Our readers write...
Thanks for your editorial, "Occupational Therapy" (Editor's Notebook, December). From the onset of Occupy Wall Street, most mainstream media, commentators and politicians have criticized the movement, suggesting its demands are either unstated or unclear. Organizers see the criticism as silly: "We are occupying Wall Street; that alone should make our position clear." For anyone who does not see why this movement may sweep the country, the figures showing the ever-widening income and wealth gaps between the rich and everybody else will bring clarity. The US is suffering a 50-year plunge into massive corporatism: deregulation, no-bid contracts, big-bank crime, privatization, lobby-driven politics, anti-worker policies and cronyism.
Americans have seen a huge shift from corporate to individual income tax, and among individuals, from the rich to everybody else. In the 1940s, the federal government received 50% more revenue from corporations than individuals: For every $1 that individuals paid in income tax, corporations paid $1.50; now they pay only 25 cents. In the 1950s and 1960s, the top income tax bracket for individuals was 91% for earnings over $100,000; today's top rate is 35%. An October study found tax cuts for the top 5% cost the nation $11.6 million every hour. The revenue burden has shifted from those who have the most to those with the least.
The political system is essentially paralyzed. Institutions are increasingly ineffective. Both political and institutional leaders are respected less and are less effective. Financial institutions, large banks and other Wall Street corporations caused the 2008 economic collapse yet received huge bailouts because government — under both Bush and Obama — saw them as too big to fail. Banks were bailed out but refused to loan the monies to the public as intended — and they are despised for that. Jobs are now overseas; manufacturing has dwindled. Civility is gone. It all comes back to economic justice and how money is now allocated unevenly throughout society.
The country needs to get back to the regulated capitalism envisioned by Adam Smith. He was explicit that banks and other major institutions must be regulated. The tired argument that government should "get out of the way" and let Smith's "invisible hand" take care of the economy is a common yet gross misreading of him. Unregulated capitalism worried Adam Smith; it is structurally faulty and results in the gross economic disparities we are seeing now. The Tea Party folks are looking at the same set of problems but mistakenly blame government, when the fault lies with massive corporations that now control and run government.
Historian Gordon S. Wood points out that the founders of the American Republic invented "not simply new forms of government, but an entirely new conception of politics," rejecting ancient and medieval ideas of forms of government as a set of orders or estates. Rather, they created a model of a state that existed to represent individual interests, and to protect individual rights, an entirely new model for "parceling power." But after the Civil War, the US Supreme Court expanded the definition of "persons" under the 14th Amendment to the Constitution beyond the "individual interests" envisioned by the country's founders and expanded the rights of flesh-and-blood persons to include non-human corporations. Thus began the long slide toward today's wealth and income gap, the inevitable decline into economic unfairness. Capitalism helped destroy communism; now it has democracy on the ropes.
Your choice of the title "Occupational Therapy" for your editorial gave me reason to write you. As a retired Occupational Therapist I would like to thank you for giving my profession's name precious press coverage. We work in the medical and education fields and would love to help Wall Street find value in life roles other than ripping off the American public. Through play groups we could help the highest-earning 1% see the value in sharing the wealth, and I know of many talented Occupational Therapy Assistants who could help the protestors clean-up their appearance through a life-skills group. For even more ideas your readers can contact AOTA.org
Grace L. Williams, OTR
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