Click here to go to the Home Page Critics Of "Occupy Wall Street" Jumping the Gun - Solidarity America - By John Funiciello - Columnist

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There was an Internet headline this week in a right-wing Washington, D.C.-based publication that said, “One month in, protests yet to topple capitalism.”

BC Question: What will it take to bring Obama home?If its intent was to minimize the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) protests that have sprung up all across the country, in Europe, and in a number of other countries, it widely missed the mark. There hasn’t been much said about “toppling capitalism” among the men and women who are in New York City and elsewhere, demanding a redress of grievances against the real titans of the American government and economy: Corporate America.

Demonstrators, young and old, who might not be “experts” in economic and political theory, have readily understood that it’s the greed of the few at the top that has caused the problems in the economy, in the political system, and in the environment. That understanding is not going to be dissipated by a few critics from the corporations, the politicians, or the pundits, who could be (in effect, so many are) in the pay of those same corporations.

And, there are millions of people who agree with the analysis of the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement, but they just are not in the streets, yet. In fact, there are a few polls, which show that a majority of Americans believe that the greed of the wealthy and the corporations is at the heart of the threats to the stability of the nation.

A Quinnipiac University poll released on Monday showed that New York voters agree with the OWS demonstrators by 67-23 percent. On the same day, a Time magazine poll reported that Americans, in general, favored the OWS movement over the Tea Party, by a margin of 54 percent to 27 percent.

Some observers have said that the Wall Street event is like the Tea Party and that OWS might even be a come-lately copy of that small anti-Obama billionaire-inspired political caucus of the Republican Party. But they were wrong. The Tea Party never achieved the approval of even the mainstream of the GOP, let alone the American public. The polls are telling us something about OWS: Whereas the Tea Party was made up mostly of white middle-aged, disgruntled taxpayers (although there were a few minorities sprinkled throughout the crowds some of the time), Occupy Wall Street is a more representative sampling of Americans of all ages and walks of life, all economic strata, and racial and ethnic groups.

Obviously, the American people are identifying with the demonstrators in all of the cities where they have appeared and are appearing regularly. They are working class, middle class, and the poor. More and more Americans are being pushed into the latter group, especially since they have lost their jobs, have little prospect of finding another comparable job, and many have lost their homes through foreclosure.

Although the denizens of Wall Street may be sitting in their cubicles or standing around the floor of the stock exchange, making fun of the demonstrators, charging that they are “hippies” or “indolent” or “trust funders” or “lazy,” they cannot dismiss the young that easily and the older ones are our brothers and sisters, uncles and aunts, fathers and mothers. They are workers, or they were workers, until America was emptied of its economic lifeblood by the machinations of Corporate America, which shut down its factories and foundries, its clothing and shoe shops, and anything else they could ship to a low-wage country, even all of the electronic goods that we’re told are essential to “information and communication” in a post-industrial society.

That’s why the corporatists, the GOP, or some Democrats are not going to be able to equate OWS with the Tea Party in the American mind, because Americans know why they are in the streets. Some of the criticisms of OWS have been that “there is no coherent set of goals” and there is “no program.” Of course, that is wrong and the corporate media is trying its best to make it seem as if the thousands in the streets every day don’t know what is wrong and don’t know how to fix it. A glance back at some of the movements that freed people in other countries from some of the most egregious leaders and governments and powers started in just the same way, with groups of people in the streets, seeking reform of systems that oppressed them. Change and programs and policies came out of this: “We’re not going to take it anymore and we’re going to stay in the streets until we see the changes we want.”

Maurice Carroll, director of the Quinnipiac Polling Institute, at the release of this week’s poll, said, “It’s a free country. Let them keep on protesting as long as they obey the law, New Yorkers say overwhelmingly. Critics complain that no one can figure out what the protesters are protesting, but seven out of 10 New Yorkers say they understand and most agree with the anti-Wall Street views of the protesters.” That’s quite a departure from the description of Tea Partiers, whose main effort was to “take back their country,” a thinly veiled reference to the black man who sits in the White House and who they claim, most ridiculously, is a “socialist” or worse.

Just a short list of things OWSers across the country believe are wrong and need to be addressed include: two wars, just one of which is consuming $2 billion a week; massive amounts of corporate money that has (now legally) polluted our political system; students who come out of college owing tens of thousands of dollars, with no jobs to pay back the loans; home foreclosures occurring at a rate not seen since the Dust Bowl days; an oil company-driven “energy policy” that would further plunder the environment for a few gallons of oil; a food system that is controlled by a few chemical, pharmaceutical, and seed companies; economists and money manipulators responsible for the current (second round) recession who are guilty of criminal acts, yet are still walking free; nuclear weaponry possessed by a handful of nations that years ago pledged to reduce and eliminate them; an unrelenting attack on America’s workers and their unions, resulting in a drastic lowering of the nation’s standard of living; minority unemployment at a much higher rate than the average, and the promise of endless wars, which will further degrade America’s economy and politics.

Another issue which some might say is an overriding issue is the 50 million Americans who have no access to health care and an equal number who have inadequate coverage, although they are making big monthly payments. Those who can’t comprehend why the demonstrators are in the streets might look into one or two of these issues and the picture might come into focus.

Since President Obama didn’t start his fight-back against the Republic onslaught until about three years into his first term, his move into campaign mode just about guarantees that there will not be much progress in dealing with very many of the monumental problems facing the U.S. And don’t look to the Republicans for any solutions of any kind, for any problems. The party has been united in refusing to deal with anything, unless their benefactors in Corporate America are protected. They don’t want the rich or corporations to pay another nickel in taxes, despite the disparity in wealth and they, in fact, want to cut programs that help the poor, the working class, and the middle class, although these are the programs that determine the kind of society we have.

One of the “innovators” in the field of GOP presidential hopefuls has proposed what he calls the “9-9-9 tax plan.” Herman Cain, for a time, has been the darling of potential Republican primary voters in a couple of states, because he has been CEO of Godfather’s Pizza, a national chain. Apparently, there are still people who are deluded into thinking that a just nation can be created using the techniques of very profitable corporations. They have not noticed that a nation is not a business; it’s not a corporation.

Under Cain’s tax plan, Warren Buffett, the billionaire who says he pays too little in taxes, compared with his secretary, would pay even less. Some wag noted that, if Buffett is complaining about not paying enough taxes now, he’ll really have something to complain about if a plan like Cain’s ever is enacted. That plan encompasses a piece of a recycled income “flat tax” and a national sales tax, all of which falls most heavily on the poor, the working class, and the middle class. One of Cain’s “nines” is a corporate income tax. The rich would likely not notice it.

Cain, speaking perhaps for the bulk of the running-to-the-right Republican field has denigrated the OWS demonstrators with his Rep. Eric Cantor-like epithets and reminded them that, “if you don’t have a job, if you’re not rich, blame yourself.” There are five applicants for every job in the U.S., and Cain, the GOP, the corporate media, and the pundits can’t understand that young people are mad as hell?

What is clear from the past week’s events is that the American people are beginning to understand who trashed their jobs, their economy, their schools and colleges, their savings, their homes, their air and water, even the food they eat. They are backing the OWS demonstrators, whose ranks are growing. And they did not fall for the flim-flam of the billionaire-backed Tea Party and all of the Astroturf groups that were used to support it.

Although there have been a few flare-ups of conflict, overwhelmingly the OWS demonstrations have been peaceful, although the impulse of the authorities to suppress such exercise of free speech is present in our country. Such suppression can be detected just under the surface on any given day, but it’s there and the power of the state is palpable. We are not called a national security state for nothing. The means of surveillance and control have been in place for decades, but there has been an explosion of the tools of suppression since September 11, 2001, after which Americans accepted a vast array of methods, techniques, and technology for controlling the population.

Despite all that, people are going into the streets. They might not express any intent to “topple capitalism,” per se, but they are expressing their strongly held belief that there is so much wrong with the country and that something radical needs to be done to save what they once knew as America. Despite the propaganda that emanates from the powers that be and their communications outlets, OWS is a truly grass roots movement, whose, millions of members know that they must exercise their dwindling rights under the Bill of Rights, just to protect those rights.

They also know who is responsible for the current debacle. While the Tea Party concentrated on “government,” leaving Corporate America unscathed, Occupy Wall Street has its eye on the corruption and destruction caused by the most powerful corporations in the world. It is those corporations that have taken over the government and OWS is unmasking them, which is why the demonstrations are seen to be so dangerous.

Occupy Wall Street is growing and causing Americans everywhere to understand what caused their country to unravel and cause such pain and suffering for the scores of millions who are left behind in all aspects of life. Occupy Wall Street is not going to go away anytime soon. Columnist, John Funiciello, is a labor organizer and former union organizer. His union work started when he became a local president of The Newspaper Guild in the early 1970s. He was a reporter for 14 years for newspapers in New York State. In addition to labor work, he is organizing family farmers as they struggle to stay on the land under enormous pressure from factory food producers and land developers. Click here to contact Mr. Funiciello.

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Oct 20, 2011 - Issue 446
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