Being Reasonable - Occupy Wall Street: A view from the bottom 1 percent


I feel like absolute garbage. My muscles ache, my back is tight and I feel so fatigued that I actually had to stop for a rest on Thursday during what has become a habitual noontime trip to the restroom in McDonald’s on Broadway in lower Manhattan.

Between you and me, I haven’t showered since Sunday morning.

After only four days of sleeping outside among those occupying Zuccotti Park, my body is begging me to seek a soft mattress, a warm comforter and a roof to cover my head from the kind of downpours — bordering on torrential — that helped to make an already tough situation far more miserable by mid-week.

Indeed, I’m getting a taste, however small, of what the some 700,000 unsheltered homeless people in America experience every single day.

And it is precisely that perspective that has given me cause for what I believe should emerge from the Occupy Wall Street movement.

There is no single reason why every person in this country shouldn’t be able to live inside and eat food.

There exists positively no reason that any one man, woman or child living in the most prosperous country in the world should be relegated to the streets, ostracized from the community and ignored by the masses.

The wealthiest one percent of Americans — with an average yearly income of about $320,000 — accounts for 40 percent of the nation’s wealth.

Note if you must that the top one percent also accounts for some 40 percent of the country’s income tax collections, but perhaps if the remaining 99 percent, particularly the extremely poor, stricken with the vicious cycle that is homelessness and poverty, had an opportunity to get a chunk of more than just 60 percent of the pie, you know, the crumbs dismissively thrown to us by the financial elite, then maybe the tax base would actually widen.

Bank of America recorded profits of $6.2 billion in the third quarter alone.

The lending giant generated more revenue in three months than every person who will ever read this strongly-worded opinion piece will generate combined in her or his lifetime.

And because Mitt Romney tells me that corporations are people, the comparison is entirely fair.

Calling this injustice for what it is doesn’t make one a socialist, either. It just means that some people have a broader vision for the role of the federal government than others.

Sure, the system commands that some people enjoy more success than others. Adam Smith wouldn’t have had it any other way; but our society has reached such points that no longer are people even guaranteed an equal opportunity.

America’s inner cities are littered with people without a puncher’s chance.

Poverty and dysfunction are the only reality that too many Americans will ever know. Fixing such an injustice may mean that Bank of America will have to settle for quarterly totals in excess of only $5 billion while this country restores its foundation in the wake of all the havoc the banking industry helped cause. 

If unbridled, unchecked socialism doesn’t work because people are inherently selfish, capitalism as we know it fails for the exact same reason.

There’s no such thing as market self-correction when the game is rigged.

Our politicians are bought and paid for, beholden to whoever cuts the biggest check, whether they’re an immotile elephant or a stubborn jackass.

Cap all private campaign contributions and publicly finance each campaign season.

Cap the total net profit that companies in industries like finance and oil may accumulate in a year. Such a ceiling at minimum would prevent banks from taking insane risks in an effort to maximize profit.

Surely, $4.5 billion each quarter is enough?

That money should be re-invested in the people in the form of at least greater accessibility to a college degree without that pesky $50,000 student loan tab at the end of four years.

Many have decried the Occupy Wall Street movement as a form of class warfare, an effort to punish the rich.

The real class warfare is taking place at local and state levels all across the country — the union busting and the ongoing demonization of just about any government employee including teachers and firefighters.

Obviously, some people will have it better than others. The American Dream exists — though I’d argue it’s nearly flat-lined — but even the laziest, least-motivated among us shouldn’t be forced to exist on the streets, sleeping in back alleys and subway cars, because it sucks.

And if the sort of radical change for which I’m advocating in this space is impossible to realize, then maybe we can tack an amendment onto the Cut, Cap and Balance plan that requires all elected officials to spend a weekend living as the homeless do.

Maybe then they’ll realize just how uncomfortable a concrete sidewalk is to sleep on.

Nate Smith is an Examiner Staff Writer who is using personal time writing from the streets of New York as the Occupy Wall Street protest continues. He can be reached at