Having just returned from two weeks in Manhattan, much of which was spent either in Zuccotti Park or at Occupy Wall Street meetings, I am compelled to toss my two lira into the revolutionary font.
My initial reaction upon first learning of Occupy Wall Street was, "Well, thank God, somebody's finally doing something." I immediately joined over two dozen Occupy-related Facebook pages. These pages are generated literally from the front lines and offer an infinitely broader perspective than any third-party news could hope. But nowhere near as acute as actually being there.
The chief complaint I have heard about the movement is that it has yet to issue a comprehensive mission statement or list of demands. I now know that this is because, at 65 days into the protest, they were still debating — with no end in sight. The guiding principles of the movement are "everyone has a right to participate" and "everyone has a right to be heard." This would be fine, if we lived in a magic bubble where everyone possessed similar levels of self-awareness, sociopolitical comprehension, empathy, and diplomacy. Unfortunately, the realities of society fall far short of this ideal.
While I wholeheartedly support the OWS protesters, the movement as it stands is fatally flawed. This could easily be overcome by simply appointing an official spokesperson(s). Their message would not need to reflect a personal opinion but rather a codified and intelligible version of the overall Occupy message. There is no reason why so much unbridled passion should be misspent in a world conditioned for sound bites. It is time for the movement to focus, before the internal energy and external attention wanes.
The more I read about contemporary American politics, the more I'm convinced there's one underlying issue for our country's problems. This issue is responsible for partisanship, gridlock, and stalemate. It stifles innovation. It muffles common sense. It's led to the export of jobs, inaction on tax reform and budget cuts, establishment of an irrational health-care program, and the 2008 economic disaster. What is this cancer? Big money in politics.
When Americans want to keep jobs in the states, special interests block it because they profit from foreign labor. When Americans want tax reform, those benefiting from complexity and loopholes block it. When Americans want to address rising health-care costs, big-monied special interests lobby to support wasteful programs. When Americans need sensible banking regulation, special interests open the door to abuse. Those paying for access in Washington are winning the day, and the rest of us are losing.
We all know that those in Congress spend a large chunk of their time raising money. Campaigns are increasingly expensive. However, that expense is no issue for the large corporations and special-interest groups. As a result, special interests control the debate and the outcome. The impact is even greater as a result of the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision, which allows corporations to funnel unlimited amounts to campaigns. When special interests enjoy more access than average Americans, democracy suffocates.
What can we do? First, educate yourself by reading Lawrence Lessig's Republic, Lost: How Money Corrupts Congress — And a Plan To Stop It. Second, write your senators and congressmen. Third, support presidential candidates like Buddy Roemer, who wants to free Americans from special interests and offer solutions for the American people.
Excited to Vote
I am 18 years old and I am excited because this presidential election will be my first one to vote in. I have studied the candidates running, and only one stands out as a beacon of hope for America. A man whose voting record over the past 30 years backs up every promise he makes to this country. A man who has never once voted to raise taxes. A man who holds solely to the Constitution as his guide. This man is Ron Paul.
My point in writing is to simply ask each person to truly study the candidates, look at their voting records, and see if it backs up everything they say they will do if they are elected. Vote with knowledge. Don't vote for the "greater good." Vote for the man you want to see as America's next commander in chief. Consider how this man will prepare this country for your children and grandchildren. Be a responsible American citizen. Do your research.