Although they seem to be a diverse crowd, many of them are young. Although they bring a number of different perspectives to this protest, there are a few points that they apparently agree upon:
(1) they think that our economic system is broken;
(2) they are angry because they see the barons of Wall Street, who drove our economy off the cliff, unpunished; and
(3) they believe that most of the politicians in Washington will do what the wealthy, who give the big campaign donations, want them to do; and therefore
(4) the only way to call attention to the problem is to protest.
They evidently would like to see the economy improve and believe that the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill was far too weak to restore confidence. There is no doubt that they would like to see many of the barons of Wall Street convicted and imprisoned.
Many of the protesters are either students or recent graduates. One recent graduate said that she had two Master’s degrees and couldn’t find work. These protesters want action, and action now. If the polling that has been done recently is accurate, then overwhelming majorities of Americans agree with the attitudes expressed by the protesters. It remains to be seen how far this movement goes. The outcome seems to depend on the level of dissatisfaction of the American people.
These protests are already being compared to the “Tea Party,” but there are many differences between the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations and the “Tea Party.”
First and foremost, the “Tea Party” was the creation of a trader in Chicago and is financed by the Koch brothers and other right-wing billionaires who provided unlimited funding for it. Second, the “Tea Party” represented nothing new on the political scene, as it was made up almost entirely of the extreme right wing of the Republican Party. Third, the Occupy Wall Street demonstrators have not, up to this point, engaged in any of the racist antics of the “Tea Party” such as spitting on African-American Congressmen or shouting the n-word at Congressman John Lewis. The Wall Street demonstrators have, predictably, been described as a “mob” by Eric Cantor and the rest of the extremists on the far right. They have been hailed by Nancy Pelosi.
However, I think it would be a mistake to assume that the Occupy Wall Street protesters will automatically support any Democrat. They seem to believe that many of the Democrats are almost as sold out to Wall Street as the Republicans (in this, as in so much else, they are correct). I think that if, for example, Max Baucus were to ask for an endorsement he might be in for a rude shock. Given the fact that the Obama administration began by appointing Wall Streeters such as Lawrence Summers and Rahm Emmanuel to important positions in the administration and spent its first two years catering to Wall Street, they probably shouldn’t expect much support. The fact that Emmanuel deliberately insulted people who wanted a more progressive policy and kept his job until he left of his own free will to run for office speaks volumes about the Obama administration.
I must admit that I was surprised by the Occupy Wall Street protest, because I expected protests against Wall Street to happen at the time (Autumn of 2008) that George Bush, Jr., gave the banks a $700 billion bailout with no strings attached. I had come to believe that the corporate criminals could get away with anything and the American people, who have been taking it on the chin for forty years, were resigned to it.
I know that there are two sides to every story, so fairness compels me to point out to the readers of this column that the way the thieves on Wall Street see it, they stole the money, fair and square, and anyway, that particular crime took place three years ago, so it’s too late to bring it up now.
The Wall Street demonstrators are a genuine grassroots protest that speaks for the American people, and that is why I find them so extraordinarily refreshing.
Paul Schwietering is a resident of Union Township.