Those ‘Occupiers’: Letting Leaders Know Just Who’s in Charge
EDITOR'S NOTE: This is another of a series in which Moore County’s Republican and Democratic party chairmen address various political issues.
The United States has a broken system. People work hard, pay their bills and taxes, yet they continue to fall behind.
For decades, wages have been stagnant and are now falling. Unemployment remains at crisis levels and companies are discriminating against those without jobs. Family wealth is in decline, especially among African-Americans and Latinos. College students are graduating with escalating student loans and few job prospects. Home values are still falling and foreclosures show no sign of abating.
In the face of these problems, corporate America has never had it better; profits are at record levels, taxes are low, and they have literally trillions of dollars in the bank. With weak consumer demand, companies see no reason to hire or expand their facilities.
Wall Street investment banks, having been rescued by us taxpayers at huge cost, remain free to engage in the same risky practices that nearly destroyed the world’s economies just a few years ago, erasing trillions of dollars from our retirement plans and home values.
The government, which should be taking heroic measures to get the economy back on track, is paralyzed by an intransigent Republican Party in fear of its tea party base. Their sole objective is unseating the president, and the nation’s real problems take a back seat to that.
A small group of citizens, fed up at inaction in the face of these burgeoning problems, moved into a park on Wall Street a scant three weeks ago to begin a dialogue. Initially ignored by the media, this group is now enjoying wide coverage.
A bottom-up organization without formal leadership, this movement (known as “Occupy Wall Street,” or OWS) has inspired groups in every state to take up the cause and speak out about the inequities plaguing this nation.
As one might expect from such disparate groups, a bewildering array of opinions has emerged. But a few consistent themes have become clear, chief among them the idea that our system now favors the richest 1 percent of Americans at the expense of the other 99 percent.
The top 1 percent now owns 40 percent of the nation’s wealth and takes home nearly 25 percent of all income, a stunning increase. Forty-six million of us live in poverty and the middle class (long the bulwark of our economy) is shrinking.
It’s estimated that nearly a third of Americans being raised in the middle class will fall below it by the time they reach adulthood. We are raising a generation facing a worse future than the one before.
Standing squarely in the way of progress are our representatives of both parties in Congress. Beholden to corporations that give so generously to their campaigns, they are unwilling to do anything to upset that source of cash. Into this void comes OWS.
Unleashing the power of Americans to make their voices heard, the groups that make up this coalition are empowering all of us to restore our part in a government “of the people, by the people and for the people.” They are reminding those sent to represent us that it’s their responsibility to ensure the vitality of our economy. And they’re reminding them just who sent them there.
As the movement spreads, it’s instructive to see who fears it. At the top of the list are tea partiers who complain that the demonstrators are unruly.
That’s rich coming from a group famous for shouting down participants in town hall meetings to prevent discussions on health care, a topic of vital concern to all citizens. Increasingly unpopular among most Americans, the tea partiers are finding themselves and their unworkable ideas being ignored in the current debate.
It’s long past time to give up the tired slogans and catch-phrases that have substituted for real communication.
We claim to be one nation indivisible, but we haven’t been acting like it. We’ve allowed our differences to be used to divide us when the values we hold in common are much more important. We need to talk to each other again.
We’re told that government is the problem. It isn’t. Government is how we ensure a stable society. We’ve heard that the rich are “job creators.” They aren’t. Jobs are created in response to demand, but demand is weak. We hear that this president is raising taxes. He isn’t. He’s lowered taxes far more than his predecessor. We’re enjoying the lowest taxes since the Korean War.
And we’ve been pummeled with the message that our problem is the federal deficit. It isn’t. Our chief problem is a lack of jobs. Restoring full employment alone would erase a third of that deficit.
We cannot shrink our way to prosperity. We cannot run a vibrant economy on decaying roads and falling bridges. Eventually the rich will realize that it’s no fun to be surrounded by the poor and destitute.
Our representatives will continue to duck the important issues until we let them know who is truly in charge. The Occupy movement has already expanded into several cities and towns in North Carolina.
Look for it in Moore County. Take part, express yourself and help restore the American dream.
Jim Heim is chairman of the Moore County Democratic Party. Contact him at email@example.com.
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