Occupy Wall Street: We’re angry about things and stuff

Hundreds or thousands currently gather in Manhattan’s Zuccotti Park, depending on the day.

Some carry protest signs, some wear costumes, some pass out pamphlets and some antagonize the police force. Many are heard shouting their demands as they march throughout the city. Known as Occupy Wall Street, these protests have even begun to spread elsewhere across the nation. But what is it about?

Simply reading the various signs or hearing the different things being shouted from the streets, you’ll struggle to define the main objective of the protests. You’ll pass a man holding a sign condemning corporate greed, who’s sitting next to a woman passing out anti-war pamphlets, as another man shouts about legalizing marijuana, a woman with a microphone talks about animal cruelty, gay men and women march for greater equality, and a topless woman dances in the street. Is this a protest, or a block party with opinions?

The only theme throughout the camp is all the protesters want something. That something may be different for each individual, but they all want it – and feel they deserve it. Even on its own website, Occupy Wall Street only claims, “The one thing we all have in common is that we are the 99 percent that will no longer tolerate the greed and corruption of the one percent.”

However, even if they are the “99 percent” they claim to be, those in the group have vastly different ideologies and agendas. This diversity is best shown by a list of demands proposed by one of the protestors (although the Occupy Wall Street NYC General Assembly recognizes no demands). On this unofficial list, Lloyd Hart records 13 demands he claims “will create so many jobs it will be completely impossible to fill them without an open borders policy.”

But the demands are far from realistic.

First, he suggests abandoning free trade in favor of increased protectionism, as well as a federal minimum wage of $20 an hour. This single demand would cripple small business owners, unable to pay their workers such steep wages. It would also damage large business owners, as increased tariffs would drive up the prices of raw goods.

Hart also demands “guaranteed living wage income regardless of employment.” Hart is not talking about lightly reforming the welfare system; he is suggesting taxpayer money should support anyone indefinitely, regardless of whether or not they choose to work.

Hart then continues to suggest “free college education.” Is that really what America needs? Our schools are already churning out graduates who are unable to find jobs. Will guaranteeing each citizen a degree somehow create more jobs? It’s much more likely that with more college graduates, employers will simply shift their demands to employ those with master’s or doctoral degrees. Essentially, college will become the new high school, with graduate degrees becoming the equivalent of current bachelor’s degrees. And let’s not forget the huge financial investment that would be required to guarantee a college education to everyone.

One of the most ridiculous demands Hart makes is “immediate, across-the-board debt forgiveness for all.” We may be the all-singing, all-dancing crap of the world, Tyler Durden, but it’s a bit more complex than that. Initially – as a student facing substantial loan debt, credit card debt or medical debt – you may be thinking what a great idea that is. Obviously, debtors would not mind this demand.

But what about the creditors? You might conjure up an image of an old wrinkly banker when you think of creditors, but the fact is the American public consists of both debtors and creditors. Most likely your parents’ retirement account is invested at least partially in some type of debt instrument. Those bonds your grandmother gave you that you’ve been holding for years? Well, this demand would make those worthless. Setting debts to zero would effectively cripple investment in America.

The other demands are similar, but cannot be combined into one central message. This is a fundamental problem facing Occupy Wall Street. People seem genuinely interested in listening, but the protesters lack clarity. The media struggles to portray their message, as each protestor has a different one to share. With so many diverse (and sometimes even conflicting) ideas, it seems unclear if even the Occupy Wall Street protesters themselves are aware of what they hope to accomplish.

Read the Ka Leo version of this article here.


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