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YouSpeak: Occupy Boston

Is corporate America killing the middle class?

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The federal government reported last week that the number of Americans making $1 million or more annually has grown 18 percent since 2009, while the number of jobs fell by 500,000. The U.S. Census Bureau calculates that since 1980, roughly 5 percent of annual national income has shifted from the middle class to the nation’s richest households.

Numbers like those, and their tangible consequences, have led to the grassroots Occupy movement, which started with Occupy Wall Street and compelled thousands of people across the country to protest. In Boston, hundreds of people are camping out in tents on the Rose F. Kennedy Greenway, just one colony of a multicity Occupy protest of economic injustices. Boston police have arrested more than 100 protestors, including several BU students. Supporters of the Occupy movement hail from a broad demographic with one thing in common: a conviction that corporate America’s quest for money is advancing at the expense of the middle class.

This week’s “YouSpeak” asks, “Is corporate America destroying the middle class?”

YouSpeak” appears each Monday.

If you have a suggestion for a question we should ask, post it in the comments section below.

52 Comments
Devin Hahn, Producer/Editor, BU Today, Bostonia, Boston University
Devin Hahn

Devin Hahn can be reached at dhahn@bu.edu.

52 Comments on YouSpeak: Occupy Boston

  • anon on 10.24.2011 at 6:49 am

    Where is the input from SMG students?

    • Anne on 10.24.2011 at 7:49 pm

      It is amazing the passion this Occupy Boston Wall Street etc has stirred in people. I would suggest people take a look around the BU Campus at the names of the buildings from generous benefactors of the corporate world, the amount of money donatated to help students with grants and scholarships comes from corporate America too. In every segment there are good and bad and you can not lumped every corporation into one basket. I know companies get tax write-offs for their donations but imagine all those donations gone and the good that they do gone also. You better be careful what you wish for because with every wish comes a curse and Atlas just might shrug.

      • Diann on 11.07.2011 at 8:04 am

        Anne – you are SO right! I couldn’t have said it better myself. All to many times people just want to jump on a bandwagon and while there are certain factions that may fit the bill, lumping all of Corporate America into one basket can cause ones nose to be cut off despite their face. Just as you pointed out, looking at the benefactors, grants and scholarships at BU is just the tip of the iceberg. Maybe the signs of the protestors need to THANK some of those in Corporate America who HAVE done their part to help while they are occupying america. How about a huge billboard saying THANK YOU and lising all those in kind that have and do give to those who need it and all of the students who have received it! I’m just saying.

      • Mark Krone on 11.08.2011 at 3:21 pm

        Ah, the Atlas Shrugged brigade. It did not take long to hear from you. The poor rich. Rand tells us to unchain them from responsibility or compassion so they can be free to make soaring profits and despoil the world. I hope young people have more to offer than shrugging off poverty and scraping to the rich who build university buildings.

    • Dave on 11.10.2011 at 11:03 am

      “CEO’s making millions” is misleading. Why does everyone choose “CEOs” and “hedge fund managers” as their example? Look around Boston; how many Boston CEOs will make more than Josh Beckett ($17M) this year? Hell, Tiger Woods still makes $50M per year. Oprah reportedly made $260M last year. U2 grossed $736M in 110 shows on their “360 degree tour.” How come the “Occupy” movement doesn’t carry signs railing against Bruce Springsteen, who grossed $235M on the “Magic Tour” but receives government farm subsidies for not growing crops on his private land? I’m against bank bailouts, but very few of the “1%” are bankers. Please think before you march.

  • Anderson on 10.24.2011 at 7:39 am

    Devin,

    If you would like honest feedback on your “report,” I suggest you take an unbiased stance. While you at lease acknowledged some differing views in your video, the story is nothing but a list of statistics attempting to back a largely ignorant protest.

    I won’t argue that the division of wealth has gotten too great, but I will argue the approach taken by these disorganized groups, many of whom don’t know the first thing about why the bailouts occurred. If the bailouts hadn’t happened, many of us wouldn’t be living on the streets to protest; we’d be living there because we’d be in a depression greater than that little trough some call the Great Depression.

    Basically, Devin, what I’m saying is, you should be a reporter on here — not a protester.

    • Niki on 10.24.2011 at 1:20 pm

      Anderson: The path of large-scale deregulation of the banking industry that the federal government undertook even before the Bush administration is why these bailouts had to happen. These corporations, Citigroup, JP Morgan, AIG, investment banks: Goldman Sachs, Morgan Sanley, Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch… had gotten so big that their failures would completely destroy the economy. They should not have been allowed to get so big in the first place.

      Repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glass_Steagall_Act

      So what is your opinion of the bailouts and why they happened?

      • Anderson on 10.24.2011 at 7:51 pm

        Niki,

        That’s a good point, and I think in retrospect most everyone would agree that repealing Glass-Steagall was a bad idea. If you recall, the reason for repealing it was actually to make it easier for the everyday consumer who would move money from investments to savings when the economy turned from good to bad, respectively.

        That said, it wasn’t “malicious” corporations, the government, or the consumer alone who is to blame for what happened — it’s all of them together. The government didn’t anticipate what that consolidation would do, and neither the corporations nor the “homeowners” knew how poisonous the mortgage backed securities would become. It was irresponsible on everyone’s part, and my problem with the entire Occupy Wall Street movement is that is fails to recognize this.

        To answer your question plainly, the bailouts were due to a culmination of everything I’ve mentioned. And while increased regulation of some sort would be necessary and fine, Occupy Wall Street is not the solution, for the corporations could never have done what they did if it weren’t for subprime borrowers trying to live above their means — a consequence I think is fair to, in some cases, call “Occupiers’ Greed.”

      • Paul on 11.07.2011 at 8:57 pm

        I must disagree with you here. The economy becomes unstable the more we interfere with it. Look at the University system in America. By giving loans to people to go to school, we as a nation enabled the universities to raise their tuition to fill the new economic niche. They keep doing so still, even today, as more grants by the government are given out.

        When we restrict the banks and corporations, the economy suffers. My father works for a company that is being restricted by the new obamacare bill and they said in order to handle the new mega-taxes, they would possibly have to cut 20% of their labor force. It is the way the cookie crumbles.

        Like the corporations, an eye should be focused on the other side too. The ACLU, SCIU, AFLCIO, etc. are monopolies on labor and in that light they lobby just as hard as businesses do, to get their point approved.

        In the conception of this country, the government ran parallel but separate to most of the economy, and we enjoyed many years of prosperity. The government was not made to police the economy. They were created to establish justice, provide for the common defense, and promote general welfare of its citizens.

    • Jessica on 10.25.2011 at 11:20 pm

      …And if you’d like to hear more about the bailout watch Too Big To Fail!

  • Jenna on 10.24.2011 at 9:54 am

    It is possible that stupidity has risen 18%. More reality shows in which the only requirement is to drink, act like a jackass, and showcase your sex life is on the rise. Snooki is a great example. She gets paid a ton of money for doing nothing. Or maybe if you have a family where both the husband and wife are surgeons, that could potentially be a source where that $1 million is coming from. I think today a million isn’t that much. I would certainly love a million but in reality it doesn’t get you that far these days.

    • Niki on 10.24.2011 at 1:29 pm

      I find it offensive that you generalize our student generation to Snooki watchers. The movement is concerned with the large uncontrolled banking industry where CEOs of these firms are making 20million. I don’t want a million dollars. I cannot even begin to imagine what half of that even looks like. And on what basis can you say that one million doesn’t get a person far these days? Families struggle with multiple jobs just to earn even 20,000.

      • Paul on 11.07.2011 at 8:59 pm

        I agree with Jenna. Our generation is an entitled, lazy lot, that expects to get what our forefathers made, with half the work. The surgeons deserve the money they make considering the schooling, the effort they put in, and the benefit their job brings to the world.

        • Ben on 11.09.2011 at 2:53 pm

          People are very lazy these days, but many are not, and still are not getting their fair share while corporate executives are getting bailed out to “spur on the economy”. How about instead giving that money to the citizens so that they can spend the money freely, you know, in a FREE MARKET, to help spur on the economy the economically savvy way.

          Give a corporation $10 million to spur on the economy, put $2 million of that into Executive pockets. That’s just what happens. Is that fair? If you think so, then by all means, protest the protesters.

          • Paul on 11.10.2011 at 12:06 pm

            I don’t think that is exactly fair, but it is what happens. Additionally, as strange as it seems, we need the wealthy to get money because ultimately they are the ones who invest in business thus spurring job creation.

            I agree with a free market, but that means that our government needs to stop restricting everything.

  • Eric on 10.24.2011 at 10:04 am

    HOw can you do a report on Corporate America, or business in general for that matter, at a University with one of the top Business Schools in the countryand not take any of their input? Were you afraid they might make a valid point and and give you some credibility as a journalist. Or are you like all the “peaceful” occupiers who become strangely enraged when someone simply questions their motives or understanding of the issue at hand?

    • Abram Trosky on 10.24.2011 at 4:14 pm

      What makes you and others think that those who have already condoned the system by paying tuition to enter it via business school would somehow make unbiased or authoritative sources? At least ask a student of economics (CAS) or political science (also GRS), which is probably what Devin did since intro econ classes meet in Morse Auditorium that figures in the backdrop of these shots. Better, ask a grad student or faculty member; I, for one, would gladly debate any comer from SMG on these issues in a public forum.

      • Rob on 10.24.2011 at 9:44 pm

        What makes you and others think that Professors, Grad students, and C.A.S students are more authoritative or less biased?
        Students who decide to study S.M.G support the business world through their tuition no more than you did with yours when you went to University. Their decision to study business likely is a pragmatic, and not an ethical, decision. Business opportunities are far more plentiful and flexible than teaching opportunities, and in a stressed economy with surplus of overqualified work, one will of course, play the safe hand.
        The argument that “because they study business they cannot be trusted to be impartial” is by definition, an impartial statement. Your unwillingness to accept or listen to the arguments, of not even “the other side” but any one related to the field, shows an incredible personal bias.
        By your own assertions it is appropriate to mention Boston University’s unapologetic neo-socialist bias in the Political Science department, and thus disqualify them from the debate.

      • Ben on 11.09.2011 at 2:59 pm

        Hey, hey! Right on Abram! You were my TF for polisci two years ago!

        I go to SMG but am pretty neutral on this issue–doesn’t mean I don’t have my opinions. I see the merits in the OWS movement, for example, the executive pay may be disproportionate to the true supply and demand of excecutives–it just so happens these executives are getting paid by their buddies, nothing more, nothing less.

        Some downfalls–definitely the way the OWS message is structured by making corporations feel like they are lumped together, when some corporations are better than others.

  • Nathan on 10.24.2011 at 10:09 am

    Yes, corporations are hurting the middle class. By definition a corporation is an amoral entity that feels no guilt. You might think that enlightened self interest would restrain corporations from destroying their customer base – but there is no room for long range forcasting of customer impact when preparing quarterly reports to manipulate stock market enthusiasm. Add to that the fact that a modern corporation is, by definition, an international entity, THERE IS NO REASON TO BELIEVE A CORPORATION WILL EVER DO ANYTHING GOOD FOR ANYTHING EXCEPT THAT CORPORATION. If a corporation were human it would be a sociopath. It is very bad for humans to be manipulated by sociopaths. It is the traditional role of government to protect us from sociopaths. When government neglects that regulatory enforcement – it hurts everyone. With their lower resources, the middle class and the poor are hurt disproportionally.

    • Frank on 10.26.2011 at 10:30 am

      Corporations are profit driven, but they are owned by shareholders, ordinary people like you and I who have a say in how the company operates. Second it’s not a bad thing that corporations are profit driven. Profits mean that a corporation provides goods and services that all people want, and they provide them efficiently. More profits means higher wages for workers, more investment in to new products and services and they mean more money(in the form of dividends and capital gains) for the average joes who own the company’s stock. I really don’t understand how America has courtyards full of people who have not taken the time to reflect on two things. 1) how much more fruitful their lives have been because they have grown up in this day and age of profit driven corporations. Coffee on demand, abundant and inexpensive food, abundant, inexpensive and trendy clothes, affordable travel that can take you to all corners of the globe, handheld computing machines that allow you to access all the information of the world at your thumb tips, these are all things that are made possible because corporations are allowed to make a profit. Corporate greed is what makes all of what I stated before possible. What would the occupy wallstreet protester’s lives be like without corporations who are out to make a buck. Second, protesters offer no replacement for our current capitalist system. What would these people like to see instead? What could be better that the current system we have now?

      . The way democracy and capitalism works is that the citizens are all intelligent and informed participants. . Please allow yourself to read the following article about how much better our lives are because corporations choose to sell us goods and services at a profit.

      http://townhall.com/columnists/michaelmedved/2007/10/17/corporate_power_blesses,_not_oppresses,_the_american_people/page/full/

      • Nathan on 10.26.2011 at 1:14 pm

        Frank,

        I worked in the Brokerage industry for 15 years and have read hundreds of corporate annual reports while investing my own money. I respect the power of capitalism.

        REGULATED corporate and personal capitalism is good.
        UNDERREGULATED capitalism and greed leads to the collapse of civilization.
        The only thing big enough to regulate a corporation is a major government or consortium of governments like the EU. If we wait a few more years, corporations may become too large for the USA or EU to control. Personally, I think that would be bad.

        To claim that corporations are owned and controlled by individuals is naive or disingenuous. When you critically examine the structure of mutual funds and shell companies, it becomes clear that no individual has a meaningful say. As a person who has actually been to stock-holder meetings and tried make my 20,000 share opinion heard, I can attest that I had no personal impact.

        Corporations are like camels. You have to saddle them with rules, but a bit in their mouths and be ready to beat them with a stick for them to be productive, responsible members of society.

  • Person on 10.24.2011 at 10:19 am

    I think an effective solution would be for ‘the other 99%’ to divest interest in said evil corporations and boycott the said evil corporations. Do the research, find out who is really evil, and act. Don’t blanket all successful entities as evil. If more gov regulations are put into place to throttle these entities there will be more refined favoritism. You may just end up with ‘the other 99.9%’.

  • Mylo on 10.24.2011 at 10:20 am

    I think it is funny how worked up people get while commenting on all the You Speak videos. It is like they can’t say these things out loud, so they vent-type or attack others’ comments/work virtually…..it is just a video. Give people the benefit of doubt.

  • Anne on 10.24.2011 at 11:06 am

    It’s pretty clear that the composition of the occupiers has changed over the past weeks and that less and less free discussion –which really was the intent of the original movement — is being permitted. Nationwide, the incidence of crime — mostly thefts, but also several widely reported violent crimes –at the occupation sites has increased and Occupy “security” is discouraging reporting these to the police or emergency personnel, as well as prohibiting any literature but that prepared by organizers or the national unions that have now affiliated themselves with the Occupy movement. This is very disturbing, and the antithesis of the originally stated “ideals,” if you will. Many of the people of all ages who were present at the beginning are long gone, back to the responsibilities — working or looking for work, attending class, caring for families — they have assumed.

    I think the saddest thing of all is that this has turned into anti-capitalism, when the housing collapse that precipitated the entire current financial crisis was nothing more or less than the result of government social agendae to give and to loan money for housing to those who did not qualify and had no reasonable chance of repaying housing loans that were made at the most generous and flexible terms in US history. The government encouraged and supported loan processes that every lender recognized as irresponsible, guaranteed those loans with taxpayer funds, and made it illegal for lenders who recognized the dangers ahead to decline to lend. Federal law mandates stiff penalties for lenders who resist. It was the federal government who baled out major corporations, because the fact is that if corporations go under, jobs are permanently lost. People who have money — large amounts, modest amounts, even living wage amounts– keep this economy running. Yes the gap between those who have $1 million or more and our poorest is larger, but it is mostly due to the bleeding of the middle class who pay their mortgages, car payments, educational loans, and medical bills, while bearing the tax burden of the “entitled:” the 52% of this country who pay no taxes. Make no mistake, that’s not “rich people” or you and me.

    • BU Parent on 10.28.2011 at 3:26 pm

      Well-written Anne. In the second paragraph replace “housing” with “student loans”. Unfortunately it will then ring true 5 years from now; students lured by lenders and for-profit schools have huge and unaffordable debt loads. Higher education will be the next bubble to burst.

  • Emma on 10.24.2011 at 11:09 am

    Every person interviewed in the GSU is an active member of the BU Occupy group. Maybe that was a crazy coincidence, but I agree with those above who said that this is not a very objective report.

    • K on 10.24.2011 at 12:54 pm

      that’s correct. I believe they planned to be there to talk to BU Today. and I do wish they had gotten some opposing opinion, considering we have a business school; it certainly would have balanced this piece, since there is a lot of skepticism of the movement that was not represented well. that being said, I think it’s beneficial that they were there to talk. they’re people who know what’s up with the occupy movement, and have more to say about it than “we are the 99%! I want my loans payed!” there are plenty of people on campus in the latter school of thought- supportive of the Occupy movement without any real reasons to back it up. I’m glad the BU Occupies Boston group was there to give a bit more reason to the argument.

  • Niki on 10.24.2011 at 1:39 pm

    A lot of you are saying that your voices are not being heard. I regularly attend the student meetings and I do get a chance to speak. I have never seen a stronger depiction of Democracy than these meetings and the entire Occupy movement. Many of you are also drawing on this idea that SMG students have all the answers. I don’t think that your classification as being an SMG student who studies business as your major means that you are truly knowledgeable about these issues. I acknowledge that everyone has a right to have their voice heard, but do not attack this video for somehow not obtaining it.

    • Anderson on 10.24.2011 at 8:35 pm

      Niki,

      You seem to know what you’re talking about, so I trust that BU’s Occupy discussions may be democratic (though the vandalism some of them have done isn’t). But just as a CFA student would be more acquainted with the arts, an SMG student would, in general, be more knowledgable on this issue than, say, that same CFA student.

      With regard to not blaming Devin for not obtaining our voice, I believe you are mistaken. He is being targeted because he should be delivering “you speak,” not “Occupy speak.” Where he failed is not necessarily in the video, but rather in the text itself where he simply listed statistics in favor of the movement, ignoring all other aspects of the issue (including some that even appear in his video). Yes, Devin has as much right as anyone to voice his opinion, but he needs to understand there’s going to be retaliation if he delivers a biased report.

  • George Orwell on 10.25.2011 at 8:13 am

    You’re either part of the solution or part of the problem. In my opinion, Occupy isn’t offering any solutions, just bringing an already well recognized issue to the fore of the media. The 1% must be contained and the power distributed they say (or at least from what I gather, I find the whole mass to be somewhat vague in mission even after reading their website) but who is going to do that? The 1%. The group is asking for a solution to a problem, which isn’t very productive. FIND a solution and promote that. Don’t OCCUPY, that will gain nothing. Actually PROTEST and OFFER some way to achieve your vision- take an active role if you really believe in something, because right now to me it’s just a bunch of people standing around with signs, nothing more.

  • George Orwell on 10.25.2011 at 8:15 am

    Also, I don’t think anyone realizes the magnitude of catastrophe that would ensue if the banks and corporate America were downsized significantly in their economic strength…. I think they earned their place and definitely have gained a strong influence over politics and society; but, that’s America. Sink or swim go big or go home.

    • Nathan on 10.25.2011 at 9:49 am

      Read your history “George” – When rich industrialists got out of hand in the 1920s, there was protest and change. When racism got out of hand in the 1860s, there was war and change. When the military got out of hand in the 1960s, there was protest and change.
      — the argument of conservative interests was always, you need us, it will destroy society, love it or leave it. — the arguments and actions of liberal vs conservative forces in the USA have been pretty consistent throughout history. The OCCUPY WALL ST movement is the same sort of true grass-roots protest that has sprung up in this country many times before. History and logic show us that it is the liberal forces for change that created this country and progress through world history.

      • Dan on 10.25.2011 at 10:45 pm

        A reasonable point, Nathan, but I think you may be mistaking “liberal” with “liberalism”. They’re not the same thing.

        • Nathan on 10.26.2011 at 1:28 pm

          @ Dan,

          I don’t think I used the term “liberalism” or “conservatism”, because that isn’t what I meant. “isms” like communism, racism, and political parties tend to become absolutist as they become constrained by their faith-based ideology.

          In the spectrum of beliefs between liberal and conservative extremes, the pendulum tends to swing. IMO, The restrain of each force by the other is neccesary.

          The activist overspending and regulatory destruction of the “conservatism” based party in the USA would hardly be considered conservative by the 70s icons like William F. Buckley.

          I see the Occupy movement as a liberal movement. The very fact of its diffuse and unfocused agenda is proof it has not yet fallen prey to a “liberalism” ideology.

      • Paul on 11.07.2011 at 9:08 pm

        The Occupy Movement is not a grass roots movement anymore, it is being supported and influenced by the ACLU.

        If you read your history you’d also realize that we went after MONOPOLIES under the Sherman Anti Trust Act… That same act deserves to be utilized against the big unions of today, as they are complete and utter monopolies on labor, something that warps politics as much as big corporations.

        And if you read your history, you’d understand that the civil war had much more to do with economic interests than pure racism…

  • Maxx on 10.31.2011 at 5:48 pm

    “Inside Job” by Charles H. Ferguson. The film is described by Ferguson as being about “the systemic corruption of the United States by the financial services industry and the consequences of that systemic corruption.”

    The film was screened at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival in May and won the 2010 Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature. Really in a nutshell, extremely interesting and informative. Narrated by Matt Damon.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FzrBurlJUNk

  • David on 11.09.2011 at 11:32 am

    Seems occupying homeless shelters and eating food meant for the poor and using resources meant for the genuinely homeless is part of this movement as well. Hypocrites.

    And the growing disparity between the rich and the poor issue that keeps getting used as a hammer is a manufactured issue. The devil is in the details. The issue is generational. The boomers have the the vast majority of the “wealth” and they are a huge population. We have a decreasing birth rate and the young with always make less than those near or in retirement. So it is an issue of More “haves” (the Boomers) cashing in and the “have nots” being young, with lower wages and a much smaller population.

    • Paul on 11.10.2011 at 12:08 pm

      I feel though, that the youth expects to be “haves” after getting a bachelors. It takes time building up your resume and developing connections enough to obtain a career, rather than just another job.

      • David on 11.10.2011 at 2:56 pm

        Exactly. That is the problem. This generation was raised on instant gratification. No one wants to earn anything – other than a degree, which is not a golden ticket. Hard work and paying ones dues is how the world works – in any economy.

        • Paul on 11.10.2011 at 8:38 pm

          Exactly!

  • jeff donalds on 11.12.2011 at 8:21 am

    Some of these people make me ashamed to say I go to this school. The issues are real and while sometimes the point of Occupy is lost, sitting back and waiting to “vote” for something is wrong. Look at what our founding fathers wrote and did. We have to act if something is unjust.

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