Wednesday, November 16, 2011

End of Occupy movement?

The last few days have featured some significant developments for the Occupy protesters.  In New York City, the home of the movement, a coordinated police crackdown emptied out the encampment in the early morning hours.  While it was stated that the protesters could move back, it was also made clear that they could only do so without their tents, sleeping bags and other overnight gear.  Similar "clearing out" of Occupy makeshift camps has occurred in other cities. 

Here in Philadelphia, there have been calls from those who previously supported the movement for them to leave their current site at Dilworth Plaza due to the construction project that is scheduled to begin soon.  More than one commentator has pointed out that by delaying their change of venue, the Phila faction of Occupy is interfering with jobs that will help the very 99% that they claim to represent.

So, are we seeing the beginning of the eventual end of this movement? 

I would like to think that it is merely the end of the first stage.  This first stage, to get the attention of both the 1% that the protesters are singling out and the remaining 99% that they hope will join their cause, has been successful.  The Occupy movement garners front page newspaper space, time on the talk shows, and a huge range of internet exposure.  Its main message, that our economic and political systems have been rigged to favor those who have the most at the expense of everyone else, has been delivered. 

But what will encompass stage two?

I believe that despite the reams of date that exist which demonstrate that there is undoubtedly a growing gap between the haves and have nots, and that the majority of those in the have not category recognize this inequity, it is also true that the belief in capitalism overrides this acknowledged trend.

As a case in point, my current full time job with the PLCB is fodder for those who believe that the government does not belong, nor is capable of competing, in any free market environment.  Even what many would call the "liberal" Philadelphia Inquirer newspaper, has made its position clear that Pennsylvania should privatize this system.  In this case, the Inquirer fails to make the connection between its often editorialized position that middle class Americans are being squeezed through the loss of jobs which provide a livable wage.  The fact is, should the PLCB be privatized, thousands of livable wage jobs will be lost, along with the health benefits of thousands of middle class families.  One only has to look at the wage and benefits packages of the people who currently work in the retail industry, the supermarkets, pharmacies and department stores, to know that any jobs that are replaced or added with this privatization plan will be jobs in the $10 dollar an hour range with limited if any health benefits.  More squeezing of the middle class, yet all the profit which once went to the state of PA will now flow to businesses and corporations with a history of low wage and benefits compensation. 

So, we cling to the belief that only capitalism with its emphasis on free markets, entrepreneurship, and competition is the best answer to our economic woes.  But here is a surprise.  I also believe that to be true.  In fact, we need people to want to strive to improve their lives and so we need a system that rewards those for doing so.  We need people to believe that the system will work for them.  But most importantly, we need the system to actually deliver on those promises.  And that needs to be the message of stage two.

The facts seem to suggest, that Americans have faith that capitalism will work for them.  Millions of examples of its ability to provide the vehicle for upward mobility and economic comfort abound.  While we might feel justified about vilifying the 1%, it is a much higher percentage of Americans that are actually being rewarded via capitalism, and more importantly, believe they will be rewarded if they put in the effort.  

In my opinion then, the second stage of this movement must

- continue to hammer home the message that there is a growing income inequality in America today.  That more and more of the wealth (and political muscle) is flowing away from the working class citizens of this country and towards those with the most to lose should the trend be addressed. 

- continue to cite research such as that just concluded recently by Stanford University which reports that family incomes in the top 117 metropolitan areas of America have experienced a severe shift in both directions away from the midde class.  To summarize its findings, in 2007 44% of families lived in middle income neighborhoods, down from 65% in 1970.  While some of that shift has been upward, most has been downward towards poverty. 

- limit attacks on capitalism as a system but focus on the abuses that exist in its current form.  Hold the system accountable for actually providing economic opportunities and address those obstacles, whether it be corporate greed, political corruption or citizen apathy, that prevent its proper functioning

- push for political campaign funding reform.  We need to reduce the influence of money on our elected officials. 

- remind the 99% that voting is our best solution to sending a message to both Washington and the 1%.  The alternative, some type of citizen revolt, is not a choice anyone should embrace


  1. My name is Jeannette McGinley I organized Occupy Lansdale. We are on our fifth night.We had approximately 32 people on different nights. We picked Monday evenings to meet 5:30 until 7:00 November 28th we will have a band and speakers. Would you be interested speaking about your topic of Occupy? Your views are logical and clear.We will be at the RR Pavilion across from Wells Fargo Bank on Main Street Lansdale Pa 19446 You can find me on face book as well.

  2. That will show all those fantastically wealthy Lansdale fat-cats! Seriously, what next? Occupy Tylersport?