First of all I’d like to take a moment to openly recognize the individuals injured in Oakland, California and to extend a special message to the police officer who tossed a flash-bang grenade at the protesters trying to give aid to a fallen friend; or to any officer who feels he has the right to intimidate or harm the citizens he is supposed to protect: When you’re done being tough, take a look down at your badge. That badge is a gift from us, the people. That badge is a symbol of our submission to your authority. It’s a trust given to a select few, to look out for our greater good and to protect not just some citizens, but all citizens, even the ones you politically disagree with. That’s your job, sir — and while you hopefully feel remorseful or regretful of your actions, you’ve broken that trust and I sincerely hope that justice is served and you’re never granted that trust by your neighbors again. But conversely – to any protester who feels the need to hurl insults, provoke animosity, or to engage in any other action against the police which endangers the well being of those around him or her — there’s no place for that type of behavior and I personally discourage it because whether those officers realize it or not – they too are part of the 99%.
I love my country – that’s why I’m here – and it goes without saying that as a nation, we’re angry. That’s why we’re here today – and it doesn’t take much to realize that the people who oppose us, and oppose the Occupation movement around the country are angry too – some for similar reasons, some for much different. However, it should also go without saying that we’re a nation built upon discontent. America was born of rebellion and the heart of that rebellion – the pursuit of happiness and the constant desire to improve our lives and improve our union was enshrined in our founding documents. I think that’s part of why we’re angry and I know that’s why we’re here today..
Thomas Jefferson wrote to John Adams in 1813 that “there is a natural aristocracy among men.” and he believed that the grounds of that natural aristocracy were “virtue and talents”. He also wrote that he believed there was an “artificial aristocracy founded on wealth and birth, without either virtue or talents.” He continued by saying that he considered “The natural aristocracy [as] the most precious gift of nature for the instruction, the trusts, and government of society.” He continued, “May we not even say that that form of government is the best which provides the most effectually for a pure selection of these natural aristoi into the offices of government? The artificial aristocracy is a mischievous ingredient in government, and provision should be made to prevent it’s ascendancy.” Jefferson believed that if left to themselves the people would regulate the artificial aristocracy’s ascendancy on their own. But the dysfunction and corruption in Washington has affected my life because I sincerely believe that we’re treading a course which will end with it being much harder for that natural aristocracy to come to power.
When we look around, what do we see in our political discourse? Adamant opposition to raising taxes on the most affluent among us, talks of repealing the estate tax, the elimination of social security, reducing funding for education at all levels, cuts in funding for libraries, meanwhile we have corporations who can swindle their way out of paying most of their taxes, systemically important financial institutions who can socialize their risk and privatize their gains, companies making huge layoffs while rewarding their executives with lavish bonuses which negate the savings made by the reduction in employees, oil companies which are once again reporting record profits, and billionaires who pay less in taxes as a percentage of their income than their secretaries. Meanwhile, regardless of the increases in productivity – real wages have stagnated and prices are rising for the average consumer: college is more expensive, food is more expensive, gasoline is more expensive – when I moved from my parents house in Toledo, Ohio to Pittsburgh in 2005, gas was $2.20 a gallon and the tolls to get from Pittsburgh to Toledo and back to Pittsburgh were $17 round trip. Six years later, gas is $3.50 a gallon and tolls for that same trip are around $30 depending on which way you go. That’s a 43% increase in gas prices and a 76% increase in tolls in six years which means that seeing my mom and dad is reserved for special occasions. But I put that off for tonight. I could have made that familiar four hour drive to Toledo instead of joining you all in our nation’s capitol but tonight, I felt that my voice needed to be heard. Not just for my own peace of mind, but for all of our parents who rely on their social security checks to get by. I came tonight for everyone trying to put their children through college. For the unemployed who can’t find a job and for the under employed who work several jobs just to keep up with their bills.
People oppose us because they say we’re looking for a hand out. We aren’t. We’re fighting for our country to have a rational domestic economic policy. We’re fighting our country to recognize the diminishing marginal utility of money and for it to understand that a flat tax which burdens the poor while relieving the rich isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be. We’re standing in solidarity with our friends camping in city parks tonight because we too agree that too big to fail institutions are an insult to any society that calls itself capitalistic. We’re not against the wealthy – I’d say we all in our own way hope to be someday too. But what we’re against is this presumption of infallibility that the wealthy will always make correct and beneficial decisions for society based on their past success. We want to make our own opportunities. We don’t want to be beholden to the wealthy as “job creators” in a neo-feudalistic sort of way. Following our current path of catering to the wealthy interests in our nation would firmly establish an artificial monetary aristocracy in the United States. Following Thomas Jefferson’s advice, I’m here to say “Enough is Enough” and let’s work on stopping this together.