My Time in the Epicenter of the Minnesota 'Occupy Together' Movement

This week, while walking to classes at Minnesota State University Moorhead, I kept seeing members of the Occupy MN movement walking around with signs, trying to recruit students to go down to Minneapolis and join their protest. I decided to go talk to two of the men and get more information about their movement; more specifically, I asked why they were personally involved. They told me how they both worked at fast food restaurants and were worried about getting a better job after they graduate this year.

As a college student and journalist, I can totally relate to their concerns; however, I totally disagree that forcing the “rich” (for this movement, that seems to be anyone making more than I am at a given moment) to pay higher taxes than they already do will somehow create jobs. I wanted to see what the rest of their members were thinking, so I decided to go to the meeting that night with them.

Everyone in the movement was extremely nice to me and genuinely cared about the direction our country was heading. Some of the members did make some, in my humble opinion, absurd comments. One of the older women there tried to recruit us to help the union members protest American Crystal Sugar. She told us about the importance of unions: “Labor has made this country great. Many people are telling us that unions aren’t important anymore, but unions have got the middle class where we are today and are just as relevant as ever.”

Many of the people there didn’t identify themselves with either political party. They all talked about corporate greed and how both sides were maintaining the status quo, acting as puppets of the wealthy. One man said, “As long as both sides get paid by the same people, nothing will change. We aren’t a democracy by the people anymore; it is controlled by the corporations. Take the money out of the system or you are just spinning your tires. I don’t think the liberal model of trying to make them feel guilty is working; we need a group of protestors like in New York to scare the shit out of people — legally of course. It scares the hell out of the right wing media who is trying to turn us into an angry mob with no purpose.”

Another man built upon the previous statement, “Egypt showed the world you can show up and change things. We will be worse off and the corporations will be better off unless we are engaged like the protestors in New York. They got arrested, but they keep coming back. That’s the type of determination we need.”

Although the group was full of well-meaning, concerned citizens, some of these phrases were quite alarming to me. The Tea Party movement has been accused of racism, bigotry, violence, and every other name in the book, but looking through videos of their demonstrations, there is no evidence of these characterizations. There aren’t videos of radical Tea Party members with racist signs or reports of hundreds of Tea Partiers getting arrested. These people are outright saying they want to push the limits of public decorum, get arrested, and come back even harder. Their anger, misguided as it may be, is real, and they are not waiting on the sidelines to fix our country. This is a very real movement, and we need to keep an eye on it.

As a soon-to-be graduate, it worries me how many people in my generation cannot find jobs, but I understand that it is not the responsibility of government to create jobs, nor does it have the ability. What is holding back employers from hiring more and growing their businesses are the regulations and the unknown factors of taxes and the soon-to-drop shoe we know as ObamaCare. Businesses cannot invest in the future when their operating costs are unpredictable. It is not a decision they make out of malice; it is simply an economic choice to ensure their survival.

Looking at the OWS perspective, the protestors are mad at Wall Street and banks for trying to make profits. Well, why would anybody risk their assets NOT to make a profit? Isn’t that their responsibility to stock holders, to make them a return on their investment? A company can only sell a product for a price people are willing to pay. Supply and demand regulate prices better than government. Big government is not what we need; we need more personal accountability for our country to succeed. No more bailouts, no more BIG government and no more nanny state regulations.

So as we continue to keep our eye on this growing anger against capitalism, make sure to keep on informing these angry people they should be mad at themselves for wanting the government to take care of them. They should remember our country was founded on the personal liberty granted by God and the economic opportunities given by free markets.

I am not mad at the rich and successful; I want to be one of them too. I have worked for successful, profitable companies; if they weren’t profitable, I couldn’t have had a job. I hope that the members of the “Occupy Together” movement can learn this simple fact and correct the target of their frustrations; otherwise, they could cause further damage to the economy they want so much to turn around.

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