"We are the ones we have been waiting for."- thus said candidate Barack Obama who used it for a Presidential campaign speech in February 2008. Although it is generally attributed to him, it is actually a Hopi message from the Elders in 2006.
I am quoting it because many in the Occupy Wall Street movement are either present or past Obama supporters. I will always remember that exciting feeling that gripped the nation on Election Day 2008. President Obama's acceptance speech in Chicago that night was a truly momentous and moving occasion. Although the world seemed to be crashing around us with our financial meltdown, bank bailouts, and a global recession, we had hope because many of us thought he would be our savior.
He said all the right things. He was going to rescue the economy from a depression, end the war in Iraq, have transparency in DC, create jobs, repeal DADT, regulate Wall Street, pass health care and immigration reform, promote clean energy, improve our standing in the world, and save the environment.
Well, he did some of those things and fell short in others. But I believe many had too high expectations of him. The mess we are in did not happen overnight and it will take more than two and a half years to fix it. But instead of thinking he failed us, I think we failed him.
After all, he said "we" not "I". He also said change would not come easily. He and we underestimated the GOP opposition. Obama thought that because we were in such dire straits everyone would band together and help him pass his plans for recovery. (Remember his "red states, blue states" speech in 2004 at the Democratic Convention?) Wrong. He and we allowed the opposition to wrongly paint him as a socialist from Kenya.
Mistakes were made in the first year. I believe the biggest one was going after health care reform instead of working solely on the economy. The second was having the stimulus be too small to create the long term effect it would need to fully succeed.
But the truth is "we" abandoned Obama and the Democrats in the last election. We allowed the Tea Party to corral the angst of an unhappy electorate, impatient for change. They got the vote out, we did not.
What resulted is a Republican landslide in the House of Representatives, state Governorships and state legislatures, gains in the Senate, political clout for the Tea Party and a huge shift to the right for the GOP. Problem is this has not helped the economy but in fact made things worse. With the GOP demands to cut the deficits in state, local, and federal levels, they have taken a meat cleaver to jobs in education, unions, firefighters, police, and public employees. They have cut wages, pensions, and health care benefits to middle class workers. All of this while the 1% got richer.
In Wisconsin and Ohio they have ended collective bargaining for public union workers. Now they want to axe the Post Office and the EPA and funding for the Arts while increasing defense spending. They also want to privatize social security and medicare.
The Republicans refuse to give FEMA funding to disaster areas unless it is counter balanced by spending cuts. The GOP controlled House of Representatives has not passed one bill addressing job creation since they took over in January of 2011. Now they are blocking President Obama's Jobs Bill which according to some economists could create over a million jobs.
Naturally, as the effects of the 2009 Recovery Act (stimulus bill) are winding down, and many states are cutting jobs, the recession seems to be getting worse and unemployment remains high at close to 9 %.
Of course, reducing the debt and deficit is important, but shouldn't our main priority be jobs right now? If the economy does not grow by increasing employment, we will never get our debt in check. Higher tax rates for the wealthy could also help lower the deficit.
Polls show Americans are shifting once again in their economic views. Most say creating jobs is the most important issue, with cutting the debt coming in second. A majority also favor raising the tax rates on the richest one percent while supporting tax cuts for the middle class.
The problem is with the paralysis in DC these days, also known as gridlock, nothing will get done until the next election. The truth is we can't wait another 13 months. The 99% is hurting now. Thus came the birth of the Occupy Wall Street movement.
Why Wall Street? Because we tax payers bailed them out when they and congress acted irresponsibly. Now it is Main Street's turn for some payback.
The 99% don't care who is to blame. We aren't Democrats or Republicans. We are human beings. This is a humanitarian movement, not a political one. We left the politicians in the dust ages ago. Congress' approval rating of 12% bears that out. In fact, it is the one thing the Tea Party and the Occupiers have in common- we distrust government. We see how elected officials have been bought out by the Wall Street banks, the lobbyists, the special interest groups, and big business.
We know this coming election campaign will be expensive and nasty, further fueling the energy of our movement. Where are these millions and billions coming from to finance negative ads? Why can't that money be spent more constructively, like creating jobs for the middle class?
We want a fundamental change in how things work in DC. We want a system that serves the people, not the privileged few. Maybe the political system is so corrupt that it doesn't matter who is President. Maybe one person cannot bring about that type of change because there are too many demands placed on that office and to even get nominated you have to be funded by special interests.
Maybe it takes all of us to stand up, take action by protesting and speaking out. We are the 99% and so are you. Maybe, just maybe, "we are the ones we have been waiting for."