Monday, November 07, 2011

Occupying Wall Street: A Guide For The Rest Of Us

Cody ChesnuTT - "Where Is All The Money Going?"

On September 17th, the national conversation took a sharp left turn.  That morning, the Tea Party's obsession with dismantling the social safety net, busting labor unions, destroying environmental regulations, and giving even more tax breaks to the ultra-wealthy had been the only media game in town for over two years.  Pundits and editors talked endlessly about the power of the Tea Party movement, and gave right-wingers 24 hours a day of exposure.  That morning, the rest of us, the vast majority of Americans, had no voice, no power, and many of us had lost all hope of promised change. 

But on September 17th, the rest of us, the 99%, found out we do, indeed, still have a voice.

Now, less than 7 weeks later, over 900 Occupy protests have taken place, spreading all over the world into a truly global movement.  Tensions and altercations with police and city leaders have intensified, the City of Oakland was shut down by a massive general strike, and the media can't get enough of it.  Television's political pundits and radio's talk show hosts are arguing non-stop about the pros and cons of massive income equality.  Suddenly, everyone knows that "too big to fail" multi-national corporations nearly always pay a lower income tax rate than the average middle class worker, and that many pay nothing to the system that supports them.  And the biggest banks abruptly backed away from their promise to institute monthly debit card fees, when the newly empowered American middle class and working class moved their money into small local banks and credit unions in droves.  America has become Occupied, and the Koch Brothers astroturfed Tea Party is over. 

A few "dumb hippies" camping in a park really did change the world.  And, now it's time for the rest of us to do our part.    At this point, most Americans now support the general sentiment of the Occupiers.  Most Americans are tired of unchecked corporate money and influence in our government.  Most Americans want a system that benefits those who play by the rules, not those who are above the rules.  But, the fact is, that most of us aren't able, or willing, to sleep in a park, or get tear-gassed, or get arrested for civil disobedience. 

The time has come for the rest of us to Occupy the system.  The time has come to be conscious of the power of our daily spending and financial habits, and speak out by altering the ways we speak with our money.  The Wall Street barons depend on Americans' continued acquiescence in the funneling of wealth out of our communities, and into their offshore bank accounts. They depend on us to continue to buy cheap foreign made products in big box corporate stores that kill local economies.  They depend on Black Friday shoppers, all year long.  We need to stop feeding their system, and start supporting our communities and our nation.  

Here are a few suggestions for how to Occupy the system, from the comfort of your own neighborhood...

1.  Move Your Money!  -  The "too big to fail" banks relied on the American public for their very survival in 2008 and accepted billions of dollars in taxpayer bailout.  Then, they turned around and gave jaw-dropping bonuses to the very executives who crashed the American economy, outsourced departments and laid off American workers by the thousands, and then began an aggressively arrogant campaign to nickel and dime their customers into 6.2 billion dollars in quarterly profits.  They thought we would recognize their power and just accept more fees.  Occupy the mega-banks by moving your money to a small local bank or credit union.   By moving your money from a Wall Street mega-bank to a local bank or credit union, you'll be making your voice heard in the only way that matters on Wall Street, and you'll be supporting a local institution that contributes more to your local economy. For a little guidance on moving your money, check out

2.  Shop Independent and Local! -  Every time you make the choice to shop at a local "mom and pop" store, you are contributing to your local economy.  Studies have shown that for every $100 spent at an independent business, $68 stays in the local economy.  For every $100 spent at a local corporately-owned national chain store, only $43 stays.   Chain stores funnel money out of local economies and into usually far-away corporate headquarters.  Independent stores are owned and operated by your neighbors.  And, communities that support independent stores and restaurants enjoy a unique diversity of options, as opposed to generic big box warehouses of cheap stuff "made in China," and bland chain restaurants serving homogenous processed garbage. 

3.  Avoid Online Shopping! - There is no more direct way to funnel your dollars out of your community than "shopping" online.  You might save a dollar, or two, by shopping through an online retailer, and the convenience is definitely tempting, but you're sending your money to a "store" that doesn't hire local workers, doesn't pay local taxes, doesn't support local charities, and doesn't contribute in any way to the prosperity of your community.

4.  Buy American! - Right-wingers love to wave their (Made in China) American flags and call themselves "real" patriots, then get into their gas-guzzling SUVs and head directly to Wal-Mart to fill their shopping carts full of cheap junk made in sweatshops in China, Pakistan, and Myanmar.  Wall Street's multi-national corporations have no loyalty to the United States.  Their only loyalty is to their shareholders.  Be a real patriot and buy American-made products.  In doing so, you're supporting American jobs, American safety standards, American labor practices, and American environmental standards.  It can be difficult to find the American-made version of what you're looking for, but it's worth trying.  Here's a place to start...How Americans Can Buy American.

5.  Educate Yourself!  - There is an entire industry built on supplying a steady stream of misinformation to the American people.  It's hard to sift through all the inaccuracies and outright lies, but ultimately, it is your responsibility to educate yourself as to what is going on and how we got to where we are as a nation.  Do a little research and make sure you understand one of the main points of protest - the 2010 Supreme Court decision on Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission, and definitely know the big money players behind the corruption of our system...The Koch Brothers and ALEC (, and are great resources for checking the facts).

The time has come.  

1 comment:

AgentX said...

Very insightful. And no matter your political leanings the steps you outline are great for community building!