It’s no mystery why the Occupy Wall Street and related protests are capturing the country’s attention. Americans are furious about the state of our nation, and they’re right to be. Millions of people are out of work because of Wall Street’s recklessness. Millions more have been thrown out of their homes for the same reason. Meanwhile, the federal government fails to take obvious steps to address these problems because of the outsized influence of the very Wall Street firms and giant corporations that caused our economic problems. The country is past due for a mass protest movement demanding justice.
Occupy Wall Street has been criticized for not offering a clear set of demands. In fact, the protesters have been eloquent in rejecting the idea that they produce “one demand,” and also in articulating in broad terms what they want. More to the point, it’s not for a lack of ideas that the country is in crisis. Put the unemployed to work retrofitting energy-inefficient buildings, teaching children and meeting other unmet needs. Invest in a green energy revolution. Impose a financial speculation tax , and increase taxes on the wealthy and corporations (and make them pay). Put in place a single-payer, Medicare-for-All health care system. Undo NAFTA-style corporate trade agreements – and don’t enter in any new ones. Force banks to renegotiate mortgage terms, and let foreclosed upon families stay in their homes as renters. Overturn the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United with a constitutional amendment and reestablish the principle that corporations exist to serve the people, not the other way around.
The country’s problem is not the lack of a policy agenda. It’s not even winning strong public support for the policy agenda – the public does support these ideas. The problem is translating the popular anger about the nation’s state of affairs into a political movement strong enough to overcome the corporate opposition. We can only hope that Occupy Wall Street serves as a spark to that political movement.
Public Citizen stands in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street. We thank the protesters in New York and at Occupy protests around the country and world for their courage, commitment, creativity and leadership.