I attended the October 15 occupation of Times Square in New York City. It was a pretty intense scene -- real demands being made, despite what the "real" news media report.
There is much negative criticism and even dismissal of the movement for its pluralist workings and broad range of complaints. Both these points are things I had been wondering about for some time and having been part of the protest, I now see them as essential to the movement.
The nation has been abused by a bad economic structure for the last fifteen or more years; evidenced by near stagnation of wage growth against the cost of living, rapid bank growth and mergers, loss of health coverage under increased premiums -- all things you knew as they happened. Then there was deregulation and the spread of the derivatives market, mortgage bundling and selling of risk, predatory lending practices, and so on -- things that came to light only later...
The point is there are multiple causes for the current economic crisis in America which, in turn, affects different people in different ways. While we may be the same in that we have to struggle with less money, how it plays out in one person's life varies (some people can't keep their houses and rent small apartments, some have mounting debt to not finding good paying work, some people are newly homeless, and so forth).
There are some common themes, though. The popular media would like you to think it's all as simple and vague as hating the banks but it's not. What the participants in the Occupy movement hate is the unfair banking practices the big banks engage in, and the way the US government rewarded said banks for bankrupting private individuals but did nothing to help the persons whose livelihoods were destroyed. That's the anger.
Within that there are real problems, all of which need solutions. There is a student debt crisis in America, with default on the increase at a rapid pace. There is a health care crisis in America which maddeningly defends its free market system, allowing only some persons access to care and denying coverage to people at whim. There is a housing crisis whereby home owners are under water or losing their homes. There is a jobs crisis -- few are being created and reported unemployment remains at nine per cent.
Given this there can be no single demand to come from the Occupy movement. It took many mistakes and many bad social mechanisms to make this mess, it can't be hard to understand it would result in many different crises across a population of 300million people. All of these problems are part of the larger issue at hand -- that there has been allowed a culture to exist that favors profit over the well being of private citizens. Don't think so? Review the anti-union movement sponsored by various state governments and private companies over the summer, look at the average minimum wage by state, look at the jobs numbers reported for the last quarter, look at teacher lay-offs, look at the increased out-sourcing of jobs over the last two decades. (I could hand you these stats but if you really want to know maybe you should do some work to find out. That is a point made in this movement, that you should be informed and involved.)
The Occupy movement may well remain a broad set of complaints under one banner. If you want to boil it down to one coherent idea, consider this: That all people should have the right to go to work for full, life sustaining wages which enable them to provide for themselves, pay their bills, and save for the future. Access to good jobs should be equal and fair wages guaranteed. The government is in place to protect the people whether from foreign invaders or domestic employers and institutions. If this really happened there would be no crisis bringing people to the streets.