Understanding Occupy Wall Street -or- Why the American People Are Angry

by Marshall Brain

What is driving the Occupy Wall Street movement? Why are the American People becoming so Angry? These videos quickly summarize the problems that are igniting the discontent:

1) The Associated Press provides charts and graphs that crystallize the problem in two minutes:

2) Alan Grayson summarizes Occupy Wall Street:

3) An in-depth interview with Chris Hedges where he articulates the major problems in the U.S. in 10 minutes:

Another interview with Chris Hedges can be found here.

4) Dylan Ratigan Blasts U.S. Political-Banking Ties:

5) Congressman Dennis Kucinich speaks about the fundamental issue of our times – the routing of money to the top 1%:

The following slide show contains a startling collection of graphs that demonstrate how badly skewed America has become in recent years:

CHARTS: Here’s What The Wall Street Protesters Are So Angry About…

The problem in a nutshell is this: Inequality in this country has hit a level that has been seen only once in the nation’s history, and unemployment has reached a level that has been seen only once since the Great Depression. And, at the same time, corporate profits are at a record high.

In other words, in the never-ending tug-of-war between “labor” and “capital,” there has rarely—if ever—been a time when “capital” was so clearly winning.

Or, to put it more succinctly, see this cartoonthis cartoonthis graph and this chart.

This is what is wrong in America. We have seen a massive concentration of wealth, and the rest of the nation is being hammered by it. These additional articles add clarity to what has happened:

Three factoids underscore that inequality:

  • The 400 wealthiest Americans have a greater combined net worth than the bottom 150 million Americans.
  • The top 1 percent of Americans possess more wealth than the entire bottom 90 percent.
  • In the Bush expansion from 2002 to 2007, 65 percent of economic gains went to the richest 1 percent.

In the late 1970s the richest 1 percent of Americans received 9 percent of total income and held 18 percent of the nation’s wealth; by 2007, they had more than 23 percent of total income and 35 percent of America’s wealth. CEOs of the 1970s were paid 40 times the average worker’s wage; now CEOs receive 300 times the typical workers’ wage.

This concentration of income and wealth has generated the political heft to deregulate Wall Street and halve top tax rates. It has bankrolled the so-called Tea Party movement, and captured the House of Representatives and many state governments. Through a sequence of presidential appointments it has also overtaken the Supreme Court.

Bottom line: The average individual now has $1,315 less in disposable income than he or she did three years ago at the onset of the Great Recession – even though the recession ended, technically speaking, in mid-2009… The diminished standard of living, moreover, is squeezing the middle class, whose restlessness and discontent are evident in grass-roots movements such as the tea party and “Occupy Wall Street” and who may take out their frustrations on incumbent politicians in next year’s election.

What has led to the most dramatic drop in the US standard of living since at least 1960? One factor is stagnant incomes: Real median income is down 9.8 percent since the start of the recession through this June, according to Sentier Research in Annapolis, Md., citing census bureau data. Another is falling net worth – think about the value of your home and, if you have one, your retirement portfolio. A third is rising consumer prices, with inflation eroding people’s buying power by 3.25 percent since mid-2008.

“In a dynamic economy, one would expect Americans’ disposable income to be growing, but it has flattened out at a low level,” says economist Bob Brusca of Fact & Opinion Economics in New York.

A joke making the rounds on the Internet goes like this:

“There’s a plate of 12 cookies sittng on a table. The rich take 11 cookies leaving only 1 cookie left on the plate. They then turn to the Tea Party and say ‘Those unions are trying to take your cookie.'”

This works about equally well with Republicans vs. Democrats.

It’s why Republicans versus Democrats is largely a false divide. The monied interests would rather have us arguing Republican vs. Democrat (50/50 split) than Rich vs. Everyone Else (1/99 split).

So, when you connect the dots, properly understood, what happened this week is the first battle in a civil war; a civil war in which, for now, only one side is choosing violence. It is a battle in which members of Congress, with the collusion of the American president, sent violent, organised suppression against the people they are supposed to represent. Occupy has touched the third rail: personal congressional profits streams. Even though they are, as yet, unaware of what the implications of their movement are, those threatened by the stirrings of their dreams of reform are not.

Sadly, Americans this week have come one step closer to being true brothers and sisters of the protesters in Tahrir Square. Like them, our own national leaders, who likely see their own personal wealth under threat from transparency and reform, are now making war upon us.

Critics of the growing Occupy Wall Street movement complain that the protesters don’t have a policy agenda and, therefore, don’t stand for anything. They’re wrong. The key isn’t what protesters are for but rather what they’re against — the gaping inequality that has poisoned our economy, our politics and our nation.

In America today, 400 people have more wealth than the bottom 150 million combined. That’s not because 150 million Americans are pathetically lazy or even unlucky. In fact, Americans have been working harder than ever — productivity has risen in the last several decades. Big business profits and CEO bonuses have also gone up. Worker salaries, however, have declined.

What can you do? You can join the protests that are occurring in every major city of the United States (locations available here). You can call or write to your friends and help them understand what is happening. You can cancel your account at a “big bank” and move it to a community bank or credit union. You can gather people at your home or a local meeting place (library, bar, school house, shopping center, etc.) to talk about the problems America is facing. You can write to your president, representative and senator. If you have a blog, blog about it. If you have a Facebook account, talk about it there. Vote for candidates who support reform of the American political system. And so on.

In other words, do anything you can to spread the word and help people to understand the problems that the America People are facing today.

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