OWS debate covers issues, motives, inequality of sit-in
Sponsored by the Princeton Corporate Finance Club, participants included anti-Occupy students invited by the club and members of the ongoing Occupy Princeton campus initiative.
The pro-Occupy side started the debate off with a statement by Maria Krupenkin ’14 on the intent behind the Occupy movement, which she described as a response to corporate greed.
“Wall Street has used money to influence government policy in its favor, crippling real legislation that is meant to protect the consumer,” Krupenkin said.
On the anti-Occupy side, Christian Fong ’14 responded that the Occupy movement, with all its diverse demands, “ignores the considerable contributions to the material well-being of normal people” made by the financial industry. Fong added that financial regulations on trading mortgages would make ordinary people worse off.
Brian Moore ’15 of the pro-Occupy side responded that the rich continue to get richer, and the collapse of the house of cards they built up instigated the recession. He also accused the financial industry of using its money to influence policy while engaging in risky behavior that increased the likelihood of recession.
While Samuel Norton ’12 of the anti-Occupy side conceded that income inequality exists and has increased in past years, he challenged the pro-Occupy side to define what constituted a correct level of inequality and also attributed the inequality at least in part to a shift from a manufacturing economy to a service-based economy.
The pro-Occupy side responded with a justification of the Occupy movement and a condemnation of Wall Street.
“The essential justification is where you have thousands of people who come to Wall Street because they’ve lost their jobs, because they’ve been laid off, because their hours have been cut, and when they look at the reason why, it’s really a very select group of people who profited immensely — and still profit immensely — while they drove the economy into a wall,” Trevor Klee ’15 said.
The anti-Occupy side disputed the actions of the Occupy movement, mentioning the recent protest at J.P. Morgan and Goldman Sachs recruiting events.
“I personally believe that is a counterproductive thing to do,” Kevin Henneck ’13 said. “Perhaps it’s not fair to attribute what happened at the info session to the Occupy movement at large, but this is what happens when you start a fire.”
Henneck is also a senior writer for sports for The Daily Princetonian.
The pro-Occupy response focused again on income inequality, as Peter Favaloro ’12 discussed how, while many dispute inequality in terms of personal values, “income inequality is bad for growth; it’s bad for everyone, not just bad for the poor but bad for the rich, too.”
While Favaloro focused on the economic downsides of income inequality, fellow pro-Occupy member Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen ’15 emphasized the lack of fairness, claiming that the rich continue to get richer by exploiting American politics and suggested the Occupy Wall Street movement now move beyond its original goal of raising awareness to a new phase.
“The Tea Party has great influence, especially on government policy,” Cohen said. “I think that is where Occupy Wall Street needs to go to bring the change the movement wants and also what America needs.”
After each of the eight participants in the debate had a chance to speak, participants began to address more of the opposing side’s arguments, clashing over what the movement can accomplish and the culpability of the financial sector.
While pro-Occupy members stated the movement’s purpose of “untilting the playing field” and “getting problems into the national dialogue,” anti-Occupy members criticized the movement’s lack of focus and 99 percent versus 1 percent slogan “because it’s easy to believe that because you’re part of the 99 percent then you’re not part of the problem.”
Anti-Occupy members added that higher taxes would cripple charitable organizations reliant on tax-exempt donations and pro-Occupy members pointed to the Bush years as evidence that tax cuts do not “trickle down” or create jobs.
At the end of the discussion, Wilson School professor Stanley Katz, the moderator of the debate, made a final statement about how pleased he was to see this discussion happening.
“I’ve been at the University for 33 years now, and I’ve seen a very low level of civic engagement over all these years,” Katz said. “One thing I would like to see is for students to become more dramatically engaged and for the University to encourage students to go and follow their passions.”
Members of the audience complimented the debaters for addressing the issues behind the movement and focusing on specific goals of Occupy protesters that are often hard to pinpoint.
“I really enjoyed how they didn’t just talk about if Occupy Wall Street is harming the civilian nation or not but actually about the issues,” Rafael Grillo ’14 said. “Not just whether the movement was justified but its policies.”
The debate was held in Whig Hall.