On September 17th, 1,000 people gathered to "occupy Wall Street" in order to protest perceived political and corporate corruption. Soon, people began to flock to Wall Street to add to the growing collective voice. One week later, a second occupation arose in Chicago. A week after that, OWS inspired protests were active in Washington, D.C., and L.A., soon to be followed by Boston, Memphis, Minneapolis, St. Louis, Hawaii, and Portland, Maine. Most recently, such movements have formed in Houston, Austin, Tampa, San Francisco, and here in Portland, OR.
I'm a diehard liberal, to be sure. 999 out 1,000 times though, I see such protests as a grouping of hippie wannabes looking for an excuse to mimic the 60s and smoke some pot. That being said, this string of urban occupations is different. We're seeing tens of thousands of citizens, from multiple backgrounds, crying, "WE'VE HAD ENOUGH!" They're frustrated by a 9.1% rate of nationwide unemployment, which keeps growing. They're frustrated by banks, which accepted tax payer funded bailouts, curtailing the number of loans they approve. They're frustrated by candidates for president who claim, "Corporations are people, because all the money a corporation makes goes into the pockets of people." They're frustrated by a staggering number of residential foreclosures; in August of this year alone, 1 out every 570 household received foreclosure filings. Essentially, they're frustrated by the perceived domination of America by the corporate elite, and the grossly unequal distribution of wealth.
The issues they are raising ARE definitely overdue to be addressed, there's no doubt about it. The question is, will these protests spawn change? I doubt it. Don't get me wrong, for the most part these are determined people advocating for noble ideals. The problem is, they're advocating for too many noble ideals at once.
Organizers have published the following list of demands on the OWS website:
Demand one: Restoration of the living wage. This demand can only be met by ending "Freetrade" by re-imposing trade tariffs on all imported goods entering the American market to level the playing field for domestic family farming and domestic manufacturing as most nations that are dumping cheap products onto the American market have radical wage and environmental regulation advantages. Another policy that must be instituted is raise the minimum wage to twenty dollars an hr.
Demand two: Institute a universal single payer healthcare system. To do this all private insurers must be banned from the healthcare market as their only effect on the health of patients is to take money away from doctors, nurses and hospitals preventing them from doing their jobs and hand that money to wall st. investors.
Demand three: Guaranteed living wage income regardless of employment.
Demand four: Free college education.
Demand five: Begin a fast track process to bring the fossil fuel economy to an end while at the same bringing the alternative energy economy up to energy demand.
Demand six: One trillion dollars in infrastructure (Water, Sewer, Rail, Roads and Bridges and Electrical Grid) spending now.
Demand seven: One trillion dollars in ecological restoration planting forests, reestablishing wetlands and the natural flow of river systems and decommissioning of all of America's nuclear power plants.
Demand eight: Racial and gender equal rights amendment.
Demand nine: Open borders migration. anyone can travel anywhere to work and live.
Demand ten: Bring American elections up to international standards of a paper ballot precinct counted and recounted in front of an independent and party observers system.
Demand eleven: Immediate across the board debt forgiveness for all. Debt forgiveness of sovereign debt, commercial loans, home mortgages, home equity loans, credit card debt, student loans and personal loans now! All debt must be stricken from the "Books." World Bank Loans to all Nations, Bank to Bank Debt and all Bonds and Margin Call Debt in the stock market including all Derivatives or Credit Default Swaps, all 65 trillion dollars of them must also be stricken from the "Books." And I don't mean debt that is in default, I mean all debt on the entire planet period.
Demand twelve: Outlaw all credit reporting agencies.
Demand thirteen: Allow all workers to sign a ballot at any time during a union organizing campaign or at any time that represents their yeah or nay to having a union represent them in collective bargaining or to form a union.
It's a case of over reaching. Granted, most of these are fantastic goals; some are so fantastic though that they are unrealistically Utopian. Free college education is a great idea if those making $18,218.00 and below want to pay a 33.45% income tax, like they do in Holland, to pay for it. 100% debt forgiveness is a nice idea, unless Sallie Mae wants to pay her employees. I'm all for a guaranteed living wage income regardless of employment, if we can still motivate recipients to contribute to society. Plus, I must admit to being foggy on how opening our borders to migrants is going to help unemployed Americans.
During any session of bargaining, there is a wisdom to demanding more than you'll settle for, to give yourself room to maneuver. Yet, with so many protesters involved, I'm not sure there's a consensus on what a win looks like. I'm also not clear what protesters are willing to do if the powers that be don't choose to come to the negotiating table. Is,"Do it our way, or we'll stay out here and suffer a frigid winter," the only bargaining chip they have? As long as they're willing to allow marathons, and other events, to proceed as planned, I can see officials growing accustom to their presence.