I don't like to say that any particular current trend in politics is something we have never seen before in history. The current animosity and therefore paralysis in Congress, for example, is at least matched if not exceeded by the tensions before the Civil War. The power of the wealthy is something we saw before in the late eighteen hundreds, a running battle all the way up to 1929. On the other hand, I would agree that TV, the internet and even smartphones have had new impacts on politics, at least in my opinion.
The Occupy Wall Street folks want to claim they are something new under the sun. Of course, there was the Bonus Army and Hoovervilles between the Wars. But OWS's interesting approach to political demands is somewhat different.
One way I wouldn't characterize it is with the class card as Jack Kelly does: "Who'da thunk a protest movement composed largely of ignorant and arrogant rich kids with no coherent agenda who deliberately disrupt the lives of working people, urinate and defecate in public, steal from street vendors and assault old ladies and little children would become unpopular?"
Kelly has been alternating between defenses of Republican candidates, attacks on government support of higher education and this week's topic, attacks on OWS and the Occupy movement. Kelly's contempt is well symbolized by this paragraph, the central theme of this week's column: "So when Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich said OWS protesters should "go get a job right after you take a bath," he was offering sound advice. But cable news anchors took umbrage."
When I repeated Newt's quote to a friend, she commented that the point was that the protesters can't get a job, and many can't even take a bath. In my opinion, the view of the Occupy movements Kelly wants to portray is of recent college graduates who have moved their kegger downtown, and are simply going wild, stealing food and pretending to be 60's type hippies.
That's easy for a comfortable newspaper columnist who apparently answers not to an editor but rather to the Tea Party to say. But I think that we need to take a closer, more logical look if we want to understand what is really happening.
I mean, we all know that in the last forty years there have been huge increases in productivity due in part to huge increases in technology. We should all also know that middle class (and below)'s wages have not increased by very much over that same time period, sometimes barely keeping up with inflation. These are numbers easily verifiable on the internet. We are the only industrial nation that did not have universal health care/insurance, and even the recent measure passed is in danger of being repealed before it can be implemented. And it was largely the financial sector of our nation that simultaneously caused hundred of millions of Americans to suddenly lose half or more of the value of their homes and/or have their mortgages double or so in cost and for hundreds of thousands of Americans to be foreclosed on, and to set of a worldwide recession where the GNP's of almost all countries went negative for a few quarters, and we still haven't recovered from. Now we have nine percent unemployment (much higher for people with less education) and a President who first tried to find bipartisan solutions with opponents who still call him a socialist and say no to everything.
The first recent US populist protest movement that responded to at least some of these issues, the Tea Party, almost immediately became a tool of conservatives and the super rich. So (for example) despite the fact Tea Partiers themselves often do not have health care or jobs, they rail against the Affordable Care Act and stimulus spending, and concentrate their focus on reducing spending to reduce debt (a strategy that consistently backfires around the world). Some American's have embraced the Tea Party as representing their concerns, but for many the fact the Tea Party obviously wants to control the Republican Party makes clear how little the Tea Party cares for poor people.
Given that is where we found ourselves, it is not surprising (at least to me) that some few ordinary people might take to the streets and literally camp out on the doorstep of corporate America. I think the political naivety claimed by the Occupy movement may be somewhat overstated for some if not many of its members, but I think I get that its concerns have been expressed in terms that ordinary people would understand.
Addressing Kelly's seemingly main charge, that the Occupy movement in general is a magnet for crime, is somewhat complicated. Kelly starts his column with allegations about human waste at Occupy Santa Cruz and OWS; the Santa Cruz allegations are at least credibly disputed. And Kelly's allegations about arrest numbers bear thinking about. These are protests, after all, and protesters do things to attract the attention of the media, which often attracts the attention of the police By the Googling "Occupy Wall Street murders" brought up one account in Oakland of a murder "near" the occupy camp. By that logic, a murder in downtown Pittsburgh could be pinned on Luke Ravenstahl as much as anyone.
Personally, I think that Jack Kelly's contemptuous dismissal of the Occupy Movement does nothing to help PG readers understand things, although it does advance the Republican/Tea Party/conservative's agenda. You may disagree, but how long can we claim the debt is more important than both the recession and the huge income inequity?