“Occupy Wall Street” has caught many off guard, not only domestically but also globally. It almost seems like some dumb kids were spending way too much time (probably around five minutes) watching global news and realized what has happened in the Middle East. Since the Arab Spring, virtually every country in that region has experienced some form of change-good or bad time will tell. Tunisia, Egypt, Libya have toppled governments, Syria is in the brink of civil war, Jordan has seen their cabinet changed faster than a Hollywood marriage. It was just bound to happen here. Social media instrumented the Arab Movements and movements in Tibet and Mongolia. Same Facebook, Twitter, YouTubes are now used in these “Occupy” movements. It started half heartedly, but is supported full heartedly by majority of the people. Many have pointed this as the “Tea Party of the Left”. But I think the issues these ‘occupiers’ are pointing out are problems of the left, right and the center. Now the question is, can they become big enough to push policy change? That’s something we’ll have to wait and see.
Fundamentally anyone would support or sympathize with them. Their anger is towards the architects of the financial meltdown of 2008-Wall Street. These average hard working middle class people were hurt when they saw their livelihoods evaporated and Wall Street bonuses and CEO retirement parachutes getting elevated to newer highs. But people understood, may be the bailouts were necessary. But this movement is purely from the frustration of what has happened since then. The out and out oppose of any tax increase on the rich from the right has angered and hurt many. Seventy five percent people including Republicans believe the rich should pay their fair shares. How you would measure the “fair share” that’s up for debate, but if one side in the discussion is not even willing to talk about it, then it’s pretty obvious to fail. The protestors almost reminded me of the London Student’s movement where students threw eggs on Prince Charles’s car. The issue is again education expense and student loans. I can tell you from personal experience; it almost seems like a curse to graduate from college with student loans. The entire generation would drown in debt before entering the labor market. The incentives of becoming innovator with 100K student loan is lot less now, then becoming a Wall Street executive. Obama hit the point with student loan reforms but that reform is still on paper. As long as there aren’t real reforms in application this sort of protests will continue for a while.
The education and poverty rate in Hispanic and Latino community is far gloomy then the overall picture. With ethnic diversified pocket population increasing day by day-poverty will force more of these children out of school and on the streets. The unemployment rate is 9.1% yet majority of the companies would tell you they can’t find enough skilled workers. The lack of skilled worker is not just because kids are all on Facebook or bored, they just can’t afford to get the help from school. Siemens is now working directly with community colleges to setup vocational programs to train up people. Yet many pundits don’t get the anger of these “average Joes” on Wall Street.
The idea that “it’s hard to live on two hundred and fifty thousand dollars in many part of the country” is also a farce. According to the US Census Bureau the average household income in United States has dropped in last ten years. The official poverty rate is 15.1% in 2010, in number 46.2 million people- largest number in the 52 years of poverty estimate calculations. In times like this whom do you think is finding it harder?
It’s not like they are jealous of the rich, they all want the big mansions and madzaraddi cars. It’s not that. The nurses, firefighters, elementary school teachers, college graduates they are all frustrated because they have lost their voice in this political chaos. They know they were not bound for Beverly Hill or Manhattan lifestyle, that’s why they watch all the reality shows and celebrity gossips. They just want the security to live a life of dignity and the assurance of wellbeing of their children. The president says, “Wall Street has to pay their fair share”, but how? In 2008 people thought the answer to that “how” was by voting for Barack, now I think they are bleeding too fast and words won’t heal.
In some way, they do have resemblance with the Tea Party. Out of the political system they came in large numbers with some good points in the beginning, but lost focus very quickly by galvanizing their movement with party politics agenda. In the beginning Tea Party pointed out that Washington and Wall Street are too intermingled. And then somehow all of that channeled anger and energy went towards Washington and now towards White House.
This “Occupy Wall Street” movement has the potential to hit the right boards only if they can keep focus and rationalize their frustration. For one, it’s not a 1% versus 99% fight. Taxing the top 1% “only” or taxing them heavily is not the solution, but when Warren Buffet points out that his secretary pays more tax then him that don’t make any sense either. This is high time we look at the deficit problem seriously. Like the Tea Party is holding their extreme view of doing anything and everything to make sure of spending cuts, I think it’s time something extreme on the other spectrum will bring some balance to the issue. Again, mixing the movement with Democrat party politics might not be the answer, but at this point they are the only legitimate political voice this movement has.