By Jerry Waxman
l saw the seaman standing
Idly by the shore
l heard the bosses saying
Got no work for you no more
But the banks are made of marble
With a guard at every door
And the vaults are stuffed with silver
That the seaman sweated for
A Song by Les Rice ©Stormking Music 1950
The song made popular by Pete Seeger sixty years ago is still relevant with one important added detail. It’s not just the seamen and farmers anymore. Most people today don’t remember the economic period of adjustment immediately following World War II, even though it ushered in the greatest period of American growth and prosperity in the history of the world. All but forgotten were the returning servicemen who had difficulty getting back to work until the government decided to do something about it. If one had special skills like Ted Williams or Clark Gable or Jimmy Stewart the transition was easy; for others it was a frustrating time. A shining example of this was the movie “The Best Years of Our Lives.” Frederick March’s character had been a banker, was immediately promoted and promptly welcomed back into the fold, while the character played by Dana Andrews, an Air Corps commissioned officer, couldn’t even hold down the most menial of jobs. Swift government action in the Truman Administration resulted in the GI Bill as well as The Marshall Plan helped immensely. American industries eventually went back to making consumer products and the construction industry started building suburbia. Once America decided to concentrate on economic recovery the results came rather quickly.
The economic engine that powered the country during those days was created by the New Deal. Legislation coming out of Congress included the landmark Glass-Steagall Act, which limited the power of banks to deal in questionable securities. The reforms of the New Deal enabled the country to prosper and grow through the Carter Administration. Once Ronald Reagan was inaugurated it marked the beginning of the end for most of the New Deal’s reforms. It has been a slow and steady degeneration that most people were oblivious to while it was happening, but after thirty years the differences are glaring. Anyone under the age of forty has no understanding of how well the country worked prior to the Reagan Administration and they never will under our current public school policies.
Corporate America in the meantime started in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s merging into conglomerates with names like LTV, Litton, ITT, Gulf and Western, and many others. These giants effectively became holding companies for wholly unrelated industries that each contributed to the bottom line. As these companies grew they started buying up the competition which resulted in job losses, however, the economy was also expanding at a furious pace so other job openings were available. Foreign competition was virtually nonexistent except for a few automobiles from Europe and Japan. Foreign manufacturers were busy helping to rebuild the economies of their own countries up through the 1970’s. As long as our population kept increasing these products could be easily absorbed. Again, it was a slow period of recognition before we saw that there were no more small merchants selling groceries or hardware or office supplies, children’s clothes, automobiles, appliances. No more corner market, drug store, book store, etc. They had all been put out of business by the big box stores, which also resulted in job losses. Employees eventually found other work because the economy was strong. The same happened in the banking industry. Laws such as the Riegle-Neale Act of 1994 allowed banks to expand beyond their state borders to become national giants so today people have a lot less choices on where to bank than did before. The Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, signed in 1999 by President Clinton and totally embraced by the Bush 43 Administration, erased all of the restrictions from Glass-Steagall thereby allowing banks to deal in market securities and other questionable high risk ventures. This was also a slow process that day by day was largely overlooked by most average citizens. Let’s just imagine we are Rip Van Winkle, having been asleep for thirty years instead of twenty, waking up to find a society that we don’t recognize and finding out that not only is our spouse dead, but we are also perilously close to the same. That thirty year old white beard we’ve grown represents our collective indifference and apathy to the politicians and corporate scheming that we’ve allowed to happen. Herman Cain is right on one point-we did this to ourselves and we allowed people like him to take advantage of us.
People are now starting to wake up from this thirty year stupor and attempting to shave off that monstrosity of a beard. The most visible of the occupy movements is still happening in New York because that’s where Wall Street and many corporate headquarters are, but the movement has grown to hundreds of cities and towns throughout the nation and it will continue to grow as people keep rubbing the sleep out of their eyes. It’s only a matter of time before the media reports it accurately and it will happen as the movement grows and it becomes too big to be either ignored or denied.
Don’t try to pigeonhole or typecast the 1500+ participants in the Occupy Orlando movement held at Senator Beth Johnson Park on Saturday, Oct. 15, and continuing on throughout the evening until 11:00 PM. The demonstration will continue as soon as the park opens Sunday. They come from all walks of life and all levels of society. There was all manner of dress, educational levels, occupations, ethnicities and ages from the very young to senior citizens who are fed up with the way government has failed to rein in the excesses of both the big banks and big business corporate greed. This is not just a problem for the federal government but also state and local governments whose actions have definitely affected the well-being of its residents. The parade route went around Orlando’s City Hall. Local governments are just as seduced and corrupted by corporate greed as the feds are. They call themselves the ninety nine per centers because it seems that the politicians worship at the feet of the one per cent that control the money, forgetting that their government paychecks come from everyone’s hard earned tax dollars.
Occupation Orlando started at 8:00 AM. Few actual participants were there, however the movement’s teams and staffs were there planning and getting ready. They set up live streaming cameras and had microphones and speakers ready to go. The biggest problem was toilet facilities. The park is a city run facility and the tenant on the property, The Orlando Chamber of Commerce (a public building) made no provision to allow access to its facilities which it is supposed to do. Lots of people were carrying empty coffee or soda cups just for such an emergency. There were also nine color coded member teams in place to handle any possible situation: Green Team for materials, Blue Team for the March, White Team for peace keeping (there were a few very well handled incidents), Orange team for updates and fact checking, Red Team for first aid, Black Team for media, and media outreach, Brown Team for food, Yellow Team for legal observation and help and Violet Team for transportation issues. The Orlando Police were on hand and to their credit were very helpful, especially during the parade segment. Early on the brilliant writer and comedienne, Lizz Winstead showed up to lend her support. Winstead was in town to perform in a fund raising show, yet felt it was important to show her support. It was early in the morning when I interviewed her and she wasn’t funny, but she was poignant. Here’s the video.
The crowd continued to grow during the day. Meanwhile, anyone who wanted to publicly speak was offered the opportunity and close to two hundred people during the day spoke. Some spoke about their personal experiences, some about how they’ve been affected during this crisis and some who just voiced their dissatisfaction. A few candidates for office spoke including two candidates for Mayor of Orlando, Linda Grund and Michael Cantone, both citing the immediate need for reform from the corporate way the city does business. Eventually the crowd equaled at least 1500 people and there were estimates of close to three thousand, but the police during the parade stopped counting after 1500. The parade was at least a half mile long by their estimates and wound around the city hall and then back to the park.
At the conclusion of the parade the microphone again opened up. Vince Taylor, a small business owner dealing in solar energy, acted as the emcee and whipped up the crowdinto a near frenzy with a highly emotional speech. The Keynote speech came shortly afterward from former congressman Alan Grayson. Grayson, a wealthy man and the son of public school teachers, has never forgotten his middle class roots. He is solidly in the camp of the 99%. Here he quotes extensively from Naomi Klein’s book, “The Shock Doctrine,” which describes how both government and big business take advantage of us. Grayson has been known to be both vociferous and bombastic in the past, however, recently both on TV and in his personal appearances he seems to have achieved a maturity and an erudite air when he speaks that was not apparent before. On Bill Maher’s show recently he kept his calm and then slowly and steadily in an economic and surgical way removed P. J. O’Rourke’s mojo and reduced him to a blob of protoplasm. He shows that same discipline here.
After Grayson’s speech the crowd slowly started to depart but significant numbers remained and groups of strangers started to discuss the events of the day and whether or not they would continue to participate. Later in the day the General Assembly met to plan what will be done next. Further information can be found at their website: http://www.occupyorlando.org and on their Facebook page: Occupy Orlando.
I’ve seen my brothers working
Throughout this mighty land
l prayed we’d get together
And together make a stand
Then we’d own those banks of marble
With a guard at every door
And we’d share those vaults of silver
That we have sweated for