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Occupy Doing the Right Thing

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January 20, 2012 by wcobserver

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The reason the Occupy Movement will not just blow over and fade into the on- slaught of election year political rhetoric is simple. Americans, for all their diversity, for all their wrangling and ranting, share one basic understanding: fairness.

Social movements in this country follow much the same pattern regardless of the cause. They are often sparked by a seem- ingly insignificant event like who gets a seat on the bus, stopping a troop train or a police raid on a bar. For some reason, the “story has legs,” spreads, resonates with people and becomes part of the social con- versation.

People debate and argue, offer analogies and give reasons supporting one point of view or the other, until the issue becomes so prominent in our national conversation that it can’t be ignored by the moral and political leadership. We’ve seen it happen with civil rights, the war in Southeast Asia, gender and sexual orientation inequality. After defining the dilemma and wrestling with the possible outcomes, the Ameri- can people often boil it down to “that just doesn’t seem fair.”

The Occupy Movement poked its head up only a few month ago when a few hundred assorted activists, hippies, malcontents and a few regular folks succeeded in drawing attention to a social condition that has been brewing since the 1970s. While the middle class, working class or whatever you prefer to call us, have seen our wages and wealth remain stagnant, the richest folks have got- ten richer, a lot richer, a whole lot richer.

The gap between the extremely wealthy and the rest of us hasn’t been this large since the 1920s. America’s wealth inequal- ity is the largest in the industrialized world. We’re not talking about the rich guy down the road or the millionaire celebrity or

CEO. We’re referring to a system where 400 living, breathing, human beings who put their pants on one leg at a time like the rest of us have accumulated more wealth than half the entire population of the coun- try combined.

Some of them are smart and worked hard. Some aren’t and didn’t. One family of heirs to a successful retailer has more money than 30 percent of the population. Now that’s some lucky sperm.

If it were just the age-old fact that some get rich and others don’t, the whole affair would probably be relegated to the ho-hum category of “so what.” But the rich aren’t just buying yachts and diamonds, they’re buying power. They’re using that power to further their ability to accumulate even more wealth, pay fewer taxes, and operate in an unregulated financial, environmental and labor environment. The accumulation of this much power in the hands of a min- ute percentage of the population flies in the face of everything we have come to under- stand a democracy to be.

No one, liberal, conservative or other, refutes the fact of outsized wealth dispar- ity in this country. The question is what to do about it. The movement is too young to have defined legislative objectives. Some people talk of the need for a small tax on Wall Street speculation. A petition is circu- lating to amend the constitution to limit the influx of corporate money into the electoral process.

Something will be done. Some will cry it’s too much, others will say legislation didn’t go far enough. But, whether consid- ering separate water fountains, an unjust war or any of the other inequalities Ameri- cans have resisted, they will come to see the political and moral perils of this much unfairness.

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