What do the 1 percent actually think about Occupy Wall Street?
By: Monica Cheng, Staff Writer
It has been nearly a month since demonstrators took to lower Manhattan’s Zuccotti Park in protest of economic inequality, corporate greed and all that is seemingly going wrong in America.
Despite its initial media obscurity, the movement known as “Occupy Wall Street” has been steadily gaining support and momentum in the U.S., while similar protests are being planned in countries abroad, including Canada.
Many of the demonstrators have little in common, but they seem united in their anger and frustration towards the country’s ruling elite. “We are the 99 percent” is a slogan plastered all over Zuccotti Park, in reference to the oft-quoted statistic that the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans owns a disproportionate 40 percent of the nation’s wealth.
The undeserving rich gave us the financial crisis—a crisis that made a mockery of the American Dream…
In many ways, the 99 percent have good reasons to be weary of the current state of affairs.
Income disparity, rising poverty, bleak job prospects are some of the catchphrases touted by the protesters. They are the sad reality of Main Street America.
On the other end of the spectrum, the system of corporate greed embodied by Wall Street and responsible for plunging America into the financial crisis of 2008 has escaped the recession relatively unscathed. Executive compensations and bonuses of conspicuous proportions are once again the norm, even as poverty and unemployment levels soar to unprecedented highs, not seen since the turn of the millennium.
It is understandable why the 99 percent took to the streets. However, the better question remains, do the 1% actually care?
A video captured on September 17, the day the movement began, shows protestors convening at the National City Bank Building, while well-to-do onlookers sipped drinks and observed from a second-floor restaurant balcony. ‘The people, united, will never be defeated’, the protesters chanted. The observers looked on and smiled. Some waved and raised their champagne glasses. Some took pictures with their phones and laughed. Despite the incident, the party went on.
Nearly a month later, even as the protest began to gain momentum, both in terms of media coverage and public support, the attitude of the 1 percent towards those in Zuccotti Park continues to be one of nonchalance. As it would seem, not all members of the 1 percent are vilified by protesters, and those who are, say they have bigger things on their minds.
The people that comprise the 1 percent are a diverse and convoluted group.
In the recent days, some have lent their voices to the movement, like filmmaker Michael Moore, actress Susan Sarandon, and rapper Kanye West.
Some have expressed their sympathy but urged against the dangers of generalization, like billionaire investor Warren Buffett and Citigroup CEO Vikram Pandit.
The majority simply do not seem to care. In light of the recent stock market volatility, many bankers say they have bigger things to worry about.
A few have been openly critical, like famed hedge fund manager, John Paulson, whose firm released a statement saying, “Paulson & Co. and its employees have paid hundreds of millions in New York City and New York State taxes in recent years and have created over 100 high paying jobs in New York City since its formation… Instead of vilifying our most successful businesses, we should be supporting them and encouraging them to remain in New York City and continue to grow.” Shortly after, protesters responded by marching to Paulson’s townhouse in New York City’s Upper East Side, leaving at his front door a novelty tax refund check for $5 billion.
It would be misleading to say that Occupy Wall Street is simply a movement against the rich. In the view of the 99 percent, there is a necessary difference between the ‘deserving’ rich and the ‘undeserving’ rich.
The deserving rich are sympathetic to the plights of Main Street America; they pioneered the technologies that made this movement possible. The undeserving rich gave us the financial crisis—a crisis that made a mockery of the American Dream, which embodied the belief that if the 99 percent somehow worked hard enough, they too can become the 1 percent.
As Occupy Wall Street continues, protesters remain divided on what they hope to achieve. Without a clear set of demands, the movement will drag on, but to little effect. Despite occasional moments of tension, few signs suggest the demonstration will escalate into violence.
Business News with BITE.
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