Protests are ‘occupied’ by publicity seekers
There’s no question that a significant wealth disparity has developed in this country over the past decade and more. That situation has been compounded by the recession, which put millions out of work and cost many more much of their life savings, either in stocks or in home equity.
Meanwhile, top corporate executives receive millions, even as their companies founder, and big banks that were bailed out with taxpayer funds now seem unwilling or incapable of doing anything to aide those taxpayers.
Given all those facts, it’s no great surprise that many Americans are frustrated and angry.
But it’s unfortunate that the Occupy Wall Street movement — and its offspring in places like Denver and Grand Junction — has become a mish-mash of hangers-on, aging revolutionaries, young wannabes, homeless people and publicity seekers.
Moreover, there seem to be few clear objectives or policy prescriptions, just a lot of ambiguous rhetoric and individual agendas. For instance, one of the organizers of the Occupy Grand Junction event said the local protests will continue “until people wake up.” Protesters elsewhere carry signs that proclaim, “Down with greed,” or “Bail out people, not banks.” Try to find the policy ideas in that.
One YouTube video from the New York occupation showed a middle-age man — who certainly is not representative of most protesters — exhorted a crowd with the statement, “Anything is possible, even sex with animals.”
The tea party movement, to which the occupiers have been compared, has its own share of crazies — racists, isolationists and religious zealots, to name a few. But most tea partiers are simply average Americans who, like the occupiers, are angry about the direction they believe their country is headed.
The difference is that they have come up with specific proposals — cut taxes, eliminate federal debt, pass a balanced-budget amendment — to deal with their grievances. They have also worked to elect members of Congress, as well as state and local officials, who support their views. Whether you endorse them or can’t stand them, no one can argue tea partiers have been ineffective.
The Occupy Wall Street movement, so far, has demonstrated no such effectiveness. However, questions have arisen about its funding. Thursday, Reuters reported a Canadian group that assisted the movement received money from liberal billionaire George Soros.
The occupiers have also provoked concerns about public health. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg ordered occupiers today to leave the park where they have been camped out the past several weeks so city workers can clean up the mess they have made.
We certainly hope things don’t reach such a state locally.
But more to the point, tent-city “occupations” on public property, a circus atmosphere and incoherent rhetoric won’t change things in the United States. It will take people committed enough to develop serious policy proposals, to run for office or to work for candidates to accomplish anything tangible.