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October 2011, Week 2

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What Occupy Wall Street can do for Barack Obama

	Wall Street firms were among Obama's biggest
	donors in 2008, and will be again in 2011. He
	needs us as a counter-weight

By Amy Goodman
Guardian (UK)
October 12, 2011

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/2011/oct/12/occupy-wall-street-barack-obama

Back when Barack Obama was still just a US senator running
for president, he told a group of donors in a New Jersey
suburb, "Make me do it." He was borrowing from President
Franklin D Roosevelt, who used the same phrase (according to
Harry Belafonte, who heard the story directly from Eleanor
Roosevelt) when responding to legendary union organiser A
Philip Randolph's demand for civil rights for African
Americans.

While President Obama has made concession after concession
to both the corporate-funded tea party and his Wall Street
donors, now that he is again in campaign mode, his
progressive critics are being warned not to attack him, as
that might aid and abet the Republican bid for the White
House.

Enter the 99 per centers. The Occupy Wall Street ranks
continue to grow, inspiring more than 1,000 solidarity
protests around the country and the globe. After weeks, and
one of the largest mass arrests in US history, Obama finally
commented: "I think people are frustrated, and the
protesters are giving voice to a more broad-based
frustration about how our financial system works." But
neither he, nor his advisers - nor the Republicans - know
what to do with this burgeoning mass movement.

Following the controversial Citizens United v Federal
Election Commission decision by the US supreme court, which
allows unlimited corporate donations to support election
advertising, the hunger for campaign cash is insatiable. The
Obama re-election campaign aims to raise $1bn. According to
the Center for Responsive Politics, the financial industry
was President Obama's second-largest source of 2008 campaign
contributions, surpassed only by the lawyers/lobbyists
industry sector.

The suggestion that a loss for Obama would signal a return
to the Bush era has some merit: the Associated Press
reported recently that "almost all of [Mitt] Romney's 22
special advisers held senior Bush administration positions
in diplomacy, defence or intelligence. Two former Republican
senators are included as well as Bush-era CIA chief Michael
Hayden and former Homeland Security Secretary Michael
Chertoff." But so is the Obama presidency an expansion of
the Bush era, unless there is a new "Push era".

The organic strength of Occupy Wall Street defies the
standard dismissals from the corporate media's predictably
stale stable of pundits. For them, it is all about the
divide between the Republicans and the Democrats, a divide
the protesters have a hard time seeing. They see both
parties captured by Wall Street. Richard Haass, head of the
establishment Council of Foreign Relations, said of the
protesters, "They're not serious." He asked why they are not
talking about entitlements. Perhaps it is because, to the
99%, social security and Medicare are not the problem, but
rather growing inequality, with the 400 richest Americans
having more wealth than half of all Americans combined. And
then there is the overwhelming cost and toll of war, first
and foremost the lives lost, but also the lives destroyed,
on all sides.

It's why, for example, Jose Vasquez, executive director of
Iraq Veterans Against the War, was down at Occupy Wall
Street Monday night. He told me:

    "It's no secret that a lot of veterans are facing
    unemployment, homelessness and a lot of other issues
    that are dealing with the economy. A lot of people get
    deployed multiple times and are still struggling . I've
    met a lot of veterans who have come here. I just met a
    guy who is active duty, took leave just to come to
    Occupy Wall Street."

The historic election of Barack Obama was achieved by
millions of people across the political spectrum. For years,
during the Bush administration, people felt they were
hitting their heads against a brick wall. With the election,
the wall had become a door, but it was only open a crack.
The question was, would it be kicked open or slammed shut?

It is not up to one person. Obama had moved from community
organiser-in-chief to commander-in-chief. When forces used
to having the ear of the most powerful person on earth
whisper their demands in the Oval Office, the president must
see a force more powerful outside his window, whether he
likes it or not, and say, "If I do that, they will storm the
Bastille."

If there's no one out there, we are all in big trouble.

Denis Moynihan contributed research to this column.

[Amy Goodman is an award-winning broadcast journalist,
columnist, investigative reporter and author. She is the
principal host of Democracy Now!, an independent global news
programme broadcast daily on radio, television and the
internet. Her most recent book is a collection of her weekly
columns, Breaking the Sound Barrier (2009)]

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