Following in the footsteps of protestors all over the country, Occupy Geneseo has arrived on campus, holding both a general assembly meeting and a sit-in on the College Green. The movement, which has branched out to cities all over the country from the original Wall Street protest, sets its sights on corporate America and the elite who acquire a disproportionate amount of wealth at the expense of the rest of America.
I agree with the occupiers' basic viewpoints. When we look at the corporate greed in our country, it is hard not to be sympathetic to the Occupy cause. Many of the banks that we bailed out with our tax dollars gave huge benefits to their CEOs instead of helping to pay back government loans. Republicans in Congress refuse to increase taxes on the wealthy despite some wealthy Americans welcoming them, including Warren Buffett. The top 1 percent owns 40 percent of the nation's wealth, giving the United States one of the highest levels of income inequality among high income countries as measured through the Gini index. It is one of only a few developed countries where income inequality has increased since 1980.
The media has criticized the Occupy Wall Street protestors as having an unclear message, but to me the message is very clear. In a country where there is so much inequality the government must do more to provide the 99 percent with the jobs and economic opportunities they need instead of focusing on the elites of the nation. We should not expect specific policy proposals from the protestors because they are not economists. They are everyday people, which is exactly the point. It is up to the politicians to come up with the solutions and respond to the issue at hand.
That being said, I cannot wholeheartedly support Occupy Geneseo. I'm all for the views they hold but the protest itself is backward. Occupy Wall Street was the catalyst for this whole movement because the location was symbolic. The reason people are occupying Wall Street is because that is where many of these fat cat CEOs run their day-to-day operations. Even in cities across the country the protestors are specifically occupying sectors of the cities that contain the 1 percent.
Yet, Occupy Geneseo is occupying right down the hill from actual Main Street. They're occupying the campus of a state school that is tightening its belt, just as many Americans are. They are occupying the town of Geneseo where the median income per year is $23,811, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The logic of it just does not add up.
Look, I'm all for what the Occupy movement stands for, but the only way for the movement to spur change is for protestors to show their frustration to those who have caused the mess we are in. Geneseo and the village as a whole have neither CEOs nor fat cat bankers, nor do we have anyone who belongs to the 1 percent. So students instead read statements and make speeches about the 99 percent to the 99 percent, merely preaching to the already convinced choir. This is not a way to initiate change.
Instead of protesting here, students should head down to Wall Street and join protestors there. Of course people on campus should be educated about income inequality and the policies that lead to it. That is an important function that Occupy Geneseo can play – but protesting the policies of the rich at a state school in a low-income village will probably not affect much change.