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Occupy Mizzou debuts at Speakers Circle

Thursday, October 13, 2011 | 9:20 p.m. CDT; updated 4:33 p.m. CDT, Monday, October 17, 2011
As protests inspired by Occupy Wall Street in New York spread across the country and across the world, people are wondering just what the activists stand for.

*Christina Lewis, an MU student, organized a protest inspired by the ongoing demonstration in front of Daniel Boone City Building. The Missourian asked the Occupy Mizzou protesters why they came and what the "99 percent" movement means to them.

COLUMBIA — About 15 people gathered at 4:30 p.m. Thursday at Speakers Circle at MU in support of the Occupy Wall Street movement.

The demonstration, which was advertised on Facebook, was planned to last until 8:30 p.m. Students and former students held signs, played with hula hoops, handed out fliers and drummed on a bongo to draw attention to their cause.

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Occupy Mizzou was one of 90 confirmed student protests that occurred nationwide as part of Occupy Colleges, a branch of the recent movement against the unequal distribution of wealth in the United States.

"I feel responsible to inform other people of things that they might not see on their cable news," Brendan Kadey, an MU senior, said.

"There's a lot of misinformation out there," he said. "And honestly, opening minds to new ideas is one of the only things I foresee helping Americans and the human race in general. And if standing out here with some posters is a start, it's better than not saying anything at all."

Protesters agreed their main reason to gather was their belief that corporations control the U.S. government. Some expanded the idea, saying a hierarchical system is the problem. They said it was not right for a corporation to have more influence on voting outcomes because it has more money.

"To summarize," Kadey said, "get your money out of our government."

David McRae held a sign with statistics saying the top 20 percent of the population control 80 percent of the wealth and the bottom 40 percent of the population have no way to speak up for themselves.

"People today think everyone has equal opportunity to pull themselves up by the bootstraps and make something of themselves, but if you don't have bootstraps to begin with, how are you going to pull yourself up?" McRae said.

Christine Snyder, an MU senior, said some have dismissed the movement as being made up of "homeless, jobless hippies who want the government to pay for their lives. I am not a homeless, jobless hippie."

"Look at the pictures from New York," she said. She said grandparents and even mothers with children were protesting so that their children would have a better future.

Jacob Moor, a former MU student, said it was wrong to generalize the protesters. "It's all lies and slander. It's all to try and keep the people from realizing what's really going on."

Moor, who dropped out of college for financial reasons after two and a half years and now works at Bread Basket Cafe, said he hopes that "real economic change" comes out of the protests.

Although united for a common cause, the group members had different ideas for solutions.

Kadey said because the movement is diverse; some people will believe in communism, some in socialism and some in living more simply and fishing and growing food off the land.

Kadey said he believes people should work and should not have things handed to them.

Snyder suggested taxing corporations as heavily as individuals.

Zack West, an MU sophomore, created an 18-page pamphlet called "Boycott Wall Street Permanently," a guide to creating a better economy.

West said he believes that everyone should be employed and should earn lower wages to make sure there's enough to go around and people should value resources more than they do money. He said his idea is similar to a community garden, where there is enough food for everyone.

Although the demonstrators were passionate about their cause, some passers-by said they didn't see an opportunity for the protesters to make waves because the turnout was small and held at the wrong time.

"I think it's a little silly that they're doing it at a college campus in mid-Missouri," John Lynch, an MU sophomore, said. "It's a lot different (in New York) than it is here."

Some students didn't agree with the message the protesters were trying to convey.

"Capitalism is all right," MU freshman Tim Pufundt said. "We still live in a great country."

But that didn't seem to faze the protesters.

"Deep down, we know something's wrong — people just don't know what," Kadey said. "We all know the government is corrupt. How come no one is doing anything about it?"


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Comments

Mark Foecking October 14, 2011 | 6:46 a.m.

"the bottom 40 percent of the population have no way to speak up for themselves."

What, they can't vote?

Income inequality is not a sign of undue corporate influence. Income inequality is a result of moving to an economy that primarily makes money rather than real goods. Therefore, people with money can make more money, where people that made real goods typically don't anymore, and thereby make less money. All this "us vs. them" crap is just that, crap. It's just a bunch of baseless finger pointing.

The fact that the CEO of Exxon/Mobil made xx million dollars in total compensation has ZERO to do with whether someone can get and keep a job, or what they're paid. CEO salaries are absolutely insignificant compared to total economic output of their companies.

I don't know a single grad student or med student that I've worked with in the last 20 years that did not get a good job straight out of school. Engineers, "hard" science graduates, and health care professions people usually receive multiple job offers and high salaries. Same for accounting and finance people. The jobs are out there. You just have to step up and train for them.

Similarly, several local businesses (convenience stores and other retail, restaurants, media outlets, etc) have been advertising for people for months. They'll often hire people with no college - simply a decent work record.

And don't overlook the military. Veterans can get most of the their college expenses paid when they get out, and typically preference in hiring. Most people that do it think it's worth it.

I think the problem we have is less one of substance and more one of perception.

DK

(Report Comment)
Derrick Fogle October 14, 2011 | 7:10 a.m.

Dang I was just out there playing Hacky Sack earlier that day. I guess I keep missing these peeps. I'm still sporting the Bernie Sanders Hair look in support of #occupywallstreet though.

Which, BTW, the authorities should be an hour into liquidating Zuccotti park right now.

(Report Comment)
Jimmy Bearfield October 14, 2011 | 7:52 a.m.

"David McRae held a sign with statistics saying . . . the bottom 40 percent of the population have no way to speak up for themselves. 'People today think everyone has equal opportunity to pull themselves up by the bootstraps and make something of themselves, but if you don't have bootstraps to begin with, how are you going to pull yourself up?' McRae said."

As Mark noted, there's nothing stopping the bottom 40% from voting. Apparently enough do, or else the bottom 40% wouldn't be 1) the vast majority of those who owe no federal income tax 2) getting as much as $8.21 in government spending for every $1 they pay in taxes (see figures 4, 5 and 6 in the PDF at www.taxfoundation.org/news/show/2286.htm...

EITC, TANF, Medicaid and Pell Grants are among the many opportunities to pull yourself up by using bootstraps that the government takes from other people.

(Report Comment)
Derrick Fogle October 15, 2011 | 8:52 p.m.

People get that theoretical $8.21 to $1 benefit because they would otherwise have pretty much nothing to lose. We give poor people money to control them.

The number of poor people has a direct correlation to the excessive wealth concentration at the other end of the spectrum. The actual income distribution curve looks just like an empty X-Y graph, with a speck of dust in the corner. If that last fraction of a percent has such a huge wealth concentration, there *WILL* be a corresponding void in the bottom half. The taller the vertical "wealth concentration tail" of the graph, the wider percentage at bottom that has nothing.

Mark identifies the problem succinctly enough: "Income inequality is a result of moving to an economy that primarily makes money rather than real goods."

Does producing more money produce more real wealth?

To some extent, yes. To the extent that it has happened in the US over the last 30 years, especially the last 10? Heck no. The absurd concentration of that wealth exposes the absurdity of the real value of that wealth. Most of it is nothing more than electronic signals stored on hard drives. The real reason we can't take very much from the wealthy is because trying to use that wealth would expose it's lack of real value.

Still, people made decisions to get us here. Not all of them were bad, either. Globalization has been an irresistible force; not rolling with it could have been catastrophic. But the willingness to see money itself a product, rather than a medium of exchange with which to use make real goods, has been a conscious, damaging decision.

Saying "That's just the way it is" isn't good enough. Right now it's as bad as we've ever known it to be. Why should we accept the worst as the "new normal"? The last time it was this bad, we wound up with the Great Depression. This time, same thing, just different words.

Other decisions, less focused on the creation of more money and more focused on production of real goods or infrastructure that helps facilitate production, might help.

(Report Comment)

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