People Power or Money Power? – Editorial by Phyllis Stenerson – November 2011

Uptown Neighborhood News, Minneapolis, MN

What a difference one month can make! Toward the end of September a crowd started to gather on Wall Street inNew York Cityto protest the significant role the financial industry played in causing our international economic crisis. People were expressing anger that major banking and investment institutions made huge profits from risky decisions but, when the bubble burst, were bailed out with taxpayer money instead of penalized. Meanwhile, millions of regular Americans lost their jobs, savings and homes and got no help. 

Occupy Wall Street sprouted up from the grassroots and grew rapidly into a worldwide movement within a few weeks. There are now protests in hundreds of cities including OccupyMN in downtownMinneapoliswhere about 1,000 people showed up on the first day, some stayed and many return frequently. 

While it’s true that some of the most devoted occupiers might be described as “looking a bit different” many are the people that you see each day in your neighborhood. It’s a lot easier to march for a few miles in balmy fall weather than sleep overnight on cold, hard concrete so we fair-weather friends appreciate those who are toughing it out.  

The Occupy movement is most certainly a phenomenon! It’s incredible in its size, scope, volume, velocity and unity. Individuals may be promoting a dizzyingly diverse array of causes but its animating message is abundantly clear: “The banks got bailed out, the people got sold out” to quote a frequently repeated slogan. 

Deregulation of the financial industry over the past decades, along with an escalating amount of money being poured into Congressional campaigns and lobbying, have had a profound effect on the power balance inAmerica. The top one percent of the population has amassed an obscenely large proportion of the national wealth while the middle class is shrinking and poverty is surging. “We are the 99%” is another message. 

There’s no doubt there are strong feelings for shifting power from the financial elite to the rest of us. A recent Time Magazine poll reported the OccupyUSA Movement has the support of 54% of the American public, surpassing 27% support for the Tea Party Movement. 

Only time will tell if and how this spontaneous, egalitarian movement will evolve into a force that will influence elections and public policy. Participants and observers are increasingly realizing that passions go much deeper than just economic justice and encompass the very moral values on which American democracy is based. Sign have emerged recently that say “Pardon the inconvenience. We are changing the world.” 

“First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”
Mohandas Gandhi 

“Cautious, careful people, always casting about to preserve their reputation and social standing, never can bring about reform.”
Susan B. Anthony

“We learned long ago that power and privilege never give up anything without a struggle. Money fights hard, and it fights dirty.”
Bill Moyers

“Time doesn’t change things. People change things.”
Andy Warhol


Comments from readers are welcome. Send letters to the Editor at or UNN,3612 Bryant Avenue South,Minneapolis55409.



Starting with  the September 2011 issue I’ve been writing about politics and government with the intent of contributing to civic education and promoting dialogue. There was a time when subjects that were not considered polite conversation included politics, money, race, power, sex and religion. That’s what we need to talk about plus much more. Information to put this commentary into context can be found at www.


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