A majority of respondents to this week’s RBJ Daily Report Snap Poll opposes the Occupy Wall Street movement in New York City, Rochester and elsewhere.
Forty-six percent of RBJ poll respondents support the Occupy movement, which now is nearly 2 months old. It began in New York City’s Zuccotti Park in the Wall Street financial district and has spread to numerous cities, including Rochester. In Rochester, protesters have gathered in Washington Square Park.
Rather than deliver a list of specific demands, the Occupy movement has identified a range of grievances including social and economic inequality and corporate greed and influence over government. The protesters have used the slogan, “We are the 99 percent,” to highlight the gap in wealth between the richest 1 percent of Americans and the rest of the population.
By a margin of 62 percent to 38 percent, readers predict the Tea Party will have a bigger impact on the 2012 presidential election than the Occupy movement.
Roughly 1,020 readers participated in this week’s poll, which was conducted Nov. 7 and 8.
Overall, do you support the Occupy movement in New York City, Rochester and elsewhere?
Yes: 46 percent
No: 54 percent
In your view, which of the following is likely to have the biggest impact on the 2012 presidential election?
The Tea Party movement: 62%
The Occupy movement: 38%
What is your political affiliation?
I’m also a member of the so-called “99 percent,” who aren’t among the richest Americans. But unlike those who seem to think they’re entitled to something, I’ve worked hard for everything that I have. I’ve taken some knocks along the way, and when I was just starting my career and family, it was sometimes tough making ends meet. But I persevered, and always knew that my fate was in my control—not the government’s control! Today, I enjoy a very comfortable standard of living, an excellent career and children that my husband and I have raised to be self-sufficient and hard-working. This is America, for crying out loud—whatever happened to the rugged individualism that defined this country? I believe that “social and economic inequity” is more a matter of personal choice than policy—people have the ability to rise above challenges if only given a chance.
—R. Canley, Fairport
They are spoiled brats, seeking to benefit directly by other people’s lifelong efforts. Keep your hands out of everyone else’s pockets!
—Richard Phelps, Allen-Bailey Tag & Label Inc.
The Occupy Movement is a truly grassroots movement; it’s not Astroturf, like the Tea Party. I don’t think that it will be co-opted by the Democratic Party, and I’m excited to see what happens over the next year.
—Jordan Byrd, Bootstrap Design
When the top 1 percent’s share of income doubles, while the lower 80 percent’s share shrinks, and 400 Americans own as much as the lower 150 million, inequality is turning the promise of “equal opportunity” into a fraud.
When you do not have a job, your job is to find a job. There are jobs to be had. You just need to take one and get on with your life. It may not be what you want but it is a place to start from and build your personal pride and capability. A career of sleeping in the park will get you nowhere.
—Bob Worden, Penn Yan
This is perhaps the first movement that I think I can really get behind. You just need to (turn on) CNN or open up the RBJ to see that corporations and their board members and CEOs are making money, but at the same time their employees are being fired or not sharing in the company’s success. It’s almost like the Manorialism of the Middle Ages.
We have serious economic issues in Rochester, the United States and the world. There is a great deal of validity to the Occupy movement. But the message is too diffused at this point to be impactful. And in Rochester, the issue with occupying the park overnight has diverted attention from any message they could have put out.
Occupy’s claim of being the 99 percent is unsubstantiated and irrelevant. More to the point, how many of those “Occupiers” are part of the 53 percent among us who actually pay income taxes? The Occupy movement does not represent most Americans, as they claim. If the woeful ignorance displayed during the interviews I have seen and listened to is any indicator, they are more akin to misguided socialists. Were it not for the drive-by media’s sensationalism and exaggeration, the movement (if you can call it that) would have faded away a long time ago.
—Steve Strasser, Honeoye Falls
The Occupy movement seems pointless. They complain about the 1 percent vs. the 99 percent. The remedy would be wealth redistribution, which is a socialist tenet. I suppose we could do that if we want to be a below-average economic performer like Europe is.
—Mike Kaser, Penfield
Perhaps the occupiers need to target the real culprits who allowed our current crises: Congress.
The Occupy group lacks direction. They should be occupying Washington where the banks’ rules are created and adulterated. We would not have had the problems on Wall Street that punished Main Street if the Congress did its job.
Rebels without a clue.
—Jim Duke, Victor
Occupy Wall Street seems like a bunch of frustrated people who can’t think of anything productive or effective to do or say, so they are asking others to make things better.
Their frustration should be directed at Congress, as over the past two previous administrations and the current one, laws and policies have been passed that led to the banking problems. To single out only Wall Street (which also shares the blame) is misdirected.
Please tell me this is a joke. Are we really asking the readers of the RBJ if they are socialist, communist and/or anarchist? On the bright side, if you want a look at what the country would be like if they got their way—just turn on the news and look at it. Pretty pathetic.
—Devon Jones, Greece
Before President Nixon, there was a Tea Party. With his tenure, we called them the Silent Majority; with Reagan, the Reagan Democrats; in Carter's time they supported John Anderson; and with President Clinton, they were with Ross Perot. There has always been 20 percent of the electorate, usually a little right of center, which has been the focus due to their independence and swing vote status. The 99 percent’s are a different group, but they too have been around, they are the vast majority of people who are not gaining any benefits from a system that they have participated in and played by the rules. They are Republicans and Democrats, people who had good jobs, an opportunity in their youth for a college education and now are looking at a system gamed for the elite. They don't want a hand-out as many have tried to portray them, they want a system that isn't bought and paid for by the highest bidder. One who respects everyone's right to, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The modern Conservative right has been working to dismantle all the security that has been built into the system particularly from FDR onward. A part of the Occupy Wall Street movement is a reaction to these attacks on Social Security, Medicare and any program designed to help the lower and middle class receive a leg up to a better life. The First Baby Boomers are the last to receive the classic American dream, college, a lifetime job, a pension (not tied to Wall Street) and money that is leftover for investment and retirement. Since 1979, the average workers wages have diminished, and benefits that they have paid into are now threatened to be cut drastically. People are waking up, they don't want big government for big business, and they don't want their children fighting wars for corporate American's interest rather than the real needs of the United States of America. The complete list of the Occupy Wall Street is long and varied, but it has been years in the making by those who have used the government for their purposes, it will take many years for the people to take it back.
—Joe Wierzbowski, Plymouth Photo Studio
The 99 percent is a worldwide movement that actually began in the fall of 2008 when the financial sector, centered on Wall Street, destroyed the world's economies. Wealth inequality, at historic highs, has the 1 percent making the debate about how high the level of austerity and will deepen the recession and further the desperation of the 99 percent. We would do well to remember the first Armistice Day, Nov. 11, 1918, and the conditions in Germany that followed. A decade later historic wealth inequality preceded the Great Depression and the austerity response deepened unemployment and spread the conditions of post WW I Germany worldwide. This became fertile ground for the rise of brutal dictatorships, genocide and a second World War. As long as the 1 percent controls the debate and the policies of the world's democracies, the 99 percent will grow. Should the 1 percent, and those that support them, not cede any ground, they should fear the future, and I do.
—Jim Bertolone, president, Rochester Labor Council, AFL-CIO
Though somewhat inchoate, the instincts of the movement point to a corruption of our representative democracy. Anyone who reads Boomerang or Griftopia will want to pick up a pitchfork and head somewhere (Wall Street, D.C. or any financial center). Anyone with a 20-something child with a degree, no job and crushing debt will understand the frustration of the youth. Let's hope it forces some electoral reform.
—Charles Pfeffer, Contextus LLC
Shining a light on the disparity between the have and have-nots in our society is a good start. However, where does the movement go from there? To "play" the political game a person needs both drive and wealth. The 99 percent (a slightly exaggerated figure, in my opinion) typically do not have the financial resources to become involved in our political game; as a result society loses the potential for making meaningful changes that could impact most American families. So, the system unfortunately remains the same. "We the People," "For the People”—what happened to the ideology behind those statements? Our government cannot fix that which it is unwilling to see. Maybe this grass roots movement can jump start needed change; only time will tell.
—L.S. Decker, MVP Health Care
God help us.
—Stanley Hilt, HP
The country's problems are complex, but if having to choose between the two protests as which embodies historical American values, I would absolutely vote for the Tea Party. The Occupy Wall Street rhetoric of free but unequal, and villianizing of successful people who create, produce and employ millions of people is not appropriate and is un-American. We are not guaranteed an equal percentage of the pie, just the opportunity to EARN a share of it. The job creators take risks to form these companies and many fail. Those who succeed should be applauded and admired. Perhaps if the Occupy Wall Street types worked as hard took the risks, did something productive they might succeed as well. Demanding a share of someone else's pie just because you exist is not right and certainly not American.
Occupy is the most brash of the two, Occupy vs. Tea Party. The squeaky wheel gets greased. All political discourse includes occupy content at this point—even though much is laughter. This has a greater affect on current discourse than the Tea Party that is forgotten in mainstream media as of late. This is not to say that Occupy has a clear mission or will get what they want. They are simply igniting conversation. Much of the conversation points at the Occupy group and mocks their brash, often stupid, behavior. Protesting is fine, even positive, but their version is a train wreck that we just can't seem to stop watching. Occupy, for the most part and in a generalization that encompasses most but not all of their participants, is proving an opposite point to their own. Their lack of organization, clear messaging, and couth marginalized them.
—Joshua C. Pies
Occupy Wall Street has the potential to rip this country apart. They are full of demands and lack solutions. To equate themselves to protestors from the civil rights era and Vietnam is a farce. Both had goals (revoke Jim Crow laws and stop the draft/immoral war). They want financial equality? That is SO vague that it means nothing. If they stated that they wanted the breakup of the large corporations using the Sherman Act, at least there would be a demand that could be accomplished. This group cannot be satisfied if they don’t have any realistic demands.
— Mike Knox
The Occupy people have the right to protest like we all do. I agree that crony capitalism is evil and must end, but free markets are what make this country great.
—Bruce Anderson, Alpha & Omega Parable Christian Stores
It is about time that people wake up and stop voting against their own personal interests.
I understand the frustration that the legitimate members feel, but not their methods. The criminals and anarchists have taken control of the movement. Barack Obama's America has become more polarized than any time in our history—but that is what he wants. Pit one group against another. A Community Organizer is by nature a factionalizer. Barack Obama's vision of equality is shared misery for all. No opportunity for the individual— be dependent on the group or government. It seems like there is no feeling of unbridled optimism left in America, and that is frustrating for America's youth. They need to feel that there is no limit to their aspirations.
—Dave Iadanza, Farmington
I support the right of peaceful protest as a protected constitutional right based on Amendment I of the Bill of Rights, a right not provided to the vast majority of the world's now 7 billion population. Amendment I states that it is the right of the US citizenry to "petition the Government for a redress of grievances." In the case of the Occupy Wall Street movement: a) what are those specific grievances; b) are they consistent across the broad geography of where these protests are taking place; and c) how would any governmental entity address these disparate protest goals? Without a unified message, what is going to be accomplished by the Occupy Wall Street effort? Further complicating the Occupy Wall Street debate is the fact that the country is in full presidential campaign mode, with various political entities (unions) supporting the Occupy Wall Street movement for their own gains, which clouds an already unidentifiable message or cause of the movement. Until a unified and actionable message can be agreed upon, I suggest those who wish to occupy our downtown parks take their movement to one of our many (fee-based) public campgrounds.
—Paul Hohensee, Webster
The Occupy Movement is a graphic statement being made mostly by people who are unemployed or underemployed. Companies are holding record profits, they are not hiring and there is little, if anything, that the government can do to force them to hire. It's not just the outsourcing of jobs, but the ELIMINATION of jobs that is the real problem. Companies (and governments) have found that they can eliminate a whole lot of jobs, and, with the number of people out of work, can be highly selective about who they do hire. They are essentially getting the same output with far fewer people. That is NOT going to change. Evidence the number of college graduates who simply cannot find work. Sure, it still pays to get a degree, but not for all. Now, having said all of this, and hearing of the relatively high paying jobs going unfilled in places such as North and South Dakota, I'd be tempted to give the Occupy Movement people one way bus tickets and tell them to "Get a job!"
I did not answer either Occupy or Tea Party. Both are essentially fictions of the media in terms of importance. One is a fiction of the left, the other a fiction of the right. The only thing influencing the election will be the economy, which will be predicated on the perception of whether Democrats are creating jobs fast enough or Republicans are blocking job creation. I am relatively convinced, given the lack of quality in the Republican ticket that the Democrats will carry another four years in the presidency.
—Lee Drake, CEO, OS-Cubed Inc.
The occupy movement would be more effective if they spent their time cleaning up the streets and vacant lots, fixing dilapidated property, helping the truly helpless and doing something positive for society and their country that allows them the freedom to demonstrate. The greed of Wall Street, the hedge fund managers, oil traders, union leaders, some business executives is obvious and just plain wrong and damaging to our nation. The occupy movement by doing nothing positive and in many cases ignoring the law, are equally wrong and damaging to our nation.
—Jim Weisbeck, Bloomfield
I believe wholeheartedly that the Occupy Movement has done an incredible service for our country in that the public debate is finally focused on the real issues people are facing. In 2008 the unregulated financial industry crashed the U.S. economy, and had it not been for the bailouts, it would have done irreparable harm to the world economy. For several years afterward, the scapegoats became public employees, unions, Planned Parenthood, NPR, etc. It is an incredible victory of this movement that people are once again thinking in terms of who are the real culprits and proposing tangible, long-term solutions to the lack of opportunity of economic equality.
—Holly Clements, Working Families Party
My answer to No. 1 is a qualified YES. They have a right to protest, however, they need to focus on the real issue, which is lack of job creation due to ineffective leadership—political and business. This isn't a “blame Wall Street” issue. They didn't solely create an environment that favors low-cost foreign products and the resultant loss of manufacturing in the United States. The protesters need to ask themselves if they shouldn't be picketing unions and companies like Wal-Mart. These two organizations are as much if not more to blame for our lack of jobs situation as the current targets of the protesters.
I'd be more likely to support the Occupy Movement if I could understand the purpose. There will always be the wealthy, and there will always be the poor. The poor need support. The wealthy (don't deny it) spend their money. Somehow, some way, the wealth filters down to the rest of us.
—Lou Calarese, Applied Audio & Theatre Supply
Question No. 2 is flawed, in that it is entirely possible that both movements or neither movement will impact the 2012 presidential election equally. Much as my 99 percent heart hopes Occupy will get everyone talking the way the Tea Party has, the reality is that the Tea Party has got itself entrenched in the GOP, and so will inevitably influence the upcoming election! It is my hope that Occupy can remain focused on issues, not partisanship, and in my limited experience with ours here in Rochester, I doubt I will be disappointed. We need to think about raising each other up so that we can all be successful instead of grabbing what we can, no matter whose pocket we pick to do so.
—Cass Wheeler, unemployed since April 2010
Finally, a group of people who are angry at the right entities. Government didn't break our economy, corporate greed did. Simple as that.
—Aaron Abel, Working Families Party
This movement "Occupy Wall Street" is not a spontaneous gathering, but an organized movement of the anarchists and progressive left and the labor unions who are now participating and funding it. Unlike the Tea Party, which had a purpose of returning this country to a sound fiscal policy; following the founding fathers purpose of the constitution, and repealing intrusions to personal liberty by our government (e.g. cap and trade, Obamacare, etc.), these "Occupy Wall Street" demonstrators are a bunch of freeloading looters (a la Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged). Ignore them? No. Support them—Never! We must expose them for what they really are. A movement of the "have-nots," who want something for nothing from the government.
—Dennis Kiriazides, retired
The 1 percent owes me nothing. They should pay their fair share like everyone else. Hard work, perseverance, calculated risks and honesty will make you successful, not sitting in a park wondering about who owes you something.
—Mike Grant, Tele Data Com Inc.
The Occupy Movement would be all but eliminated if you were to remove those who pay NO income taxes, yet ask the "rich" to pay more income taxes. Shouldn't all income earners "pay their fair share"?
—Tom Shea, Thomas P. Shea Agency, Inc.
11/11/11 (c) 2011 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.