Like many political posts, this is more or less not finished and may be revised as I go along.
There is a popular fallacy in the mass media, and therefore the public at large, regarding the Occupy Wall Street protesters and the movement in general. It is the idea that the protesters are being hypocritical by using products from large corporations. However this simply is not true. The problem isn’t the products, or even necessarily the corporations themselves. The problem isn’t Wall Street itself, that is, the problem isn’t investing. The problem is the undue influence Wall Street has on government, the media and public policy.
Let us back up a moment (if you want to skip most of the background history, you can, but note you might miss out on a lot of context). Growing up Christian and in general Republican, I supported the Republican party all the time. Eventually I came to support personal liberty, and while the Republicans say that unlike the Democrats, they don’t want to control how you live, I started to notice that they were far above and beyond the most repressive party and found them to be more than a bit hypocritical in such statements. I found the Libertarian Party and became a huge supporter of them. By the time the 2008 elections rolled around, I was a huge Ron Paul supporter and falling deep into Ayn Randian territory. While I didn’t personally read any of her works, I watched the movie The Fountainhead, and agreed with the Ayn Rand philosophy that greed is good. I watched Fox News, and would get angry at the left, and the poor misguided souls who voted for them, thinking that if only they would educate themselves and learn the truth rather than rely on the mass media machine they would see that that the Democrats and others on the left were the worst option for them. I thought that the left was largely made up of ignorant people, being controlled by a liberal media machine and liberal education, both intent on controlling the people. Had Occupy Wall Street happened back then, I would be calling them lazy good for nothings, that the rich needed incentive to invest in jobs. I thought the Libertarian, Ron Paul, types were the ones that could save this country, and eventually help me as my own financial situation was growing worse. I still supported the Republicans because in a system where we realistically only have two parties, I thought them the lesser evil.
Then a curious thing happened. AIG failed and Bush rushed in to save them. By that point I was already upset at him for the wars he got us in, though not many years earlier I was upset at those who attacked him. I supported him against Fahrenheit 9/11 and all the evil of Michael Moore (and while today I in general like Michael Moore, I disagree with many of his misleading or semi-misleading methods and I still disagree with Bowling for Columbine all together as I believe in the 2nd Amendment in a form closer to the Republican interpretation, though perhaps not as open ended as they do). Despite the wars and possible 9/11 conspiracy type stuff (I was never sold on the idea that they were controlled demolitions, I did, and still do, suspect they knew far more about the attacks than they let on) I thought that he and his Republican allies were still the least of the two evils… but then he saved AIG… and Ron Paul and the Libertarians decried it, I started to loose the faith (not my Christian faith yet, that would be to come later on, though I was losing faith in the church and their undying support of many things, but the loss of my faith in the church and eventually god himself would be a full post in of itself) in the right. Then the banks failed, as JOhn Dingell, Ron Paul and many others had warned they would, and again Bush runs to save them. Once again, just like with the wars, the Patriot Act, and the AIG bailout, Bush doesn’t give congress time to think or debate. I start looking into things above and beyond the mass media. I start to question sources, and wonder what did the original sources actually say, not the interpretation given to us by the media, especially the right wing media. I started noticing a pattern, not just in the right wing media, but in the so called liberal media as well. That they were all protecting the corporate interests at the expense of the people. I started to notice that the rich who controlled these corporations were to blame for a large part of what was wrong with the nation. I noticed that man made global warming was real (although by that point I was still of the opinion it was better to act as if it was anyhow since it would cause the least harm). My eyes were opened and for the first time I noticed that in the 30 years of trickle down economics that nothing ever trickled down. That the gap between the haves and the have nots was growing at a rapid pace. I noticed that real employment was going down and that the middle class was disappearing into the poor.
For a while I bought into the Obama kool-aid. I believed he could be the change we needed. The Republicans had already made their choice and I was so anti-Bush and anti-Republican that I knew McCain would be just more of the same failed stuff that made Bush possibly the worst President in history, and a generally bad, evil person, though not as evil as Chaney… Then McCain picked Palin as his running mate and there was no doubt. She exuded the very evil and ignorance of the Republican base that I started to grow to hate so much. I was now on the opposite side of the fence I was a few years ago wishing the left would educate themselves, I was now wishing the right would educate themselves. I was angry at the church for supporting that ignorance and encouraging the support of people who, while claiming to be Christian were acting the opposite of the way Jesus himself demonstrated and said to be (again getting more into another post territory). I was angry at Fox News for blatantly misleading the Republican base. I was angry at the mass (“liberal”) media machine for not exposing the truth. My hopes were that change was coming…
Later on, when it was the governor’s turn to be elected, he sent another memo that said that 350 people lost their jobs while under the previous governor, not mentioning he said he would fire those people if Obama won, and not mentioning the fact that he managed to buy a jet and a mansion in that time, but vote for the Republican anyhow… and then even later on, we got another memo about health insurance, nearly the exact same memo as the year before, except right after it said premiums were supposed to go up 22% it went into a bit about “we don’t agree with Obama’s health care polices and their disasters effects on premiums” despite the fact that “Obamacare” had nothing to do with the increase as it was the same increase as the year before, and that “Obamacare” hadn’t even kicked in yet so wouldn’t have any changes on premiums yet anyhow… and when it did it would be very minimal… as a matter of fact no more than the 5% that somehow they managed to hold the line on again… dang, that memo read just like last years memo save the part where they blamed Obama for the 22% increase we would have had, had it not been for our team…
Now we are getting more back to the topic of the Occupy Wall Street. There is a little more history to go, but it is perhaps a little more relevant…
The owner of the company I worked at during this time sent a memo out informing the employees that if Obama won and put his tax plans into effect he would have to fire over 350 people. Alarm bells were ringing.
Obama won. A historic day for America. And while we would later learn that Obama was a Republican in all but name, I still believe it was a historic moment. America, a country still in the depths of racism (even if it tries to deny it), elected a black man. At this point there was still hope. As I noted, we now know he is just another Republican carrying out the Bush Doctrine, the very thing we said he would end and got the Nobel Peace prize for far too early… bet they feel the fools now. The only non-Republican thing he has done at all was end Don’t Ask Don’t Tell… heck Obamacare is a Republicanized version of the health care bill we deserved and of what he promised.
Back at work things continue along and at the turn of the year two key events happened that would forever set me on the course I am now. I don’t recall the exact order they came in, but here they are: The owner fired 350 some people and he sent a new memo out saying that nobody would get raises because the cost of living went down… his advisers told him to cut pay, but he was going to hold the line and simply not give out raises. Later we would get another memo that said insurance premiums were supposed to go up 22% (or so, the exact number I don’t recall, but it was around there) but they managed to hold the line at only a 5% increase in premiums… oh shouldn’t we be thankful… and hey at least the cost of living was down… WTF? I was among those who were pointing out that the cost of living didn’t go down at all, and in fact went up, as it does every year, and the figure they used to show that the cost of living had gone down wasn’t meant to be an accurate measure of the cost of living, as it said on its very own website. Then the unthinkable happened. The owner bought a private jet, and already having the second largest mansion in Glenmore (a very high end upscale gated, private Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Course, with mansions all around) decided to add another mansion in there. He needed the jet to get to and from his office on Miami Beach… literary on the beach… an office designed just to justify his place there. So we had 350 people out of work and hundreds of more people who were denied a cost of living increase in their wages, but the owner had his private jet and another mansion. The next year there would again be no raises and another 230+ people would lose their jobs.
This is in large part what Occupy Wall Street is about. It isn’t the cheap “Amish crafted” cheaply Chinese built fireplace that is the problem. It is the attitude of those at the top, and those on the right. They think it is okay to fire nearly 600 people and deny hundreds of others a raise and to take that savings and buy a jet for one man. If you ask your typical Republican, Fox viewer or whatever if they think it is right what that guy did, they would, hopefully, say no. But the attitude is still there, if those 600 people worked harder, they would have had better jobs and wouldn’t have lost them. It is their fault for losing their jobs, not the asshole who fired them so he could have a jet. Again, they wouldn’t say that aloud, but that is what it boils down to, no matter what spin they put on it.
The issue isn’t the product that guy makes, nor is it really the company but his attitude, what he takes for himself at the expense of others, and the attitude of Washington. That somehow those 600 people don’t need help, that those people who have to go with increased costs but no increase in pay, should have to give things up so that he can get more money. The attitude that the Wal-Mart CEO needs that $22 Million a year and needs more breaks, because they lie and say if they do, they’ll be able to hire more minimum wage workers. The problem is the false attitude that if we get rid of Unions and regulations and minimum wage, the free market will take over and people will be able to rise to the top, ignoring what happened before the Unions and regulations stepped in. Ignoring that an unregulated Chinese market allows them to export toys and milk with toxic poisons that can kill our kids. They ignore all of history and seem to think that those at the top really do care, and that the more we give those at the top, the more everyone will benefit… never mind those who lost their jobs so they can have a jet or those that struggle with a minimum wage job with no or near no benefits so that a CEO can make $22 million. And it isn’t just that one owner or the CEO of Wal-Mart. This is the attitude of the ultra rich in general, that they deserve jets and mansions even if they have to sacrifice hundreds of employee’s lives and the families of those employees so that they can live in splendor. There is a limit to being rewarded for taking a risk, and outright greed. You should be rewarded for taking risk, but you should never take that reward at the expense of other lives. The right talk about redistribution of wealth all the time, but ignore the fact that the rich got rich by stealing from their employees and taking for themselves. Somehow they think that is okay.
That is what Occupy Wall Street in large part is about. It isn’t the corporations themselves. It is the attitude that they are special and are deserving of far more special treatment by the Government than those who labor for them, and that those who labor for them should suffer to give them those special privileges because, despite history proving otherwise, someday that will trickle down to them.
It is also about changing the way we vote. The first past the post system has to go. We need to give 3rd parties a chance, and the only way that can happen is to get rid of failed first past the post system we still use here. We need a fair way of drawing up districts and not letting the party in charge change the balance and gerrymander things in their favor… but all these things are more or less a separate issues that would need their own posts.
That iPhone, that Toshiba laptop… those aren’t the problem. And there is nothing wrong with those who Occupy Wall Street to use them. Some may argue that by buying them it allowed the company the profits to buy the government support, but the profits are not the problem. It is the buying of the government that is at issue. It is the fact the government allowed itself to be purchased that is an issue. It is the fact that in more caring countries you can go to University and graduate for less than what somebody pays for a year at a state school here. It is the fact that sure the rich may pay more income taxes than the poor, but overall as a percentage of total income, they pay little taxes compared to the hard working poor. The problem is the attitude that single mother working two part time jobs so she can take barely care of her family is less deserving of breaks and help than that rich guy who hordes his money. That is what is at issue here.
Like many political posts, this is more or less not finished and may be revised as I go along.