Thoughts on Occupy Wall St. and Awesome Protest Signs

Since September 17th, the Occupy Wall St. protests have been slowly coming into focus. The public and news media are bearing witness to the disconcerting truth a lot of people are hurting out there and many of them blame it on callous and unreceptive policymakers. Along with the increased publicity has come, naturally, a dose of condescension regarding what exactly these “loony lefties’” complaints are and what they want out of these protests. I don’t want to get hung up on crucifying these people over the early handling of the protests since it’s irrelevant but I find the blatant contradiction on display humorous. Consider the rise of the Tea Party and how members of the press were literally attaching their own narratives to it in order to give the movement more salience, regardless of what all the tri-corner hats were actually saying.

I’m in agreement with a significant bloc of other liberals, as well as the protestors themselves, in not wishing for an exact and proper formulation of demands which upon compliance would be indicative of “success”. Throughout the recession and ensuing three years, palpable pressure has been seldom applied from the left in any cogent manifestation, and so it’s worth preserving and nurturing; a succinct set of demands and policy prescriptions would only serve to splinter the body into factions. That’s the consensus I’ve been hearing, at least. That could be a mistaken view, though, as it seems so far that there is little disagreement over the important part: whom will be subjected to their scorn. That’s the most consequential fact, not determining exact policies to get behind. While I think it’s silly to compare these protests to Tahrir Square, those Egyptians weren’t in the street drafting up a future constitution; they were just demanding that the status quo be abolished. Moreover, as Paul Krugman puts it, it’s not exactly the responsibility of the protesters to know exactly what to propose. That’s kind of the point of representative democracy.

That aside, if it’s a simple demand people want, I’m more than happy to oblige. I think almost everyone involved in these protests will agree that, prima facie, policymakers have an obligation to promote full employment. Insofar as the root cause of this movement has been a deficient policy response to current economic conditions, not to discredit the rightly felt notion that incredible malfeasance on the part of our Galtian Overlords has gone unpunished, it’s a perfectly direct and poignant request to want someone to actually do something about the millions of un- and underemployed in this country. Of course, many people in positions of power have been trying to resolve this problem. But, well…

In terms of what can be done, under current circumstances, political and otherwise, I must say that this sign really hits the nail on the head. Addressing unemployment at this stage in the game basically comes down to further easing by the Fed, and as such, a lot of ire should be directed at the Fed. Actions undertaken by Ben Bernanke and the FOMC, and more so the European Central Bank, have been negligent at best and pernicious at worst toward any economic recovery. They continue to twiddle their thumbs as the rest of the world burns. So, if we’re grasping for something with some relatively quick and tangible results, I’d recommend protesters start hollering outside the regional Fed banks.

But I mean c’mon! Look at that sign! You can’t say these people don’t have a clue when someone out there is holding this sign.

A lot of people are hoping this movement continues, and I’m definitely one of them. It may very well become impossible for political leaders to give anything less than a substantive response. The movement certainly has legitimacy. Many have already acknowledged it and have sided with the good guys. Others have castigated it. Things will most likely come to a boiling point eventually; let’s just hope that it isn’t the 99% getting burned this time, like always.

[Top photo by Ozier Muhammad for the NYT]

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