The stock market crash in 1929 and Great Depression of the 1930's showed clerly what the belief in unregulated capitalism and a dependence on the basic goodness of corporations would bring. It also demonstrated that a government had a moral obligation to it's citizen and that recognizing and acting on that obligation is good for everyone.
After WWII America enjoyed the greatest economic growth in it's history and that happened because business and labor together came to appreciate the value of a healthy, fairly paid workforce and government came to understand it's responsibility to see that both business and labor played on a level field and that the elderly the sick and the needy shared in the prosperity
These were the opening two paragraphs in a post I wrote a few months ago. At the time I wrote them the country was watching the struggle to save unions in Wisconsin. The post went on to discuss the debt owed by nearly all Americans to organized labor and how the benefits we largely take for granted today were often paid for with the blood, and not infrequently, with the lives of union organizers and union members. My point was that we all needed to support the Wisconsin protesters because they were fighting for all of us. Those two paragraphs can just as well be applied to the battle being waged in Zuccotti Park by the Occupy Wall Street movement.
Much of the press, after ignoring the growing crowds for weeks, has been critical of the Occupy Wall Street protesters because they have not presented a list of demands, have not issued a manifesto, have not been unified around their goals. Those critical of the movement just don’t get it. The protesters motto, “We are the 99%,” says it all. They are protesting an economic system that has allowed middle class incomes to remain stagnant for three decades during which the share of total income going to the top 1 percent, which stood at 8.9 percent in 1976, rose to 23.5 percent by 2007, and now stands at 40 percent. During the same period, the average inflation-adjusted hourly wage, the type of income on which the vast majority of Americans depend, declined by more than 7 percent. During the three decades after World War II, 1950-1970, incomes in the United States rose almost 3 percent a year for every worker at every level. America had a vibrant and growing middle class. Roads and bridges were well maintained, impressive new infrastructure, including a massive interstate highway system, was built and the future looked bright for everyone.
By the 1980s that began to change. A dark thing happened to America; Ronald Reagan was elected President and those who had always sought to repeal legislation passed in the 1930s, legislation passed in response to the damage done to so many Americans during the 1920s by those whom Franklin Roosevelt correctly identified as “economic royalists,” were encouraged and given a false legitimacy. Once given that encouragement those neo-royalists, under the cynical guise of helping America to grow, set about dismantling the shield of regulations protecting middle class Americans. By the late 1990s they had been largely successful in abandoning the average wage earner to the greed, avarice and perfidy of the banking class. How did the neo-royalists accomplish this feat. They bought their own government. That was nothing new. FDR identified the problem early in his first term when he said:
The real truth of the matter is, as you and I know, that a financial element in the larger centers has owned the Government ever since the days of Andrew Jackson . . . The country is going through a repetition of Jackson's fight with the Bank of the United States only on a far bigger and broader basis.
Statement on the National Industrial Recovery Act (16 June 1933)
With their bought government in tow, the neo-royalists set about extracting money from the American economy and using it to line their already stuffed pockets. They passed tax cuts for the rich while touting that old tried and proven lie that everyone benefits from the trickle down while failing to mention what usually flows downhill. They enacted free trade agreements such as NAFTA which allowed them to increase profits by sending American jobs out of the country where they could hire workers at near slave wages, then pointed to NAFTA as great success hoping no one would notice that, as the United States saw its Mexico trade balance change from a surplus to a big deficit, NAFTA was adding to the growth of the ballooning national deficit. They outsourced jobs in staggering numbers. According to the Wall Street Journal, General Electric, Caterpillar, Microsoft, Wal-Mart, Chevron, Cisco, Intel, Stanley Works, Merck, United Technologies, and Oracle cut their domestic workforces by 2.9 million people over the last decade while hiring 2.4 million people overseas. Some even took stimulus money while shipping jobs to Asia. They hid billions of dollars in offshore accounts and then demanded a bribe in the form of a “tax holiday” before they would return them. They made millions of sub-prime, predatory loans, bribed rating houses to give AAA ratings to loans they knew to be worthless, sold those loans to pension fund managers and created arcane financial instruments called Credit Default Swaps so that they could also profit when the loans they created to fail were not repaid. Worst of all, they destroyed life savings, pension funds and millions of jobs with impunity because they own the government, they knew there would be no penalties.
Again, Roosevelt said it most clearly:
Unhappy events abroad have retaught us two simple truths about the liberty of a democratic people. The first truth is that the liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it becomes stronger than their democratic State itself. That, in its essence, is fascism — ownership of government by an individual, by a group or by any other controlling private power. The second truth is that the liberty of a democracy is not safe if its business system does not provide employment and produce and distribute goods in such a way as to sustain an acceptable standard of living. Both lessons hit home. Among us today a concentration of private power without equal in history is growing.
Simple Truths message to Congress (1938)
This is, I’m pretty sure, what the Occupy Wall Street movement wants addressed. They don’t need a list of demands or a manifesto. They don’t need to be unified around a common goal. The problem is systemic and they want an overhaul which will allow them to share in the wealth this country can produce. They want honest bankers, responsible businessmen and politicians who work for them and laws and regulations to protect them from the bankers, businessmen and politicians who think greed is desirable trait. They want an end to the lies that are used to steal a way of life from them. They want an honest, functional government. They want to change a system in which the top 1 percent takes home 25 percent of the income each year. Mostly, they want to have a future. They want what we all want and if they succeed so do we. They are protesting for us and they deserve our support.