99 Percenters Occupy Wall Street

By Amy Goodman 
Nation of Change 
September 21,2011 All rights are reserved.

If 2,000 tea party activists descended on Wall Street,
you would probably have an equal number of reporters
there covering them. Yet 2,000 people did occupy Wall
Street on Saturday. They weren't carrying the banner of
the tea party, the Gadsden flag with its coiled snake
and the threat "Don't Tread on Me." Yet their message
was clear: "We are the 99 percent that will no longer
tolerate the greed and corruption of the 1 percent."
They were there, mostly young, protesting the virtually
unregulated speculation of Wall Street that caused the
global financial meltdown.

One of New York's better-known billionaires, Mayor
Michael Bloomberg, commented on the protests: "You have
a lot of kids graduating college, can't find jobs.
That's what happened in Cairo. That's what happened in
Madrid. You don't want those kinds of riots here."
Riots? Is that really what the Arab Spring and the
European protests are about?

Perhaps to the chagrin of Mayor Bloomberg, that is
exactly what inspired many who occupied Wall Street. In
its most recent communique, the Wall Street protest
umbrella group said: "On Saturday we held a general
assembly, two thousand strong. ... By 8 p.m. on Monday
we still held the plaza, despite constant police
presence. ... We are building the world that we want to
see, based on human need and sustainability, not
corporate greed."

Speaking of the tea party, Texas Gov. Rick Perry has
caused a continuous fracas in the Republican
presidential debates with his declaration that the
U.S.' revered Social Security system is a "Ponzi
scheme." Charles Ponzi was the con artist who swindled
thousands in 1920 with a fraudulent promise for high
returns on investments. A typical Ponzi scheme involves
taking money from investors, then paying them off with
money taken from new investors, rather than paying them
from actual earnings. Social Security is actually
solvent, with a trust fund of more than $2.6 trillion.
The real Ponzi scheme threatening the U.S. public is
the voracious greed of Wall Street banks.

I interviewed one of the "Occupy Wall Street" protest
organizers. David Graeber teaches at Goldsmiths,
University of London, and has authored several books,
most recently "Debt: The First 5,000 Years." Graeber
points out that, in the midst of the financial crash of
2008, enormous debts between banks were renegotiated.
Yet only a fraction of troubled mortgages have gotten
the same treatment. He said: "Debts between the very
wealthy or between governments can always be
renegotiated and always have been throughout world
history. ... It's when you have debts owed by the poor
to the rich that suddenly debts become a sacred
obligation, more important than anything else. The idea
of renegotiating them becomes unthinkable."

President Barack Obama has proposed a jobs plan and
further efforts to reduce the deficit. One is a so-
called millionaire's tax, endorsed by billionaire Obama
supporter Warren Buffett. The Republicans call the
proposed tax "class warfare." Graeber commented: "For
the last 30 years we've seen a political battle being
waged by the super-rich against everyone else, and this
is the latest move in the shadow dance, which is
completely dysfunctional economically and politically.
It's the reason why young people have just abandoned
any thought of appealing to politicians. We all know
what's going to happen. The tax proposals are a sort of
mock populist gesture, which everyone knows will be
shot down. What will actually probably happen would be
more cuts to social services."

Outside in the cold Tuesday morning, the demonstrators
continued their fourth day of the protest with a march
amidst a heavy police presence and the ringing of an
opening bell at 9:30 a.m. for a "people's exchange,"
just as the opening bell of the New York Stock Exchange
is rung. While the bankers remained secure in their
bailed-out banks, outside, the police began arresting
protesters. In a just world, with a just economy, we
have to wonder, who would be out in the cold? Who would
be getting arrested?


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