As the occupy Wall Street drags on, politicians continue to mock protests while cities bemoan the cost of the movement in everything from extra police presence, to over time, to sanitation costs cleaning up after protest demonstrations. At the same time businesses are beginning to complain, not just justifiably about vandalism in the form of graffiti, broken windows or violence, making them fear coming to work, but in crowds causing people to stay away for businesses surrounded by protesters, avoiding areas with large groups of people. The latest, ill-conceived comments by now presidential front runner Newt Gingrich blasting protesters saying the whole movement is predicated on the premise we owe them everything, claiming they don’t know how business is created in this country, that someone needs to assert the simple concept of go get a job right after you take a bath, rattling off that they want to take over a park they didn’t pay for, to go nearby to use bathrooms they don’t want to pay for, to beg for food they don’t want to pay for. This is the simplicity the anti- occupy leaders and politicians want to boil it down to; the public chiming in too decrying the crowds as 99% ridiculous. But protesters would say if it’s costing you that much help us, because if we succeed it will help you; Newt Gingrich telling people to take a bath is the kind of insensitivity only spurring occupy activists on, while showing a profound ignorance of real grievances, real issues
Making people want to say hold it Mr. Gingrich, the “you don’t work you don’t eat” adage, part of his dis against the Wall Street demonstrations, doesn’t function if you can’t get a job to earn money to buy food. Neither does it hold water, when people have a job part time, minimum wage, the only thing they can get, still can’t afford to buy food to sustain them for a single month. And since when do you have to pay to use a public park; there are no fees to visit, to walk your dog, enjoy a picnic, jog. So why are politicians suddenly expecting occupy Wall Street demonstrators to pay to use the park, regardless of whether they are technically camping or not? More importantly, it should cost exactly nothing to get the attention of your government; part of Occupy’s point, today government only listens to the uber rich, the mega corporation, not the average American or a mass of them. Next what’s the complaint about using public bathrooms; to hear most city officials speaking about occupations, as they are now being called, people aren’t using bathrooms leading to the unsanitary conditions they feel they must evict protesters to clean up after. Point two, again public bathrooms aren’t something you have to pay to use, rendering Gingrich’s accusation null and void. Yes one guesses it could be argued the amount of people allegedly frequenting them is costing cities, businesses more in toilet paper, yet judging by one unrelated city’s proposed cost cutting measure requiring city workers in one building to bring their own toilet paper, it’s just par for the course to use an unpopular incident, public action as a scapegoat. Although it leaves you wondering how occupy protests differ from concerts, outdoor events and other venues that draw large crowds inevitably causing individuals to use bathrooms in the vicinity; meaning no matter what, someone will always be complaining.
No one asked presidential hopeful Gingrich about the source of his information for the diatribe he launched at occupy Wall Street; maybe they should have. Because the movement isn’t broke; in New York’s Zuccottie Park, the birthplace of protests, one college student majoring in finance dropped out of school to manage funds donated to the cause. The same Zuccottie Park protest site writing checks for undisclosed items, reasons despite lack of management structure, using Wi-Fi to post things on the internet, which had information booths consisting, in part, of things written on a chalk board; another occupy area has a newspaper/newsletter known as the Occupy Wall Street Journal, either paid for with funds to buy materials, equipment or donated via an individual or individuals with newspaper experience and access to printing facilities. Speaking of donations, much of the food presented at the New York protest site was donated, including baked goods from a woman in the Midwest; businesses and citizens no doubt pitched in food stuffs to support protestors fighting for economic equality. There is nothing to say it hasn’t also occurred in other major occupy spaces; headlines splashed across TV and newspapers, all over the internet highlight violence, circumstances described as police brutality, protestor mayhem, varying messages, goals and shocking video, but no major headline has mentioned anything about begging food, protestors being unwilling to pay for non-donated consumables. In fact, in Des Moines Iowa they agreed to pay their utility usage and, according to their park director, saved the city money by hauling their trash out in barrels and shoveling after the first snow, a direct contradiction to the picture painted by people who are nowhere near an occupy gathering, have no desire to go there in the interest of seeing the truth for themselves, who have a vested interest in delegitimizing it as a citizen movement, in this case because it aids Newt Gingrich’s bid for president.
Of course these are just the most recent in a long line of assumptions and complains leveled at largely peaceful protests modeled after civil disobedience now complete with an expenditure amount for occupy demonstrations from extra police, to overtime, to running mobile command centers, damage to public property and clean up; thousands all the way up to millions in larger cities like Oakland where according to an AP report spending amassed 2.4 million responding to crowds. 785,000 in Portland Oregon, 652,000 for Atlanta, 625,000 of city funds in Seattle, 575,000 is the cost for occupy Boston, well below the 2 million estimated and only roughly 2% of the city’s overtime budget. New York has spent 7 million on overtime vs. a usual 550 million; keeping in mind it’s a mere drop in the bucket of a 4.5 billion dollar budget. Yes the amounts might seem staggering; however, much of the expense is not used investigating alleged sexual assault, vandalism (though some property damage numbers are included in the reported analysis), increased crime, even disturbing the peace, but rather in acts of police brutality like what was filmed on the UC Davis campus in California, where a police officer let loose a can of pepper spray on supposedly out of control students. Despite police testimony they were being pressed and felt threatened by the crowd, the officer chose to spray those students not even standing up, not shouting or holding objects, forget throwing them instead huddled on the ground silent, easily stepped over if necessary. Similar actions provoking an equal response by thousands in more volatile areas like Oakland, such as the young Iraqi war veteran with a crushed scull. Further funds are spent evicting protesters from public areas, seemingly using a technicality regarding “no camping” laws, sanitation concerns in the hopes demonstrators will simply go away; which is incidentally when nearly all the violence breaks out, all the extra police are needed, people on both sides get hurt, maneuvers clearly proven to spark violence where none existed before.
Someone said to me in a discussion about the occupy movement that like politicians business owners have their blinders on, only for different reasons. Focusing only on their bottom line they are tunnel vision-ed to all else, feeding into commentators, political figures now calling occupy masses obstructers, disruptors who should be marching on Washington not preventing a secretary on lower Manhattan from going to work, not driving away business from coffee shops, eateries just trying to get by, echoing what former house speaker Newt Gingrich also had to say about occupy individuals other than take a bath. Contending that these, he went so far as to imply they were ignorant, people have no idea how wealth is created in this country stating it is created by business, small business willing to hire, taking a risk, remarking that it’s people who have jobs, pay taxes that allow things to function. But people, particularly these “ignorant masses” do understand how wealth is created in this country, they understand the bulk of the wealth gained by Wall Street, the primary target of their anger and frustration was gotten through financial engineering, not investment, not business, but manipulation. Individuals do understand that mega corporations are shutting out even mid-sized corporations never mind small businesses, the same mega corporations sitting on billions in cash while firing workers, refusing to employ job training when they do hire. It is why they are setting up encampments; American’s have seen union, collective bargaining rights evaporate for the love of saving a buck, hints why some city workers have joined the protests. Such ill-informed comments appearing all the more foolish taking into account state by state job recovery numbers projecting some states won’t see pre-recession type job availability until 2018, the earliest 2014; only two states have recovered fully in the 3 years since the financial crisis and housing bubble took so much from so many. Said calculations only forecasting when the number of jobs will increase to pre-recession levels; it indicates nothing about the type of jobs. But for those who understand the engine of our economy, driven by small business, odds are they will be minimum wage jobs carrying no benefits. Here Gingrich proves Occupy’s point for them; individuals, family bread winners would be more than happy to get a job right after they go take a bath. Except there are few jobs period and jobs currently available won’t allow them to keep their home, won’t get them out of the pay by the week motel, possibly not even keep them in it, and whether it effects occupy protesters directly, nevertheless still has people living, raising their families out of their vehicles.
Continuing, if you are a small business impacted negatively by crowds, demonstrations, a statement one protester in Colorado was surprised to hear as all the places he frequented were doing steady, normal business, leading some to wonder if particular business are claiming disruption simply because the protesters are an annoying nuisance they want to leave. Whichever the case may be, stop cussing out protesters, stop complaining about people holding signs wanting to make things better for you in the long run and start writing, e-mailing, calling your congressman, your city officials; instead of demanding they remove the people, disperse the crowds insist they take action, insist they make headway in giving the protesters the positive things they want that would better the nation as a whole. Because in spite of Mr. Gingrich’s unproven, unsubstantiated and downright discounted rantings, though he is far from the first to decry occupy participants believed they are owed something, want things given to them they should earn, we do owe these supposedly wayward and unwashed persons something. Residing in the greatest country in the world, should they do well in school, seek higher education, even if they only decide to buckle down and use higher education we owe them the opportunity to do so without incurring debt that will land them in the poor house for the rest of their lives. Should people complete higher education, technical school, training certificates they then are owed the reasonable opportunity at a job paying a living wage. Entrepreneurs looking to start new businesses, who possess a sound business plan, should have the opportunity to access capital to begin, especially when the banks they are turning to happen to be ones bailed out by taxpayers. People who desire to work should have reasonable opportunities to be employed, should have opportunities to access low and no cost community training programs teaching basic and in demand computer programs and job skills, so they can obtain jobs available.
And there are things we can do to both satisfy, appease occupy demonstrators along with aiding every struggling American in the process of turning things around; we can close the estimated 30 billion dollars in tax loopholes, clerical errors benefiting the wealthy and funnel that money into Medicare, Medicaid, social security, pension and retirement funds; by the way that number was per year between 2003-2009 while the information was being complied, which would be up to 150 billion now, assuming more errors weren’t made or additional wealthy people haven’t caught onto ways to pay less taxes. We can put eithicacy and integrity back into business eliminating the playing both ends to meet the middle game some sellers of subprime mortgages engaged in, the falsifying paperwork to foreclose on homes fraud exposed, the suspected insider trading done by congressional members privy to things the public were not, across all business no matter of shape, size product or service sold. Much of said transformation can be accomplished by enforcing laws already on the books, sending a message that the current business climate has to change. So why aren’t the human causes of the financial crisis languishing in prison? We can legally cap CEO and upper management pay to prevent extravagant salaries, golden parachutes, severance packages going to ousted or incompetent personnel of defunct companies; we can legally require failing companies to reduce the large salaries of top tier management before laying off workers. The United States government can say, before we accept the excuse “we can’t find qualified workers,” you must first invest a certain percentage of the billions in surplus capital you have into job training. No you can’t take someone with a high school diploma and make them a doctor or lawyer, but you can train them in relevant PC software, teach them to use tools and machines in your workplace, teach the green energy technology, tools and gadgets you use daily. And if making it a law is the only way to do it, it’s past time it was done.
For college students we can legally say to colleges you may only increase tuition say 1% above projected inflation, no more, and should inflation not rise as high as projected, the students bill is adjusted accordingly, as opposed to the 8% increase in public college tuition and 4% in private cost revealed recently. President Obama’s plan to help students both write off and consolidate debt could go one step further and retro activate to every student currently enrolled not just ones beginning next year. We can foster and encourage a relationship between colleges, tech schools, training centers and businesses leading to both degree programs designed to fit job demands, teaching relevant skills and offering internships, even if we have to write it into law. Then and only then will people go get a job right after they take a bath, because they can do so, because they know their pension retirement, social security and union rights are safe; they can go participate in a training program right after they take a bath, because aforementioned programs are accessible, cost friendly and practically advantageous to landing a job, they can go craft a viable business plan knowing they will be able to receive capital, right after they take a bath. Only when these things are accomplished will people leave the streets to take a bath, because there is no longer a need for them to be there, their lives can productively go on.