Id like to clarify who are the Occupy Cortez participants. You may have seen us holding signs on Fridays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the corner of Main and Market. The person who started the practice did so entirely on his own. The participants subsequently decided that we did not wish to be associated with any political party, though some of our number not a majority are Green Party members. The reason we assemble at that particular place is that it is the highest and most visible point on Main Street. We are either fully employed, retirees, or stay-at-home parents. A number of us are veterans. (We recently disbanded at the precise moment the Veterans Day parade began.)
While there is a great diversity of belief among the participants, there is a general consensus that the vast concentration of economic power today the greatest since the 1920s is directly related to the increasing concentration of political power at the national level, both of which are destructive of meaningful democracy. I think its fair to say we are all tired of the erosion of democracy in modern America and the increasing power of the corporate elite.
In my view, the greatest achievement of the Occupy Movement is that it has awakened much of the nation to the increasing economic inequality of America.The painful reality is that the earnings of most Americans, adjusted for inflation, has held largely steady or declined over the last 30 years while the earnings of the super wealthy the 1 percent has skyrocketed.
I submit that the Occupy Movement has far to go in expanding our national consciousness and dialogue. For example, the corporatized national media either panders to the trivial in search of profits or formulates the news in ways agreeable to corporate America. Meanwhile, the American public is uninformed or ill-informed of issues critical to our future.
How many know that Finland is the only nation in the world currently implementing a program to store its nuclear waste for as long as it remains dangerous that is, from 100,000 to one million years. All the other nations of the world, including the United States, store their nuclear waste in temporary containers that will not long endure.
How many Americans really understand that there is overwhelming consensus among world scientists that climate change is not only real but accelerating, that the threat over the next century to the millions who live near the sea from New York to Cairo and Tel Aviv is real, and that extreme weather events (storms, floods, droughts) are now a common global phenomenon. Other than Democracy Now and NPR, the American media largely ignored the recently failed climate talks in South Africa.
How many Americans have been informed that both major parties are dependent on corporate money, resulting, for example, in a health reform that leaves the giant insurance and pharmaceutical industries still in the drivers seat, thereby keeping medical costs unnecessarily inflated. Additionally, the 1 percent currently hold 40 percent of Americas assets and the recent Supreme Court ruling permitting unlimited political funding by corporations skews the political process in favor of the wealthy, such as the massive money provided by the Koch brothers to the Tea Party to support candidates and influence political thought for their personal business. In addition, the growing divide between rich and poor, which has been increasing since 1976, imperils effective democracy.
I could go on and on. My point is, while the Occupy Movement has expanded the national dialogue, it has far, far to go.
Finally, a few words about the financial crisis. Certain circles argue the crisis was caused by the federal government. The actual explanation is the story of a housing bubble that was inflated wildly by speculative and fraudulent banking practices until the bubble burst. Specifically and partially, Wall Street banks combined mortgages with other mortgages, securitized them and sold them to brokers who sold them to other entities. This was at variance with Main Street banking practice by which a bank carefully examines the credit-worthiness of a borrower and requires a down payment. Wall Street banks aggressively wrote as many mortgages as they could since they they made their money in commissions and were no longer restrained by depression era regulations that served the nation well for 50 years until they were eliminated under Clinton and Reagan. Fannie and Freddie (quasi-private/governmental entities) followed the example of Wall Street and aggressively wrote liar loans by which borrowers could state their net worth without any proof and secure loans without downpayment, thereby adding greatly to the bubble. (The charge that Fannie and Freddie caused the crisis is utterly false.)
Today local banks have been saddled with 800 pages of regulations to prevent practices they did not employ. Wall Streeters who caused the crisis in the first place will find ways around these new regulations. Wall Street will continue to make fortunes with bail funds they acquired without any requirement to reform under both the Bush and Obama administrations. It is the innocent American public who will carry the burden of decreased governmental services, like Medicare for starters. Yet not one Wall Streeter will be tried for massive fraud.
The Occupy movement is on target in pointing the finger of blame at Wall Street and their pawns in Washington such as Obama and Romney who continue to accept millions from Wall Street.
Ned Harper is an Occupy Cortez participant. He writes from rural Montezuma County.