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Occupy Wall Street: the Next Crucial American Movement

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OCCUPY WALL STREET
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Our country is in a crisis. There exists a terrible mismatch between the ultra rich and the 99 percent of us who are not driven by unbridled greed.

The root cause of the problem: a nation that was deregulated at the expense of the conscience of our country and at the expense of the fabric of the American Dream -- deregulated for Wall Street mega-banks and multinational corporations who care nothing for people sleeping in tents or without jobs in foreclosed lives.

Occupy Wall Street is a tide of upheaval and alienation, much like the other crucial movements in our past that led to a more equal and fairer American society. The history of these movements in America began more than 200 years ago with a revolution against the tyranny of King George, who wanted to extract as much money from the colonies as possible. It includes the Civil War and Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation; Women's Sufferage (remember that not too long ago, women were not allowed to vote); and the Civil Rights Movement, which recognized that the Emancipation Proclamation needed teeth.

The civil Rights Movement was fundamentally about human rights, and Occupy Wall Street is also about human rights. It is about how most Americans really do not have a voice in our democracy because government has not protected the public, but favored the 1 percent who bankroll our elected officials.

"Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such attention that a community which has consistently refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks to so dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored."

To understand the need and raison d'etre for the Occupy Wall Street Movement, it is important to remember the above quote from a letter, which the Rev. Martin Luther King wrote from the confines of a cell in the Birmingham Jail on April 16, 1963.

Dr. King was right -- and this new movement should be a wake-up call for Congress. In this country, preserving freedom to allow Capitalism to flourish is vital, but it should not trump the protection of the public good. Citizens have a right to have their economic and societal well-being protected ahead of Big Money. It's that simple.

We are not alone. Many other people in countries around our ever-smaller globe are marching for the same right, based on the same gravitas and reasons.

Now is the time for another Great American Movement, a new moment of truth for our country. And the scions of Wall Street watching from their lofty piles of money, deep in their sociopathic hearts, must know. Jeffrey Immelt, our President's jobs czar, also should know.

Wall Street is emblematic of Congress' concern for the interests of special interests, promoted by highly paid lobbyists for Wall Street and Big Business. And this sad reality has become palpable to 99 percent of Americans, who have decided not to take it anymore.

Today, our society has become -- of the lobbyists, by the ultra rich and for the ultra rich.

We are a living example of capitalism gone awry -- living in an economy that has been laid to waste by deregulating the barriers against greed erected in the aftermath of the Great Depression. We are living in a society controlled by lobbyists -- an army of mercenaries with cash as their weapons -- who are conducting a war on behalf of Wall Street Banks, Big Business and Big Money.

Capitalism is not the problem -- the problem is that its actors have been motivated by personal greed and nothing else. Financial capital is being turned away from real investments that create jobs and toward financial investments that create billions of net worth but no capital formation to create jobs. American multinational corporations that have generated enormous profits continue to ship middle-class jobs overseas for cheap labor, along with profits to avoid taxation here. Immelt, our jobs czar and CEO of GE, has proposed being allowed to bring all the untaxed profits home without any tax, nor any guarantee of how that money will be actually be spent.

Shortly after Adam Smith''s time, it became apparent that a totally free economic system unleashed powerful forces that were not always good. So the notion of total hands off was addressed and modified by the English Factory Act of 1833, which established a system of inspectors to prevent the abuse of child and women labor.

The past should serve as prologue. But for the past 30 years, Congress has gone back to the hands-off notions that caused our Great Depression and led to the Sherman Anti-trust Act and the Glass-Steagal barriers between banking and taking investment risks.

"Free the Market" became the cry of Wall Street-Mega Bank Holding Companies, Big Business and the Big Money supporting all the lobbyists. The new Republicans have supported the drive to totally free Capitalism at the clear expense of the Public Good, and the Democrats have either been unwitting participants or worse.

There has always been a tension between Capitalism and the Public Good. In the United States this crested when Herbert Spencer, the 19th Century British philosopher, postulated his theory of Social Darwinism based on the ethic of "survival of the fittest." This had nothing to do with Darwin, but only with providing a moral basis for the unbridled greed of Capitalism. And this moral was adopted by men like Andrew Carnegie and Rockefeller to justifytheir infinite avarice without one shard of concern for the public. Robber-baron greed was at the expense of the workers necessary to grow their personal riches, no matter what the consequences. Social Darwinism was simply -- public interest be damned!

There is a quote from the Declaration of Independence that is important to revisit: "He (the King of Great Britain) has refused to assert to laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good."

Therefore, this country was founded on the franchise that Americans have the right to expect laws to be enacted for the Public Good; and an expectation under the surface of things, to have the government protect the public.

And now a majority of Americans feel disenfranchised! Just like at the time of the Civil Rights Movement -- when Lyndon Johnson, a Southerner, supported the movement to end the inequalities based on color alone. Johnson forcibly pushed legislation through Congress knowing that it was right and knowing it would cost the Democratic Party the South.

So, once again, the time has come for another crucial American Movement that represents the real spirit of how Americans pull together when glaring inequalities threaten the American Dream.

Henry Schoenberger is the author of the new book, 'How We Got Swindled By Wall Street Godfathers, Greed & Financial Darwinism - The 30-Year War Against The American Dream,' which will be available in November.