DN Editorial: Protest costs to city a drop in the bucket

Posted: October 19, 2011

SHOULD we be concerned that Occupy Philly is costing taxpayers $112,000 a week, primarily in police time?

The first question out of the box during Monday night's debate of at-large City Council candidates was whether they would allow people to continue to protest outside of City Hall.

All candidates mentioned the cost to the city. And although the city certainly is strapped, we'd say that the cost is a gnat on an elephant, considering the cost to Americans from the Wall Street meltdown.

The U.S. lost $3.4 trillion in real-estate wealth from July 2008 to March 2009, according to a Pew report on the impact of the September 2008 economic collapse.

Further, the US. lost $7.4 trillion in stock wealth from the same period, according to the Federal Reserve. This comes out to be $66,000 per U.S. household.

These stunning losses don't even count the lost of income from the economic slowdown ($648 billion, or $5,800 per household) and the $73 billion in government spending through TARP ($2,050 per household.)

Itemizing all the costs of the meltdown - triggered by big banks and financial firms making bad bets on a housing bubble and then getting bailed out by the government - could fill pages. But the cost to millions of people who have lost jobs and houses, and who may never fully recover can't be measured simply in dollar figures. The human toll - on our country's growth and future, on the success and well-being of future generations - is more difficult to measure.

And more difficult to articulate, which may be why the "Occupy" protesters are getting criticized for not having a focused "message."

Some of the criticism against protesters is more toxic. The contempt that many conservative pundits express for the protesters - "spoiled jerks who demand everything they want while doing nothing to deserve it," "a mob of unemployed layabouts," some of whom are "parading around topless" as just a small sampling - is a disheartening distraction from calling out the policies and lack of regulation - and the greed - that got us here.

And there's a fine line between this contempt for protesters and contempt for the real hardships that more and more Americans have suffered since the financial crisis: high rates of poverty (46 million Americans now live in poverty, among the highest rate in the developed world) and food- stamp use has doubled.

Not every poor or struggling person has Wall Street to blame. But the irresponsible financial shell games that were allowed to continue have left an indelible mark on the majority of Americans.

If it takes $112,000 a week to police those people protesting this fact, maybe we can also look at it this way: at least the families of those police will have food on the table. Far too many can't say the same.

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