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Change-mongering U.S. needs change too

(Xinhua)

08:31, October 10, 2011

BEIJING, Oct. 9 (Xinhua) -- The Occupy Wall Street protests have grown over the past three weeks into a coast-to-coast movement targeting corporate greed and money influence in the United States.

Popular protests are not uncommon these days. From the Arab world to debt-ridden European countries, people are taking to the streets to make their voices heard for different reasons.

For Washington, the irony is that the United States, which has long branded itself as a staunch defender of human rights and a force for change across the world, is suddenly confronted by its people defending their own rights from the greedy Wall Street and demanding to change the status quo.

Young people, many unemployed or under-employed, compose the bulk of the protesters. Their frustration has exposed some fundamental problems with the economic and political system of the world's sole superpower.

Unbiased eyes can see through these anti-Wall Street protests a clear need for Washington, which habitually rushes to demand other governments to change when there are popular protests in their countries, to put its own house in order.

First of all, Washington should rein in its runaway financial sector. The Wall Street, as the global financial center, has its role to play in allocating resources more efficiently not only for the United States but also for the world economy.

But when more and more people on the Wall Street are trying to make quick money by pure speculation or by creating complex derivatives that no one really understands, there are legitimate reasons for concern.

Simon Johnson, former chief economist with the International Monetary Fund, once blasted the "overgrown" financial service industry in the United States for creating the global financial crisis.

In a speech at Peking University of China in June 2010, he said the U.S. financial industry, which was getting bigger each day, not only was the cause of the latest financial wipeout, but also could bring about other crises in the future.

Besides bringing the Wall Street back to its original purpose of better allocating resources, Washington should also face up to its own problem of income gap.

Over the years, the gap between the rich and the poor in the United States has kept widening.

According to Nobel economist Joseph Stiglitz, the protesters' "We are the 99 percent" slogan refers to the fact that the top 1 percent of Americans own more than 40 percent of the nation's wealth, while the bottom 80 percent only have 7 percent of the wealth.

Meanwhile, the top 1 percent "is taking in more of the nation's income than at any other time since the 1920s," said the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a U.S. premier policy organization working on fiscal policy and public programs.

Moreover, such an inequality in social wealth distribution has been exacerbated by the global financial crisis.

Equally painful to the protesters is the fact that these days politicians in Washington appear more interested in political wrangling for personal and partisan gains rather than working together to solve the fundamental problems facing their country.

The U.S. officials have urged their European counterparts to work together to solve the sovereign debt crisis, but the country itself has chronic fiscal shortfalls and trade deficits that are just as grave.

And there is another somber fact: In the run-up to the 2012 presidential election, the chance of the Democrats and Republicans working together to bring the U.S. fiscal house into order is rather slim.

While the protests have garnered support from more and more students, unions, small business owners, celebrities and elected officials, no one wants to see the Occupy Wall Street movement evolve into violent demonstrations or spin out of control.

The rationale is clear: Political chaos in the world's largest economy is the last thing investors need at this time of renewed tensions in the global markets.

But if Washington fails to heed the calls of the protesters and address its fundamental problems, its messy house could become a headache for others in the world as well.

by Liu Qu, Ming Jinwei

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