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David Korten: Why I'm in Solidarity with #OccupyWallStreet

By the calendar it’s autumn, but for many it is the beginning of the American Spring.
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Occupy Wall Street, photo by Eric Hart

Protesters fill the Brooklyn Bridge on October 1, the day more than 700 were arrested.

Photo by Eric Hart

At this moment the brave and dedicated #OccupyWallStreet protesters are in the streets of New York and cities around the world. They call the world’s attention to Wall Street greed and corruption as a common source of the many crises that threaten the human future—economic, political, social, and environmental. This is a defining moment for America. It is our country’s version of the uprisings occurring around the world. It is a ray of hope for democracy and real prosperity in America and beyond.

Contrary to the Wall Street propaganda, Wall Street is a job killer, not a job creator. Wall Street banks and corporations have no interest in creating jobs, educating American children, or assuring that Americans have health care and retirement security. They appeal for ever more tax breaks and regulatory relief only to have yet more money to use as they used their taxpayer provided bailout: to increase executive bonuses, pay dividends, buy other companies, buy back their own stock to increase the value of their stock options, buy political favor, create new financial bubbles, and outsource yet more jobs.

America is far from broke. Our problem is too much money in the wrong places.

Wall Street cloaks itself in the American flag to gain public favor, but offshores its profits to avoid paying its share of America’s upkeep—leaving it to the “little people” to pay for the public infrastructure on which Wall Street profits depend. Its relationship to America is that of an alien occupier who comes only to extract, not to build.

The ruckus about the budget deficit is a typical Wall Street inspired and funded political diversion. America is far from broke. Our problem is too much money in the wrong places – unjust but profitable wars, corporate bailouts, and CEO bonuses to name a few. Wall Street banks and corporations are sitting on record amounts of idle cash in the trillions of dollars. Their highest return investments are in the politicians who favor them with public subsidies, tax breaks, and freedom from public oversight.

Water fountain piggyback photo by CSuspectLess Work, More Living
Working fewer hours could save our economy, save our sanity, and help save our planet.

Ordinary people all across America are rising up to expose Wall Street’s deceptions and reclaim their country from this alien occupier. The Declaration of the Occupation of New York City enumerates Wall Street’s crimes against people, country, nature, and the world. The personal stories emerging from Occupy Wall Street document our common experience under Wall Street’s rule—unemployment, wages that cannot support families, dwindling retirement accounts, foreclosed homes, student debt, and deferred health care. These stories are inspiring yet more Americans to come forward.

There is also the quiet—but powerful—protest of the millions of Americans who are putting their shoulders to the wheel of change by building the new community-rooted, market-based, life-serving Main Street economies we need for a 21st century America that provides secure, adequate dignified, and meaningful livelihoods for all in a balanced relationship to nature.

The corporate media are obsessed with the question: “What do the Occupy Wall Street protesters want? What is their demand?” It should be obvious. They want their economy, their government, and their country back from the alien occupiers.

As our forebears liberated America from rule by a distant king and the British East India Company, the time has come to liberate America from Wall Street and reclaim the power Wall Street has usurped. It is time to establish democracy in America and build a national system of Main Street economies owned and accountable to people who have an inherent interest in building healthy communities with thriving local economies and healthy natural environments for themselves and their children. By the calendar it’s autumn, but for many it is the beginning of the American Spring. 


David Korten author picDavid Korten is board chair of YES! Magazine and the author of Agenda for a New EconomyTheGreat Turning: From Empire to Earth Community, and the international bestseller When Corporations Rule the World. He is co-chair of the New Economy Working Group, and a founding board member of the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies. This blog draws from his recent presentation to a local MoveOn gathering of Olympic Peninsula progressives.

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