Working Americans Stand with Occupy Wall Street Because It Brings Focus Back to Their Struggle
Slowly but surely, our national conversation is moving from a tiresome repetition of Beltway talking points deficits, austerity and regulation to a vital debate about the real issues we face. And it’s thanks to the energy and courage of hundreds of people who are standing up and taking action. Through their peaceful occupation of Manhattan’s Liberty Park and other public spaces, they have forced these issues—joblessness, inequality, the failure to hold corporations accountable—to the forefront.
It took a large, sustained public protest to get people talking about how our economy is broken and how to fix it, but those questions are the top priority of people beyond those camped out in New York City.
Making the connection between the Occupy Wall Street protests to working class people all over the country will be vital to determining the power of this movement. At Working America, we have three million members and talk to 20,000 people every week, and they’re not your typical media stereotype of a protester. They’re largely working-class and middle-class moderates in states from Maine to Oregon, Ohio to New Mexico. However, the issues that motivate them are the same ones that motivate the Occupy Wall Street protests:
- a lost decade of stagnant wages, dim job prospects and increasing inequality
- a crisis brought on by a grossly unregulated and unaccountable financial industry, patched up with taxpayer-funded bailouts to the banks that caused it
- the increasing difficulty for working-class and middle-class people to keep a roof over their heads, pay for education and save for retirement
- the erosion of trust in a political system overrun by corporate dollars
Faced with all of this, the Occupy Wall Street protesters didn’t choose apathy, they chose action. They came together to exercise their basic American rights to assemble and speak out. And they’re not organizing around some niche or fringe issue. They’re demanding answers on the questions that people like our members are asking every day.
The pundits, corporate executives and politicians—who mostly talk to each other—are quick to dismiss and disparage these protests. And they couldn’t be more wrong, or more out of touch.
When we go door to door in neighborhoods in Orlando, Columbus and Pittsburgh, we don’t hear about the short-term political fights obsessed over on cable news, or the ongoing political crusades of Washington lobbyists. We hear about the fear that regular working people won’t be able to make ends meet or build a future for their kids. We hear about people living paycheck to paycheck, worried that a lost job or a sudden health problem will pull the rug out from under them. We hear people feeling isolated, desperate and angry that it seems like big corporations get to play by a different set of rules.
We offer our support and encouragement to Occupy Wall Street and to this growing movement because it’s finally forcing the political, media and financial elites to take notice of what’s really happening.