes_51PR.htm)
The fascists over at FOX News would have you believe unions have a subversive agenda to manipulate politics and bend legislation to their will, unlike the “honest businessperson” over at Goldman Sachs; the political contributions from 2010 tell a different story. Last year, the business sector of this once-great nation made $1,317,977,729 in political contributions in order to affect policy in its favor. The labor sector made $92,355,686 in political contributions last year; that is less than a tenth of what business interests invested in political candidates. The payoff comes in the form of astronomical corporate profits, coupled with unchecked corporate criminal behavior; this is quite the return on investment. (http://opensecrets.org/overview/blio.php)
This is a fundamental part of our democracy. The situation has gotten out of control; a group of young people have energized a global movement, and this is only the beginning. For now, the exercise of our 1st amendment rights has only been slightly suppressed; the NYPD has only pepper sprayed, punched a few women in the face, ran over bystanders with their scooters, fractured the skull of a 2 tour Iraq War veteran, and generally roughed people up by swinging their batons around like a coke addict at a piñata party. For the most part, during my experience, the NYPD was professional. At times they were even a bit occupied themselves; many were playing with their smart phones instead of watching the crowd, and some chatted and laughed with us. Then night fell, and chaos ensued.
Since that night I have followed and debated the topics involved in this movement and I have heard all sides. Many people like to simply label me a “Liberal” for supporting so called “progressive” causes; to me this is a consequence of media manipulation. The issues we face are so comprehensive and interconnected behind the scenes that many are forced to swallow the dung pile of information the corporate media spoon feeds them.
Millions of people here have seen their lives and communities destroyed by the economic policies of our government and the actions of Wall Street, yet many Americans deride the movement and criticize it. The police have been surprisingly brash and violent towards protesters considering the viral videos that show this criminal conduct. Many encampments have been dismantled using deplorable tactics, where police look to physically injure the occupiers.
Since its inception Occupy has moved on to foreclosed homes, Congress, the White House, and everywhere across the globe. The message is clear in some respects, yet in others it is fractured. I have spoken to some younger members and found that they dropped out of school or quit their job, or both to make their statement with Occupy; I find this to be a bastardization of what is truly needed. It makes me question the values of some of the youth. When I posed a challenge to these actions they fought back saying it was the difference between “the old and new ways of thinking”.
Some mention an egalitarian existence with everyone foraging and farming their own food, which has its place in society, yet some of these inexperienced youth seem to act as if our entire way of life needs to be done away with, and make statements that seem to oblige a complete rejection of our current civilization. I don’t find this to be useful. Things need to be changed, drastically, but we are an advanced civilization with technological and material needs. I hope for a moral injection into all practices of business and governing bodies, which has to come from the ground up, yet I do not believe in throwing everything away and living in communes.
Commerce, governance, and business of any type can be a morally beneficial part of our society, it needs to be sought after and worked hard on. These kids who have little information on how the system actually works and have not broke out and struggled to make their own way are quite misguided in their criticisms of my generation. One such kid made a statement during a General Assembly where he cited Valley Forge as an inspiration for the movement; when it was my turn to speak I began to address the start of these current economic problems as beginning in the late 1979’s and throughout the 80’s, only to be rebuffed by them snickering and saying: “that was like ten thousand years ago”. It’s funny how the irony was completely lost on them, simply because of their youthful exuberance.
The problems are none the less real and very dangerous to the majority of working class citizens, not only here in America, but all over the world. We have had enough. We have taken it long and hard, and we’re not going to take it anymore. Listen up America; there are lots of problems and lots of voices wanting to be heard. The conversation is complex, and cannot be captured in a sound bite, so let’s open up our eyes and ears; this is only the beginning.
Photos Courtesty of Scott Patrick Humphrey