Monday, October 1, 2012

One Year Since the Start of Occupy, Much Work Still Needs to Be Done

Written by Daniella Levine, Catalyst Miami President/CEO

One year anniversaries are momentous occasions. A first birthday party or a first wedding anniversary hopefully bring joy and happy reflection. So why does the one year anniversary of Occupy Miami seem like a distant dream? 

Image by Brian Tatosky
The Occupy Movement was born in New York City from a deep rumble of dismay and discontent. What was wrong with America? How could those with wealth be doing so well while the heralded middle class was no longer in the middle? The steady but gradual shift away from opportunity and equity in America was going largely unnoticed. Until the occupations began, first in New York, then in cities across the country. The 99% called out the 1%, and America stood up and listened.

Occupy made it safe to acknowledge the obvious: we were increasingly becoming two Americas, the rich and the poor. The American Dream was becoming all too distant for too many. 

What has happened in this past year and how has Occupy influenced the course of events? We are locked down in a death rattle election, in which once again we are pitted against each other in America: the 53% who "produce" versus the 47% who "mooch." Yet we have also been once again awakened to a stark but formerly hidden reality: inequitable tax policy in America. The wealthiest in fact get the biggest handout from government, while those in the "middle" pay the highest effective tax rates. And Congress has stalled on deciding who will get to continue with lower tax rates: just the rich or everyone? 

With a skyrocketing deficit and our nation in hock to China, can we afford to let the rich continue to get richer? What do we get for our unequal policies? An abysmal record on child well-being. High incarceration rates. Little social mobility. All of this is driven by that very inequality which fuels discontent among all people.

Oh Occupy, we cry for thee. It seemed for a few brief months that America would listen and learn. But we are once again harshly divided, with those most affected by our gaping wounds oblivious to their own self- and shared-interests. No birthday candles for you, Occupy. Your brief but illuminating flame was obliterated by the power of partisan politics and increasing manipulation of public opinion by the champions of polarization who benefit from our many divides.