Essay occupy wall_street_movement


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Essay occupy wall_street_movement

  1. 1. Analyse the causes and significance of the “Occupy Wall Street” movement Occupy Wall Street or as an abbreviation OWS, is a growing people-powered, leaderlessmovement. The very first meeting of this action was on 17th September 2011 in the New York City,based in Zuccotti Park near Wall Street financial district. Inaugural protest was joined by about1000 people, marching through the streets and protesting ( with colourful and unyielding slogans)economic and social inequality, corruption, corporate influence over government and mostlycorporate greed. Recently similar movements, inspired by Occupy Wall Street protests have spreadall over the world. On the October15th “ Occupy the world” demonstrations took place in about 900cities globally. 1This cosmopolitan spread of protests, shows how deeply people are being angered,how badly they want to be heard and how seriously their lives are being affected by destructiveeconomic situation. The protesters are supported by hacker group, known as Anonymous, whohelps them in threatening corporations workers, as a form of revenge for a hundreds of activistsarrested by police officers. They are also largely supported by some of the biggest labour unions inthe nation. 2 The genesis of this movement may sound like obvious, but I assure you that itsmuch more complicated. After analysing a few articles about OWS, I came across a really scarcemention about direct inspiration for this movement. Out of the blue, it turned out, that the ArabSpring event had a crucial impact on it . Although situations and aims in these areas are totallydifferent, OWS decided to acquire tactical inspiration from protesters in the Arab countries. As oneof the protester said in the interview: “Guillaume Marceau: The Arab Spring inspired the tactic.Occupy a public space and hold it for as long as it takes.” Although revolutionary demonstrations1
  2. 2. in the Arab world were mostly successful ( but required sacrificing of individuals life), like endingthe 42-years of Mummar Ghaddafi autocracy, we cant yet state if OWS will have such a bigimpact on changes.3 It’s important to say, that “Occupy” protest was inspired by Canadian activist, anti-consumerist group, called Adbusters. Primary they had proposed a peaceful occupation of WallStreet. The Adbusters Media Foundation was created in 1989, in Vancouver British Columbia , byKalle Lasn and Bill Schmaltz. They ( Adbusters) describe themselves as “ a global network ofartists, activists, writers, pranksters, students, educators and entrepreneurs who want to advance thenew social activist movement of the information age. Our aim is to topple the existing powerstructures and forge a major shift in the way we will live in the 21 st century”. Adbusters publishtheir free magazine in which people can read about multifarious thematics, ranging fromgenetically modified food to media concentration, but their main concern is enormous impact ofcommercial forces on our physical and cultural environment. The circulation of their magazine isquite astonishing, reaching 120 000 copies internationally. Of course, their existence is not onlymarked by magazine, but also campaigns. “ Buy nothing day”, “ TV turnoff week”, “ Digital DetoxWeek” and “subvertisements” are only one of the most significant ones. They are supported byorganisations like “ Friends of earth” and “Greenpeace”.Concentrating on OWS, Adbusterssuggested the idea of occupying on their e-mail list and “it was spontaneously taken up by all thepeople of the world”. 4Twitter, became a medium for a global protest and together with otherplatforms amazingly accelerated the whole process of spreading the information. 5 Adbusters haveinvented satirical poster , depicting a dancer on the top of Wall Street’s tremendous Charging Bull,there was one question on it “ What is our one demand?”. 6 One journalist said, that “it is hard to discern a unified aim for the movement”,officially the protesters havent created a list of specified demands yet. However motives which laybehind it are very explicit. The first and the most significant cause for OWS is widely understood3
  3. 3. ‘wealth inequality” or “wealth gap” in the United States of America. By wealth, of course, weunderstand not only the substantial form of it, like money, but also real estate and personalproperty. While “wealth” mainly refers to “possessing”, the “income” is specifically what peoplereceive through work, retirement, or social welfare. Economic inequality is both, combination ofwealth and income inequality. The slogan “ we are the 99%” is the political manifestation andeconomical claim. It occurs very often in protesters statements not without reason. 7Since the late1980s, citizens are being of the opinion, that United States nation is divided into two groups, the“haves” and “not haves”. 8This points out to the fact, that the class analysis is back to politics.Protesters call them selves “ the 99%”, which means, the majority of working citizens, who havealmost no impact on financial, governmental rules, in contrast to the “1%” tiny minority who has itall, and sometimes is even dictating the rules! They bring up the theme of social injustice, which isomnipresent in everyday life. Many competent surveys prove, that since 1970, there is an increased concentration ofwealth in the hands of 1% wealthiest Americans, which affects widening the “wealth gap” betweenthe 1% “richest „ and the 99% “others”. Analysing from the historical point of view, there werea lot of causes, why this gap was extending. The average pre-tax income since 1979 for the bottom90% has decreased, while for 10% has increased, because the federal taxation became lessprogressive. Then in the period of 1992-2007 the wealth become wealthier, because taxation ratewas reduced by 37%. After the Great Recession in 2007, there was a drop of 36,1% in medianhousehold wealth, but for the wealthiest drop was only of 11,1%. In the several next years theincome of the most prosperous grew 10 times faster, than this of the bottom 90%. It this period,amazing 60% of total income fell into the wallets of wealthiest ( largest share of total income since1928). Today the top 1% account for 24% of all national income.97 taps-into-longstanding-concerns9
  4. 4. But not only taxation is to blame. The creation of financial, banking services, which are nottreating people from different social classes in the same way, indeed theyre being more lucrativefor the wealthy . Higher rates of savings for wealthier, higher net rates of returning to assets, lowercredit costs and lower credit rates. It may seem, like the whole bank functioning system wascreated to help wealthiest to produce more and more profit. Since it is hard for poorer people todeal with banking services, rich are accumulating more assets, and working classes are just gettingby ( in a particular good cases) or barely making ends meet ( in particular bad cases). Another reason is the financial sector, which broke away from the real economy andis living in his own world. It is estimated, that the value of derivatives market ( in which 15 largestbanks in the U.S. and Europe are involved) is several times higher than the GDP income for thewhole world! Bank players are reaching without any difficulties for client’s money, for deposits ofpopulation and concerns. They are doing it to keep up with their competitors and to gain money onStock Exchanges, however its very risky. The whole banking ignorance of the risk has evenmoved to traditional banking services. Banks started to offer mortgage, different credits for alleager, without paying attention to their incomes. It is now resulting in bank insolvency, peoplebeing left behind with colossal debts and no houses, graduates with no perspectives of a dreamedjob and no money...10 Nowadays, we are observing, that the corporate profits are at an all- time high( accounted in dollars and share of the economy). CEOs pays and corporate profits have escalated 11over the 20 years, comparing to production worker, whos pay has risen only by 4%. What ismore banking institutions in other countries on the model of Wall Street banks, started to payenormous bonuses to it’s presidents and managerial staff. For instance, Bob Daimond, theManaging Director of British Barclays, has earned in previous year 14 mln pounds, otherManaging Director from Deutsche Bank Josef Ackerman earned 9 mln euros. 12 Contrarily average1 0 Newsweek Polska 44/2011, 31.10-06.11.11 ,article title: „Śmierć spekulantom”, p. 56-60.11 2 Newsweek Polska 44/2011, 31.10-06.11.11 ,article title: „Śmierć spekulantom”, p. 56-60.
  5. 5. wages, as a percent of the economy, are at an all-time low and havent increased in 50 years... Butthis is a result of a low-cost China workforce, which is bombarding our global market.13 People are getting irritated not only by enormous earnings but also by financialscandals. Greedy brokers are investing tremendous amounts of money and because of theirimprudence also loosing a great part of it. Some of them are already behind the bars, but somehadnt faced the justice yet. According to December 2005 questionnaire “ Big businesses have too much powerin Washington”, another one, forthcoming done by Pew Research Center report will show largemajorities saying that “while the government does not do enough for both the middle class and 14poor people, two in three think it does too much for the wealthy” Let me quote one of the firstofficial statements of the “Occupy”: “ We come to you at a time, when corporations, which placeprofit over people, self-interest over justice and oppression over equality, run our governments.This leads us to defining another flash point for the OWS, the corporation influence overgovernment. In everyday life I wasn’t even aware, that world’s biggest corporations might havesuch a big impact on government and use a wide range of methods, until I read different articlesexplaining that problem. As it turn out, this concern was deeply rooted in American history. In fact,for the past centuries big business relied on big government for support. Today, there’s nodifference, only this influence is more complex and protected. In general, corporations influencegovernment through campaign contributions, through lobbying, and through captured regulatoryagencies. There are many different ways to support the campaign: campaign founding, soft money,independent expenditure, issue ads, public financing, non-decisions, ect. When it comes tolobbying, the main point is to meet with representative, senator, legislator, persuade them to yourpoint of view and get them to act in your way. Captured regulatory agencies or regulatorycommissions, are the last component of the Washington Triangles. It’s a governmental-corporational chain, in which basically, corporations influence government through lobbyist,1 3 actionBar=&articleID=844191998&ids=0UdzcMcPATd3wId3oTdzoQd3gUb3wVej4VcjgQe2MRc3kSd30MdjwIc zsPcz4PejcU&aag=true&freq=weekly&trk=eml-tod-b-ttle-68&ut=2vP9_50sRHskY11 4 streets-taps-into-longstanding-concerns
  6. 6. congressional committees make profitable decisions, executive agencies give out contracts, finallyregulatory commissions adopt regulations, which are beneficial or restrictive. If each link of thechain works properly, than everyone benefits. Although society is the one who suffers. 15There isno wonder, why people are excluding theirselves from the mainstream politics, they believe, thatits a rich- persons club, which is totally impermeable for them. What is more, they are frustratedby political debates, campaigns, protests, because they are carried on a level of abstraction talks,not a real citizens problems.16 As the “Occupy” are a still ongoing protests, spreading all over the world theirconsignment, and further protesting, it is hard to talk already about their significance. But if wetake a closer look at their actions and responses from different people, commenting their efforts,we can state some. Firstly, we have to emphasize again, that the Occupy movement has reached trulyglobal perspective. Mainly, by social media like Twitter, Facebook and web pages of organizators.BaaS has done a monitoring on social media about the Global Change action. Although theirresearch tools were limited ( only some keywords and only in English), they proved a lot ofinteresting points and gave us a little sample of which we could analyse the whole situation.Twitter was the main platform of the protesters and of course majority of mentions were made inthe USA. But thats not the main point, because as we analyse further, we can observe a wholerange of other countries on different continents were also concerned about situation- from Swedento Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea. If we look at the content tone survey, we can state, thatmost of the mentions were neutral and the negative ones were only 100 more than the positive one.The main emotions, which users expressed, were of course the social emotions, then money wasproven to be the main cause of their sufferings. But living out the virtual world, in the real one,there were global protests, accounting for 951 cities in 82 countries. The Noble winning price,Elias Cantetti, compared spreading of such a movement to a forest fire of flood, that becomes evenmore powerful and difficult to control, which is true. 171 5 6 7
  7. 7. Public opinion research centres started to conduct a surveys, whereas we are approving thismanifestations or disapproving them. Study, which was realised on October 12 th by NBC/ WallStreet Journal, found out that 37% of voters tend to support this movement, while 18% have anegative impression of it. However, the supporting impression consolidates, last survey done byQuinnipack University in New York indicated, that 67% of voters support the movement, while23% do not. The results also proved, that 87% of New Yorkers find it OK, that people areprotesting.18 Such a growing percentage, might point to the fact, that people are becoming aware offactors impacting on nations( their) economic problems. Economic obstacles, which are not onlyaffecting commercial institutions, large banks, international corporations but also, above all,society. To name a few: the biggest unemployment rate, since the Great Depression ( some sourcesstate that:14 mln people only in America!), unequal distribution of income, big profits for banksand corporations, insufficient control on consumer services and debts, enormous influence ofcorporations on government... People are realizing, that global capitalist system is immoral andirrational. It creates a large disproportion amongst minority obscenely rich oligarchs and majorityof poorly-paid workers or even worse- unemployed. Majority has a lack of influence over thegrowing economic crisis and is forced to pay for it. This hierarchical discrimination is creating alot of anger. Developing a controlled capitalism, which is operating within limits defined by publicgoods, is one way to solve the problem. Ending economic dominance of corporations( decentralization), supporting small businesses and creating economic law equality is anothersolution. Another significance of this movement, is affirmation of the possibility of the SocialAct. It is negation of the “(TINA)There is no alternative ” ideology. Contrarily there is analternative, because the OWS movement itself symbolizes one.19 Realization of fact that the voiceof ordinary people isnt left with no response. Maybe that because of fact, that this time it is a realmassive demonstration and that protesters are really angry and resistant ( The Arab Spring tactic). Ihope this is the global change of fact, that the small unelected minority dominates the economic1 8 9
  8. 8. system, and great majority has no democratic voice. There is a great response on protests from suchan important institutions and people as: The White House, Congress, Politicians, Unions, Businessleaders, Individuals representing “ The 1%”, celebrities, authors, academics and of courseinternational representatives. It means, that all of these people are concerned about this situation.President Obama said “(...) I think people feel separated from their government. They feel that theirinstitutions arent looking out for them”, even New York city mayor Michael Bloomberg isntcriticising the protests “People have a right to protest, and if they want to protest, well be happy tomake sure they have locations to do it." Although most of the oligarchs comment on this movementwith disapproval, some of them are trying to empathize with protesters, as Fadrad Ebrahamiwearing t-shirt “ Tax me. Im good for it”. Celebrities, authors and academics so as internationalrepresentatives are mostly on the “Occupied” side. As of academics, prof. Paul Levinson fromFrodharm University, states that OWS and similar movements symbolize the rise of directdemocracy- the one that people are making decisions for themselves without having electedleaders. Because, as I wrote earlier OWS is a leaderless movement. 20 So far, the voices of the Occupy Wall Street movement arent neglected in the bigpolitical world. In the G20 summit in Cannes (France), head of the United Nations Ban ki Moon,has supported some demands of the protesters and has asked to consider protesters concerns aboutthe global state of economy. French President Nicolas Sarkozy has challenged the second richestman in the world- Bill Gates to propose some solutions to G20 leaders, how to raise founds to meetneeds of the poorest. Amongst Gates suggestions: a small tax on trades of stocks, derivatives, andother financial instruments, also known as a financial transactions tax. In Bill Gates opinion, thereare a few solutions, which were creating significant improvements in countries where they wereimplemented, raising 1,5 million dollars per year. 21 While we are already in a political theme, let me compare two movements. Thereare various opinions, whether the Tea Party Movement and Occupy Wall Street have anything incommon. As I was reading different comments, presentations and information I found some2 0 1
  9. 9. similarities and differences between those two people-powered protests. Let me start fromparallelism. Both are frustrated with a government and institutions, which are minding their owninterests and not serving society. Secondly, both have gathered in a huge groups of people, to bevisible and heard by others. TPM and OWS are speaking on behalf of a larger part of society, theywere loudly commented by the media and politics. Moreover, both have support from politicians,celebrities, entrepreneurs, religious leaders, authors and academics. Let me consider differences( which are mentioned more often). The most significant difference is ideology, from Americanpolitical point of view, while the Tea Party bends strong right, the OWS crew leans mightily to theleft. Tea Party have had a more concrete aims and objectives to reach, contrarily OWS has a plentyof ideological perspectives, which are not so well defined. What is more, OWS seems to be muchmore younger and more ethically and socially diverse than TP ( hypothetically). Taking all intoconsideration OWS has more aggressive tactic ( almost 3000 arrested), is much more unilateral anddoes not forget any financial mistakes.23 Taking all into account, I must state that before the start of the Great DepressionAmerica was surviving similar situation. However, Americans did manage to handle it in 15-20years period. How it would be handled now( on a global scale)? No one really knows, but suchmovements as „ Occupy Wall Street” and „Occupy” globally, point out to the fact, that somethingneeds to be done. They are calling for the Global Change, which should be operating on manyspheres of life. Social, economic, political even cultural, to make world more „human” one. Theymake people aware, of global problems affecting everyday life. What is significant, is the unity ofall people all over the world. Apparently mistakes were made in different governments,corporations, decisions , not just in the financial heart of the world, as the Wall Street remains tobe. However this statement, may be put into the question, because 47% of Americans say thatWall Street hurts the U.S. Economy, more than it helps. 24Of course, we cant state that Wall Streetshouldnt exist more, but some sort of regulations should be implemented, to make financialsituation stabilized again. As of nearly two months of existence, OWS movement did achieve some2 3 4 streets-taps-into-longstanding-concerns
  10. 10. goals: it reduced debit-card bank fees, affected the national conversation, took attention of workersof financial institutions, emerged as a threat for corporations. Supreme Court blocked restrictionson the amount of money corporations could devote to political campaigns. Although their actionswerent always responsible, act of violences, abusing small businesses around Zucotti Park , theywere dictated by large feeling of anger, which simply bursted out. 25 Still protesters should realise,that anger isnt helping them, but destroying their efforts. Just as Mohamas Ghandi stated „ angerand intolerance are the enemies of correct understanding”. So far, as the newest informationpresent, occupying part of the movement may come to the end. Police is warning to shut downdemonstrations cities in most of the towns. Most resistant protesters still come to the park toexpress their solidarity, but they must to go home at night, because it is banned to occupy anylonger. As most of the protesters claim, its not about the location or camping out, but its about themessage of the movement and movement itself. There is another “Occupy” action planned, but thistime it will take place outside the Congress. Protesters announced on their Facebook page, thatsuch an action will make the scene on the 17 th of January and announced to bring with 1 milliontents.26 As well as protesters are assured that they must to protest as long as it takes, I am assuredthat their global action will try to bring world on a good road of peace, justice and humanity. Maja Trifunović International Business 1st year Wrocław Uniwersity of Economics2 5 months--a-scorecard.html2 6