Middle America knows it is getting squeezed. A decade after the 1999 repeal of the Glass-Stegall Act, greedy Wall Street firms made too many irresponsible bets that collapsed the housing market, sending unemployment skyrocketing.
Plenty of politicians insist that government should not create jobs by spending public money to fix bridges, hire teachers, rebuild roads, or invest in infrastructure projects. The Occupy Wall Street movement has put pressure on corporate America to hire workers.
The Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis released a report indicating a meager 49 manufacturing plants in the United States employing more than 5,000 people. Americans buy plenty of Apple iPhones, even if they are made in China where the company employs thousands of people.
Montana also invests its considerable cash reserves in Wall Street banks. The new director for the Montana Board of Investments should take a fresh look at banking with local credit unions and community banks. They offer better returns, create local credit and local jobs.
At the first Occupy Kalispell gathering, activists held plenty of signs. “Main Street not Wall Street,” “I can’t afford a politician so I made up this sign,” “This country was built by men in denim and will be destroyed by men in suits,” and “1 percent richer, 99 percent poorer. and 100 percent unfair,” were all common themes.
Cindy Geer was talking to a local TV outlet. Geer indicated that the movement had relevance because there is a lot of unemployment in the Flathead and people were tired of big money control. Geer said: “We’re the 99 percent. That means all of us. It doesn’t matter if you’re Democrat, Republican or Tea Party: we’re all together in this.”
Someone else reiterated author Fran Lebowitz: “No one earns $100 million. You steal $100 million. People earn $10 an hour. People earn $40,000 a year. Earn means work, OK?”
A Republican friend at the event indicated that the movement should focus on changing government rather than the greed of Wall Street. But at a subsequent Occupy rally in Kalispell, a Tea Party activist merged with the Occupy movement holding an “End the Fed” sign.
Past corporate executive and presidential hopeful Herman Cain criticized the Occupy movement saying, “They might be frustrated with Wall Street and the bankers, but they’re directing their anger at the wrong place. Wall Street didn’t put in failed economic policies. .. They ought to be over in front of the White House taking out their frustration.”
Fellow residential candidate and Texas Rep. Ron Paul disagreed, saying, “I think Mr. Cain has blamed the victims. There’s a lot of people that are victims of this business cycle. We can’t blame the victims. I’d go to Washington as well as Wall Street.”
The far right and the far left may someday agree that both Wall Street and Washington are culpable, as citizens petition for redress of grievances.
Occupy Wall Street might swing the political pendulum back toward the middle. But, whether citizens are Occupy Wall Street activists or Tea Party activists: the ballot box is open.
Flathead cities are defined by local culture, strong community and a great sense of place. It will take vision and community partnerships to ensure continued economic prosperity.
Next week townsfolk in Columbia Falls, Kalispell and Whitefish decide who voters trust for leadership. Voters should occupy the ballot box.
Whitefish voters can mail ballots back or drop them off at Whitefish City Hall. Kalispell is mail only. Kalispell or Whitefish voters who did not receive a ballot must vote in Kalispell at the Earl Bennett Building any day, including Tuesday.
Columbia Falls still has a good old-fashioned Election Day with polls open Tuesday at City Hall.
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