OCCUPY WALL STREET October 5, 2011

It’s described as a “liberal” version of the Tea Party movement.  If anything, the Tea Partiers should be described as nationalists and the Occupy Wall Street movement as patriots.

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders believes that this movement may play a key role in re-building the middle class.  According to this progressive voice, six of the largest financial institutions in America control 60% of the country’s assets.  Three of these banks received bailouts because they were too big to fail and have now become even bigger. 

Thousands of young and old are fed up with the greed of corporate zombies and are taking to the streets to protest the extraordinary power that the financial services industries have in exploiting the poor and working class.  The two party system has long been unresponsive to the needs of the American People.  But as Gov. Mitt Romney has noted corporations are people too.  Hence, I’m referring to average Americans who are seeking to occupy Wall Street and other cities throughout the country. 

Although the movement is secularly driven since formal corporate church support has been lacking, its values to help the poor, protect the middle class, hold bankers accountable, and further social and economic justice are inherently Christian.  Fortunately, individual faith leaders are awakening to the need to support the still maturing movement.

Yes, holding bankers accountable is a Christian position.  Dante had a special place in hell for bankers.  Usury throughout history has been condemned up until recent times.  Now society has been conditioned to accept it.  In the Book of Jubilees debt is supposed to be forgiven after a certain period of time if it can’t be paid off.  In addition, huge campaign spending by corporations has enabled special interests to shape and manipulate public policy making the right of one-person one-vote secondary to corporate free-for-all spending.   

As has been widely reported those participating in the demonstrations are not criminals.  They are frustrated Americans who love their country.  Several themes have emerged in what remain peaceful acts of civil disobedience.  Bank bailouts, home foreclosures, student loan debt, and discrimination against Muslim-Americans are among the concerns that have brought these patriots together.  The United Federation of Teachers and the Transport Workers Union are among the groups that have endorsed the blossoming movement pledging its financial support and organizing prowess.  Former New York governor David Paterson, actress Susan Sarandon, and film commentator Michael Moore stopped by the lower Manhattan event to offer moral support. 

Loopholes, bailouts, overseas aide, and corporate tax credits and subsidies exceeding billions of dollars have been the priority for the two party system while the average American fights foreclosure, unemployment, student loan default, abusive and poorly regulated collection agencies, and non-existent credit card usury laws. 

Street demonstrations bring attention to problems that many knew existed, but didn’t want to acknowledge.  Ultimately, bringing about change won’t occur by protests alone.  Bank of America, for example, recently announced an increase in debit card use.  It’s time to look elsewhere for bank services, preferable a locally owned credit union.  The United Federation of Teachers and the Transport Workers Union, as should other unions, should re-evaluate retirement stock portfolios and get rid of bank and financial sector stocks. 

Few Americans know that in President Barack Obama’s $3 trillion reduction plan collection agencies, notorious for there abusive practices, will be given more access to private consumer information such as cell phones, so robo-calls can be made.  Collection agencies can get a 17.5% cut in the money they bleed out of the financially strapped.  According to a 2010 report issued to Congress, “the Federal Trade Commission receives more complaints about the debt collection industry than any other specific industry.”  The complaints include harassment, verbal abuse, threats of jail time, demands for unrealistically large payments, and failure to provide legally required consumer notice.  Lawyers who knowingly participate in or enable such practices should be disbarred. 

Independent of stopping the President’s misguided attempts to give further power to an unscrupulous industry, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and the Telephone Consumer Protection Act both must be strengthened.   

Occupy Wall Street gains momentum.  That’s a good thing.  Americans and religious groups in particular have become too complacent about the social and economic injustice that they’ve accepted through

Jesus Chases the Money Changers

conditioning.  This is an opportunity to tell Washington that talk is cheap and action must be forthcoming.  Christian leaders in particular need to show the courage to take on the status quo and be more vocal in support of this and similar movements.   

Paul is author of Credit Card Usury and the Christian Failure to Stop It and Crucifying Jesus and Secularizing America – the Republic of Faith Without Wisdom

© Paul Peter Jesep 2011

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