Occupy: A Story of the 99%

4 Oct

Recently, my friend Eddie asked me over dinner to explain to him the Occupy Wall Street Movement.  I feel as though I’ve been doing just this countless times this week to people who are normally in the know about the goings-on in the world, but when it comes to OWS, they have heard very little, if anything at all


There seems to be a near-blackout of information about OWS and I won’t conjecture here the ins and outs of a free press that limits or boils down an ever-growing movement complete with serious acts of police brutality and abuse of power to a minute of air time and words such as “hippie,” “dirty college kids,” and “pedophiles” (you can thank Sean Hannity for that last one).  What, the country seems to be asking, is Occupy Wall Street and what do these protestors want?  In a nutshell:


OWS began as a call to protest by the Canadian activist group Adbusters against social and economic inequality, corporate greed, and the influence of corporate money and lobbyists on government.  OWS is NOT anti-government, anti-wealth, or anti-capitalism as some naysayers claim.  OWS wants the government out of the pockets of big business and banks and to work towards a more fair tax code in which the 99% pay their fair share of taxes and the 1% pay their fair share of taxes (and not get out of their fair share through loopholes and tax shelters).  OWS is not looking for a handout or someone to shoulder all of the taxes and responsibilities, but they are looking for a more perfect union in which the American Dream can actually be achieved.  OWS believes that the American Dream is shrinking as a direct result of the aforementioned corporate greed, government bailouts, political corruption (on both sides of the aisle as a result of big business/lobbyists), and increased taxes at the bottom and not the top.  They seek reform and accountability from the 1% for their role in the financial collapse that the country now exhibits.


Who are the people at these OWS protests that have now spread across the country to Boston, Philly, Los Angeles, Houston, News Orleans, Tampa, and Austin to name a few?  Many might have heard that the OWS protesters are “dirty college kids,” with nothing better to do than “whine” instead of “getting a job” and that they just “want a handout” or that they are all “communists.”   True, the OWS protesters and their supporters did begin as a core group of about 200 college students in lower Manhattan, but quickly spread to include military vets, 700 United Airlines pilots, taxi driver unions, author Margaret Atwood, the Transport Workers Union of America, Noam Chomsky, the band Radiohead, nurses unions, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, Nobel Economist Joseph Stiglitz, and New York Times Columnist Jeff Madrick, among many others.


The 99%: one of the most prominent slogans of the OWS movement is “We are the 99%.”  What does this mean, you ask?  The OWS protesters and supporters believe that the top 1% of America controls 99% of America and the rest (or 99%) get left in the dust and suffer at the hands of bad business practices, corporate greed, and government corruption at the hands of Big Money influence.  Who are the 99%?





Why I’m writing this: I have seen my college-degreed friends lose jobs and not have any options for new ones and are ashamed to get unemployment.  I have seen my college-degreed friends file for bankruptcy because their jobs offer little to no health insurance and their medical bills from chronic illnesses outweigh their rent.  I have a niece who is in college and is worried about her future job prospects once she graduates.  I have elderly parents who have worked and saved and invested all of their lives only to see tens of thousands of their retirement dollars go down the drain during the economic collapse.


I worked my way through college (at one time taking on 3 jobs to pay for tuition) and worked hard at my Master’s degree in hopes that I would land a well-paying job.  I never received a handout from my parents, who instilled in me a work ethic that I am thankful for.  I left college with thousands of dollars in students loans (which were necessary when you attend a private graduate program that has no real financial aid or stipend options).  My monthly student loan bill is only $100 less per month than our mortgage.  As an adjunct instructor, I teach 5 college classes each week for peanuts, but I am thankful to have a job.  My husband and I together earn a very comfortable living, but see our taxes rise each year (and are now taxed at a rate nearing 35%) and have no shelters or loopholes.   We are the 99%.


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