4

Occupy's impact on a business leader and a protester

A protester affiliated with Occupy Wall Street stands outside U.S. Bankruptcy Court on September 17, 2012 in New York City.

The Occupy movement celebrated its anniversary today with protests in the financial district of Lower Manhattan, echoing their constant presence in New York's Zuccotti Park and elsewhere last fall. Activists and middle class "99 percenters" who were frustrated with bank bailouts weren't the only people in the mix. Wall Street's other denizens -- bankers, traders and business leaders -- couldn't miss the crowds.

"I think the Occupy movement forced the conversation on all of us about what has happened in the country in terms of average incomes not going up," said Kathy Wylde, president and CEO of business leadership group Partnership for NYC.

Yet for Occupiers, the message is about more than income inequality. Starting a conversation about the income gap wasn't Occupy's intention, according to activist J.A. Myerson. Instead,  he said, "it was the intention of the Democratic Party."

Myerson believes that Democrats co-opted the clearest element of the movement and used it to score political points. But activists want to see a broader restructuring of the world economy, with less focus on profit.

"I think that the Democrats' attempts to incorporate some of the messaging of Occupy Wall Street into their campaigns will fall short when everyone sees that actually the fundamentals are not changing," said Myerson.

There is still very little common ground between Wall Street and Occupy on how much the core of American financial principles should change.

"To the extent that the Occupy group wants to take down capitalism, Lower Manhattan is probably the wrong place to do it," Wylde replied, emphasizing the positive economic output of the financial industry.

"Wall Street is responsible for half a million jobs of New Yorkers. It generates about a quarter of our city's tax revenues," said Wylde. "New Yorkers complain about the banks as much as anyone else, but just about everybody here has a relative or friend who works for one."

About the author

Kai Ryssdal is the host and senior editor of Marketplace, public radio’s program on business and the economy.
Log in to post4 Comments

Best media story I've yet heard on the anniversary. Good choice of guests! There's an important quote from Myerson, a provocative one, that didn't make the summary-in-text above. I hope I'm transcribing this fairly: "Really what the Occupy movement wanted to do was start a much more fundamental conversation. About the primacy of the profit motive, and the capture of the functions of the state by the interests of capital."

A really fascinating story. Wylde's working background was presented to frame her perspective and add depth to her comments. Myerson's support system was completely omitted, and could have helped the listener see their POV. What DO these OWS folk do for support that allows them to hang out on street corners all day?
Any chance for follow up?
Great story Kai, keep it up!

It's quite astonishing that in this "conversation," the actual key point made by either side is missing from the summary -- that is, you have repeated the precise failure of mainstream media to actually bother to understand what OWS was about. The man had a point about deep structure -- anyone who cares must listen to the story and not trust your bowdlerization.

The Democrats were able to override OWS because media failed to hear, to take the time to understand. Just like this glib "effort" at communication. Total #FAIL. But nice try, nonetheless.

With Generous Support From...