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Occupy Wall Street is an ongoing protest against social and economic inequality, high inequality, greed and corruption in US initiated by the Canadian Activist group Adbusters. The protesters believe that most of the wealth is controlled by only 1% of the population. The slogan “We are the 99%” was raised referring to the growing difference in wealth.
The movement has faced several police crackdown across the United States and fuelled several similar protests in other western nations as well. Where this protest is taking us is still uncertain, but it’s true that this movement has become a hot topic for debate around the world.
The protesters claim that increasing unemployment, spending cuts, and income stagnation has made the so called 99% of the American population suffer. They blame the Wall Street for the global recession. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2010, real median household income has declined 6.4 percent since 2007. Meanwhile, the income of the top 1 percent continues to rise according to analyses of cfr.org.
The major factor driving the Occupy Wall Street movement is unemployment among the youth of the nation. The very same young population equips themselves with all social media tools to keep the movement alive while it grows.
While the Occupy Wall Street movement grows, it is still unable to gather the support of most of the Americans. The polls conducted in October and November shows a decreasing support of the public for the protest. According to a poll done by Quinnipiac University on November 3 only 30% of the American voters had favourable views on the ongoing protest, while 39% were against and rest were unsure. Another survey by the TIME magazine on October 13 showed that 54% of the Americans supported the idea of the movement, while 23% had negative impression.
Most of the Americans believe that 99% term being used as a slogan might not be correct. Dave Gilson at Mother Jones explains how this term “We are the 99%” has come up in the protest with the help of statistics and graphs as he tries to expose who are the 1% in his article.
According to E. D Kain at forbes.com, the slogan “We are the 99%” is little exaggerated, his analysis shows that we could be 75% or atmost 80%, but not 99% or even 90%.
The public is unclear about which path the protest has taken. According to most of the people in America, the protest is losing focus and lacks a unified aim, while some journalists feel the protest has a strong message but the way to put it forward has been wrong till now.
Adbusters co-founder Kalle Lasn says while it is difficult to talk about the protest and the path which it has taken, he believes that the goal of the protests is economic justice, specifically, a “transaction tax” on international financial speculation, the reinstatement of the Glass-Stegall Act and the revocation of corporate personhood. Another group has written an unofficial document, “The 99 Percent Declaration”, that calls for a national general assembly of representatives from all 435 congressional districts to gather on July 4, 2012, to assemble a list of grievances and solutions.
President Obama during a news conference, on October 6: “I think it expresses the frustrations the American people feel, that we had the biggest financial crisis since the Great Depression, huge collateral damage all throughout the country … and yet you’re still seeing some of the same folks who acted irresponsibly trying to fight efforts to crack down on the abusive practices that got us into this in the first place.”
Ron Paul, U.S. Congressman and 2012 Republican presidential candidate: “If they were demonstrating peacefully, and making a point, and arguing our case, and drawing attention to the Fed—I would say, ‘good!'”
Herman Cain, 2012 Republican presidential candidate, calling the protest as anti capitalist: “Don’t blame Wall Street, don’t blame the big banks, if you don’t have a job and you’re not rich, blame yourself!”
Ben Bernanke, Federal Reserve Chairman: “People are quite unhappy with the state of the economy and what’s happening. They blame, with some justification, the problems in the financial sector for getting us into this mess, and they’re dissatisfied with the policy response here in Washington. And at some level, I can’t blame them. Certainly, 9 percent unemployment and very slow growth is not a good situation.”
John Paulson, billionare and founder of Paulson & Co.: “The top 1% of New Yorkers pay over 40% of all income taxes, providing huge benefits to everyone in our city and state. The protesters are vilifying our most successful businesses”
Vikram Pandit, head of Citigroup: “Protesters’ sentiments completely understandable, Wall Street had broken the trust of its clients.”
Manmohan Singh, Economist and Prime Minister of India: “There are reasons why people are protesting. People are protesting in Wall Street, in Europe about the fat salaries that the bankers are getting when people are being asked to tighten their belts. There is problem of growing unemployment in the United States. There is also worry in Europe. So there are problems which the system must have credible answers to take them on board.”
Mikhail Gorbachev, President of former Soviet Union: “The protest is justified, Americans should put their own house in order before attempting to do such with other countries.”
A similar protest took place in India in the month of August against the government over corruption. The protest was extremely peaceful where the public marched the roads with candle lights and also sat on hunger strike without damaging any property or harming anyone. The movement was successful to gather support of a large number of Indian public, nearly 75% claimed by an unknown source.
Though India might not have much to say on economic issues of America, but the land of Gandhi has a lot to teach the violent protesters in New York.