Source Newsroom: Binghamton University, State University of New York
Newswise — A leading expert in human rights – and in particular, workers’ rights – reflects on the Occupy Wall Street protesters’ bid to draw attention to the shrinking middle class in America.
• David Cingranelli, professor of political science at Binghamton University; (607) 777-2435; email@example.com
Cingranelli’s research focuses on the human rights practices of governments from a cross-national comparative perspective. His area of expertise covers the measurement of human rights practices and the relationships among different types of human rights.
“The Wall Street protesters are not united in their grievances, because there are many appropriate targets for their anger and many ideas about how to solve problems. Sure, there are odd ducks among them - widespread protests like this one and the earlier Tea Party demonstrations always attract extremists. But we make a grave mistake when we focus on the crazies to discredit the legitimate grievances of large groups of citizens.
The Wall Street protesters are expressing a wide variety of valid concerns about a shrinking middle class in America, government regulations in the worlds of finance and business that allow those with power and money to accumulate more power and money by unethical, if not illegal, actions. The protesters remind us that government has a responsibility to create an economy that works for most Americans. The link between ability and hard work on one side, and reward on the other, is broken.
To restore that link, the government must tighten regulations on the financial sector so that any financial institution that is too big to fail is also too big to exist so as to ensure that greedy and unethical behavior in the investment community is illegal and severely punished. Government policies should also limit the often-extreme financial rewards of top managers, make both taxation and spending more progressive and strengthen the social safety net, including social security. It must also make it easier for workers to organize and collectively bargain, so they can secure decent wages and benefits from their employers.
At the same time, the US government should press the World Trade Organization to make global rules that promote fair trade, not simply free trade. Fair trade rules would prevent nations from gaining competitive advantage by allowing their workers to be exploited or their natural environment to be spoiled. These are the ways to create a national and world economy that will create better living standards for most people.”