by Randolph T. Holhut
American Reporter Correspondent
October 6, 2011
OCCUPY WALL STREET: THE INEVITABLE RESULT OF THREE DECADES OF INEQUALITY
DUMMERSTON, Vt. -- If you are wondering why protesters have occupied Wall Street for the past few weeks, and why similar protests have been springing up in cities from Boston to Seattle, all around the country, consider these facts.
It's been four years since the housing bubble popped, setting in motion the so-called Great Recession. Since the end of 2007, the number of working-age Americans has grown by 7 million. Yet the number of those over age 18 that have full-time work has declined by 300,000.
Job growth has come to a standstill, as evidenced by the August job figures that showed no new jobs at all were created in the United States that month. Yet many U.S. corporations are enjoying record profits, and are collectively sitting on a cash stash of $2 trillion. They say they won't create new jobs until there is enough consumer demand to support them - what politicians call "uncertainty."
Consumer spending makes up 70 percent of the U.S. economy. But consumers aren't spending. If you have a job, you're worried about keeping it, knowing that you are only a couple of paychecks away from disaster. If you're jobless, you're too busy trying to survive to think about buying a new car or a 3-D television.
We now have this vicious cycle of decreased consumer demand leading to fewer jobs which leads to still lower demand. But, unlike past recessions, corporations are still making money because they are producing and selling more products overseas than in America. In other words, they have reached a point where they don't need American consumers to be profitable.
And, unlike past recessions, the federal government is doing almost nothing to stimulate demand because our Congress is being held hostage by conservative berserkers who would rather see an economic collapse than a second term for President Obama.
Aided by a supine and intellectually lazy media, there are too many politicians in Washington more obsessed with the federal deficit than seeing 25 million Americans either unemployed or underemployed. They are more concerned about protecting the people they've taken to calling "job creators" than about helping the millions of Americans drowning in mortgage and personal debt.
All of what we are seeing now is a culmination of three decades of economic policies that benefited the wealthy at the expense of the rest of us.
Since 1979, the median U.S. income, adjusted for inflation, has been virtually flat even though the economy is twice as large as it was three decades ago. And nearly all the gains have gone to the wealthiest Americans.
The richest 1 percent now account for 24 percent of the nation's income and 40 percent of its wealth, and the gap between the richest and poorest Americans is the widest it's been since the 1920s.
That is why Occupy Wall Street became inevitable, and why this protest is gaining more and more support with each passing day. Capitalism no longer works for the 99 percent of Americans who aren't super-wealthy. Politicians of both parties are bought and paid for by the wealthy and powerful, and none of the CEOs who looted the federal treasury and brought the global economy to the brink of total collapse has faced accountability for their actions.
Whether you are freshly minted college graduate saddled with tens of thousands of dollars of student loan debt and no job prospects, or a fifty-something blue-collar worker who has gone from a high-paying manufacturing job to a low-paying service job, the winner-take-all economy has no place for people without money or power.
The people and financial institutions who caused this mess got bailed out by the federal government, while working Americans - the people who worked hard and played by the rules in the hope of getting ahead - are getting punished.
Far from being the self-indulgent, incoherent and confused, dirty neo-hippies that the chattering class make them about to be, the workers, the students, the unemployed, and the poor who are camped out in Liberty Square are just the first wave on the beachhead, fighting a long overdue battle against the forces of unbridled avarice and greed.
They are one with their brothers and sisters who did likewise earlier this year in Tunis and Cairo, in Madrid and Athens, Tripoli and Damascus, and in Madison. They are crying "Enough!" They are standing up and fighting back with protests, pickets, and strikes.
It is not an exaggeration to say that our nation's entire economic, social and political order is being challenged by a movement that is calling for America to live up to its promise of democracy. Too many people are impoverished, disenfranchised and cast aside by a system where the elite call all the shots. The cry rises up for something better from people who have been let down one time too many.
The elites didn't take the young people in Cairo seriously until Mubarak was forced to step down. That's what can happen when the collective courage of a small group of determined people set into motion a force that ultimately can't be stopped. This is what we are seeing in New York. This is what democracy looks like.
AR Chief Correspondent Randolph T. Holhut has been a journalist in New England for more than 30 years. He edited "The George Seldes Reader" (Barricade Books). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.