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Western faculty reflect on Occupy Wall Street

It’s safe to say at this point the one thing most of us can agree on is “We are scared.”

That’s the predominant, if underlying, message of most of the occupations occurring in the U.S. and internationally; a sentiment shared by not just regular people, but also banks and corporations.

According to Reza Hamzaee, professor of economics for Missouri Western, fear is the fundamental mechanism slowing down the economic recovery here and abroad. Hamzaee said that the key problem facing our government is reversing the fear gripping our nation’s capitalist system.

“Corporate America, with huge cash that they have, but they don’t dare to spend,” Hamzaee said. “At consumers, those who have jobs and purchasing power, but they are not sure if this is the right time to purchase.”

All of this potential help is sitting there with no trust that tomorrow won’t see it all disappear.

Who can blame the haves in society for not wanting to become the have nots?

Hamzaee says that policy created by educated people, people that know finance and economics, is the fastest way out of this situation, and the key to preventing another crisis of this proportion.

“In the financial market, not knowing enough about the sophistication of these financial derivatives and how the system works, our lawmakers were totally uneducated,” Hamzaee said. “Even if they wanted to monitor the smooth operation of the markets, they didn’t have the knowledge to know what was wrong in the first place, or how these people [those accumulating wealth before the recession] were making billions of dollars before the rest of us could wake up and see what is happening to us.”

If policy makers aren’t educated about the inner workings of the financial systems and markets, surely those responsible for overseeing them must. Not according to Hamzaee.

“They [regulators] confessed themselves they didn’t know [what was causing the collapse],” Hamzaee said. “They started to know when the damage was already made.”

So, are these “Occupations” a good thing? What can be accomplished by them?

Edwin Taylor, assistant professor of political science, believes that these movements do provide a positive outlet for democracy.

“Generally speaking, I think they [the Occupations] are a great thing,” Taylor said. “Whether or not you agree with the goal as a political scientist, as one of my colleagues said: ‘We’re in this citizenship building business, protesting is one of our fundamental rights.’ I think any opportunity that engages citizens to get out and say, ‘Hey government, we are here. Pay attention to us,’ is critical for the health of democracy.”

According to Catherine Lawson, professor of economics, the occupations have probably held on longer than many would have expected.

“I think they [Occupy Wall Street] were kind of dismissed at first, but somehow, and I guess it’s social media, it’s caught on,” Lawson said.

According to Lawson many in the movements probably feel that the deck has been stacked against them, that corruption in the economic and political system has soured many Americans’ faith in our government’s ability to govern.

Lawson provided an example of how technology also played a role in job loss and changes in ways of life that kind of snuck up on us.

“Before you had voice mail, you had a receptionist or switchboard operator in every business across the country,” Lawson said. “Somebody created voice mail and made a ton of money off of that technological innovation, and that person became a zillionaire, but lots of people got put out of work because of that.”

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