In a span of three weeks, Occupy Wall Street has changed the political debate in America. Instead of the same old divisions of left versus right, Americans are beginning to stand together for economic justice. We realize that this issue transcends party and gets at the core of what we want our civilization to be. It is clear that America has been on two different tracks for a long time. One track holds out the promise of true democracy where every person, no matter how humble, is entitled to be treated with basic human decency by the society in which they live. A democracy entails equality. Equality entails equal access to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. This is the premise on which the United States of America is based, as laid down by the Founding Fathers. The other track holds that self-interest should be the law of civilization. Anything done in the name of self-interest is fair. Those that gain an advantage in wealth and influence have earned it. Those who fall behind have only themselves to blame. The state has no right to interfere with the clash of those self-interests in the marketplace, or most anywhere else for that matter. The past 40 years of American history, highlighted by the Great Recession through which we currently live, has shown us that these two tracks are incompatible. The people have been left with no choice but to take our democracy back.
Our democracy is sick. The One Percent is thriving. The presidential elections of the past 40 years have seen voter turnout hover around 50%. At the same time, the flow of corporate money into political campaigns has increased exponentially. Politicians simply have had more reason to fear the One Percent than the 99. They have waged class warfare on the 99 percent at the behest of the One. Politicians made free trade agreements allowing corporations to move jobs overseas, yet they fired the air traffic controllers union when they went on strike. Politicians started deregulating Wall Street in the 1980s and then bailed them out after they destroyed the economy in 2008. Yet, since 1980, the incarceration rate of the 99 percent has gone from less than half a million to nearly two and a half million due to tougher sentencing standards imposed by politicians. Those same politicians have handed out huge tax breaks and no-bid government contracts to the One Percent while at the same time gutting the infrastructure and social programs servicing the 99. Politicians ensured that the One Percent profited from two wars while the 99 percent fought and died in them. The One Percent has more wealth now than at any other point in our history. The 99 percent works longer hours for less pay than they did 40 years ago. The One Percent can commit massive fraud that jeopardizes the global financial system and get away with it. The 99 percent gets the Patriot Act, surveillance, body scans, bag checks and more jail space awaiting them now than at any other point in American history. All of these are facts. We have a duty to state these facts to the world.
We take up this duty because the media has failed to do so. It is the One Percent who controls the media. Television, radio, movies, magazines and book publishing are all dominated by a handful of corporations. Americans who wish to access information about the wider world have to do so after it has been filtered through a corporate outlet. It is these outlets that set the parameters of public debate. 40 years ago, media outlets by law had to devote equal time to opposing viewpoints on public issues. That law has since been repealed and now media outlets consistently present one viewpoint and call it news. Media outlets used to be required to set airtime aside for political campaigns. Now they sell campaign ad space to the highest bidder. When Richard Nixon told reporters he was not involved in a cover up of the Watergate scandal, those reporters dug deeper and discovered he was lying. When George Bush told reporters Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, those reporters repeated his words far and wide over their corporate outlets. The media has kept us in the dark about the destruction of our democracy. Our presence here on Wall Street is finally making America aware of what corporations have already done to our country.
Occupy Wall Street is here for one reason: to end this dark chapter in American history written by the corporations and to begin a new one that starts with “We the People”. We are here to return America back to its original promise of true democracy. It means reversing the tide of the past 40 years. There is no one goal. There is the awakening that the greed of the One Percent has hijacked our democracy. This awakening helps us build a signpost pointing to the future. No longer will the people of this country be shut out of their democracy by corporate money. If we cannot match the campaign funding of the corporations, we have our numbers. We will no longer be fooled by the rhetoric of a free market because we now see it has led us into slavery. We will no longer pretend that unbridled greed is the American way. We are the people and we determine the American way. Occupy Wall Street is showing us the way: compassion for your fellow man, freedom to speak and be heard, power in numbers instead of dollars, peace, and a genuine sense that America is OUR place, OUR democracy and this point in history belongs to US, WE THE PEOPLE.