All news and articles related to Occupy culture and Occupy events.

Why the American Economy Is a House of Cards

b2ap3_thumbnail_Screen-Shot-2013-09-23-at-2.11.45-PM.png by: Senjay Sangohee

The American economy today is a house of cards, wherein each added layer of cards at the top increases the pressure on the lower tiers and threatens the stability of the entire structure. The higher the edifice goes, in fact, the more likely it becomes that the whole thing will come crumbling down at some point.

The reason for this is not the expansion of our economy itself but the inequality, exploitation, corruption, and injustice that are accompanying this expansion at every step. The economy may be growing, but it is doing so at the expense of its foundation -- the working class Americans who make all economic activity possible.

Here are the hard facts:

  • Unemployment in the United States, at 7.3 percent, is declining but only because people are giving up and leaving the work force completely.
  • Income inequality in our nation is the worst it has been since the 1920s and almostdouble that of other developed nations.
  • The average income of those in the top 1 percent is $717,000 compared to $51,000 for everyone else.
  • The same top 1 percent also owns 42 percent of America's wealth, with the next 4 percent claiming another 30 percent.
  • The financial crisis of 2008 wiped out 39 percent of the wealth in the United States, but the top 1 percent have reaped 95 percent of all income gains since that time.
  • The average CEO of an S&P 500 company makes 204 times the income of rank-and-file employee and this ratio has increased by 20 percent since 2009.
  • Two-thirds of minimum-wage earners in America live below the poverty line.
  • Major companies like Walmart refuse to pay a living wage to most employees, make it impossible for workers to unionize, and deny them benefits by labeling full time workers as contractors (even as healthcare costs rise).
  • Our Treasury loses $150 billion in revenues every year because of offshore tax shelters and $200 billion because of other loopholes that disproportionately benefit the wealthy, which then necessitates cutting public services and welfare.
  • Social Security and Medicare, which low-income Americans and seniors rely on heavily for financial support, are projected to run out of money by 2033 and 2026 respectively, which will trigger a sharp reduction in benefits for both programs.
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Six Things Occupy Wall Street Made Possible (That You Probably Already Take for Granted)

Six Things Occupy Wall Street Made Possible (That You Probably Already Take for Granted)

Photo: Protestors make their way through Lower Manhattan during demonstrations marking the one-year anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement, in New York. Monday, Sept. 17, 2012. (Photo: Marcus Yam / The New York Times)

 

Now that the encampments are gone, what do we have to show for our movement? As it turns out, quite a bit.

Two years after the original occupation of Zuccotti Park on September 17, many things remain unchanged. Wall Street hedge funds and banks continue to siphon money out of our economy, the 1% has seized still more of our society's wealth, and our public places have not become permanent festivals of direct democracy.

But transforming the foundations of our society doesn’t happen overnight, so you might have to look a little harder to see the practical, everyday ways that Occupy changed things for the better. Here are six social transformations that Occupy helped make possible:

 

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TPP in the USA Is Why We Occupy

TPP in the USA Is Why We Occupy

Photo: From the Solidarity March going down Broadway from Union Square to Wall Street, New York City, May 1, 2012. (Photo: erin m )

The second anniversary of Occupy Wall Street came and went on Tuesday with a fair degree of introspection in the socially conscious corners of social media. What did it mean? What did it accomplish? Is it over or just beginning?

More than a few voices suggested the whole thing was nothing more or less than a body-odor ego trip for righteousness junkies looking to lord it over their less-invested activist counterparts. For some of the people in those very large crowds, I'm sure that characterization is true; shake a tree full of activists, and a few rotten gourds are sure to fall and splatter.

The excellent author Rebecca Solnit, in a Facebook post on S17 rebutting those who would spurn the whole thing as a giant waste of time, explained like a songbird in full voice what Occupy was, is, will be, and what it accomplished:

 

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'Unleashed and Unaccountable': FBI's Post-9/11 Abuse of Power

New ACLU study tracks explosion in secret surveillance and infiltration programs that trample constitutional and civil rights

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by: Sarah Lazare, staff writer of CommonDreams

The FBI has abused its ever-widening post-9/11 powers to target immigrants, minorities, and political dissidents through secret surveillance and infiltration programs that trample constitutional rights and run roughshod over principles of fairness and justice, the ACLU finds in a breaking report released Tuesday.

Entitled “Unleashed and Unaccountable: The FBI’s Unchecked Abuse of Authority (pdf),” this comprehensive report traces the explosion in the FBI's surveillance authority and reach over the past 12 years and tracks systemic violations of First and Fourth Amendment protections. As the NSA spying scandal continues to ricochet across the globe, the study paints an in-depth picture of how a political climate of permissiveness led to FBI abuse and overreach.

In the aftermath of the 9/11 attack, Congress—backed by the Department of Justice and the White House—have expanded the Bureau's authority to survey and investigate Americans, invoking the threat of terrorism to pass legislation from the Patriot Act in 2001 to the FISA Amendments Act in 2008. In conjunction with these political developments, the FBI has revised its own internal guidelines and claimed the right, according to the report, to investigate and spy on U.S. people without reasonable suspicion.

What have these expanding authorities meant in practice?

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In Surprisingly Bold Move, Sweden Offers a Home to All Syrian Refugees

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Sweden has just offered a glimpse of light in a somberly dark tunnel for thousands of Syrian refugees displaced by violence and war. The Swedish government announced on September 3 that it would be granting permanent residency to any Syrian refugee seeking asylum that's already fled to Sweden.

This makes the Scandinavian nation the first and only country in the EU to have this kind of open-door policy for Syrians dealing with one of the worst sectarian bloodshed in modern history.

Although many weren't expecting this decision, it's not surprising to anyone who knows anything about Sweden. As Sven Hultberg Carlsson, a Swedish freelance journalist based in New York told PolicyMic, "We have a history of opening our borders during conflicts." Sweden's role in the Iraq war alone is astonishing. "There's a staggering figure showing that a small town in Sweden called Södertälje has accepted more refugees from Iraq than the U.S. and Canada put together."

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