This is a guest post courtesy of Bill Hazelton. He is the founder of CreditCardAssist.com, a firm that advises consumers and small business owners on the perils and pitfalls of the credit card industry. He’s been cited in publications like the New York Post, the San Francisco Chronicle and more. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.
The Occupy Wall Street movement is all the rage these days. The young, the disenfranchised and – occasionally – the attention-seeking are setting up camp in cities around the country and staging mass protests against corporate greed and “the 1%” of Americans that control 40% of the country’s wealth.
But while these rallies draw attention to the big cities in which they’re hosted, small-town America, which is what the OWS movement is ultimately fighting for, is crumbling before our eyes. Anyone who’s really committed to revitalizing the country should therefore consider reinvesting their efforts where they’re needed most. Here are five places that need to be occupied way more than Wall Street:
American Factories. Despite being the focus of Levi Strauss’s “We Are All Workers” marketing campaign, the town of Braddock, PA has been withering away after steel-mill outsourcing reduced its population from 20,000 to under 3,000. It’s not the only city suffering from factory shutdowns. According to the Federation of Labor Organizations, more than 2.5 million manufacturing jobs have been lost due to outsourcing since 2001. A renewed focus on domestic manufacturing would help to reclaim these jobs that were given away to cheap laborers in China and India, thereby reducing the unemployment rate and stimulating the economy through increased exports.
Detroit. Detroit needs some help – and not just from Robocop. The mass emigration from the city following the collapse of its famous auto industry has reduced the city from a sprawling metropolis to what artists and travel agencies have taken to calling “urban ruins.” Even though Detroit currently hosts its own Occupy movement, it desperately needs new residents to work jobs, take part in its many urban-renewal projects and help restore the Motor City to its former glory.
Nursing Homes. The baby boomers are now starting to retire to nursing homes and assisted living communities, but a pressing lack of nurses in rural and urban areas has left many elderly citizens without the care they need to survive. Although the young and unemployed OWS protesters might be hesitant to jump into a job working with senior citizens, they should remember that healthcare isn’t just a virtuous line of work – it’s also a profitable one. The golden boomer generation currently controls 80% of the country’s personal assets, and millions of them will be investing these assets in nursing care.
Leveled Forests. America’s natural resources are being depleted faster than ever before. Through fracking, domestic oil drilling and deforestation we’ve reduced the wild, uninhabited American frontier to 5% of what it was 200 years ago. The fact that we’re totally destroying our ecosystem isn’t even the worst part, though. At the rate we’re consuming oil, food, wood and metal ore, there’s a very real chance that we’ll completely run out of these resources in the next 50 years. In order to preserve our way of life, Americans need to focus on developing sustainable sources of energy as well as replanting and nurturing the forests that we’ve leveled in the pursuit of resources.
Grocery Stores. Twenty years ago, no state in the country had an obesity rate over 15%. Today, two out of every three states have an obesity rate that’s pushing 40%. As a country we’re fat, and fast food is our downfall. We’re pouring billions of dollars annually into an industry that rewards us with rampant diabetes, heart disease and other obesity-related health conditions. It’s time for Americans to take a stand. Bring back locally owned grocery stores, family dinners and regular grocery shopping. Choosing grocery stores over fast food will help stimulate the economy and trim a few inches off of the American waistline and that’s something every citizen can be happy about.
The Occupy Wall Street movement has brought attention to financial injustice in America. But why stop there? As responsible Americans, we should be occupying the places that matter – the places that have suffered from our crumbling infrastructure, our vanishing natural resources and our struggling economy. If we do, we might actually be able to bring about the change we want to see in the country.