A few blocks away from the Accounting Today offices, the Occupy Wall Street movement is encamped at Zuccotti Park in New York.
However, as the movement spreads to cities across the country, and to other countries as well, the protesters have also been taking their message to other parts of town. On Tuesday, affiliated groups organized a march up Fifth Avenue and Park Avenue to protest the expiration of New York State’s temporary “millionaire’s tax,” which is due to expire at the end of the year.
The tax was put into place in 2009 to help cover the state’s budget shortfall during former Governor David Paterson’s administration. The 2 percent tax actually applies to anyone earning over $200,000 a year. Paterson had originally opposed the tax, and his successor, Governor Andrew Cuomo, has promised to let it expire despite the state’s continuing budget woes.
Still, the demonstrators say the tax shouldn’t be allowed to expire while the state makes cutbacks in much-needed social services. To make their point, they marched past the homes of some of the city’s wealthiest on New York’s Upper East Side, including News Corp. chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch, JPMorgan Chase chairman and CEO James Dimon, Koch Industries executive vice president David Koch, hedge fund manager John Paulson of Paulson & Co., and Emigrant Bank chairman and CEO Howard Milstein.
While the movement has been criticized for not having a clear message, the protesters have responded by embracing a multiplicity of messages, including a general unhappiness with corporate domination of the political process. Like the Tea Party Movement on the right, they object to the Wall Street bailout and are saying that it’s time Main Street was bailed out too.
So far, despite incidents such as pepper spraying of a few protesters and some arrests, the New York City Police Department has been relatively tolerant of the mostly peaceful demonstrators, who seem to be filling Zuccotti Park more and more each day.
The park, which used to be known as Liberty Plaza Park, until a private real estate developer paid to renovate it after it was damaged by the September 11 attack on the nearby World Trade Center, has so far not moved to eject the protesters. And Mayor Michael Bloomberg, despite criticizing the protesters for “bashing” the “hard-working people who live and work here and pay the taxes that support our city,” seems to be taking a hands-off approach too, counting on the cold winter months ahead as an effective way to break up the occupation.
In the meantime, the movement has been attracting a growing following, becoming a kind of tourist attraction in itself, while the bull statue a few blocks away that symbolizes Wall Street has been surrounded by metal gates to keep it protected from vandalism.
The standoff is likely to continue for months between the protesters and Wall Street as they demand changes in government policy. The blocking of President Obama’s jobs bill in the Senate on Tuesday evening, with its own surtax on millionaires, shows that it’s not going to be an easy battle.