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Occupy Wall Street: The power of protest

For more than a month now protesters have roosted on Wall Street, and in nearly 200 cities around the world, and they’re making their voices heard. They want change — although exactly what that change is and how that change is to be implemented they don’t quite know yet. But they’ve taken the first step. The hundreds of thousands of protesters have decided the status quo isn’t cutting it, and they’re right. The current state of affairs is far from acceptable.The middle class is shrinking. As the old adage goes, the poor have become poorer and the rich richer. One thing the protesters seem to agree on is that the rich should be taxed more and the poor less. According to a poll out from TIME/Abt SRBI, 73 percent of Americans favor raising taxes on those with annual incomes of $1 million or more to help cut the federal deficit. Not a bad idea, and certainly one with a lot of popular support behind it. A bill from Senate Democrats suggests that the tax hike for the rich should be 5.6 percent. Whether that gets passed remains to be seen, but, clearly, something must be done.One in five families is living below the poverty line of around $29,000. One can make minimum wage and still not earn enough to rise about that poverty line. Now does that sound right? It’s been said that the minimum wage would have to rise to $20 an hour in New York to get people above the poverty line, and what are the chances of that happening? Slim to none, with high odds going to none. In the meantime, families are going hungry, yet some food banks are closing. Among them is Angel Food Ministries, based out of Georgia with local outposts in nearby Claverack, N.Y., and Ashley Falls, Mass. Those in need who have depended on that assistance for years will now have to find support elsewhere.People are losing their homes. The mortgage crisis continues to loom large, and home-ownership remains a distant dream for many who thought they would have a career, a home and a family by now. Instead they could very well be without employment or a permanent residence; maybe they’re on Wall Street, giving voice to the inequity in today’s society.The former belief that a college degree would solve all no longer holds water; those who attended college are feeling as vulnerable as those who did not. College grads are getting socked with colossal school loan payments months after graduating (nothing new), but now they don’t have jobs to help them make good on those bills. There is now the “boomerang generation,” with college grads and 20- and 30-somethings faring so poorly in the job market, and earning so little (if employed at all) that they are forced to move back home with their moms and dads. It’s a less-than-ideal situation for all involved and certainly not one that anyone envisioned while pursuing the American dream. Is this what four years in college and $80,000 or more in tuition earns?Then there is the job market, which seems impenetrable to an array of qualified, eager applicants ranging from college graduates to seasoned veterans with lifetimes of experience. Without jobs, this economy isn’t going to make much of a rebound. Locally, we can do our best to support neighborhood businesses wherever we can so they can remain open, keep their employees and hopefully turn a profit. Every item that you buy locally will make a difference, whether a new paperback or a book of stamps, a can of paint or a pair of shoes. And make use of local professional services too, from attorneys and accountants to mechanics and landscapers.Times are tough, and we’re fortunate to have so many determined and dedicated people out there voicing their frustrations, and many of ours, to the world. There’s no doubt people are listening. Let’s hope Washington is, too.

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