Protesters: Rich should pay
Speaking out against corporate greed Saturday, Occupy Jackson protesters demonstrate on Town Square, joining thousands of others around the world in following the Occupy Wall Street movementís outcry against the global financial system. PRICE CHAMBERS/JACKSON HOLE DAILYView our entire photo gallery >>
By Thomas Dewell, Jackson Hole, Wyoming
October 17, 2011
In a county that regularly ranks at the top in the nation for income per person, protesters Saturday and Sunday took to Town Square to decry corporate greed and inequity and to demand that the super rich pay their fair share.
On Saturday, about 40 people gathered at the southwest corner of the square to support the Occupy Wall Street movement spreading around the planet. Protesters in Teton County — which the Internal Revenue Service reported had the top adjusted gross income of any U.S. county in 2008 — said they represented the 99 percent of the planet’s population who are not among the wealthy, plutocratic leaders of industry and government. They asked that the rich pay more and that banks lend to regular people.
Protester Jay Wright, an IT worker who came to the event wearing a “V for Vendetta” mask, hoped the protest would lead to a future “where we’re not sacrificing the 99 percent so such a small group of people can have everything and anything they want and so much control.”
Protests started one month ago when people marched on Wall Street in New York City, decrying billion-dollar bailouts for the very banks that helped create the 2008 global credit crisis, among other things.
With national unemployment hovering at or above 9 percent, protesters criticized what they see as exorbitant chief executive officer salaries and fat corporate profits during lean times.
The protests have spread from New York to Chicago, Denver, Atlanta, Seattle and Boston, as well as cities around the planet where “the indignant” oppose draconian budget cuts in the wake of sovereign debt crises hitting many countries.
The protests are a way for people to show their political strength.
“I think this is a wonderful movement,” said protester Molly Thorn, who works for a corporation. “It’s time people realize we have power, even though we may not have money.”
Not everyone who went to the southwest corner of the square agreed with the protesters. Keith and Liz Seward, retirees who made a stop in Jackson while traveling from Wisconsin to the West Coast, walked through the protesters while headed toward shops.
Liz Seward said she was plainly not one of the richest 1 percent, but she didn’t feel like the protesters — claiming to represent the other 99 percent — were representing her.
“I’m not one of them, but I’m not that unhappy,” said Seward, who noted the protesters all seemed to be pretty well dressed.
Protesters should get to work rather than push for more taxes and government-funded social programs, the couple said.
“We raised six children and worked our butts off for a long time,” Keith Seward said.
The protest was ripe for interesting juxtapositions, such as a silver Ferrari with Teton County license plates passing the square as people were calling for economic justice. Clearly, Teton County is home to some of the richest 1 percent.
According to the latest data available on Syracuse University’s Trac: IRS Web page, Teton County rated first for adjusted gross income per tax return in 2008. The county gross income was $142,000.
Fairfield County in Connecticut had the second-highest adjusted gross income of $118,300.
While Teton County had the highest adjusted gross income in the U.S. in 2008, income from wages and sales was only $50,000 per return, nearly a third of the gross income number.
Teton County also ranked first among U.S. counties in 2008 for income per tax return from dividends: $11,179 per filing.
In the wake of the great recession, Teton County has lost nearly 2,000 jobs.
Candra Day — who, like all of the activists interviewed, holds a job — said she was protesting, among other issues, the economic implosion of 2008 that has left so many suffering.
“I think the global crime that is being committed and was committed by our financial system has caused great harm around the world,” Day said.
Day, who runs a nonprofit that connects people around the globe for mutual cooperation, hopes the Occupy Wall Street movement prompts Congress to pass a jobs bill, spurs people to demand and receive social and economic justice, and makes banks start lending again to ordinary people.
Protester B.K. Reno, who works in the valley as a real estate agent, said the movement at its core demands that those who were responsible for today’s economic woes take responsibility for what they have done and that elected officials do the same. He hopes the movement, which in many ways has become a catchall for people who also see, for example, the corporate system ruining the mass-market food supply, does not turn violent and develops a more focused message.
“I would like to see the energy develop peacefully and the message become defined, more so than it is today,” Reno said. “All we’re looking for is accountability.”