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Cynthia Kounaris

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Pro Occupy Wall Street; Against a 2-Tiered Society

Posted: 11/02/11 04:46 PM ET

"Majority rules." That is a concept that every child grows up with. When you were trying to solve a schoolyard dispute or pick a TV show with your siblings, you knew that "majority rules." So how is it we now live in a society where 1% rules?

Yes, I am the 99%. The odds would predict that. Yes, I feel that Occupy Wall Street speaks for me (read their minimal "mission statement") -- to the extent that OWS is going out of its way to not have positions and not speak for anyone except to say that everyone needs to have a voice that is heard and a vote that counts -- not just lobbyists representing the interests of the rich and global corporations (who are NOT people, too).

Critics complain that there is no list of demands. I like that. If there were a long list, maybe I'd agree with some and disagree with others. But if there is just one overarching demand -- that our government needs to fairly, justly and equally represent its citizens and, by doing that, its citizens can fairly, justly and equally have a voice in putting forth new ideas and the ability to fairly, justly and equally vote for or against them. I am 100 percent for that

Americans are not naive. We know that it is better to be rich than poor -- for so so many reasons. And the rich, like the poor, will be with us always. We know that there are advantages built into the system for the rich and powerful (that is the definition of "powerful"). That is reality and Americans accept that. But the discrepancy between the rich (and powerful) and the rest of us has grown to an unhealthy, unproductive and harmful size.

A strong, healthy and large middle class is a very good thing -- not just for those who are in that middle class. A strong, healthy and large middle class means a strong, healthy and large group of consumers, taxpayers, volunteers, workers, teachers, police, small business owners, renters, home buyers, etc. It is good for America. And good for the idea of America.

It is great to be rich and it is great that Americans should all feel that this is something they can attain. But it is even more important that all Americans feel that they can attain middle class status. And not a new, "downsized" view of middle class but the traditional view -- people who, through hard work and fiscal responsibility, can own their own home, have one or two cars, send their children to college and are able to endure a medical crisis without bankrupting themselves.

The unfairness of our current system is depressing and staggering. Whichever area you pick -- health care, criminal justice, financial/taxes -- the rich have it so much better than not just the poor (which is not shocking) but the middle class (which should be shocking). And not for the obvious reasons -- because they have more money - but because of how the system is stacked in their favor (and against the rest of us). This clear and prevalent unfairness is finally getting a lot of attention. Great recent examples: Arianna Huffington's "Lessons from Spain," Rachel Maddow's show on Wall Street's culpability without accountability , Politifact's "fact-checker" article on income inequality, Thomas Friedman's NYT column on Citigroup's "non-admission" of guilt, Matt Taibbi on Rolling Stone about winning vs. cheating.

What I hear Occupy Wall Street saying is "We will follow the rules. But let's make the rules fair." The system is rigged. It wasn't designed to be rigged but has bit-by-bit, step-by-step, become rigged. Sadly, when there seemed to be a booming economy, we didn't pay that much attention. But now that so many more people are struggling and disenfranchised, we have suddenly woken up, seen how unjust the system is and said "What???? This is wrong!" The argument can (and should) be made that the poor and minorities, in America and across the world, have experienced this inequality for a long time, that the "99%" is a little late to this party and that, only once the American middle class has been affected, have they decided to act. But better late than never.