Reflecting on Occupy Wall Street

Sept. 17 marked the 2-year anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Inspired by the protests occurring in the Middle East at the time, demonstrators took to Zuccotti Park in Lower Manhattan to protest – something.Occupy Wall Street was a flawed movement from the very beginning; it was disorganized and lacked the clear focus needed to affect serious change. Just a few aims of the movement were to decrease income inequality, forgive student-loan debt, fight corruption on Wall Street, reform the banking industry and lower unemployment. Undoubtedly, all of those are important issues that need to be addressed. But it is a pipe dream to think that all of these goals could be accomplished in one, singular movement. Two years after the movement, none of its goals have come to fruition. Had the movement maintained a clearer focus and a more efficient approach, this might not be the case. The problems with the movement began with the very concept of it. Rather than target the source of the problem, the movement aimed at Wall Street. Wall Street may be a convenient symbol of what the movement fought against, but it was just that: a symbol. Hanging out in a park while holding up signs with your friends is fun, but it does not actually do anything to advance your cause. The movement’s target should have been Congress, which has been responsible for nearly every problem that Occupy Wall Street protesters sought to ameliorate. Congress gutted the Dodd-Frank Bill, which, in its original form, would have imposed more effective regulations on the banking sector. Congress authorized the taxpayer-funded bailouts for the banks after they went belly-up. Congress repealed the Glass-Steagall Act way back in 1999. Basically, Congress sucks. People know that Congress sucks, too. Its approval rating is at historic lows. So, we have a situation in which there is a branch of government acting against the interests of its constituents. Things come to a head and the people decide they do not want to put up with it anymore. One would think that there is a clear course of action: Citizens lobby their elected representatives to change their tune. If they do not, vote them out of office. That is how democracy works. Instead, what we got was something that felt important, but two years later accomplished nothing. Let me be clear: I support demonstration and civil disobedience for the right causes. In fact, I think many of the causes of the Occupy Wall Street were worthy and deserving of attention. But when you call it a day after holding up some signs and doing some chanting, you are not doing enough. Take the recent movement for a raise in the minimum wage. In addition to public protests, demonstrators have endlessly lobbied politicians. As a result, California Governor Jerry Brown has already signed legislation to raise the state’s minimum wage to $10 an hour. Similar bills are being debated nationwide. In an age when showing support for a cause is as easy as changing your Facebook profile picture, complacency runs rampant through social movements. Occupy Wall Street brought much-needed visibility to a number of important causes, a noble undertaking to be sure. Yet here we are, two years later, and little has changed. Unemployment remains high, and income inequality is even worse. Of course, blame is to be shared all around. But let’s be real: Occupy Wall Street really did not help.