Thursday, October 27, 2011

Protecting and serving whom?

The cities of Atlanta and Oakland have declared war against those protesting against corporate greed and the politics of influence. In both cities the police raided campsites occupied by the protesters using tear gas, flash grenades and rubber bullets. After raiding the campsites, police carried out mass arrests.

Most police departments claim their mission is to protect and serve. In Atlanta and Oakland the question must now be who are the police here to protect and serve?

According to the BBC:
Many Occupy Wall Street protesters say they are making a stand against corporate greed and income inequality in the US. 
As rallies continued, the report from the bipartisan Congressional Budget Office indicated the nation's highest earners saw their household income almost triple in the years between 1979 and 2007 
After tax income increased by 275% for the wealthiest 1% of Americans but by just 18% for the poorest 20%, the report said. 
In addition, the report revealed that in 2005-2007, the years immediately preceding the financial crisis, the top 20% of the population earned more after-tax income than the entire bottom 80%.
This concentration on the distribution of income ignores the true source of the problem, however. Inequality of income is merely a symptom, not the disease. There are many reasons why incomes are distributed the way they are. The two most important factors are the importance of the work and the availability of replacement workers.

For instance, trash collection is a very important job in our modern world while providing entertainment isn't nearly as important. Yet, trash collectors are paid less than entertainers because it's easier to replace a trash collector than it is to replace a movie star.

The problem isn't that some folks make more than others. The problem is a ruthlessly efficient economic system that sows the seeds of its own destruction by creating armies of the unemployed who can't afford to purchase the fruits of its labor. Capitalism requires ever greater levels of productivity in order to maximize profits. The side effect of that increase in productivity is a pool of workers who aren't needed any longer.

The relentless nature of this drive for greater efficiency creates periods of boom and bust as the system winnows out those whose labor is no longer necessary. And the purpose of this army of the unemployed? To provide a steady supply of replacement labor in order to keep wages down and profits up.

The police aren't out there protecting and serving those who have seen their careers and livelihoods cast aside without so much as a shrug. Just ask the people of Atlanta and Oakland. They'll tell you who the police serve and protect.

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