If you have turned an eye to the news media over the last month or so, you may have noticed a story about the “Occupy Wall Street” protests going on in New York City, or sister protests which have sprung up around the country. The folks of Occupy Wall Street (OWS) have been protesting what they see as the corrupting influence of big money in politics and government. Much like the rise of the Tea Party movement a few years ago, this movement seems to stem from an overall sentiment of feeling “fed up” with the current socio-economic political environment. The protesters have been arguing that the disparity of wealth in the United States has been increased due, in part, to short-sighted government policies that allow for the concentration of forty percent of the nation’s wealth in the hands of one percent of Americans.
While some in the media and government have said that the OWS protesters have no real demands, the people involved in the OWS movement have actually voiced a number of different goals they hope to achieve. Some of the goals of the protesters include for President Obama “to ordain a Presidential Commission tasked with ending the influence money has over our representatives in Washington,” ending tax loopholes for corporations, raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans, protecting Social Security and Medicare, cutting defense spending, and even auditing the Federal Reserve.
Although the Occupy Wall Street movement has yet to coalesce around one single overarching statement of purpose like the Tea Party’s “Don’t raise taxes” mantra, it’s probably important to remember that the Tea Party grew out of protesting various different specific issues, from obesity taxes in New York to President Obama’s stimulus package of early 2009. The movement has now grown into a national movement with widely known figures and beliefs, but early on it was just groups of people getting together to protest what they didn’t like about the government, much like the current Occupy Wall Street protests.
The protests have been diminished by some detractors, but as a fledgling weeks-old movement, the Occupy Wall Street protesters have managed to become a vibrant and much-discussed part of the national discussion. It remains to be seen whether the people involved with the Occupy Wall Street movement will become involved in the political arena the way that the Tea Party movement has. If so, that can only be a good thing for debate, to have voices in the discussion speaking out against the powerful in our society.
UPDATE (10/13/11 10:30 am):
Time has a new poll out today, and it ranks favorable views of the Occupy Wall Street protests at 54%, significantly higher than the 33% that Rasmussen reported last week. Over at Slate, Dave Weigel notes that the Occupy Wall Street protests are twice as favorable as the Tea Party in the poll.