(Originally Posted Nov. 5th, 2011)
I’m not sure why the media are having such trouble figuring out the demands of Occupy Wall St. Recently, a seven-year-old girl, Celia Cooley, went down to Zuccotti Park and, posing as a reporter, she asked people why they were there (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x12iOQYY0w8). What they said was quite consistent and quite reasonable and quite comprehensible to this young girl. They said: We want our democracy back.
Anyone who is confused about what the protesters want has probably been listening to too much corporate news. Corporate news stations present themselves as trustworthy and unbiased, but they are owned by large multinational corporations like General Electric and Westinghouse, and these are the folks that are benefitting from the policies that the protesters decry.
These news outlets don’t want the message of Occupy Wall St. to be heard. They don’t want the protesters portrayed as ordinary Americans who have been bilked of their savings and booted out of the middle class and who are justifiably demanding that things change. If you’ve been watching corporate news and you are confused, the first thing to do is to broaden your sources of information. Go to the non-commercial news sites on the Internet and listen to the chorus of ordinary Americans who are saying very clearly what’s wrong and who are making sensible suggestions about how to go about fixing it.
Here is some of what you will learn.
The economic crisis did not start because suddenly poor people started taking out mortgages on homes they couldn’t afford to pay for. It didn’t start because of some corporate bad apples. Think about it. The job of a lender is to determine if a person is credit worthy. The reason loans were given to people who couldn’t afford them was simply that banks no longer had an incentive to find out if people were credit worthy. Why? Because banks were permitted to sell the mortgages to other companies for a profit, rather than waiting to collect on the loan. The big banks pushed loans on people because they were making profit, hand over fist, from selling these loans to investors.
Why were the investors buying bad mortgages? Because they were permitted to bundle them together with other loans to look like safe investments. Why did these investments look safe, because the folks in the rating agencies, who were supposed to rate these investments, were not sufficiently regulated and worked in cahoots with the big banks.
The problem, in short, was not individual behavior; the problem was that the system was jury-rigged. Corporate lobbyists took over Congress and rewrote the banking laws in their favor. As long as home prices went up, banks made a killing. When the music stopped, instead of taking their consequences, big banks got their insiders at the Fed and the Treasury Department in D.C. to bail them out. Then they got their friends their in corporate media affiliates to point their fingers at the borrowers ( the ones who are now homeless) and at big government (for wasting taxpayer money). Meanwhile, Wall St. banks go on their merry way, paying out bonus, rewarding failure, avoiding the consequences of their actions, and continuing to use our Congress as their personal playground.
That’s just wrong. That’s why folks are on the streets.
If you are in the Tea Party, you probably believe many of the same things that Occupy Wall St. supporters believe. People should play by the rules. People should be punished when they do something wrong. If you reward people for cheating, they are likely to continue to misbehave. Like supporters of OWS, you probably believe that our government should be accountable to us, we the people, and that the government should not collude with powerful elites to deprive people of the right to a livelihood, or to kick them out of their homes. You probably believe that government shouldn’t write laws that favor powerful interests in order to raise enough money to get re-elected.
I support Occupy Wall St. You and I may have our differences, but I think we share a commitment to restoring the integrity of this democracy. I think we can agree that when a government no longer is responsive to the desires of the citizens, that it is the responsibility of citizens to act together. The government itself is not the problem; the problem is that the government has been taken over by wealthy elites who do not have our interests at heart. It is time for us to stand together, shoulder-to-shoulder, Republican and Democrat, on the streets of this great country and take our democracy back.
Turn off the corporate news, talk to your fellow Americans, one by one, until you decide for yourself whether what I am saying is true. That’s what Celia is doing. There is no other test in a democracy but that of the ability of ideas to stand the test of evidence and reason. The values that our forbearers fought and died for are at stake. Nothing less.