Friday, October 14, 2011

I am the 99%

A handful of friends and even more strangers have criticized the Occupy Wall Street protesters because of a perceived laziness or their inability to "suck it up and get whatever job they can." More criticism follows the movement, chiding its vague directives and lack of demands. To these critics, I say:

You're missing the point.

Wherever you stand on politics, immigration, taxes or marriage, we must agree on one thing: Our current system is wounded. We're living in a pay-to-play political system, where our elected leaders have a price and the platforms upon which we elected those representatives are forgotten in the interest of corporate lobbyists and big business.

Remember when newspapers weren't all owned by the same company, TV stations didn't promote parallel stories in newspapers and a billionaire octogenarian from Australia wasn't whispering in the ear of our conservative bloc? In the past two decades, the FCC has made every effort to relax the regulations on cross media ownership, monopolies and foreign-owned media. Do you honestly believe those limitations were relaxed for free, out of concern for the American people? This is why we have a government: to protect our interests. Not Rupert Murdoch's.

Remember when we didn't have to pay extra for hormone-free milk? Food should be organic by default. There is no reason why I should worry about eating foods with dangerous pesticides, known carcinogens and wood pulp. Have you ever seen cellulose listed as an ingredient in your food? Food manufacturers use it as a filler to create volume and extend shelf life in their food products. It's wood. From a tree. You’re eating wood and there's no limit on how much cellulose companies are allowed to add. Schools are banning peanut butter because of the growing number of allergies in children, a condition that some scientists argue is caused by the pesticides and not the peanuts. We shouldn't have to worry about listeria, e-Coli and paying $12 a gallon for bottled [tap] water because our own water supply is questionably clean. This is why we have a government: to protect our interests. Not ConAgra's.

Remember when standardized tests were something we took once before college and school policy was guided by a local government, not the federal? These days, kids as young as seven years old are forced to spend their entire school year in preparation for one week of myopic testing that will be the sole measurement of their scholastic achievement. It will also determine the amount of funding a school receives. You know who thinks annual standardized testing is a great idea? The three companies that produce the tests. It's no coincidence that hundreds of thousands of dollars are spent by these companies each year to directly lobby our elected representatives, who then sign off on the notion that one test result is an adequate performance gauge for every student across the country. This is why we have a government: to protect our interests. Not the Educational Testing Service.

Wall Street is a symbol for corporate lack of accountability. Greed isn't good. You know what's good? A strong middle class whose best interests are protected by a transparent government. This is why the Occupy Wall Street movement has not issued demands or directives. Where do we begin?

You've heard the argument: America's democracy isn't perfect, but it's the best we've got. Let it continue to be the best by allowing constitutionally-protected dissent, stopping government corruption, and demanding that our elected representatives protect our interests, not that of their pockets.


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