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WHAT OTHERS SAY: Occupy Wall Street does have a message

Tuesday, October 11, 2011 | 10:16 a.m. CDT; updated 12:15 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, October 11, 2011

People keep asking for a message in the growing Occupy Wall Street campouts, marches and protests.

But the gatherings are the message. What began as a sit-in in New York City to speak out against corporate greed has morphed into a nationwide outlet for the many people who believe they are being shut out in today's America.

Hundreds participated in a gathering Sunday in Kansas City. (Occupy COMO is also drawing crowds in Columbia.)

"I think what they're doing is lobbying in an unorthodox way," said Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, a Kansas City Democrat, who observed the protests in New York over the weekend.

"The main message is: 'We are tired of allowing the federal government to lean toward the wealthy.' "

There is no denying that a vast segment of Congress is beholden to policies that favor wealthy corporations and financial interests and very rich individuals — exactly the interests that are most capable of bankrolling campaigns.

The result of such attention is also plain to see: the widest income gap in America since the late 1920s, with middle-class earnings declining even as corporate profits stand at their highest level as a share of the economy since 1950.

An emerging young generation of workers is either jobless or underemployed and saddled with student debt. Millions of families have lost their homes to foreclosures. People who have worked hard and played by the rules are being pushed to the margins.

In the Occupy movement, many Americans are finding a voice and community.

The more cynical of the nation's political leaders, most notably House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, have derided the protests as "class warfare" and described protesters as "mobs." But these same voices applauded the rise of the tea party a couple of years ago.

We are fortunate to live in a nation whose Constitution enshrines the right to assemble and protest peaceably. Rather than demonizing the new movement, Cantor and others should acknowledge their own role in creating it.

People who are genuinely struggling see a Congress that repeatedly takes aim at federal jobless benefits, even as it categorically refuses to reform a lopsided tax code or close glaring tax loopholes.

They see a Washington establishment that has ignored thoughtful prescriptions for deficit reduction but that insists programs designed to help with foreclosure relief, educational opportunities and access to health care constitute “big government.”

The Occupy movement is about people saying to Washington: "We are out here. Hear us, see us. Pay attention."

It is message enough.

Copyright Kansas City Star. Reprinted with permission.


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Comments

Michael Williams October 11, 2011 | 10:34 a.m.

Peaceful protests are a time-honored tradition and are a good thing. Hopefully, everyone will remember it's all fun and games until someone gets hurt.

And I hope they clean up after themselves.

I do note some protestors have targeted billionaire homes today. I admit I'd take them more seriously if we had some pics of them outside a Kennedy, Heinz, or Clinton compound. Unless, of course, there are two different kinds of "rich"....i.e., the 'good' liberal rich versus the 'not-so-good' conservative rich.

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