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OP-ED | A Firsthand Look At The Occupy Movement

by Sarah Darer Littman | Oct 21, 2011 10:11am
(12) Comments | Commenting has expired
Posted to: Opinion

Earlier this week, my son and I went down to Zuccotti Park to visit the Occupy Wall Street protest. Before I tell you what we saw, let’s review some of the rhetoric that’s been thrown around about the people involved in these protests.

Fox News contributor Monica Crowley called them “useful idiots who probably haven’t paid much in taxes their whole life.”

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor called the assembly a “mob.” Mitt Romney accused them of waging “class warfare.”

And then there’s good old Mr. “9-9-9” Herman Cain, who told the Wall Street Journal: ‘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… I don’t have facts to back this up, but I happen to believe that these demonstrations are planned and orchestrated to distract from the failed policies of the Obama administration.”

He doesn’t have the facts to back this up… well then why make the statement, Mr. Cain? Could it be that maybe, just maybe, the one of the things folks at these protests are sick of is rhetoric based on lies pulled out of politicians posteriors?

Cain doubled down on his stance when asked about the statement in Tuesday’s Republican debate, to the delight of the audience, who clearly approved of his narrative that wealthy “job creators” have the clearest of consciences when it comes to the nation’s economic predicament and the unemployed have only themselves to blame.

Yet according to a recent Brookings Institute analysis the facts tell a different story. With between three and five out-of-work Americans competing for each job opening, competition for jobs among the unemployed is greater than any time before the 2008 financial crisis, stretching back to the Great Depression.

Anyone with half a brain knows the truth isn’t as simple as “apples and oranges.”  A mess of toppings went on that ultimate financial crisis pizza we were forced to eat in 2008.  Contrary to Cain’s assertions, Wall Street does bear some of the blame. Perhaps tempers wouldn’t be so frayed if we’d heard more mea culpas and saw fewer headlines like this.

When you’re a hard-working middle class Joe who has been working your entire life only to find your pension decimated right before retirement because a bunch of suits on Wall Street were packaging toxic loans and selling them as “Collateralized Debt Obligations” and then you hear those same suits are still raking in big bonuses despite their companies making lower profits while you’re left in the crapper — these folks have every right to be mad and it’s nothing to do with “class warfare” or being “Un-American.” It’s to do with common sense from ordinary working — or trying to work — people. It’s a collection expression of “WTF? How can this be considered just in America?”

That was our experience when we visited Zuccotti Park. The demonstrators weren’t “all students who want to get their loans forgiven,” as my daughter’s history teacher apparently told the class. It was a broad coalition of ages, ethnicities, and causes. A recurring complaint — the inordinate influence corporations have on politics, particularly in the wake of the Citizens United decision by the Supreme Court. My favorite sign: “I’ll believe that corporations are people when Texas executes one.”

Since Oct. 7, when Occupy Hartford protestors ensconced themselves at Turning Point Park, the Occupy moment has spread to other cities and towns in the Nutmeg State including New Haven, New London, Branford, Mystic, Willimantic, Waterbury and Bridgeport, as well as cities across the globe.

One thing the protesters already have achieved is to put the spotlight back on jobs after nine months where Congress — and the mainstream media — seemed to focus on the cutting the deficit to the exclusion of all else. If polls showing widespread support for the movement are to be believed, it will be interesting to see how this weaves itself into the political narrative here in Connecticut, particularly for House candidates Justin Bernier, Mark Greenberg, Daria Novak, and Lisa Wilson-Foley, each of whom have signed Jim DeMint’s draconian Cut, Cap and Balance pledge, which conservative and progressive economists agree would be irresponsible and possibly push the country into depression.

Check out Sarah’s photo album from New York’s Zuccotti Park here:

Sarah Darer Littman is a columnist for Hearst Newspapers and an award-winning novelist of books for teens. Long before the financial meltdown, she worked as a securities analyst and earned her MBA in Finance from the Stern School at NYU.

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(12) Comments

posted by: GoatBoyPHD | October 22, 2011  9:28am


I remain unconvinced that this movement has any real legs unless its appropriated by others. It’s a form of peaceful sit-in without any real center. In a couple cities they’ve conducted interviews to see if participants are aware of the platform and demands. Largely no.

They need an H Ross Perot who could unify the Tea Party and OWB on enough issues to forge a legitimate third-party threat.

posted by: newview | October 22, 2011  11:09am

It’s this kind of stuff that we hardly even know about that drives us to the the streets…and keeps us all in debt…nose to the grindstone…and the carrot firmly in place…“who do you like on idol this week”?  Has everyone got their medication portioned out for the week?

read it and weep…whatever makes this legal…should be made ILLEGAL!

It’s been said that the “OCCUPY” movement doesn’t have a mission…a goal…nothing concrete…to move the politicians to enact anything….

Well…here’s one for starters….

The other…put the “uptick” rule back into play on the market….enforce “Naked Short Selling” with serious…serious…jail time…

Enforce Insider trading violations with mandatory and serious….serious jail time…

Look this stuff up…“googleit” about it…become informed…get the word out….

JPMC raped Washington Mutual in 2008….They railroaded an institution worth over 300B and crammed it into their back pocket for 1.9B it…read about it…it’s still in Delaware bankruptcy Court…with Hedge funds on the ropes with Insider Trading…get informed!!!....

If you want to bring the rich to the trough….you have to ruin the rules by which they play.  There’s capitalism…and there is flat out greed…there is a difference and we need to stamp it out….and do it peacefully through legislation…enforcement…...and that means making politicians accountable ..or vote them out…If a politician does not get involved…and do it with action…they don’t get your vote…put their backsides on the carpet right now…don’t wait for election day…do it now…

Tell them…they are our voice in politics…and they need to step up or step aside…it really is that simple…call these senators out…they should be marching in the street with us…not making excuse for not enacting legislation… call em out…OCCUPY!

posted by: ... | October 22, 2011  4:00pm


I’m curious what be your definition of the ‘legs’ of a movement GoatBoyPHD? The question is not meant to be a challenge, but perhaps a comparison. What group’s practices would you suggest the Occupy movement, so that they may gain these real legs?

Is it the need to influence policy or politics (as the Tea Party has done through its influence on candidates and (most recently) debates)? Or alliance with policy/advocacy groups that lobby or attempt to influence legislation at the State/Federal Level?

I guess you partially answer it with a leader being the legs (a 21st Century Ross Perot, who in my mind would be Ron Paul (R.P. initials is too much of a coincidence!)). But that seems too simple, and as we saw in 92’ 96’, Perot was more a spoiler for the H.W. Bush, and but a nuisance for Dole. I could see the same happening to Ron Paul or anyone of his stature taking a 3rd Party Run.

posted by: GoatBoyPHD | October 23, 2011  11:39am



Perot left behind the Green Party which had some legs for a while. I think Trump could do that for a Third Party—get enough votes to leave an infrastructure behind.

I didn’t mean in the context of Policy and Process.

The Tea Party hasn’t left a meaningful legacy with legs. The Democrats have their Progressives and the GOP has their libertarians.

If could Hermann Cain. I’d drop the Business Income Tax and Capital Gains Tax to a flat, no loopholes, no credits 10% in a heartbeat.

A 5% National saless tax taht exmepts helathy food and clothing?

A $30,000 deduction on income and a 3-tier 10% 17.5% and 25%?

Cain might get a decent conversaton going. So far the Democrats aren’t biting. They are sailing off to Byzantium with a “What me Worry?”  agenda of ‘more tax on the rich’ and ‘GE should pay more’  taxes without any real reforms, or agenda, or proposed tax structure.

It’s obvious Cain’s blunt simplicity plays to the Tea Party and then some.

At the present I still see a vaccuum, not a movement with legs.

posted by: Wayne1954 | October 23, 2011  2:07pm

I went down to Zuccotti Park last Sunday.  It seems to me that the real message of Occupy Wall Street (OWS) is “Stop the Censorship!” and “Listen to us!”  By this I mean ... when the media trumpets stories that make you feel sorry for the economic plight of the top 1 percent it is hard to identify with the message.  We don’t have stories on the front page of the papers talking about the plight of those without jobs, a safe place to call home or hope.  And censorship is really strong here in the United States.  Today, no media is immune to the silent stalking of the censor.  Just for example, there is a story ... actually just a factual statement ... that you should know.  It is not in any mainstream media source: “Did you know that over 1600 verified architects and engineers are calling for a new investigation into the destruction of the three skyscrapers at the World Trade Center on September 11th ... citing evidence of controlled demolition with pre-planted explosives (actually “highly energetic” incendiaries?)”  If the 1600 A&Es; and the facts behind September 11th are filtered out, then other information isn’t getting through.  So I think the issue underlying OWS is censorship.  The wrong issues are being addressed in the media and nobody is paying attention to the real issues.

posted by: Terry D. Cowgill | October 24, 2011  6:57am

Terry D. Cowgill

As a friend of mine recently told me, as much as I sympathize with some of the OWS concerns, we cannot OCCUPY our way back to prosperity. We must INNOVATE.

Beyond making the rich pay higher rates of taxation, what is their plan for getting this economy moving again? How many of them have ever owned a business and met a payroll?

posted by: GoatBoyPHD | October 24, 2011  2:19pm


I tend to be with you Terry. I don’t object to taxing the rich more: I object to what the government will do with the money.

If there’s a vision out there I could buy into it would be different. The faux-liberalism of state public sector unions and overpaid appointees as social engineers and saviors is lost on me completely. I’d sooner starve that beast and begin anew.

Same mission statements (the state writes great mission statements): different implementation. Entirely.

posted by: ASTANVET | October 24, 2011  3:44pm

Why does it not surprise me that there is so much pro “occupy” talk in CT.  We have heard enough that the top 15% of income earners pay 70% of the tax revenue in the country… it comes down to principle.  How much of what I make is mine?  Goatboy, I don’t think we need a third party system, i’d like to abolish the two parties we have now.  George Washington warned of the two party system, imagine if you had to vote for someone’s merit rather than their party affiliation!  NEWVIEW - i agree, for those who break laws, they should be punished, but i don’t agree with blanket taxation on people who’s only crime is being successful.  Their crime in your eyes is being rich, so tax the hell out of them… that’s a load.  If the OWS get their wish, and have capitalism fail, what is left?  Capitalism has brought the highest standard of living that human kind has ever known.  And for all those against bail outs (which i am one), don’t substitute your bail out for a bank bail out. I.e., don’t go for the new troubled mortgage program to write off debt, don’t go for the education money sharing (bail out from one community to another)... if you’re for no bail outs and make it on your own, then be that way for all your pet projects too.

posted by: Wayne1954 | October 24, 2011  6:12pm

Mr. Cowgill:

You said: “Beyond making the rich pay higher rates of taxation, what is their plan for getting this economy moving again? How many of them have ever owned a business and met a payroll?”

I think that one of the questions that the OWS supporters are asking is related to this ... If you were to “meet payroll” by moving operations to India or China, and the policy makers don’t have a plan for what the implications will be for ‘the people’ under this outcome, are they really really listening to the people, or are they listening to someone else?  The OWS people want their voices and concerns heard.  With the highly concentrated media (5 corporations control 90+ percent of the news outlets) their story was not being heard ... and now it is being heard a little.

When Mr. ASTANVET said: “Capitalism has brought the highest standard of living that human kind has ever known.”  He was probably talking about the 1950’s to 1980 when I grew up.  But compared to today’s social / economic climate ... we were a socialist society then.  When I was getting my engineering degree, the tuition was $175 per semester and I could earn enough to go to college in the summer and spending money working in the dormatory dishroom.  I like lots of the characterisitcs of the world back then.

posted by: Terry D. Cowgill | October 24, 2011  9:01pm

Terry D. Cowgill

Wayne, you didn’t really answer my question about what plan OWS has to rejuvenate the economy. You listed some questions they’re raising and the injustice of off-shoring jobs. I repeat: where’s the plan? Even a rough one would satisfy me for the time being.

posted by: counting it up | October 24, 2011  9:12pm

and let us not forget the influence the Unions have (and have always had) on politics.  Why isnt anyone complaining about that?  Why isnt anyone complaining about college tuitions going up by some 300% in the last few years? 
Why are they not complaining about the irresponsibility of our elected officials voting on bills they dont even read?
There are so many problems, I agree, but what is the end game?  The problem I have with the protests is I do not know what the goals are, specifically, so I cant see them ever going away.  Yes the toxic asets are an issue, so are the banking regulations that allowed people to get loans they never should have had, and really could not afford.  To me, that is where a lot of this started.  So no more blame and let’s fix the problem.  Sensible loans for homes to people who pay their bills, and the rest have to rent. It seems like common sense.
Herman Cain’s comments taken on the face are cold, but, what he is saying is this, if you want something, get up off your butt and make it happen.  Work hard and get ahead.  Work two jobs if you have to.  Stop being in debt.  This is still America and if you want to make it here, and you work hard, it is possible.  He did, the autho of this story did it, and you can do it too.

posted by: Wayne1954 | October 25, 2011  12:06am

Mr. Cowgill:

You said: “Wayne, you didn’t really answer my question about what plan OWS has to rejuvenate the economy.”  From what I have observed, the answer is evolving.  I have visited the OWS in New York at Wall Street and also in Hartford, but I too am an observer from the outside. These are not people who emerged from a well funded think-tank chanting the same slogan and walking in lock-step.  They are people who are frustrated at the lack of opportunities that were available to us only a generation ago.  In Hartford, an Iraq war veteran who doesn’t have a job and has been living on the street wanted a chance to make a living. I saw other Iraq war veterans in New York wondering where the America that they were fighting for went.  No opportunities for them.  Before the Occupy Wall Street events, the discourse was Cut Taxes, cut health care, cut jobs programs, cut education (but not defense), etc. and now that message has been tempered with the reality of what the “cut-everything-and-damn-the-contracting-economy” looks like.  The Occupy Wall Street movement is a month old ... it took the Continental Congress years of talking and listening to establish a plan that led to our Declaration of Independance.  I suggest that you go spend a day with them at Occupy Hartford (or other city) and talk to whoever is there ... actually ... you should listen to them.  They are not genuises on the economy, but they have their stories to tell. Oh the genuises on the economy are Greenspan, Bernanke and former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson ... among a long list of others.