Why I March With #OccupyPortland (and #OccupyWallStreet)

Occupy Wall StreetI spent my afternoon marching with the Occupy Portland crowd. Not because I’m a socialist, not because I’m a hippie, not because I’m hopelessly naive and not because I bear blanket hatred for police or corporations. Quite the contrary. And not because my views align with everyone else I marched with. For me, the reasons are very specific.
Income Inequality
I am an enthusiastic capitalist. I have no interest in participating in command economies, no interest in disincentivizing innovation and success – and I certainly believe the profit motive has created social good.But last week I read this:

The top 1 percent takes in 24 percent of the national income and holds 40 percent of the national wealth. (Washington Post)

How can that be right? You can’t tell me that a rising tide is lifting all boats or that wealth is trickling down when the top 1% hold 40% of American wealth and more than 9% of Americans are unemployed.

From a pure reason perspective, the interests of the 1% are not necessarily aligned with the interests of the 99%.  And we all vote our interests – or at least what we perceive to be our interests.

In closing, the International Monetary Fund – no bastion of liberal policies – argues that income inequality is bad for growth:

For sustained growth to occur, Berg and Ostry found, the most important factors are a relatively equal income distribution and trade openness. (IMF research, quoted in the Washington Post)

Citizens United
While I feel strongly about the inequity of the current wealth gap, nothing outrages me more than the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. (Quick summary: The Supreme Court ruled that, legally, corporations may spend unlimited amounts of money on political advertising and communications.)
Corporations aren’t people, and their interests are not necessarily aligned with the majority of Americans. Corporations, generally, seek short-to-medium term profits and return to shareholders. Certainly the policies they pursue to further these ends – lessening environmental regulation, decreasing spending on social services, for example – may not be in the best, long-term interests of the American people.
Finally, from a constitutional, strict-constructionist perspective, if the founding fathers had intended for businesses to have a vote, they would have assigned them one.
I Speak for Myself
I don’t pretend to speak for the majority or even a minority of Occupy Wall Street protesters. I speak for myself. These are things that outrage me.And in closing, I love the police. They risk their lives to serve justice and public safety. I view my interests as completely aligned with theirs. I wish to particularly commend the Portland Police for their good nature and incredible badass-ery on bikes.

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2 responses to “Why I March With #OccupyPortland (and #OccupyWallStreet)

  1. I agree with your motives here at least 99% (I wonder if there isn’t a third choice beyond capitalism and command economies that would still retain incentives for innovation).

    What I don’t understand is the role of protests in a democracy. I don’t understand how the TP (a small minority) got to have so much influence and I don’t understand how the Occupy protests (another small minority of active participants) can hope to produce change, particularly in the current political environment.

    It looks like the TP was used (or engineered) as a way to justify policies a few influential people wanted to introduce anyway. Or am I being unjustly biased against them?

    Is Occupy trying to influence current lawmakers? Is it possible to bring enough congresspeople over to the side of the other 99%? I don’t see it. Is it even a viable way to combat the few media outlets that have gained so much influence over voters or doesn’t it just add fuel to their tactics?

    I’m not trying to challenge the movement, just trying to understand it.

    • Ok, a little late to the party, I’m starting to see what the OWS can do. They’re definitely changing the conversation from reducing the deficit spending to questions of wealth distribution, Wall Street corruption and job creation.

      I’m still not sure how that ends up producing change given this Congress, but I’m gaining more faith. I apologize for any offense my earlier confusion may have caused.

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