Okay, I know it's time-consuming to read links in blog posts, so (although I'd strongly encourage you to read the links I've just posted for yourself) I'm showing the grievances listed in the Declaration of Occupation, hoping we can think critically about the issues raised by the protesters.
- They have taken our houses through an illegal foreclosure process, despite not having the original mortgage.
- They have taken bailouts from taxpayers with impunity, and continue to give Executives exorbitant bonuses.
- They have perpetuated inequality and discrimination in the workplace based on age, the color of one’s skin, sex, gender identity and sexual orientation.
- They have poisoned the food supply through negligence, and undermined the farming system through monopolization.
- They have profited off of the torture, confinement, and cruel treatment of countless animals, and actively hide these practices.
- They have continuously sought to strip employees of the right to negotiate for better pay and safer working conditions.
- They have held students hostage with tens of thousands of dollars of debt on education, which is itself a human right.
- They have consistently outsourced labor and used that outsourcing as leverage to cut workers’ healthcare and pay.
- They have influenced the courts to achieve the same rights as people, with none of the culpability or responsibility.
- They have spent millions of dollars on legal teams that look for ways to get them out of contracts in regards to health insurance.
- They have sold our privacy as a commodity.
- They have used the military and police force to prevent freedom of the press.
- They have deliberately declined to recall faulty products endangering lives in pursuit of profit.
- They determine economic policy, despite the catastrophic failures their policies have produced and continue to produce.
- They have donated large sums of money to politicians, who are responsible for regulating them.
- They continue to block alternate forms of energy to keep us dependent on oil.
- They continue to block generic forms of medicine that could save people’s lives or provide relief in order to protect investments that have already turned a substantial profit.
- They have purposely covered up oil spills, accidents, faulty bookkeeping, and inactive ingredients in pursuit of profit.
- They purposefully keep people misinformed and fearful through their control of the media.
- They have accepted private contracts to murder prisoners even when presented with serious doubts about their guilt.
- They have perpetuated colonialism at home and abroad.
- They have participated in the torture and murder of innocent civilians overseas.
- They continue to create weapons of mass destruction in order to receive government contracts.*
I'm pleased that their list begins by protesting foreclosures, since I happen to agree that our economic crisis originated with subprime mortgages. In his September 28, 2008 Op-Ed piece entitled "Frank's Fingerprints Are All Over The Financial Fiasco" for the Boston Globe, Jeff Jacoby explains:
The roots of this crisis go back to the Carter administration. That was when government officials, egged on by left-wing activists, began accusing mortgage lenders of racism and "redlining" because urban blacks were being denied mortgages at a higher rate than suburban whites.
The pressure to make more loans to minorities (read: to borrowers with weak credit histories) became relentless. Congress passed the Community Reinvestment Act, empowering regulators to punish banks that failed to "meet the credit needs" of "low-income, minority, and distressed neighborhoods." Lenders responded by loosening their underwriting standards and making increasingly shoddy loans. The two government-chartered mortgage finance firms, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, encouraged this "subprime" lending by authorizing ever more "flexible" criteria by which high-risk borrowers could be qualified for home loans, and then buying up the questionable mortgages that ensued.
All this was justified as a means of increasing homeownership among minorities and the poor. Affirmative-action policies trumped sound business practices. A manual issued by the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston advised mortgage lenders to disregard financial common sense. "Lack of credit history should not be seen as a negative factor," the Fed's guidelines instructed. Lenders were directed to accept welfare payments and unemployment benefits as "valid income sources" to qualify for a mortgage. Failure to comply could mean a lawsuit.
As I see it, the foreclosures, though heartbreaking, were inevitable, and the banks lost money. As wonderful as it sounds to put "people over profits," the fact is that profits are necessary to keep banks operative. Freddy Mac and Fanny Mae, in coercing banks to lend to people who clearly lacked the means to repay their loans, Barney Frank blamed the very banks that suffered losses rather than acknowledging that government forced them into unwise lending policies in the first place.
So now the Occupiers hold Wall Street culpable for people buying homes that they couldn't afford? I'm sorry, but nobody should be buying a home that they can't afford. My husband and I are also low-income, and we've always understood that home ownership is not a Constitutional right, but a privilege that carries responsibilities that we're unable to accept. We did not expect a lending institution to give us a mortgage, because we knew we couldn't make payments. The real accountability lies with borrowers who expected to live beyond their means, it seems to me.
As you can see, I've only tackled Occupy Wall Street's first grievance. I rather wish their movement limited itself to just a few issues, so that dialogue wouldn't feel so much like putting pantyhose on an octopus. These protesters have deep concerns for our country, as do those of us in conservative circles, but it's difficult to rationally discuss the concerns when they're camped out on public property beating drums and holding meaningless signs that bear vague slogans threatening capitalism.
I hope readers see my willingness to take on the issues in an orderly fashion. I'm not certain I can (or even want to) devote this blog to every bullet point in the Declaration of Occupation, but I do have more to say in future posts. I pray I can do so with humility and clarity. But please--one tentacle at a time!