We are ‘the 99%’ Columnist ponders Occupy Wall Street movement

Addie Conway

Opinion Columnist

America’s history is peppered with social movements, such as civil rights, feminism, gay/lesbian rights and now, Occupy Wall Street in Lower Manhatten.

The Occupy Wall Street movement began on Sept. 17, when groups of activists influenced by the revolutions in Libya and Egypt began to advocate for a peaceful occupation of Wall Street.

As the group began to both grow and expand all over the country, it was met with opposition from (of course) those in power and who were making the money but were also met with agreement from many other sympathetic Americans.

The group had a slogan, which has echoed across headlines worldwide: “We are the 99%!” The group’s main goal was to show America the inequalities between the social classes, with the top 1 percent consisting of those people in our country who have both the money and power, compared to the rest of America (the 99 percent), who often struggles to make ends meet or even have their voices heard.

The protesters came under fire, especially by Republican presidential hopefuls, with comments like “…don’t blame Wall Street…if you’re not rich…blame yourself!” from former candidate Herman Cain, that they are “left-wing activists who would be happy to show up next week on any other topic” from Newt Gingrich and that they are “dangerous and inciting class warfare” from Mitt Romney.

Of course, none of what the candidates are saying is actually true. As it just so happens to be an election year, these sorts of comments serve to grab people’s attention and hopefully get people to both agree with these sentiments and sway votes for the candidates. However, there are several discrepancies within what they say.

To say the 99 percent should blame itselve is ludicrous because honestly the ones who helped bring about the 2008 recession were the major players on Wall Street and in the banking industry, all of whom are in the top one percent.

Granted, we can’t blame everything on the one percent because not entirely its fault by any measure.

To say that Occupy Wall Street is a left wing issue or a matter of inciting class warfare is also ridiculous because the issue itself does not only concern itself with the left wing.

What it concerns itself with is lower and middle class America, which includes Republicans, Democrats, Independents or any other political party. It concerns itself with the people and their lifestyle-not people and their political positions. As for class warfare, perhaps it’s more of an issue that the top one percent simply just doesn’t want to have to change its lifestyle to match those of the 99 percent.

How does Webster play into the Occupy Wall Street movement?

Well, Webster is mostly middle class to upper middle class. In other words, whether we like it or not, we are part of the 99 percent. Like it or not, the gaps between the middle class and upper class are getting wider and the middle class as a whole, faces the terrifyingly real aspect, that they could become part of the lower class.

I bet most people reading this are thinking, “Well, that doesn’t apply to me because while I’m not rich, my family still has enough money to get by.”

Yeah, I thought that too, until I started looking at college tuition, not even including board, living expenses and books.

According to Finaid.org, the average tuition goes up about 8 percent each year, so it doubles every 13 years.

Of course, one can get scholarships, financial aid, and of course, student loans, but the problem with that is when colleges see that you went to school in Webster Groves, they tend to assume that you’re well-to-do, maybe even wealthy, but with the recession, along with sky-rocketing college prices, what looks like you’re well-to-do on paper, might not actually translate to real life. As for student loans, good luck trying get out of the debt hole.

College tuition prices are outrageous, even with scholarships, financial aid and student loans. We, who are the next generation of lawyers, doctors, writers, artists and presidents can barely afford to go to colleges, which will teach us how to be these people. We are the next generation of stockbrokers, CEOs, teachers and police officers. We are the next generation of nurses, scientists, engineers, actors and food service workers. We, the 99 percent, are the next generation of the middle and lower class.

It may not seem like the class inequalities are that noticeable or even a big deal, but when it comes down to it, class inequality affects all of us, even in ways we simply come to think of being “normal.”

It’s not normal though, that most people are struggling to find money to go to college. It’s not normal to come out of college with tons of debt. It’s not normal that thousands of American’s can’t find jobs, and the ones who do find jobs, are in menial jobs that don’t match their educational experience.

The Occupy Wall Street movement is trying to fight against these things and trying to change our society, back into what it once was, when it was established. The right to be able to move up or down in society, depending on hard work, persistence and the ability to dream.

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