“Dozens of Occupy Wall Street Protesters Arrested in Several U.S. Cities.” “October 15th: A global day of Action.” “We are the 99%: Stories of the Great Recession Victims.” “We are the 99%.” “Occupy Wall Street Movement comes to Lexington, KY.” I have been overwhelmed with news stories and headlines recently that concern a sudden “movement” that, regardless of class or income, instructs us to be angry, to seek vindication…to say “We just aren’t gonna take it anymore!” OK…so what exactly is it we aren’t supposed to take anymore and why are we angry?
I asked an acquaintance, whose political analysis I respect, what exactly it is the 99% are protesting because apparently I only partially understand. His view is that at the core of the movement is an acknowledgement and subsequent resentment towards the top earners getting richer; their salaries more than doubling while the rest of us see paltry (or non-existent) raises with the rising cost of living. Included in his analysis was the disproportionate tax rate the wealthy pay in comparison to the rest of us. (Payroll employees pay taxes on their earned income at rates ranging from 10 to 35 percent depending on marital status and the amount earned. They also pay payroll taxes of 4.2 percent. The wealthy get most of their income from capital gains and dividends, both of which are taxed at 15 percent, and on this income they pay no payroll taxes). He also stated that corporate welfare contributed to the Occupy movement. And lastly, he stated that when governments work to impose “social responsibilities,” fairer tax rates, for example, in proportion to their income or by eliminating corporate welfare, those businesses will simply “relocate to where there are lower tax rates and less red tape.” Interestingly, too, he also mentioned the quality of life of the less affluent becoming better and I can’t help but say that the middle class has driven itself into debt trying to give the illusion of “wealth” and affluence, sparking serious animosity towards the wealthy (who he stated are also doing much better, but this fact has gone more or less unnoticed—til now). The middle class has driven itself into poverty essentially, and believed the lie that an affluent lifestyle can be financed. It’s caught up with us and now we want someone to blame.
The desultory Occupation of Wall Street protesting wealth, our blatant Corporatocracy, the unfair accumulation of wealth in the form of corporate bailouts, unfair payment(or non-payment in some cases) of taxes, and the growing gap between the have and the have-nots drags on. Initially, I was under the assumption that the Occupy Movement was simply that the 99% who were not obscenely wealthy wanted the 1% that is to stop rigging the political system in their favor and in doing so, forcing us to pay for it. There has always been an income disparity, but only in the last couple hundred years have we seen such a gradual increase in the influence of the top wage earners over our political system. The Occupy Wall Street movement is legitimate, and although it has certainly raised awareness and has provided a definite catalyst for change, it won’t solve anything. I can’t help but guess an entire global economic collapse or devastating catastrophe such as a plague might solve it, both of which would force us to rebuild; start over. Beyond those, we’d just have to abolish our entire system, which will never happen. And what would replace it in either case?
Late last night, I was scrolling through my Face Book news feed and I saw this photo and in an instant, I answered my own question.
THIS is why we allow corporations to rule the country. It has less to do with how we vote at the polls and more to do with how we spend. Instead of occupying Wall Street most prefer to occupy Wal-Mart; giving hard earned money to Sam Walton rather than supporting a local economy or, God forbid, supporting local farmers like a bunch of health nut hippies. Shopping and financing our pursuit of imagined and fleeting happiness has become a pastime, a mindless hobby, and an obvious distraction we devote entire weekends to in order to ignore our real need for contentment, while at the same time exacerbating the afore mentioned economic problems that are growing like a cancer. While it has been argued we should also be occupying our voting booths, we first need candidates who not only pay lip service to passing legislation that force corporations to shoulder their fair share of the tax burden, but who will not blink when those companies decide to move in order to avoid doing what’s right—thus paving the way for our local economies to grow.
We can blame our legislators and vote them out of office only to replace them with more of the same—greedy individuals more interested in vying for campaign donations and getting re-elected than representing their constituents, but so far that hasn’t worked to enact change. We can blame the corporations and the “top 1%” who manipulate Congress to create and pass laws to protect their interests and their assets or we can just stop giving them our money. Clutching a $5 Big Gulp gallon of soda while spending hundreds of dollars on a cart full of foreign made garbage and food flown in from China loaded with fat and high fructose corn syrup, which keep us fat, sick, lazy, and complacent ensures the gap between the poor(which is all of us now; all 99%) and the obscenely wealthy. So instead of occupying Wall Street or worse, Wal-Mart, occupy the local Farmer’s Market and local businesses. I’m not suggesting we all drop out of life by say, eliminating toilet paper from our lives, but is it necessary to buy 48 rolls at one time? As Bill Maher notes, “We shop with forklifts,” and that needs to stop. Yes, I have been guilty of buying 7 tubes of toothpaste at one time, I’m ashamed to say, but I vow right here to change my ways! By slowly eliminating our dependency on faceless, soulless, and greedy corporations we can build our local economies, and in turn, we can rebuild our infrastructure; combining residential AND commercial establishments in the same areas, for example. We can eradicate the need for more interstate highways, as well as the cul-de-sac—which in its own way forces us to get in our cars and drive to get anywhere in our cities and towns. It appears counter-intuitive to blame the legislators and corporations for our plight, and then expect them to rectify the situation. Why should they? It’s a win-win for them. Only by voting—at the polls and with our dollars can we get out of the sad and pathetic situation we, the 99%, have created. Playing the recession victim with a $400 dollar cell phone in one’s hand and holding a cleverly worded picket sign does little to get one taken seriously.