On Saturday, Oct. 29, citizens of Bangor and surrounding communities will begin an around-the-clock assembly of indefinite duration in Peirce Park beside the Bangor Public Library. This assembly will be called Occupy Bangor, and it is being initiated in solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street movement that started in New York City and is now sweeping this country and the entire world.
There are now more than 1,400 occupations in dozens of countries and the number grows every day — it is catching like wildfire, much like the Progressive Prairie Fires that swept this country a century ago.
Why is this happening? Because millions of people throughout this country and around the world are tired of the gaping and ever widening gap between rich and poor. They are tired of a political process dominated by the richest 1 percent of society — the rallying cry of the Occupy movement is: “We are the 99 percent!”
They are tired of endless and pointless wars, and endless tax cuts for the wealthy and super-wealthy that are bankrupting this country and are decimating much-needed programs that feed, house and provide medical services to the poor, the young, the disabled and the unemployed who live among us in our communities.
People around the world, from the Arab Spring, Greece and Spain to New York, Portland, Augusta and Bangor are saying, “Enough already.”
The wealthy in this country have seen their taxes steadily and systematically cut for 50 years. Under President Eisenhower the top tax rate was 91 percent. Under Carter it was 70 percent. Now it is 35 percent, and there is talk of lowering it to 28 percent.
Capital gains, which comprises much of the wealthy’s earnings, are taxed at a rate of only 15 percent. Warren Buffett’s secretary pays a greater percentage of her $60,000 salary in taxes than does her billionaire boss. Buffett thinks this is wrong and unfair, and we agree.
We are told these cuts are needed to spur economic growth and create jobs, yet unemployment is at levels not seen since the Great Depression of the 1930s.
Wages are being slashed. We are told this is necessary to compete, but German workers make 40 percent more than American workers, and Germany has a trade surplus while we have a massive trade deficit.
In the 1960s corporate taxes accounted for 70 percent of federal revenue. Now that figure is down to 30 percent. Corporations with billions in profits pay no federal taxes. This is wrong, and that’s why there’s an Occupy Bangor.
At Occupy Augusta, a maple syrup farmer held a sign saying that his farm paid $900 in federal taxes while Bank of America paid none. This is wrong, and that’s why there’s an Occupy Bangor.
Our roads and bridges are falling apart; our teachers are working two jobs and paying for school supplies for their students out of pocket; our seniors have to choose between food, rent, heat and medicine. Meanwhile we spend trillions on endless, pointless wars and on endless tax breaks for the rich. This is wrong, and that’s why there’s an Occupy Bangor.
Students are struggling under massive cuts to higher education, soaring tuition and huge debt. This is wrong, and that’s why there is an Occupy Bangor.
And all the while our political process is almost completely dominated by the very same wealthy people and corporations that benefit from these policies. The federal government has been bought and paid for. This is wrong, and that’s why there is an Occupy Bangor.
We are the 99 percent. The odds are that you are, too. And if you are, come join us. Let’s take this country back from the millionaires and billionaires who have been enjoying a free ride and living high on the hog for far too long while the rest of us see a dramatically declining standard of living.
Let’s take it back from those who willfully gambled our future away on Wall Street and who continue to willfully foreclose on millions of honest, hardworking homeowners. Let’s give this country back to the working people who built it.
Lawrence Reichard lives in Bangor and is with Occupy Bangor.