Occupying Wall Street and Economic Futures

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By Glen Hiemstra | October 11th, 2011

I began thinking about the long term impact of the growing gap between rich and poor, and the flat-lining of middle class incomes, several years ago. I began the chapter on The Great Divides in my 2006 book by discussing the growing wealth divide, and in a 2006 keynote for the American Red Cross I called out the looming rich poor gap as an issue for philanthropic organizations.

Since 2006, the situation has gotten worse, of course, with the collapse of 2008, and the long non-recovery recovery that has followed. But now the issue has leaped from speeches about future trends to the front pages.

For over three weeks Occupy Wall Street protestors have been rallying against a number of grievances focused on a jobless economy and the Wall Street, regulatory, corporate and other policies that they see as combining systemically to prevent improvement. The website for Occupy Wall Street claims that, The one thing we all have in common is that We Are The 99% that will no longer tolerate the greed and corruption of the 1%. We are using the revolutionary Arab Spring tactic to achieve our ends and encourage the use of nonviolence to maximize the safety of all participants.

Street demonstrations are a quintessential American tradition and right, and thus the demonstrators are carrying on in the footsteps of many who have come before them. What makes Occupy Wall Street unique is the intent to carry on an occupation as a tactic. Momentum for Occupy Wall Street has gathered speed in the last several days with the inclusion of local labor unions in the protests, and the spread to cities in almost every state in the Union. While many mainstream media and financial commentators have expressed opinions that range from confusion to disgust, others are beginning to catch on that something is happening here. Even President Obama has said Occupy Wall Street protests are a reflection of a ‘broad-based frustration about how our financial system works’, though I am not sure he grasps how much of the frustration is with his own ineffectiveness in dealing with that financial system (along with the rest of Washington DC).

Many of the Millennial Generation are involved in this protest, lending credence to the generational theory forecast that the Millennial Generation would be an activist generation. Amongst the thousands of protestors, hundreds have been arrested or aggressively handled in some way by the police, which is evident in the following video.

So what does it mean and where do things go from here? I have two primary observations today. Read more

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