Hammer: Information Overload


The Occupy Wall Street protests began last month

in New York and have spread to other cities as spontaneous demonstrations

against corporate piracy, greed and excessive profiteering among corporate


Such movements have sprouted throughout American

history whenever big business gets so big that it ignores common Americans. The

progressive movement in the early 1900s was, in many ways, a reaction to

exploitation of workers, unchecked growth and greed, and a yearning for

economic justice.

It took coordinated government action and the

emergence of the organized labor movement to address the injustices enough to

stop the demonstrations. By the time the Great Depression came in the 1930s,

we'd had labor riots and food riots and anti-government riots.

Thirty years later, Americans took to the

streets to protest discrimination.

The marches led by Martin Luther King, Jr. and

others were non-violent. The response from the government, in many cases,

involved water cannons, attack dogs and billy clubs.

Before these protests ended, riots occurred in

dozens of American cities, causing hundreds of deaths and billions of dollars

in property damage. Many of the affected urban areas have still not recovered

from the 1960s riots. Travel to parts of Chicago and Detroit and you'll see burned-out

buildings from that era.

The Occupy protests have not yet turned violent

and, hopefully, never will.

But protests by average Americans against the

excesses of big business are hardly rare in our history and, quite often, have

helped spur change.

Predictably, members of the Republican Party,

whose policies of deregulation helped cause this global crisis, are outdoing

each other in condemning these protests.

Pizza executive Herman Cain, who inexplicably

finds himself a leading contender for the Republican nomination for president,

took the hardest line possible in an interview on Sunday.

He told CBS News, "It's anti-American

because to protest Wall Street and the bankers is basically saying that you're

anti-capitalism. The free market system and capitalism are the two things that

have allowed this nation and this economy to become the biggest in the world.

Even though we have our challenges, I believe the protests are more

anti-capitalism and anti-free market than anything else."

By his measure, the protesters are

"jealous" that others have Cadillacs and they do not.

On the same program, former House Speaker Newt

Gingrich called the protests an inevitable side effect of what he described as

President Obama's "class warfare."

The Tea Party protesters, by contrast, are

freedom fighters seeking to rein in an uncontrolled government hellbent on

bankrupting the country and therefore, are fighting a noble cause.

Gingrich and Cain said nothing when teabaggers

spit on Congressman John Lewis, a hero of the civil rights movement, nor have

they condemned the sometimes violent, always racially charged rhetoric of the

Tea Party movement.

Both the Occupy protesters and the teabaggers

have a guaranteed freedom to protest against their government. But the Tea

Party is a group financed by billionaires and given publicity and encouragement

by the mainstream conservative media, led by billionaire Rupert Murdoch and

millionaire Rush Limbaugh.

In other words, the Tea Party movement was

manufactured by the richest 2 percent of Americans and seeks policies that

benefit that same 2 percent. Rarely have Americans been so willing to fight for

the rights of rich people to become even wealthier.

The comparison that immediately comes to mind is

the estimated 60,000 to 90,000 freedmen and slaves who fought for the South in

Civil War on the theory that slavery brought them a higher standard of living

than would freedom.

One group is advocating more freedoms for

corporations and another is holding them accountable. One group wants to punish

the president for trying to keep the global financial crisis from destroying

any notion of fair-market capitalism in America; the other wants to keep

letting him fight for us.

One group is marching in support of the spirit

of Robert La Follette, Theodore Roosevelt and Dr. King. The other is aligned

with billionaire industrialists who will do anything to keep all but a very

tiny piece of the economic pie for themselves.

The ongoing debate, now and in the run up to

next year's presidential elections, is which philosophy is more authentically

American: economic justice for all or greater leeway for corporate America's

plundering of U.S. wealth.

The answer will define what kind of America we

really prefer.

All the while, a much larger question looms:

whether a greed-driven, soak-the-poor nation is even worth preserving.

It is not overdramatic to say the very existence

of the United States is at stake.


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