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Jon Talton

Analysis and commentary on economic news, trends and issues, with an emphasis on Seattle and the Northwest.

October 5, 2011 at 12:56 PM

What Occupy Wall Street wants

Memo

To: The mainstream media

From: Homey

For the longest time, you ignored the Occupy Wall Street movement, then you portrayed it as a hippy-dippy, professional activist fringe. Now the meme is that it’s a protest seeking a message. The message is actually pretty clear. Here are some comments from real people on the We Are the 99 Percent blog:

“I want a government that puts PEOPLE before corporate BOTTOM LINES. HUMANITY BEFORE MONEY.” “I am 45 years old. I was laid off twice in 18 months. The second time 6 months after I got married. I am ‘unemployable’ because of layoffs. I have not worked since November 2008. We have NO healthcare.” “My husband and I have $80k in student loan debt. I am in the process of being diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, a hard enough thing in and of itself. I also have over $30,000 in medical debt because of that. We own cheap cars, live frugally, have a roommate to help, and try hard to keep up. We no longer have any savings, we had to use it up when we moved back home after I made the decision that I could no longer continue graduate school at the time due to my illness. We have NO BAILOUTS. We are unsecured. We are at risk. I work when I’m not too sick, and he works full time. We have a combined annual income of less than $40k annually. Our roommate is here because he lost his job and his house and we took him in. He works enough to help cover food costs. We are always in the hole…”

Questions?

Suzy Khimm sums up one key demand on Ezra Klein’s Wonkblog: Less corporate money in politics. N+1’s Eli Schmitt collected grievances from interviews with protesters, too. Among them: Repealing the Citizens United “corporations have the same rights as people” Supreme Court decision.

The movement is about, as Michael Moore said, reining in the oligarchs: “They’re kleptomaniacs, is what they are. They’re out of control. I think there is some sort of sociopathic illness and they now what us to life in a kleptocracy. Where the kleptomaniacs run the show. This is going to spread.”

And spread it has, including to Seattle and Portland. It will be interesting to see if it grows and shows up in Banktown, USA, for the Democratic National Convention. It remains a grassroots movement, with no Martin Luther King to lead it. It has yet to answer the Sean Connery question in The Untouchables: “What are you prepared to do?” Are you prepared to fill the jails, as the civil rights movement did? Are you prepared to support a local economy? These questions remain to be answered.

But this is an entirely predictable outcome as more Americans lose the American Dream, which is not so much a house as the right to rise through hard work and merit. A return to American fair play. Not a privileged few who game the system, loot the treasury, lay off millions, enjoy tax cuts, shred the social compact, cut wages, demand the end of pensions and health benefits — and call it “just business” and “the free market.”

Today’s Econ Haiku:

Former Twice-Sold Tales

Soon to be a Chase bank branch

Our story, writ small

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