Why Occupy Wall Street is not just a flash in the pan
For those of you who haven’t been following, Occupy Wall Street is a grass roots movement inspired by the Arab revolutions which first took shape this past winter and the indignado movement which spread across Spain and Italy this past spring.
Scores of demonstrators have been camped out in New York’s Zuccotti Park — which they have renamed Liberty Park — since Sept. 17 in order to protest what they deem to be the excesses of the American corporate elite.
Among the Occupy Wall Street movement’s chief complaints is that 1 per cent of the population of the United States controls more than 40 per cent of its wealth, and this figure is growing.
There is a real serious economic undercurrent to the movement, as many of the protesters are young, unemployed university educated people who are neck deep in student debt without any sort of medical coverage. Many trade unions and progressive groups have also offered their support.
Because of this, the movement has begun to spread far beyond Lower Manhattan.
A counter blog, showing the views of those who oppose the Occupy Wall Street movement entitled We are the 53 percent, which argues that only 53 percent of Americans actually pay federal income taxes, can be found here.
If the fact that only 53 per cent of Americans pay federal income taxes seems rather alarming, this article will hopefully help to sort fiction from reality. The article cites this study from the Tax Policy Center, which is a nonpartisan group, that points out a large part of the reason that many people do not pay such income taxes has to do with tax loopholes which they can use as tax credits.
Such benefits are given to elderly people for social security payments, child-care tax credits, or even for investments. Another reason so many Americans do not pay federal income tax is the fact that many do not make enough money to qualify to pay them.
The article goes on to argue that a lot of this problem stems from the fact that the tax cuts introduced in 2001 by then U.S. President George W. Bush actually made it far easier for people to offset their federal income taxes.
Of course, as the article states, this does not mean that these people do not pay any taxes at all:
just because 47 percent of households do not pay federal income tax does not mean that they do not pay any federal taxes. Indeed, almost everyone pays some: There are federal taxes for Social Security and Medicare, on gas, alcohol, and cigarettes. Plus, there are also state and local taxes, and property taxes.
Because some of these economic issues are so real for which there looks to be no immediate solution, it would be unwise not to take this movement seriously, even if they don’t as yet, have any concrete demands.
While the movement itself is leaderless, and was loosely organized over the internet, many in the media, like with the Tea Party, have been trying to find a leader, or a “puppet master,” who is behind the whole thing.
This Reuters article, featured prominently on Drudge Report, asks “Who’s behind the Wall St. protests? The name that keeps coming up, is billionaire financier George Soros. This is something Soros himself, often a target of the American right, denies. Even if Soros, or organizations funded by Soros might have provided funding to the Occupy Wall Street protesters, this would hardly make him “behind” the movement.
There have been some comparisons made between it and the Tea Party movement which swept across the United States over the past couple of years. The reason for this, as Addison Wiggin writes in this article, is that both sides have the same core complaint:
Both movements are born in part from outrage over the 2008-2009 bank bailouts. Both feel the “American Dream,” however they define it, is out of their reach. Both feel left out by a ruling class.
Of course, despite the fact that both movements share the same root cause, and while they would probably agree on the need to curb Wall Street excesses, as well as the hollowing out of the middle class, they differ on how to achieve it.
As this article shows, despite the fact that both groups are generally angry about the same thing, they spend an awful lot of time trying to discredit one another.
While one group tends to hold up Ronald Reagan as their patron saint and the other rallies against Reaganism, if you peel back the layers, both sides have more in common than one might think. The true enemy of both groups, and the true source of their anger is the growing income gap.
It is this larger story, which will likely begin to take a greater place in the public consciousness in the coming months.