Occupy, Dual Incomes and Charity

The Occupy movement has started a conversation here in the United States that’s perhaps overdue. Although often accused of not having an agenda, they do have a unifying agreement on their home page which says in part:

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%.

The changes in the economy in the United States over the last roughly three decades have diminished the middle class and made things rougher for the poor. One way to demonstrate this is to look at the increasing income gap. According to the Congressional Budget Office  income of the richest one percent increased some 275 percent between 1979 and 2007.

People in their 60s and older remember clearly when it was unusual to have two working adults in a home. And that generation put a whole bunch of kids through college on a single wage. Although there are families in the US that make it on a single income, it’s been pretty rare – until recently, that is. Today a single income family with a poor credit report is more likely to be the result of unemployment, I suspect, rather than a thoughtful decision.

As the Occupy movement spreads around the world. According to The Atlantic the movement is now in 80+ countries.

In fact I think it’s safe to say that the Occupy movement has started a conversation around the world that’s perhaps overdue.

We Americans have grown up with the idea that free markets and capitalism make wealth and create a strong middle class. Prior to the 1980s or so this seemed to be true.  Following World War II the United States became the so-called economic engine of the world. What we were doing in terms of democracy, job growth, safety nets and, yes, even government regulation worked, for awhile. Then things began to change.

First of all, understand that when people talk about free markets here they are really referring to business – both large and small, but mostly big business. Starting in the 1980s regulations which used to put breaks on banking greed and create business irresponsibility in other arenas began to be removed under the banner of free markets. The Bhopal disaster is an example of free markets running amuck. So was the Exxon Valdez oil spill, and the more recent BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Or think about the food recalls or drug recalls or even how the tobacco industry resisted any regulation and manipulated public opinion at all. Or how many of our jobs have been off-shored in the name of free trade.

Each instance  is an example of exactly what the Occupy movement is talking about. The owners of one percent of the wealth, left to their own devices, with few exceptions, seem to only want more and are willing to tromp all over everyone and everything to get it.

As our western way of doing business spread around the world, the good things and the bad things spread with it. As big business became less and less responsible for their actions, more and more of the world got trashed looking for oil or fighting wars with US company-supplied weaponry and the like.

Although it’s difficult a direct cause and effect relationship between say deregulation in the United States and the various disasters in Uganda where charities like Just Like My Child struggle to help, the Occupy movement is on to something. They are voicing the voice of the here-to-for voiceless.

Karl Marx and Pope John II referred to it as “unbridled capitalism.” One was communist, one wasn’t – both had a point.

It’s not that all markets are wrong or that all businesses are greedy, it’s that apparently people on planet earth have not yet learned to live in peace with each other without some sort of break on their baser instincts. Here in the US unions and the government, while far from perfect, have until recently acted as a decent break. We can get that back if we really want it.

I don’t know what will come out of the Occupy movement. Change I expect, change that moves us more toward a sustainable future in a world that works for everyone. That’s my fondest wish and hope, and I’m willing to help work for it.

How do you think the Occupy movement will change things?

Love, blessings and abundance,

Anne Wayman: When Grandmother Speaks