By JUDI LUTZ WOODS
Occupy Wall Street began in September and now has spread to more than 100 cities in the United States and 1,500 actions worldwide.
There are now Occupy actions in Buffalo, Rochester, Erie, and locally in Fredonia, which ends today. The Occupy Wall Street is a people-powered movement that is, according to the OccupyWallSt.org web site, "fighting back against the corrosive power of major banks and multinational corporations over the democratic process, and the role of Wall Street in creating an economic collapse that has caused the greatest recession in years."
Judi Lutz Woods speaks last week at an Occupy Fredonia gathering.
It is a movement and not a protest. It is standing up against the power that money and corporations have in our politics and in our lives.
It is a people's movement with no designated leaders. Everyone involved with Occupy has the same voice and the same vote. There are no specific demands, as it is a movement rather than a simple protest, similar to previous movements that have changed our society and influenced our laws, such as the Civil Rights movement. At any Occupy action you will find people of all ages, work status - working as well as unemployed, students as well as graduates, retirees and children ... a very real cross-section of our country is represented at Occupy actions.
Each person has their own reason for standing up against the corporate power and its influence in our lives and government.
For an overall view of the Occupy Movement I highly suggest readers go to the web site OccupyWall Street or to OccupyFredonia.org and read in particular the DECLARATION OF OCCUPATION OF NEW YORK CITY. The declaration gives philosophical reasons for the occupation as well as specific policies/actions that they oppose, such as the assaults against collective bargaining, and the bank bailouts.
While I do not speak for Occupy as a whole, I offer my own reasons for my involvement which has led me to Occupy DC, Occupy Buffalo, and now Occupy Fredonia.
1. Citizens United vs. Federal Elections Commission. I want to see this Supreme Court decision eliminated, either by an act of Congress or by a constitutional amendment. This decision ruled that the government may not ban any campaign contributions by corporations and that contributors need not disclose their identity. It essentially said that unions and corporations may spend an unrestricted amount of money on political campaigns. The floodgates for money pouring into our elections was opened. The 2010 midterm elections (first national elections following this ruling) led to the most expensive midterm elections in our history. About $3.98 billion was spent. For me this is a direct assault on our democracy. Contributions to campaigns from people like me and you can never compete with the amount of money that unions and corporations can give. Get all money out of our ballot boxes. We need real Campaign Reform.
2. End the wars and bring all of our troops and our money home.
Almost 5,000 American troops have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan since the start of the wars and thousands more injured and wounded. Number of Iraqi civilians killed 1,455,590 hundreds of thousand more displaced from their homes. We have spent $3.7 trillion on this war, costing us in Chautauqua county at least $539,564,000. Need I say more? It is long overdue. Bring our troops home.
3. The growing inequality in household incomes that threatens to transform our country into a plutocracy. The Congressional Budget Office recently released a report on household incomes over the past 30 years, from 1979 to 2009. The report shows that income for the top 1 percent grew by 275 percent, for the next 19 percent it grew by 65 percent, but for the next 60 percent of us - the middle and working class - it only grew by 40 percent! The most poor, the bottom 20 percent, only saw an increase of 18 percent. No I am not against capitalism, but I am against corporate greed. There is a difference.
The average CEO pay is 185 times larger than the average worker. From 2007 2009 (hey isn't that when we were in an economic collapse and the banks needed our money as bail out?)...Wall Street profits rose 720 percent!
Oh, unemployment rose as well, by 102 percent and our home equity decreased by 35 percent. Something is wrong, very wrong, when the most wealthy get even richer and many in the middle class are being pushed into poverty. Something is wrong when the top 1 percent control over 40 percent of the total wealth in our country. Having a concentration this great of the wealth in the hands of a few is a very real threat to our entire democracy and way of life.
4. Do away with the concept of "too big to fail" and reinstate the regulations that protected us, the consumers, like the Glass Steagall act, which prohibited banks from engaging in the investment business.
If a bank is too big to fail, it is too big. Break up the banks like we did the phone company. I support the investigation that is being conducted by our attorney general Eric Schneiderman and Beau Biden of Delaware into the banking and wall street and mortgage companies. I will watch closely, hoping that the investigation will lead to arrests, prosecutions, real penalties including getting our money back.
These are just four of my many reasons for supporting Occupy actions everywhere. Our Constitution begins with "WE THE PEOPLE" ... not corporations, not only super rich people, not only those with power, but We the People ... all the People.
It is time for we the people to exert our power and demand that our Congress truly represent us, the people.
Judi Lutz Woods is a Fredonia resident.