One thing that's been on my mind over the past few weeks is the question often repeated on the news and in the media: what is OWS asking for? Granted, there is a detailed OWS declaration outlining "a feeling of mass injustice" thanks to a "corrupted system" that includes inequality and discrimination; environmental destruction and oil dependence; corporate control of the media, the courts, the government, and the economy; bank bailouts, executive bonuses at taxpayer expense, and improper seizure of homes during the mortgage crisis; lack of regulation of campaign finance; the right to education, privacy, and health care; and more. I've seen OWS summed up as "Corporate Greed is killing the American Dream" and many more nice, short messages that fit neatly on a signboard.
But at the heart of it, there is a focus on individual people and their own stories. I've heard it said again and again, "We all have a story." OWS includes the unemployed, underemployed, uninsured, and financially overextended, but it also includes many who are simply deeply concerned that our democratic system is broken and no longer provides equally for all of its citizens. I think, for the most part, people want jobs for fair wages; they want food (dare I say healthy food!), clothing, and shelter; they want health care for themselves and their families.
Frightening new statistics from the There are many who like to portray those on public assistance as lazy and undeserving of help and bemoan throwing their tax money into a "welfare state." The article goes on to point out, however, that "of the 51 million who appear near poor under the fuller measure, nearly 20 percent were lifted up from poverty by benefits the official count overlooks. But more than half were pushed down from higher income levels [emphasis mine]: more than eight million by taxes, six million by medical expenses, and four million by work expenses like transportation and child care." In other words, more than half of the 51 million Americans in this borderline-poverty category got there by doing the right thing: paying their taxes responsibly and taking care of themselves and their families by paying for health care, going to and from work, and paying for child care.
As for Medicare and Social Security,
of the State Department of Social Services. Photo: Frank Klein
Edward Savage and/or Robert Edge Pine. c. 1776. Oil on canvas.
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed." [The Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776.]
If we are indeed a First World country, and believe in Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness, it is indeed shameful that any one of us should endure ill health when modern medicine can relieve us of our suffering.
“Does it make you a king
to have more and more cedar?
Did not your father have food and drink?
He did what was right and just,
so all went well with him.
He defended the cause of the poor and needy,
and so all went well.
Is that not what it means to know me?”
declares the LORD.
“But your eyes and your heart
are set only on dishonest gain,
on shedding innocent blood
and on oppression and extortion.”
Therefore this is what the LORD says about Jehoiakim son of Josiah king of Judah:
“They will not mourn for him:
‘Alas, my brother! Alas, my sister!’
They will not mourn for him:
‘Alas, my master! Alas, his splendor!’
He will have the burial of a donkey—
dragged away and thrown
outside the gates of Jerusalem."