Earlier this week, my son and I went down to Zuccotti Park to visit the Occupy Wall Street protest. Before I tell you what we saw, let’s review some of the rhetoric that’s been thrown around about the people involved in these protests.
Fox News contributor Monica Crowley called them “useful idiots who probably haven’t paid much in taxes their whole life.”
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor called the assembly a “mob.” Mitt Romney accused them of waging “class warfare.”
And then there’s good old Mr. “9-9-9” Herman Cain, who told the Wall Street Journal: ‘Don’t blame Wall Street, don’t blame the big banks; if you don’t have a job and you’re not rich, blame yourself… I don’t have facts to back this up, but I happen to believe that these demonstrations are planned and orchestrated to distract from the failed policies of the Obama administration.”
He doesn’t have the facts to back this up… well then why make the statement, Mr. Cain? Could it be that maybe, just maybe, the one of the things folks at these protests are sick of is rhetoric based on lies pulled out of politicians posteriors?
Cain doubled down on his stance when asked about the statement in Tuesday’s Republican debate, to the delight of the audience, who clearly approved of his narrative that wealthy “job creators” have the clearest of consciences when it comes to the nation’s economic predicament and the unemployed have only themselves to blame.
Yet according to a recent Brookings Institute analysis the facts tell a different story. With between three and five out-of-work Americans competing for each job opening, competition for jobs among the unemployed is greater than any time before the 2008 financial crisis, stretching back to the Great Depression.
Anyone with half a brain knows the truth isn’t as simple as “apples and oranges.” A mess of toppings went on that ultimate financial crisis pizza we were forced to eat in 2008. Contrary to Cain’s assertions, Wall Street does bear some of the blame. Perhaps tempers wouldn’t be so frayed if we’d heard more mea culpas and saw fewer headlines like this.
When you’re a hard-working middle class Joe who has been working your entire life only to find your pension decimated right before retirement because a bunch of suits on Wall Street were packaging toxic loans and selling them as “Collateralized Debt Obligations” and then you hear those same suits are still raking in big bonuses despite their companies making lower profits while you’re left in the crapper — these folks have every right to be mad and it’s nothing to do with “class warfare” or being “Un-American.” It’s to do with common sense from ordinary working — or trying to work — people. It’s a collection expression of “WTF? How can this be considered just in America?”
That was our experience when we visited Zuccotti Park. The demonstrators weren’t “all students who want to get their loans forgiven,” as my daughter’s history teacher apparently told the class. It was a broad coalition of ages, ethnicities, and causes. A recurring complaint — the inordinate influence corporations have on politics, particularly in the wake of the Citizens United decision by the Supreme Court. My favorite sign: “I’ll believe that corporations are people when Texas executes one.”
Since Oct. 7, when Occupy Hartford protestors ensconced themselves at Turning Point Park, the Occupy moment has spread to other cities and towns in the Nutmeg State including New Haven, New London, Branford, Mystic, Willimantic, Waterbury and Bridgeport, as well as cities across the globe.
One thing the protesters already have achieved is to put the spotlight back on jobs after nine months where Congress — and the mainstream media — seemed to focus on the cutting the deficit to the exclusion of all else. If polls showing widespread support for the movement are to be believed, it will be interesting to see how this weaves itself into the political narrative here in Connecticut, particularly for House candidates Justin Bernier, Mark Greenberg, Daria Novak, and Lisa Wilson-Foley, each of whom have signed Jim DeMint’s draconian Cut, Cap and Balance pledge, which conservative and progressive economists agree would be irresponsible and possibly push the country into depression.
Check out Sarah’s photo album from New York’s Zuccotti Park here:
Sarah Darer Littman is a columnist for Hearst Newspapers and an award-winning novelist of books for teens. Long before the financial meltdown, she worked as a securities analyst and earned her MBA in Finance from the Stern School at NYU.