EDITORIAL: Occupy Wall Street reflects Main Street concerns

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Occupy Wall Street demonstrations have taken the nation by storm and while Perry County may seem far removed from the towering facades of Wall Street, many here share the same concerns as those staking out lower Manhattan. We join in their anger over the unfairness of the big-bank bailouts, the excessive role of business and its money in government and a growing economic inequality.  

Amid these many problems, we hope the grassroots movement doesn’t overlook what’s right with our American economy.

First, the problems.

Many of those supporting the movement have felt the economic pain of the recession and are upset over the government’s role in bailing out financial institutions while not ensuring a comparable financial safety net for financially at-risk Americans. Millions in the U.S. remain unable to find work. Countless more worry about their jobs, struggle to find money for the mortgage, pay for college or provide for families’ basic needs.

Americans should demand a fair shake and a fair share of the trillion-plus dollars spent to help those in power.

The news program “Democracy Now” first reported on the protest Sept. 19, the Monday after its Saturday beginning and shared stories that would sound familiar in Perry County.

“I came because I’m upset with the fact that the bailout of Wall Street didn’t help any of the people holding mortgages,” 71-year-old Mary Ellen Marino of Princeton, N.J., said “All of the money went to Wall Street and none of it went to Main Street.”

Marino said her two daughters have their homes financed by Citibank. “During this two-year period when (the banks) were supposed to be helping people who were in danger of foreclosure, they did not refinance these mortgages,” Marino told a reporter.

We know there are Perry County residents in the same boat, unable to sell or buy homes or refinance their mortgages, even at a time when interest rates are at or near record lows.

We support calls for government oversight of banking and efforts to make sure the billions in aid that went to Wall Street truly filters to America’s Main Streets. As the 2012 election season sends congressmen into their districts seeking votes, we should voice our anger and demand change.

With that call for reform, however, we must also acknowledge that there’s a lot right with American business, namely the opportunities it provides. Hard work and individual determination are still at the foundation of America’s economic might. Our county is certainly home to individuals and families whose wealth and success came from foresight and sweat. Those opportunities must remain.

It’s easy to blame big corporations for the nation’s economy, from bankers who risked billions in other people’s money on risky bets in hopes of short-term gains but ended up wrecking jobs and retirements.

Safeguards put into place in the months after the nation’s near financial collapse in 2008 must be enforced.

What our nation needs is an honest discussion on what government can and should do to balance the economic playing field, giving businesses the freedom to innovate and grow while holding people in power accountable.

Demonizing capitalism isn’t the answer and while it’s unfair to characterize a movement as new and developing as Occupy Wall Street, we hope free enterprise and free markets don’t become targets.

Equally unproductive is blaming people who have succeeded by hard work and determination. Wealth is not an evil though those who possess it need to be held accountable. Those who have gained the most do need to be taxed fairly and firmly.

Our nation’s greatness was built on the promise of the American dream. Government needs to safeguard the ability of our economy to guarantee Americans have the ability to win on their own merits. That help needs to be fair and broadly focused on all Americans, from Wall Street to Main Street, who want bright futures for themselves and their families. That vision is something we all should support, no matter where we call home.

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