Occupy Wall Street Is Not a Spectator Sport: 5 Ways the 99 Percent Can Contribute to the Movement Right Now
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Let’s take a look at where we are right now. There is battle royale underway between inhabitants of two entirely different universes over what’s wrong with our nation and what should be fixed.
On the one hand, the entire political establishment, blessed by Wall Street, wants the conversation to be all about debt and “entitlements." We are told 24/7 that we’re living over our heads, that our social safety net is too expensive, and that we need to cut, cut, cut trillions of dollars from public budgets so we don’t become the next Greece.
In that framework the only question is how much to cut and how much we should sacrifice. The so-called liberal position is that the rich should pay a bit more while the rest of us suffer cuts in education, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. (Please note that taxes on Wall Street are not on the table.) The “grand bargain” is all about how much we will have to pay for the economic collapse caused by Wall Street. It's also a loser because the more we cut, the longer unemployment will last, and the more fiscal distress we’ll face as tax revenues stall.
On the other side is the framework that Occupy Wall Street successfully put into play. It argues that Wall Street should pay for the mess it created. It suggests that the issue is employment for the many, not debt repayments for the few. It also gets us to face up to myriad of ways that income inequality is hollowing out our society, destroying the middle-class and increasing poverty. It points the finger at those who crashed our economy and it demands reparations. And it does all this without making any specific demands. It doesn’t have to. It just needs to be the living embodiment of the many versus the few.
That’s the fight. So how can we enlist? Sure, some of us can go down to our local encampment and join the party. But if you’re old like me, or if you have a job and a family, you’re not likely to head out to your local town square and sleep on the concrete. So that raises the critical question: How can the rest of the 99 percent demonstrate our outrage?
Here are five things we can do, without parking a tent somewhere:
1. Get Your Non-Profits into Gear
If you work for a non-profit of any kind (like a labor union, an environmental group, a church organization, etc.) then insist that your organization devote at least 10 percent of its resources to protesting against Wall Street. There are probably 500,000 full-time staff working for unions, community organizations and environmental groups all across the country. Imagine if each week, each of those staffers put in two hours protesting at an Occupy Wall Street site. Combine that with a little organizing to bring out the rank-and-file, and we’re talking about a quantum leap in the size of the anti-Wall Street presence.
Of course, you might get stiff opposition from progressive non-profit leaders. After all, their organizations are set up to press important issues that might not seem to have any direct connection to the Wall Street mess. But it shouldn’t take much to show that the Wall Street crash is a game-changer. It should be clear by now that we can’t make progress on our individual issues unless we join together to reclaim our country from the Wall Street elites.
2. Organize Teach-ins about Wall Street’s Casino Economy
If you are affiliated with any academic institution or high school, this is the perfect time to organize teach-ins that target financial elites. We need large forums where information can be shared about our dismal distribution of income, how Wall Street took down the economy, how money is influencing politics, and how jobs can be created. And be sure to invite the community. Americans are just waking up to how much they’ve been ripped off. The educational task is just beginning and teach-ins can push it along in a hurry.