The Occupy Wall Street movement is unveiling a picture of United States contrary to its image as upholder of freedom and equality. Last week President Barack Obama announced the successful ending of the Iraq War and successful American led NATO support for Libyan rebels against the dictator Muammar Gaddafi. He asserted that both war efforts were American characteristic support for democracy and freedom. The Occupy Wall Street Movement spreading across the nation represents Americans' discontent about excessive economic inequality. Government's brutal response to Occupy Wall Street demonstrators in Oakland, California, police officers attacked them with chemical weapons and rubber bullets, was more an act of repression than respect for freedom.
Oakland Mayor Jean Quan called off the militarized police response realizing its inappropriateness. She appeared ready to take a more reasoned and cooperative approach to the demonstrators. They responded rudely and irresponsibility to her overture chanting, "Go away." A danger of loosely organized movements is that many members when they gain a semblance of power adopt the petty tyrannical conduct they protested.
Social and economic inequalities are not recent developments in United States' society. They have been characteristic of American society since its birth as the means for a small percent of Americans to amass great wealth from slavery, poverty-level wages, high rates of unemployment and homelessness. The main difference now is that suffering from this inequality has risen to affect college graduates, professionals and previously middle-income people that believed they were immune to it.
I agree with the Occupy Wall Street Movement's basic premise the masses at the bottom of the social and income scale must join to force change. I disagree with many of its members' confused methods that result from ignorance about government. We see in action the inadequacy of social studies in our schools and universities.
The occupiers claim they have a protected right to assemble. The Constitution says Congress shall make no law abridging, "the right of the people peaceably to assemble." The First Amendment also gives the people the right to "petition Government for redress of grievances." They are assembling in Oakland City Government building's plaza where Mayor Quan is the highest government official. She came to discuss their grievances about the city and police action against them. Childishly, they insisted she must stand in line to address them. Unexplainably and inappropriately, she complied with their request. Then, they booed her off the stage. Their conduct admits the obvious fact the mayor of Oakland does not have a duty or authority to address their main grievances over abusive banking laws, stock trading control, unemployment or inadequate schools that are their main complaints. So, why occupy Oakland's City plaza and block other city residents' right to use the space?
A news report quoted many Occupy Oakland members saying they resolve to live in the plaza as part of the worldwide Occupy Wall Street movement. The constitutional right to assemble does not extend to living in the plaza of a city government building. The protesters could show up there every day to discuss their complaints against government and then go home at night. However, they who are less than one percent of residents do not have the right to pitch tents in the plaza to live there and prevent the other 99 percent residents its use. Ironically, by doing so, they model the abusive conduct of the one percent of high-income earners they protest.
Occupy Wall Street members should assemble in ways that do not trample the rights of other people. They should not disrupt government services or create more cost for local government. Doing so harms low-income families that need those services to survive more than families with higher incomes. They Occupy movement should direct their grievances to members of Congress by assembling in front of their local offices and at the Capital in Washington, D.C... They must set goals to create a culture of respect for the rights of all people to a quality education, for the opportunity to earn income needed for a quality standard of living, and for equal access to government services and protection. Otherwise, they only seek inclusion in the privileged group with no real concern for cultural change. However, history shows that when Americans accept a standard for partial equality they only make possible creeping inequality that eventually includes many of them.
Politicians and labor leaders persistently claim the United States needs to create new jobs to reinvigorate our economy. This approach suggests a simplistic approach to a complex problem. The Census Bureau reported 48 million Americans living in poverty January 2011. Some of them had jobs and some were retired. Furthermore, many unemployed people are not impoverished. Our economy has resources for the well-being all Americans. This condition suggests uneven distribution of wealth in the economy is a major part of the problem.
The economy is not improving much, because the causes for its decline remain. Practices in the economy violate immutable market rules of equality. People exchange needed products and services in informal and formal markets. Their exchanges must be mutually valuable. Otherwise, wealth divides unevenly by depriving a high percentage of workers the full value of their labor. This wealth imbalance impoverishes many workers and it deprives the economy of money in circulation it needs to remain healthy.
America’s economy started with uneven distribution of wealth. An oligarchy of wealthy landowners had goals to continue it that way. They couldn’t succeed in an economy with fair commodity value exchanges. Therefore, they made laws and economic policy that empowered employers to enslave some workers and pay others below the value of their labor.
Census 1860 statistics showed results of this quest for wealth. Plantation owners with fifty or more enslaved workers were the wealthiest Americans. Neighboring communities of workers not enslaved lived in poverty, because slave labor satisfied most labor needs. Small farmers without slave labor could not compete profitably with plantations. Northern, wealthy industrialists enriched themselves paying workers’ wages below the value of their labor. They impoverished workers and their communities without using slave labor. Wealth building at workers’ expense continues. Racism, classism, and sexism often decide who loses and how much they lose
History shows that when society permits employers to deprive any group the full value of its labor it harms the economic interest all workers. It removes money from communities eventually leading to business failures and losses of tax money for local government services. This negative effect on the economy is the same whether the low-paid workers are American, illegal-aliens or Chinese and Indian workers supplying product and services to America.
Parasites also drain value from the labor of productive members in our economy. Parasites insert themselves in market exchanges and benefit financially without adding product or service value. Often, they are people that receive financial reward disproportionately higher than value they add to products and services.
Enslavers were master economic parasites. Modern parasites are bankers and other financial institutions, inherited wealth, speculating investors, legal experts and union leaders. They control the economy by making their role a requirement for market exchanges although they add no value to product or service.
Probably bankers leech the most from the economy. Workers and others productive people places wages and profits in banks for safekeeping. Bankers lend money from those deposits for profit. Often from greed, they make loans of money that doesn’t exist. This is easy to do since those loans are paper entries and not money transfers. This unethical practice transfers value from depositors’ money to banks that did nothing to improve or increase the value of a product or service.
Inherited wealth is another economic parasite. Inheritance is an IOU, any record of wealth, one family generation passes to another. However, the IOU does not represent debt anybody in this generation owes the inheritor nor any economic value the inheritor created. Any value society allows the inheritor based on the IOU it must extract from the value of this generation of workers’ labor. Therefore, society’s agreement to inherited wealth for some people imposes an obligation of servitude on others.
Disunity is a powerful force in America's economic problems. It is a fatal disease if not cured early. A nation divided cannot stand. America is a nation without Americans. Inhabitants self-identify as African-American, Asian-Americans, black, Latino, Filipino, white and a variety of other identities. The national census identifies them this way too without a slot for American identity. Americans have divided group loyalties based on those identities. They even call their president, African-American with members of some groups aligned against him. They deny this division. Nevertheless, disunity makes economic exploitation possible. Inability to recognize the disease makes it fatal.
Clearly, the problems of racism, classism, sexism and parasitic exploitation troubling our economy are too complex for a simple solution like creating more jobs. America survived those indulgences, although greatly weakened, because of its superior industrial and farm production advantage after World War II. Now time is all-important. Our self-destructive social and economic policy is ill suited for domestic needs. It will not survive challenges of emerging economies like China, India and European Union.