By Guy Fawkes
More than 400 pro-democracy protesters marked the end of the work week Friday by marching through lower Manhattan in the weekly procession of the resurgent Occupy Wall Street movement. No arrests were reported.
The ranks of marchers appear to be on the upswing after a winter lull as fair weather, itchy activists, and the inflammatory rhetoric of New York’s billionaire mayor combines with the polarizing politics of an election year and the growing divide between rich and poor. Young men and women were stripping down in the warm weather on Protest Friday and directing copulatory stares at one another in the kind of festival dynamic that helped OWS grow exponentially in 2011.
“The bankers are kicking everybody’s ass,” said Mark Khasan, 40, president of Occupy The Hood. “They kick the bottom until the bottom falls out and then they move up. Eventually, they get to everybody and that’s what people are beginning to understand. If we don’t do something, we are going to lose everything.”
Hiring has picked up in recent months, but more than 12.8 million Americans were still categorized as “unemployed” by the federal government in February and tens of millions more were not counted at all. The U.S. employment-to-population ratio of 58.6% in February was well below the 63.5% rate posted a decade ago.
The U.S. labor force has undergone a structural reorganization since the birth of the Internet and the signing of the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1994 as predatory elites have shifted millions of manufacturing jobs to low-wage economies to boost their profits and take advantage of the global economy. The 99% has been left behind.
The $15.1 trillion U.S. economy created 227,000 jobs in February on a seasonally adjusted basis, and 284,000 jobs in January for a combined gain 511,000. However, it must create at least 100,000 new jobs each month just to keep pace with our nation’s fast-growing population.
That means zero is not zero for monthly job creation. It’s 100,000 and the net gain in new jobs so far this year is 311,000, not 511,000.
At that rate, it will take the U.S. labor market another two years just to recover the 4.2 million jobs lost during the Bush presidency. A further 3.8 million jobs were lost due to the 18-month recession it spawned, which ended in June 2009.
Rising oil prices, influenced by speculative investments in an energy industry that overwhelming backs Republican candidates, are already threatening to suffocate the nascent economic recovery.
“I wish I didn’t have to be here – I really do,” said a longtime Occupier known as Chef Eric, 39. “If the world was a place where I could feel safe about our financial system, civil rights and food supply I’d be home watching TV. I’m not here by choice. I’m down here protesting because it has to be done.”
Many protesters fear that corporate influence in politics and the rising wealth of the 1% are disenfranchising working-class Americans and reducing their influence in a U.S. Congress dominated by the wealthy. They see the steady erosion of civil rights as part of gravitation toward oligarchy.
Police arrested 73 protesters in New York on March 17, after Occupiers marked the sixth month of their movement with a rally and march that ended in its Zuccotti Park birthplace.
Protesters carried signs and chanted against social inequality a few days later on Protest Friday. They also exchanged pleasantries with a group of elite soldiers from the 82nd Airborne visiting the nearby memorial at Ground Zero.
NYPD Spokeman Mike Browne and Bloomberg Spokesman Stu Loeser did not respond to media inquiries from The Cynical Times. They now have an unbroken streak of eight months without responding to this nonprofit news organization.
Richard Machado (left), 20, is typical of the Occupy protesters doing their part to defend representative democracy here on the home-front as soldiers, airmen, marines and seamen continue to battle overseas in Afghanistan and Iraq. The Queens resident has been arrested six times since September. More than 6,000 Occupiers have been arrested in the past six months.
“We look down on political police in other nations,” Machado said. “But we now have an entire division of the New York Police department devoted to the suppression of political speech. It’s scary.”