The Occupation of Wall Street, Zuccotti Park and burgeoning movements across the USA and abroad have a singular aim, which is to achieve a more equitable distribution of wealth to the lower and middle classes. More than a half million dollars in cash, clothing, food and other donations have come to the protesters in Lower Manhattan. Even some elected officials have come to the aid of the protesters. Sub-groups of protesters have emerged all over the United States.
When the occupation first evolved in Zuccotti Park on or about the night of Sept. 17, only a few hearty souls spent the night. At this point over 200 people including students, union members and other interested parties have joined the occupation.
The focal point of the movement is summed up as follows: “We are the 99 percent.” Ostensibly, the other one percent are the holders of most of the wealth in the United States. Over the past decades, more money has been flowing to the corporate top echelon as CEO and senior staff average salaries have ballooned from 40 times the entry level salary to 400 times and growing.
And so, the challenge is to deal with this aspect forthrightly. Only the boards of directors, professional human resource entities within corporate organizations and trade associations have the power, discretion and authority to adjust compensation more equitably throughout the respective member organizations. This is not something that any governmental unit can mandate except through moral suasion and perhaps changes to the tax code.
A number of corporate organizations have made successful changes in the equitable distribution of profits, among them Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream and Avis. From the outset, Ben and Jerry’s set the executive salary structure at a very reasonable level. Avis changed ownership multiple times in the seventies and eighties, becoming employee-owned in 1987.
President Roosevelt was able to limit executive compensation successfully by ultimately taxing exorbitant salaries at a much higher rate. The basic threshold was over $25,000, or equivalently, $350,000 or so in today’s inflated dollar. After $25,000, salary increments were taxed at 90 percent or more. These resources were used to pay down the national debt, which ballooned after the conclusion of World War II, which followed the Great Depression. In the days of the Great Depression, corporate organizations increasingly found other forms of non-cash compensation such as stock options to reward the top corporate executives and alleviate cash flow problems.
A mainstay of the protest is that the organizational structure is organic or non-hierarchical which may limit the effectiveness of the struggle. The participants have yet to formulate a clear vision with specific goals and conditions precedent to ending the occupation or translating the movement into a political force like The Tea Party movement and others.
The Civil Rights movement was a proactive movement of people with an important mission to advance civil rights throughout the United States and even beyond. The factor which coalesced the movement was a mission and assertive leadership at the top of the organization.
Another important dynamic in satisfying the quality of life issues that plague the Wall Street protesters is bringing unemployment and underemployment to much lower levels. The extreme automation, downsizing and computerization of American industry have replaced people with machines at an increasing rate. However, the United States inevitably will experience a labor shortage as the baby boom generation retires this decade and thereafter.
At bottom, the United States needs to export more goods and services, as well as nourish the growth of new industries and processes such as solar and wind energy, the artificial sun, whole/organic foods production and distribution, electric and natural gas vehicles, the electronic grid, small business, patenting, home remodeling, municipal transport systems and the whole infrastructure area in general.
The small family farm has been dying for decades. This cottage industry needs to reformulate and grow. This act alone would serve to bring down food prices, which have been on the rise.