AS I WRITE THIS EDITORIAL, I CAN HEAR THE
chants of the Occupy Wall Street demonstrators
outside of my office. In fact, my colleagues and
I have heard the cacophony of protesters’ rants,
whistles, drums and, yes, vuvuzulas several times
a day for the past few weeks.
When they first showed up, most of us thought
it was a fleeting thing—just a bunch of kids with
nothing better to do. But as time passed, what began as a march against
“The Man” turned into a nationwide movement, a rebellion against every-
thing from corporate greed and unfair taxation to unemployment, foreclo-
sures and labor-union disagreements.
Their central complaint, loosely, is that big business and the wealthiest
1% of the country have an unfair influence over US laws and policies. They
want to raise taxes on corporations and the rich; protect Medicare, Social
Security and other public-welfare programs; create more jobs; and abolish
the World Bank and Federal Reserve; among other demands.
The protest has attracted sympathetic celebrities—including filmmaker
Michael Moore, mogul Russell Simmons and rapper Kanye West—as well as
politicians embracing the movement to gain favor at the polls. (The irony is that
many of those supporters are members of the 1% they’re griping about.)
Through weeks of protests, however, most of us have yet to see a clear
point. In fact, a lot of these protestors seem to be missing the point. They’re
all rallying against a system that’s so vast and intricate that they themselves
are likely part of it. After all, without borrowers clamoring for funds, the mortgage market wouldn’t have gotten as inflated as it did. It’s the same for
credit cards. Yes, the cost of living has increased while paychecks haven’t,
but Americans are also notorious for living beyond their means.
They say we need social and economic equality. That’s a noble idea, but
this disparity has always existed. Some rail against capitalism, but we all see
how well socialism worked out for other countries. And I’d be willing to say
that of those protesters pointing their fingers at Wall Street, a good number
of them wouldn’t turn down a well-paying job there, either.
Was Wall Street reckless with financial structures and lending practices?
Absolutely. Is it fair that they’re getting richer while America is getting poorer? Probably not. Was it illegal? No. Big business didn’t create the loopholes
and lax regulation that allowed them to run amok. Think about it. If you let a
kid loose in a candy store without holding his hand, you’re going to have to
deal with an upset stomach and a sugar high later.
No, this movement should have been cast as “Occupy Capitol Hill.” That’s
where all the action is. That’s where elected officials are choosing to support
the interests of lobbyists and corporations, rather than representing their constituents. That’s where politicos are quibbling over budget talks and cutting
corners at the expense of the middle and lower classes. But that seems to
be lost on these protesters. And even more sad is when New York magazine
asked those gathered Downtown whether they voted in the midterm elections, more than half (55%) admitted they did not. So who’s to blame?
OWS is being compared to the Arab Spring movement. While ambitious,
I think that’s a stretch. This movement could go either way—it could provoke
change and gather even more momentum, or it could lose steam and peter
out. I’d put my money on the latter.
Sule Aygoren Carranza
6 REAL ESTATE FORUM SEPTEMBER 2011 6 REAL ESTATE FORUM OCTOBER 2011
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