Wall Street vs. Main Street

We all know about the state of our economy. How can we not. It’s covered ad nauseam on every local and cable channel. Unemployment remains stubbornly high, and daily we hear of more major layoffs – 30,000 at Bank of America, 5,000 at Whirlpool … and on and on. Foreclosures are increasing, not decreasing.

It seems like everyone is hurting … well everyone but Wall Street. The stock market is at record highs, corporate profits are at record highs, corporate cash reserves are at record highs and executive compensation is at record highs.

Protesters at Occupy Wall Street

Discontent fueled by this economic disparity has hit a tipping point, as evidenced by growing Occupy movements. Protests are being staged in virtually every city of size across the country. Even unjustified police retaliation has not deterred these protesters. The Occupy movement has now grown larger than both the civil rights movement of the 1960’s and women rights movement of the 1970’s. And the Occupy movement is not just contained within our borders. It’s spilled oversees. Protests have popped up all over the world. Some for their own anti-corporate causes, and some just to support our cause. Recently, there was a large demonstration in Taira Square, ground zero of the Egyptian revolution. They were not protesting their personal plight, but rather were standing in solidarity with the protesters at Occupy Oakland.

This discontent is truly worldwide.

But this piece is not about the Occupy movement, and it’s not about corporate greed.

This piece is about you … and why you are the real problem.

There’s more than enough money – as evidenced by huge stashes of cash on hand by corporate America. Apple is sitting on $70 billion, while Microsoft , Oracle and Google sit on $45 billion, $40 billion and $35 billion respectively.

The problem is that all this money just sits there. And on top of it, they don’t pay any taxes. Because international presence, they move money around to whatever country has the favorable corporate tax rates, United States not one of them.

And they don’t hire anyone either. In the thirty-five years, Fortune 500 company employment roles have increased only 3% … yes 3%. Virtually all increase in employment seen in this county over the past three decades – have been accommodated by small and medium-sized businesses … businesses that actually pay taxes since they can’t funnel money oversees.

But again this piece isn’t about corporate greed or their lack of tax responsibility.

It’s about you … and why you are the real problem.

When you eat at your local restaurant, or shop at your local hardware store, roughly 45% of your bill stays in the community. When you shop at Wal-Mart, a big box store or eat at a corporate owned McDonald’s – you’re lucky if 15% sticks around.

Yet we continue to shop at Wal-Mart, at Target, at Home Depot. We continue to eat at McDonald’s. This behavior is decimating our communities, our neighborhoods.

We continue to bank at Bank of America and Wells Fargo instead of locally owned banks and credit unions. These local institutions are ones that actually loan us the money we need to build our businesses … and our lives. But for some reason we are not willing to help those that actually will help us. Instead we’d rather send our money out-of-state or even of the country where it does … well who knows what it does.

What are we thinking … or maybe we’re not thinking. That’s the problem, we don’t think. We sit idly on the sidelines, waiting was someone else to play the game for us. Someone like the government. How’s that been working for us!

We sit and complain – we’re even in the streets demonstrating. Yet the solution is right here. I want to scream!

We can change our plight with our behavior, specifically our pocketbook. Instead of Home Depot, shop at Ace Hardware (they’re all locally owned). Instead of Citibank, bank at a credit union. Instead of McDonald’s, eat at Joe’s Dinner (you know what I mean).

Local and medium-sized businesses have generated all the jobs in the thirty years, so why not support them. They’re going hire more people the more business they get. And maybe one of the jobs that gets filled will be filled by you … or your son or your daughter.

Every time you shop at Target, eat at Taco Bell – you putting another nail in the coffin of your community, your neighborhood. You’re telling me there isn’t a Mexican restaurant that has better tasting, healthier food than Taco Bell, at a comparable price just down the street from you. So what’s up.

Imagine if all that money that flows out your community stayed home. Look what could happen. I’ll leave to your imagination.

Is that dollar or two that important … ask your neighbor who owns Joe’s Dinner or the local Ace Hardware what they think.

Then get back to me.

P.S. It’s not enough to know who your friends are, who your community is … it’s just as important to know who your community isn’t. Please read: “Who not your community!”


I can be found on Twitter at @clayforsberg


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2 thoughts on “Wall Street vs. Main Street

  1. Hi Clay,

    I wonder if you’ve come out to any of the occupations in your community?

    Here in DC we’re engaged in precisely the kind of community re-engagement and silo-building that you’re calling for in this piece. The economic and ecological disasters of the last decade have taught us that we can’t rely on the state to keep an eye on the till OR be there for us when disaster strikes. We have to be there for each other, and we have to have a social and economic infrastructure in place that allows us to do that on a local scale while being capable of emulation on a massive scale.

    And I know that Occupy DC isn’t alone in that respect. Occupy New Haven, Occupy Oakland, Occupy Austin, and others that I have firsthand reports from tell me that they’re engaged in the same kind of deeply important independent infrastructure building. In addition to creating off-the-grid sustainable infrastructure, we’re advocating for bank transfers on a massive scale and working with local businesses to encourage our allies to spend their dollars there instead of with the conglomerates.

    This process of building is deeply important for our future, but it’s also not the fix-all for the deficiencies that got us into this mess. We need to be able to take care of ourselves and each other, but while we do that we also need safeguards in place to be sure that the superbanks can’t ruin what’s left of our global economy. That’s why, in the States, we need to repeal the Gramm-Leach-Bailey Act, for starters. We need to reinstate Glass-Steagall. We need to impose a .01% tax on financial instrument transactions so that they can fund their own bailouts. We need to disincentivize short-term gain that comes with long-term systemic risk.

    We’re part of the problem, yes–but we’re also busy building the solution. I hope you’ll take part.

    #OccupyDC Media

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