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Are you part of the 99 Percent?

Date: 11/28/2011

By G. Michael Dobbs

Managing Editor

Nov. 29, 2011

May I ask you some questions? Don’t worry. It will just take you a few moments.

Is your home worth less than its mortgage? Are you unable to refinance?

Is paying your mortgage a challenge each month?

When you buy food, do you cut coupons, check the difference in store brands versus name brands or shop in discount grocery outlets?

Do you fill up the tank of your car or do you put in just enough gas to last until the next paycheck?

Is saving part of your pay difficult? Do you use your savings too often to cover the gaps in paying your bills?

Do you dread filling the oil tank?

Does the concept of retiring at 70 seem to be science fiction? Is 80 a more realistic age? Perhaps there will be no real retirement in your future?

Is living paycheck to paycheck normal?

Do you try to make having one car work in a family that used to have two cars?

Is shopping at thrift stores now normal for you?

Presently do you see a way that your financial life will improve under the current economic conditions?

Well, I don’t know about you, but I can certainly answer, “yes” to a number of those questions. I suspect, though, there are many readers of these newspapers who would answer “yes” as well.

I am definitely part of the 99 Percent. I suspect you might be as well. You may not want to admit it as, thanks to some of the media coverage, calling oneself a “99 Percenter” seems to assign certain political beliefs that some Americans can’t embrace.

Since many protesters are calling for government reforms that would give working people a better chance to succeed, one would think that people who describe themselves as members of the Tea Party would at least listen a bit, as they have called for various reforms as well.

But the lunatic fringe ideology of some members of the 99 Percent movement has been cited as the insurmountable obstacle that prevents a reasoned and sensible discussion. For me this is a complete smokescreen that has been fostered by the corporate media representing the agents of the status quo.

Our own demonstration last week called attention to a key element of the 99 Percent movement: reform of mortgage lending practices. It’s far superior to keep people willing to pay a mortgage in their homes than evicting them, although major lenders don’t seem to agree with that simple concept.

I understand the anger and frustration that led to the protest in Springfield. The city has a huge eviction and foreclosure problems as well as the issues of blight and crime that comes from houses essentially being abandoned by corporate owners.

I also understand that Police Commissioner William Fitchet called the 15 arrests routine. No protesters were harmed. No police were injured.

Despite that fact, a group identified by 22News as being part of the Tea Party led a counter protest. According to 22News, “Richard Howell, one of the Tea Party demonstrators, told 22News why he came out. ‘We think this is outrageous. I mean, they’re on private property they’re disruptive, they’re trying to disrupt business out there, and they’re giving police all kinds of trouble and we wanted to be out [sic] people to show that they don’t have the only voice around here,’ Howell said.”

It’s too bad that Howell didn’t address the issues of foreclosure and what the mega-banks and other national lenders have done to homeowners in our area. I take it none of his group are having the kind of financial challenges most of us in the Pioneer Valley are facing.

I find that very hard to believe.

At this time of year when, supposedly, people come together to celebrate a number of both religious and secular holidays, one could hope that Americans look beyond the ideology and stagecraft, stop listening to the talking heads that spew the corporate philosophy designed to keep us divided and start really working on what is common to all of us.

But if the “Super Committee” can’t agree on the point you can’t cut taxes for the wealthy and fight two wars — much of the time with unbudgeted funds — without running up a huge deficit, then perhaps I’m being unrealistic that regular folks such as ourselves can come together on issues that concern us all.

Hey, agree with me? Disagree? Drop me a line at or at 280 N. Main St., East Longmeadow, MA 01028. As always, this column represents the opinion of its author and not the publishers or advertisers of this newspaper.

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