Bt Norma Warren
I am so in support of Occupy Wall Street. And I am disgusted with those who criticize it’s lack of a clear agenda, it’s lack of clear goals, it’s lack of leaders. The truth is that those of us who are content and whose lives have been less exposed to poverty, are quick to assume this movement is the product of a few malcontents. Let’s face it. The establishment doesn’t want to change. The fact that this movement is rough around the edges is a sign of the failure of the existing system to address the problems of our country. Routes to economic security have systematically been eliminated, blocked, or present endless detours. The people who would normally correct the mismanagement of our current economic system lack the necessary information or have been bought off.
This battle was begun back in the ’60’s. I was part of the war on poverty, working to make equal opportunity a reality. The establishment didn’t want to change then and it’s worse now. When the needs of the poor were brought to light in the ’60’s neither political party wanted to address the real problems of our economic system. Instead they approved “band-aid” programs for specific unemployed groups. The names of some of these programs I recall. Veterans and handicapped got special employment assistance through the Dept. of Rehabilitation. Special education students got CETA (Comprehensive Education and Training Act) . Disadvantaged youth got the Youth Corps. Low income high school students got the Summer Youth Employment Program. At one point there were so many of us finding jobs for people that we were competing with each other. The pool of available jobs was shrinking. Please note, these programs did nothing to change the economy itself which was generating fewer and fewer good jobs. So welfare benefits were increased. Yet the recipients were not required to earn their benefits lest they compete with private businesses or the unions.
None of our leaders wanted to confront the fact that the system was failing – if they knew it. Most did not. Instead, they began to blame those who were unemployed. Over a period of ten years they forgot why they had created all those “band aids” and they began to notice that generations of chronically unemployed were passing on their lack of skills to their offspring. However, by this time it had become too expensive to buy off millions of Americans. So what did the politicians say ? If they’re poor, it’s their own fault ! So we stripped the “band aid” programs and we cut welfare benefits. More and more people got hungry. More and more are uneducated and completely lack a work ethic.
Our leaders have failed us. Rather than confront the greedy few who have benefitted by the mismanagement of the economy, our leaders have indulged themselves with the perks of their offices and buried their heads in the sand. What recourse have we ? Gathering in non-violent protest is an honorable way of communicating and a method which is available to all of us.