On “Occupy Wall Street”

The following comment is not my own.  It’s from a poster on Newsvine.  It’s articulate, succinct, and accurate.  We need a dramatic change in our mode of governing and controlling the economy.

“I am not, nor have I ever been, a political activist. I don’t go to protests, I don’t hold up signs. I have, generally speaking, always thought that the best way to change a system was from within, using it’s own systems, language, and policies to make my case, and get things moving in the right direction. It was a tactic that served me well when I was back at Berkeley and a union rep at the bargaining table. By massaging the system, I was able to help convince the administration to give raises they weren’t supposed to be giving, to budge from asinine rule sets, to treat employees better and give them more of the autonomy they needed to do their jobs. All the while my fellow union members were still arguing over what color the signs should be if they went on strike.

But even I can realize when a system is inherently broken beyond all ability to be massaged and used against itself. There is a time and place for back room deals and baby steps towards the common good. Now is not that time. The system is broken, and has been broken, for a long time. How it got that way is a saga that took place over my entire lifetime.

Deregulated banking, lack of insurance regulations and oversight, and criminal forgery rings were surely things we can point our fingers at for why the economy is in the state it is. But, when it comes down to it, the problem is greed. Pure, unadulterated greed. And many would have you think that this is a capitalist problem, that this is the end result of a capitalist society. But I beg to differ. Capitalism requires a cycle of reinvestment, of growth, of putting money to work. If you don’t have those things, if you’re not using the money, it’s not capital — it’s a hoard. This is not capitalism we’re seeing here, it’s materialism. And it needs to change. Now.

I have been reading, for several days (if not longer, they all run together sometimes), about the Occupy Wall Street movement. I have been watching, wondering if it would remain a small group of rag-tag unemployed youth and students. Wondering if it would grow like the Vietnam protests to engulf the entire country. And it seems, according to news outlets nationwide, that it has. That it is continuing to grow, in leaps and bounds, people of all backgrounds coming together to voice their unhappiness at the status quo.

So, in my own way, I’m adding my voice to theirs.

I do not blame our president for the situation we’re in. I don’t blame him for pushing bail outs for a defunct banking industry. It was a quick fix designed to keep us from going over the edge of an economic oubliette. And it accomplished that. But the changes to the system that needed to come with it, the banking reform, the insurance company reform, the investment reform, didn’t show up. Banks are still being allowed to run amok, ruining people’s lives for making the mistake of trusting them.

I can speak to this first hand. Having to help a retiree reorganize her life after being pushed into a short-sale on a condo that she should never have been approved for, if anyone with half a brain had been looking at the situation. Being regaled several times a week with the stories of the way the bank is still trying to get the absolute most out of her plight, instead of just taking what the government is handing out on her behalf and letting her move on. How she was driven into an impending bankruptcy because they outright refused to recalculate monthly payments, and when they finally did relent and do that, they would only take $200/month off them…

And now, a condo that sold for $250,000 is getting offers of $85,000. And the bank, despite getting a $200,000 hand out from the government on every short sell they complete, is balking at those offers. Turning them down, flat, because they aren’t making enough of a profit off the government’s free money… Because getting $285,000 for something they originally paid $250,000 for isn’t a big enough gain. And this retiree — who my little family unit tied themselves into knots (both financially and otherwise) trying to help move, and get settled in a new life 2 doors down from her son — is now on food stamps, instead of living a comfortable retirement. Her home was her retirement plan. Sell it, and live off the proceeds. She believed the lie that the real estate bubble wasn’t a bubble, that homes would continue to increase in value, that the banks were trustworthy. Now look where we are.

I know too many people with this same story. Too many extended families breaking themselves to bail out the members who got stuck in this self same situation. All the while, the banks are laughing their way … Well, to the bank, I suppose, with their ill-gotten gains. And governments are having to slash assistance programs to make up for that expenditure.

The banks got their bail outs. The 1% still have their solvency. What about the rest of us? Where is our help?”

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