Why the Movement to Occupy Wall Street?

The corporate-controlled media’s treatment of Occupy Wall Street (OWS) has not provided much useful information about the movement. Instead of reporting on OWS, media pundits whined about a lack of leaders and criticized the appearance of some participants. Unfortunately, such media coverage is not a surprise; after all, OWS is challenging the status quo.

Overview

The rise of the OWS movement is in response to Wall Street’s insatiable greed and a corrupt economic/political approach that further undermine: 1) the idea that hard work pays off; and 2) trust in equal justice for all. People are outraged by the unfairness of trillions of dollars in public funds that were committed to bail out Wall Street while Main Street was basically ignored. They are angry that only the public is expected to sacrifice while the people who created the financial crisis make out like bandits.

An Unholy Alliance: Multinational Corporations and Governments

Insatiable greed spurred the financial sector and the rating agencies to commit widespread fraud that almost brought down the world’s financial system. What has happened to us? I remember when rapacious greed was considered a deadly sin. Now some seem to think greed is a virtue.

Unfortunately, Wall Street was abetted by: 1) several presidential administrations and Congresses that enacted laws allowing some of these unethical methods; and 2) several governmental regulatory agencies, led by political appointees, that failed to protect the public’s interest.

Using the pretext of preventing the collapse of the financial system, the private Federal Reserve Bank and the federal government committed trillions of dollars of public money in a bailout of Wall Street. Instead of showing remorse for their roles in creating the financial crisis or gratitude for the bailout they received, the too-big-to-fail banks collectively resumed paying tens of billions in annual bonuses while continuing to foreclose, often illegally, on homeowners and to deny loans to small businesses. In addition, after receiving their gigantic bailout, the financial sector suddenly was concerned about the national debt. The financial sector was okay with greatly increasing the debt through the transfer of tons of money to Wall Street, but providing money for Main Street was suddenly a threat to our long-term financial health. Such hypocrisy!

If this situation weren’t already bad enough, the federal government demonstrated that it thought some institutions in the financial and insurance sectors, besides being too big to fail, were also too big to jail. As a result, almost no one involved in the creation of this crisis has been prosecuted.

Fallout

In 2010, 46 million Americans were living in poverty and 50 million were without health insurance. In 2011, the combined unemployment and underemployment rate is still about 25%. Millions of homeowners face foreclosure, higher education costs are soaring, and college students are graduating with large debts into a lousy job market. The number of homeless and the number of people reliant on food banks are also increasing.

Last but not least, this corrupt economic/political system has failed to prepare for the looming resource crises (water, topsoil, oil, etc.). In addition, there has been little response to the change in climate that has already begun and whose impact will grow over time. Our system’s approach seems to be “don’t worry, be happy.”

Summary

The OWS movement recognizes that following the rules clearly no longer works for many today and the situation is getting worse. They see that special interest monies, especially those from Wall Street and multinational corporations, essentially control our federal government. Those involved in OWS are driven by the desire to change this corrupt and disastrous situation, not by envy of the 1% as some have falsely claimed.

Ron Forthofer is a retired professor of biostatistics from the University of Texas School of Public Health in Houston and was a Green Party candidate for Congress and also for governor of Colorado. Read other articles by Ron.