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Collins writes: "This spring, watch for millions of people in motion, participating in protests at banks, outside lawmakers' offices, and in the streets. They'll be pressing for an economy that works for the 100 percent, not just the 1 percent. This is a healthy sign for our nation because it dramatizes that the people aren't powerless in the face of extreme inequality."

The 99 percent spring will energize the Occupy movement. (photo: 99 Percent Spring)
The 99 percent spring will energize the Occupy movement. (photo: 99 Percent Spring)



The 99 Percent Spring: The People Are Not Powerless

By Chuck Collins, OtherWords

03 April 12

 

Occupy Wall Street: Take the Bull by the Horns


n the coming weeks, millions of Americans will take to the streets as part of the "99 percent spring," echoing last year's "Arab Spring."

At the root of this discontent are the extreme inequalities of income, wealth, and opportunity that have emerged over the last four decades.

The richest 1 percent now owns over 36 percent of all the wealth in the United States. That's more than the net worth of the bottom 95 percent combined. This 1 percent has pocketed almost all of the wealth gains of the last decade.

In 2010, the 1 percent earned 21 percent of all income, up from only 8 percent in mid-1970s. The 400 wealthiest individuals on the Forbes 400 list have more wealth than the bottom 150 million Americans.

These trends among the 1 percent are bad for the rest of us. Concentrated wealth translates into political clout - the power to use campaign contributions to rent politicians and tilt the rules of the economy in their favor.

Websites dramatizing the "We are the 99 percent" movement are full of personal stories of young people who are saddled with debt and no futures, and middle class families that have seen the American Dream collapse around them, losing jobs, homes, and hopes for the future.

"I used to dream about becoming the first woman president," one woman wrote. "Now I dream about getting a job with health insurance."

Reading these stories, I'm struck that the underlying conditions that have squeezed millions of Americans aren't going away. The current political system, captured by large corporations and the wealthy, is incapable of responding to their needs.

The "99 to 1" dichotomy may strike some folks as polarizing and inaccurate. Yet it's a powerful lens for understanding what's happened to our society and economy over the last several decades. The rules guiding our economy have been skewed to benefit the 1 percent at the expense of the 99 percent. These rules include tax policies, global trade agreements, and government actions that benefit asset owners at the expense of wage earners.

Who is the "1 percent"? Primarily it consists of households with annual incomes that top $500,000 and wealth exceeding $5 million. The 1 percent isn't a monolithic interest group. Plenty of people within this group have devoted their lives to building a healthy economy that works for everyone. But there's a small segment within the 1 percent - the "rule riggers" - who use their power and wealth to influence the political game so that they and their corporations get more power and wealth.

Just as individuals in the 1 percent are diverse actors, the 1 percent of corporations is also not unified. There are several thousand multinational corporations - the Wall Street inequality machine - that are the drivers of rule changes. But they are the minority. There are millions of other built-to-last corporations and Main Street businesses that strengthen our communities and have a stake in an economy that works for everyone.

We must defend ourselves from the bad actors - the built-to-loot companies whose business model is focused on shifting costs onto society, shedding jobs, and extracting wealth from our communities and the healthy economy.

This spring, watch for millions of people in motion, participating in protests at banks, outside lawmakers' offices, and in the streets. They'll be pressing for an economy that works for the 100 percent, not just the 1 percent. This is a healthy sign for our nation because it dramatizes that the people aren't powerless in the face of extreme inequality.

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+12 # DPM 2012-04-03 22:39
OCCUPY!!!
 
 
+5 # henry bruce 2012-04-04 00:10
It is a wonderful and empowering concept to have the people in motion, participating in protests, etc. etc. But.....the only protest that gets rid of the bad guys is the VOTE. If you don't vote, you don't count.
 
 
0 # tingletlc 2012-04-15 01:58
Sorry . . . Vote for whom?
 
 
+4 # seeuingoa 2012-04-04 02:41
Operation Gandhi!

Step 1: Sit down and get arrested
PEACEFULLY

Step 2: When released after a few hours
repeat Step 1.

Overload the whole system.
Where will they put all these people?

Guantanamo?
Concentration Camps?

and show their true face?
 
 
+3 # RMDC 2012-04-04 04:24
In any sort of democratic state, the 99% should have all the power. They should control government at all levels. but they don't in the US. The 99% has very little power. First, the 99% are not one force. They are composed of many factions, the worst two being the teaparty conservatives who actually do believe in elite control and the other is the silent majority who really do not care anything about politics.

The activists who do care about the political conditions of life in the US need more power than simple protest, which will be ignored or distorted by the mass media. They need to be able to make the smooth functioning of the elite controlled state stop working. They need the power of the strike -- a shut down of essential operations of the state and corporations. Only then will there be real change.

The police are ready for any sort of protests that begin this Spring. There will be massive arrests and the police will start as much violence as they need in order to take control of the movement. We have to remember Gandhi and MLK. They withstood the police violence. They used the violence to make the movement grow because their message was always justice. This time it will be about economic justice and an end to US imperialism and permanent war. Those demands mean a very fundamental change in the US itself, which came into existence as an empire and really has no other reason for being.
 
 
0 # Willman 2012-04-04 19:58
How about the elite cream of the 1% running for president. I am sure he will devote all his energy to enhancing his fellow 1%er's.
This guy CANNOT be elected!
 
 
0 # sheila Cee 2012-04-04 20:04
If the 99% want to impact the corporations we are protesting against we must boycott their sources of income. Protesting should be done where it affects their bottom line, not in front of their corporate offices and not by camping out in a park.

Demonstrations in front of the retailers who sell their products is much more effective. That's what the Brits did and it actually closed down the largest phone company in the country.

Let's not have meaningless, non-effective demonstrations.
 
 
0 # PGreen 2012-04-05 12:07
Unfortunately, boycotts are easily bypassed by multinational corporations, many of whom can simply increase their market share in other countries and possess vast reserves to wait it out. The demonstrations in front of Wall Street were exceptional in that they targeted the puppet masters themselves rather than the puppets (government). it shows people know where the real power lies. Rather than ineffectively targeting retailers, it would be more effective to focus peaceful demonstrations on executives, either in corporate offices, or possibly in their neighborhoods. It is hard to retreat to your gated community when hoards of people are camped out on your lawn.
 

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