by Xu Xiaolei, Qiao Jihong
BEIJING, Oct. 8 (Xinhua) -- As union members and university students in other parts of the United States joined the protest, the Occupy Wall Street protesters in New York have given their movement a broader national dimension.
Analysts told Xinhua that the massive movement has exposed some underlying problems plaguing the U.S. society and may have the potential of influencing U.S. government's policy decisions.
PROTESTS SCALE UP
The campaign was initiated by an Internet magazine known as Adbusters and responded by dozens of young people who set up camps outside the New York Stock Exchange. But it quickly gained momentum and turned into a series of phenomenal protests across the country.
The protest held by thousands of people in New York on Wednesday is by far the largest in scale. The movement also spread to other cities including Washington, Boston, Los Angeles and San Francisco.
As the protests flared up, union members and university students also took to the streets. By far, some 70 universities' students have joined the movement.
The majority of the protesters are left-leaning young people under 30. The economic woes left many of them jobless, deeply in debt or even their homes foreclosed.
Analysts predict the protests will grow bigger in a short time. Lu Xiaobo, professor of political science at Columbia University, told Xinhua that discontented residents in about 150 cities are going to stage demonstrations within this week, spreading the event across the nation. scale.
Michele Wucker, executive director of the New York-based World Policy Institute, said the protests are getting bigger with even more young people joining the campaign.
WALL STREET SHOULD PAY
The protests are targeting the greedy big banks and corporations to hold them accountable for the plight they inflict on the American people.
Protesters held signs such as "Tax Wall Street," "People over Profit," and "Stop Spoiling Wall Street Executives." They say that the wealth people, who account for 1 percent of the U.S. population but own 40 percent of the wealth are not shouldering their proper share of responsibilities.
They also say the government's bailout plans saved those rich financiers who created crisis and made the innocent middle-income families pay.
Joseph Stiglitz, a Nobel-winning economist who supports the movement, said the U.S. financial market's role as capital allocator and risk manager has failed.
He also said the loss caused by the financial sector's wrongdoing is borne by the entire society and the profits go to the pockets of some individuals.
Stiglitz warned if such practice continues, the United States will not succeed in achieving growth and building a just society.
A robust recovery will be unlikely if U.S.financial sector cannot keep itself away from reckless loaning and speculation, he said.
UNDERLYING PROBLEMS EXPOSED
Analysts say the protests are spawned by unresolved economic, political and social problems that affect the whole nation.
Wucker noted that those at the bottom of the U.S. society tend to have a low political participation, with their voices rarely heard and their rights and interest seldom taken care of in policy-making process. Therefore, the movement came as a a meaningful effort to influence political decision-making by grass-roots social sectors.
Lu Xiaobo said the protests is also a response to the slow and weak recovery of the U.S. economy, which saw a growth of only 1.9 percent in the first quarter and 1.3 percent in the second.
Since the outbreak of the 2008 crisis, Washington has carried out massive bailout and two rounds of quantitative easing (QE) policies. But still the banks are reluctant to lend money and the employers are unwilling to create jobs. With unemployment rate hitting 9.1 percent in August, Americans are disappointed with the government's ineffective economic policies.
Besides, the movement is an expression of frustration with the political duel in Congress, where Democrats and Republicans are increasingly unwilling to make compromises, causing delay or failure in solving problems.
POTENTIAL INFLUENCE ON POLICY-MAKING
Though the movement may seem to some people to be poorly organized and without a common goal, analysts say it could eventually steer Washington's decision-making.
Or as Jean Cohen, professor of political science at Columbia University put it, they are not a political party seeking power but a social movement seeking influence, so there is no need to worry that they don't have a leader, a unified political appeal, or a well-defined goal.
She said the protests will eventually influence Washington's policy-making and steer them into making the correct decisions that will increase investment in education and infrastructure, as well as jobs creation and innovation.
Lu Xiaobo said there is some uncertainty as to how long the protests can last as the cold weather approaches. Therefore, it remains to be seen whether the movement can put enough pressure on the lawmakers to meet their demand.
But the current protests are the first large-scale social campaign in the United States since the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s and 1960s, he said.
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