Monday, October 3, 2011

This Business on Wall Street

Can I Be Serious A Minute?

I'm not very often... I know you know that. And while I am actually a fairly political being, I don't think that really has much place in my writing life. My reason is I feel like by now I know the vast majority of you come to your beliefs sincerely, and while I disagree with some portion of you, I don't think that makes ANY of us bad people. We are all products of the things we've been exposed to.

This was Friday. But Shhhhh... nobody knows...
But there is something big going on.

It is something that will play all the way through, one way or another.

The chant? “We are the ninety-nine percent.”

Now most of you know what that means, and I don't mean to treat you like you're stupid, but let me spell this out really clearly... They are pointing out that the current economy is working REALLY WELL for the top 1%. And the rest of us are slowly dying.

[What the top 1% who is fighting so hard for the status quo doesn't get is if we all die, whether literally or figuratively, they die too]

A couple things caught my interest this weekend though.

First was a variation on this sign:

At the moment, our peaceful revolution is being met with police arrests of children, macing of innocent bystanders, and police brutality. Why would the police of New York City side with Wall street over peaceful protesters? Well... the macing incident (an MSNBC clip) looked to me like it was the OFFICERS misbehaving—like the rank in file were doing what they were supposed to to ensure the protest remained peaceful.

Where do they get their orders? Who does that come down through? (I don't have these answers, but I don't think any thinking person has the freedom to not ask these questions.)

There are some questions I think we really all ought to be thinking about. Frankly, I never want to make negative assumptions about public servants, and police are as far in that line as they can get—I think only firefighters deserve more commendation, for the most part. But firefighters don't have the same lines to cross—the same decision to make in a dispute. It's not like they are suddenly going to side with the fire. Police need to make a decision about right and wrong, and these protesters ARE making their job harder.

But the protesters are protected by the US Constitution in their right to gather and protest. THIS is what we value—that the people have a right to speak and be heard (this was what the REAL tea party was about--remember?). This is how those of us WITHOUT the money to take a senator to lunch (which costs more than just lunch, I promise) are heard... we need to gather in a large group and speak en masse.

I asked my husband about this last night. He never goes online. He gets his news from CNN, Fox (he claims to like the local team, and really DOES usually only watch the local stuff) the Detroit Free Press (the more liberal of Detroit's two papers)... he'd heard about the protests but didn't think they were a big deal.

Do you know where he DOES NOT get his news? NPR. BBC. The Internet. Even though 2 of 3 of his sources are theoretically liberal leaning, he has no independent sources... NO source free of corporate influence. THIS is why he doesn't see that it IS a big deal. And it's going to be a BIGGER deal, and frankly, I think it might be a little bit frightening for a while.

At the same time, more power to them.

Because the media has squashed so much, a lot of people aren't clear what the message is, so I thought I'd share the objective as I understand it.

1)  Corporations in America currently have more power and fewer obligations than PEOPLE.
2)  Corporations have undue influence in CONGRESS, even though theoretically, they should not have any rights toward legislation. Only PEOPLE should have rights to be heard by congress.
3)  Money in government has corrupted our system so the system is no longer interested in protecting the individuals in this country.
4)  They want serious lobby reform
5)  They want financial contribution reform
6)  And they want to ensure corporate rights never supercede individual rights.

Does any of that sound insane to you? Does any of it sound like you want to fight it? Is there any thinking person who believes corporations should have a higher standing in a democracy than people?

The ONLY people against this are people worried the money will fall out of their golden parachute. Those are the people trying to squash this message.

I just fear that if they succeed... if these protesters are not heard and taken seriously, that the violent revolution is the only option left, and there are plenty of people right now who have lost too much, while the people with power have gotten too fat and had too much say in how things go... we need to level the field. A lot.

Any of you have fears, predictions, arguments?


Old Kitty said...

So long as the protests are organised under some legitimate group/groups - then the movement will be strong. Unions, student groups, and yes, more unions should keep together and keep disciplined. The problem with the recent rioting here in the UK was that the original protest (the shooting of this guy in Tottenham by the police) was done without any political backing of any kind so it spiralled downwards to the lowest common denominator.

Police reaction will always, always be reactive and much as I feel for police who are hurt and injured - it's their organised reactive tactics that need to be addressed. These protesters in NYC are unarmed and within their legal rights to protest and hold demonstrations. I'm sure their groups filled in all the paperwork and legal stuff to go out there and hold their placards and occupy places! Oh ok may not to occupy buildings but still to gather and protest peacefully.

There is so much unrest globally about the economic situation that I sincerely hope governments will truly sit up and listen. Something financially and economically has gone very very very wrong and it's those who didn't participate in these financial wrongs who are suffering the worst. To expect the majority to just lay down and accept their fate is naive.

Take care

Jessica Bell said...

I'm not very knowledgeable about US government/laws so I really don't have an educated opinion about what's going on right now. But I do think (from my point of view in Greece's economic climate) that the only way a difference is going to be made ANYWHERE is if the whole world STOPPED CONSUMING for 24 hours. The whole world would shut down. No money spent anywhere. Imagine the statement that would make, huh? If only we could make it happen. That would be the revolution of the GALAXY ...

Enid Wilson said...

I watched a documentary about Enron a week or two ago. I was horrified by the sheer greed and wickedness of the traders, the top CEOs and the Bush administration. They treated moms and dads and those who invested in their company with contempt. How many of them were made to pay now? A lot of them still made off with millions of dollars while staff lost all their pension. It seems in today's world, we reward the cheaters.

Every Savage Can Reproduce

Hart Johnson said...

Jenny-I really hope they don't get to the violent stage--in 3 weeks, they seem not to have... still a protest, not a riot. In the US though, no paperwork needed if they stick to places they aren't disrupting traffic and such--sidewalks are fair game. So are parks. Our right to public gathering is guaranteed... it's why we left England--EXACTLY why we left England, actually--taxation without representation.

Jessica-very interesting option. I think there IS a day scheduled like that--to make the point, but I don't know what participation is.

Enid-Man, Enron was HORRIBLE--the worst of the worst, but really very representative of a lot of attitutdes--a similar cavalier, 'well WE won't be left holding the bang' is responsible for the real estate bubble and crash (which is the economy piece that hurt the lower middle class most). I agree the system currently rewards the cheaters though. I want to bring back regulation--I think it's the only way to control corporate greed.

Will Burke said...

The Right Wing argues that it's thw 1% that create the jobs. Well, aren't they doing a steller job at that?

CA Verstraete said...

Greed of companies has gone haywire, look at what's going on with medical manufacturers now and drugs... scary crazy.

Chris Verstraete - In Miniature Style II

Jan Morrison said...

I'm in a different country but the same events are unfolding. I cannot stress too much that what you say about new's sources is absolutely correct. We have to find other ways to hear about what is happening than through those who have been corrupted by the ones in power. Sorry - I'm an NDPer - a total lefty - and this is making me crazy right now. The G8 that happened in Toronto last year was a complete joke - civil liberties were smashed to smithereens - and nobody gave the tiniest of squeaks that wasn't immediately punished.
arrrrgh. Let's all be pirates!Jan Morrison

Deb and Barbara said...

First of all, Hart, I've been off the radar for a while so just now trying to catch up. But what a way to do it today. I think this word does need to spread. Now I"m Canadian and the news is pretty squashed here too. Whe I look at the images I can't believe it's not more of a story. The kind of story that was supposed to sell papers and encourage democracy: look the "little guy" is taking on Goliath! And with only words and fact. Andy why WHY are so many people -- who are clearly also in the 99% -- protecting the giant? Is it because they believe that one day they too will turn into a Goliath (is this the American Dream?) and so want to protect their future very imaginary money??? I wish us all luck in this time of change and discussion. Good must come.
xo B

Becky Mahoney said...

It's so scary how much people can get away with in the name of staying rich.

Michael Offutt, Phantom Reader said...

I agree with 100% of what you've said here Hart. I'm one of the 99%. Personally, I'd love to organize a mob to drag all those assholes out of Goldman Sachs into the street and tar and feather them.

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

I've switched much of my TV news watching to PBS (NewsHour.) It has its own influencers, I'm sure, but I feel a little better about it.

Yes, I've been very concerned. Especially with what's happening to the middle class (I think much of the success of a nation depends on a thriving middle class.)

Johanna Garth said...

Nice post. You've just described what has become corporate status quo over the course of the last 20 years. By not paying close attention we now find ourselves in a situation where the rights of corporate america are ingrained in and interwoven, in fact codified, throughout our legal system.

Alison DeLuca said...

Really well-written piece. Great column on an urgent topic.

Yesterday I read this statistic: "Arrests of Traders who helped to cause the recession: 0

Arrests on citizens who are protesting those traders in Wall Street - 1000"

Hart Johnson said...

Will-yeah, sadly, those jobs won't appear unless the masses are demanding goods and services, eh?

Chris-I hear you on that! I do public health research, so that's an end of the economy I pay a lot of attention to.

Jan--Arrr! It makes me sad it's happening in Canada, too--you guys are supposed to be smarter than us.

Barbara-that is indeed my understanding of the American Dream. We all think we can make gold out of sand, but that age is long past. Now wealth is passed down in a will, for the most part.

Becky-I agree with that fear. I think it is the problem with a global economy--things are so diffused that customers no longer force good behavior and the cheaters win.

Michael-ready to start a riot, eh? Just be sure to only target the big boys... I think the stuff in London was mishandled--there was a CHANCE for it to do good, but they blew it.

Elizabeth-I feel pretty safe with the PBS influencers--at least it's not a profit motive. And yes... bye bye middle class is bad news for all.

Johanna-Once again I blame Reagan for the sleeping draught that seems to have gone in the water. Cheap credit is the opiate of the masses...

Hart Johnson said...

Alison-thank you! And very interesting stat there... One that needs some publicity, I'd say.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

There are certain news sources I ignore just because of the slant. Thanks for pointing this out, Hart.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

There are countries that don't allow gatherings over ten people. We ever get to that point, we're in big trouble.

Not Hannah said...

Oh, lady, you KNOW I'm loving this post. Frankly, I'm a bit afraid of two factions right now: the corporatists (the 1% and the folks who seem to believe that, no, really, if we just allow them to do what they want, they'll create jobs) and the religionists (the folks who somehow have attached religion--specifically Christianity--to the gold standard and smaller government.) I think that the majority of us just want to live our lives and buy our stuff and not be, you know, threatened with removal of our rights, which makes what the Wall Street protestors are doing right now so massively amazingly brave.

Carolyn Abiad said...

It is very disturbing that the news is so quiet about the wall street protesters. Makes me wonder what else they aren't telling us...

Hart Johnson said...

Alex-yeah, they all have a slant if they are owned... I wish we had independent news...

Diane, definitely! Hopefully we are all vigilant.

Heather-I've got the same fears, and it is no mistake the two forces aligned... we have Ronald Reagan to thank for that little bit of wool-pulling...

Carolyn-A HUGE point... frightening!

Jeanette said...

I'm both excited and scared about all the protests. Excited to see people standing up. Scared as you are of oppression and violence. While there are a lot of things about America that are messed up, I don't want to see it torn down completely. Hoping our system is resilient enough to let our country fix what's wrong without ruining what's right.

Liz A. said...

The Countdown with Keith Olbermann on Current TV has been keeping pretty good track on Occupy Wall Street. From that source I heard that most of the police are actually on the side of the protesters, and that pepper spray incident was one guy.

I've been wary of the corporations ever since I saw a documentary called The Corporation. Have you seen it?

I hope the protesters keep it up. Are they having a protest near you? I know people are organizing several similar protests in various cities.

Unknown said...

As part of the United Federation of Teachers, I fully support the march and agree that Wall Street has become composed of gluttonous corporations. However, some of the arrests were just in that the protesters were blocking the Brooklyn bound lanes on the Brooklyn Bridge. People could have been run over by cars or any number of accidents could have occurred. I think if the participants of the march had stayed to the pedestrian walkway on the bridge, there would have been less chaos and less arrests.

It's unforgivable that companies like Enron or people like Madoff get to take us all for a ride. :(

Sarah Ahiers said...

honestly, i've been totally out of the loop the last week or two because of vacation. Really disconnected from TV and interent. So i didn't even know this was happening until i saw it on your FB page.
Mostly i'm just sad that i feel like things are crumbling around all of us and there's so very little we can do about it.
Also, i watch our local fox news station as well and i love them. Super unbiased (and also, almost 100% local news anyway) and hilarious. BUT, if something catches your attention, you should always try and fact check elsewhere. Just to be safe

Marjorie said...

For once, Tam you and I are on the same page. There is no reason for the media to be ignoring this yet they are. People are fed up with corporate greed and their payoffs of government.

Anonymous said...

It is sad, and in no way am I an apologist, but there are currently 6 major corporations that control most of the content that we receive as "news." Disney (owns ABC), GE (used to own NBC, now shares it with Comcast), CBS (who owns CBS and part of CNN alongside Time Warner), Newscorp (owns Fox), and Viacomm (who own MTV, BET, etc.). It is very much in their best interest to not talk about this stuff. As long as we're not pissed, we keep paying (usually with our time) their bills by allowing them to charge for advertisers to talk to us. It's a bit crazy out there. Thanks for speaking passionately and clearly about this stuff.

(and the link for who-owns-what is here:

LTM said...

this is reminding me of those kids who protested the World Bank in Seattle in like 2000 or 01. I'm sure you remember that--you might've even been nearby when it happened. That's what happens when you get to be OLD. You start seeing history repeat itself.

Corporate corruption and greed and lobbying and all that are old as dirt. I'd be glad if they kicked them all out of D.C., but we'll see. I'm afraid our economic problems extend beyond Wall Street, however.

We are living in interesting times. And it's giving me heartburn. :p

Hart Johnson said...

Jeanette- me, too. It's a funny thing, isn't it--that 'this could be really good or really bad' spot.

Liz, I saw a clip that had more than one misbehaver, but they were (both? all three?) white shirt--all the blue uniforms were doing what you'd hope. Interesting that Olberman's got it.

Chary-and you probably have better info, being there at all. It would make sense that at least some of the arrests are that, with so many there.

Sarah, rude awakening, eh? Yeah, it's hard to not have much we can do.

Marjorie-HA! Same side at last! too funny. I know you're a libertarian, though, so it makes sense on this issue.

Calvino-thanks for details! It really is pretty darned concentrated... bloody deregulation...

Leigh--Matt was there, did you know? We'd moved by then--I remember feeling a pang about it. I think this though, is different. That was trying to make the US be good world citizens... this is internal.