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“Occupy Wall Street” Anger: Few Prosper, Billions Suffer

“How do we pick ourselves up when Wall St.’s stealing our bootstraps?”

“We are not leaving.  Not while the richest 1% own 75% of the USA’s wealth. “

These were some of the hand-written signs at the ongoing “Occupy Wall Street” demonstration in front of and around the New York Stock Exchange as it entered its second week of daily protests. The stated mission of “Occupy Wall Street,”according to its website, is

“to flood into lower Manhattan, set up beds, kitchens, peaceful barricades and occupy Wall Street for a few months. Like our brothers and sisters in Egypt, Greece, Spain and Iceland, we plan to use the revolutionary Arab Spring tactic of mass occupation to restore democracy in America.

“Occupy Wall Street is a leaderless resistance movement with people of many colors, genders and political persuasions. The one thing we all have in common is that We Are The 99% that will no longer tolerate the greed and corruption of the 1%.”

On Saturday, September 24, about 80 people were arrested during the demonstration, mostly for blocking traffic and disorderly conduct, according to police. The protestors vow to stay for months, camping on the streets and in the parks.

Does this demonstration signify a shift in the mood of the public? A few weeks ago, Great Britain was shocked by several nights of rioting and looking in London and several other cities. Is that going to happen here?

The U.S. has been going through a wrenching amount of pain from unemployment, reduced income and home foreclosures, resulting in an overall massive downshift in expectations. Millions of families have lost large portions of their wealth in residential real estate and retirement funds. This loss of wealth has been disproportionately felt by Blacks and Hispanics, who since the housing crash have lost just about all the gains they had made in the previous quarter century.

The unemployment rate for 18-to-24 year olds in general, as of July 2011, was 18.1%, while for Hispanics it was 20.1%, and for Blacks 31.0%. From another, probably more revealing, perspective, “[t]his year, the share of young people [in this age group] who were employed in July was 48.8 percent, the lowest July rate on record for the series, which began in 1948,” according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

From my perspective in the trenches helping clients every day, I’m not at all surprised that some people are feeling like it’s time to “man the barricades.” Seems to me that young people have been rather quiet, staying in school longer to avoid the job market and to try to position themselves better for it–all the while racking up potentially crushing levels of student loans. They are living at home much longer than expected. Their frustrations will only increase if the economy doesn’t find room for them.

The signs point to more demonstrations ahead.

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