The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

Letters

November 5, 2011

Let's occupy together

My Turn: David Kristjanson-gural

Readers may recall the photo of Congressman Tom Marino standing next to a gigantic hole in Neitz Road after the recent floods. Help, it seemed, was on the way.

The hole remains. The road is closed. Mr. Marino remains among the spectators in a Congress as leaders score debating points. In Washington, things are not going well. Recent polls indicate that more than nine out of 10 Americans think Congress is doing a poor job.

That is the lowest approval rating for Congress, ever. No wonder. The wealthiest 1 percent of Americans saw their income triple over the last 30 years, growing more than 4 times the rate of income growth of all Americans.

The Occupy Wall Street movement has spread, fueled by resentment and dismay that the wealthy have been able to completely insulate themselves from the discomfort, with the assistance and cooperation of those elected to represent all the people.

Nationally, 9 percent of would-be workers cannot find jobs.

But with Americans desperate for leadership that will put people back to work, Congressional leaders squabble by through well-worn political talking points.

Senate leaders Harry Reid (D-nev.) and Mitch Mcconnell (R-ky.)went back and forth earler this week on the chamber floor over the merits of rival “jobs” plans.

The fight started when Reid tore into Republicans for their anticipated unified opposition to a $60 billion spending bill, calling it “unbelievable” that Republicans would oppose the included “small tax” on the rich.

Mcconnell snapped back that Reid had made an excellent “campaign speech” but that he wished the majority leader would delay campaigning until next year and join Republicans to create jobs today.

Reid replied by accusing Mcconnell of campaigning on the Senate floor “every single day … in the hopes that he can get my job, perhaps.” This is leadership? Voters are beyond fed up with this kind of behavior. We are veering toward another wave election.

As our member of Congress, Tom Marino, has been a faithful soldier of the Republican Party since winning election almost exactly one year ago. But he serves the 10th District, not the Republican Party, and we have been struggling for three years with high unemployment.

As Congressman Marino plans for the final year of his freshman term, we look forward to progress on the job front. If it means breaking from leaders who are stuck abandoning hurling insults while the nation suffers, then our congressman ought to break away soon.

Occupy protesters famously note that they represent the 99 percent of Americans who see the wealth gap morphing into a gulf. We are getting close to the point where that 99 percent could be the Congressional disapproval rating.

I’m not sure why the media are having such trouble figuring out the demands of Occupy Wall St. Recently, a seven-yearold girl, Celia Cooley, went down to Zuccotti Park and, posing as a reporter, she asked people why they were there (http://www.youtube. com/watch?v=x12ioqyy0w8). What they said was quite consistent and quite reasonable and quite comprehensible to this young girl. They said: We want our democracy back.

Anyone who is confused about what the protesters want has probably been listening to too much corporate news. Corporate news stations present themselves as trustworthy and unbiased, but they are owned by large multinational corporations like General Electric and Westinghouse, and these are the folks that are benefitting from the policies that the protesters decry.

These news outlets don’t want the message of Occupy Wall St. to be heard.

They don’t want the protesters portrayed as ordinary Americans who have been bilked of their savings and booted out of the middle class and who are justifiably demanding that things change. If you’ve been watching corporate news and you are confused, the first thing to do is to broaden your sources of information. Here is some of what you will learn. The economic crisis did not start because suddenly poor people started taking out mortgages on homes they couldn’t afford to pay for. It didn’t start because of some corporate bad apples. Think about it. The job of a lender is to determine if a person is credit worthy. The reason loans were given to people who couldn’t afford them was simply that banks no longer had an incentive to find out if people were credit worthy. Why? Because banks were permitted to sell the mortgages to other companies for a profit, rather than waiting to collect on the loan. The big banks pushed loans on people because they were making profit, hand over fist, from selling these loans to investors.

Why were the investors buying bad mortgages? Because they were permitted to bundle them together with other loans to look like safe investments. Why did these investments look safe? Because the folks in the rating agencies, who were supposed to rate these investments, were not sufficiently regulated and worked in cahoots with the big banks.

The problem, in short, was not individual behavior; the problem was that the system was jury-rigged. Corporate lobbyists took over Congress and rewrote the banking laws in their favor. As long as home prices went up, banks made a killing. When the music stopped, instead of taking their consequences, big banks got their insiders at the Fed and the Treasury Department in D.C. to bail them out. Then they got their friends in corporate media affiliates to point their fingers at the borrowers ( the ones who are now homeless) and at big government (for wasting taxpayer money). Meanwhile, Wall Street banks go on their merry way, paying out bonus, rewarding failure, avoiding the consequences of their actions, and continuing to use our Congress as their personal playground.

That’s just wrong. That’s why folks are on the streets.

If you are in the Tea Party, you probably believe many of the same things that Occupy Wall St. supporters believe. People should play by the rules.

People should be punished when they do something wrong. If you reward people for cheating, they are likely to continue to misbehave. Like supporters of OWS, you probably believe that our government should be accountable to us, we the people, and that the government should not collude with powerful elites to deprive people of the right to a livelihood, or to kick them out of their homes. You probably believe that government shouldn’t write laws that favor powerful interests in order to raise enough money to get re-elected.

I support Occupy Wall St. You and I may have our differences, but I think we share a commitment to restoring the integrity of this democracy.

I think we can agree that when a government no longer is responsive to the desires of the citizens, that it is the responsibility of citizens to act together.

The government itself is not the problem; the problem is that the government has been taken over by wealthy elites who do not have our interests at heart.

It is time for us to stand together, shoulderto-shoulder, Republican and Democrat, on the streets of this great country and take our democracy back.

Turn off the corporate news, talk to your fellow Americans, one by one, until you decide for yourself whether what I am saying is true.

That’s what Celia is doing. There is no other test in a democracy but that of the ability of ideas to stand the test of evidence and reason. The values that our forbearers fought and died for are at stake. Nothing less.

David Kristjanson-gural is an associate professor of economics and senior fellow - Social Justice College at Bucknell University. He is one of the organizers of Occupy Lewisburg.

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