By Josh Sager
One common theme among those who criticize the “Occupy” movement is to point out the monetary costs of the occupations to the public. It is undeniable that the protest camps that have sprung up across the country require a police presence as well as several other accommodations by the local governments; these costs are eventually passed to the public in the form of taxes, fines, and other charges.
According to a recent study, published in the Associated Press, the total cost of the response to occupations nationwide is around $13 million. A vast majority of the costs incurred by the occupied cities was paid to police officers, who have been receiving overtime to watch the “Occupy” camps. Cities where there have been significant police actions against the protest camps account for large amounts of the $13 million total, due to the massive police presence necessary for the actions. In addition to funding the police, money has been spent to clean the areas around the occupation which have been used far more than usual (bathrooms, parks, etc.). Regardless of whether or not one agrees with the responses of the police to the protests, the fact that significant amounts of city funds have been allocated to deal with the protests.
It is undeniable that the occupations around the country are expensive for cities, but how do these costs compare with the costs of the actions of the other occupants of Wall Street: The bankers and stock brokers. According to the estimates of the IMF [International Monetary Fund], the recent banking collapse and subsequent recession have cost the world economy approximately $4.1 trillion dollars. A toxic mixture of deregulation and greed created the perfect environment for unscrupulous bankers to make gigantic profits at the expense of society as a whole.
The occupiers have been extremely vocal about the need to regulate banking and market speculation so as to prevent a future crash. When you compare the costs incurred from the actions of the two residents of Wall Street, the occupiers and the bankers, it gives necessary perspective as to the costs of the occupations. Would you rather have to pay $13 million now, to allow protesters to work towards economic change, or pay another $4.1 trillion later, when the banking system collapses due to a lack of reform? The recent unscrupulous actions of bankers have cost society approximately 315,385 times more than the actions of those who have stood up to protest the banks; in face of the numbers, who truly deserves the ire of the population at large for wasting society’s resources?
Even if one agrees with the ideals of the protests or simply believes that they have the right to protest, the fact remains that millions of dollars have been spent containing and regulating the protests. In order to retain a balanced budget, as is mandated by most cities, revenue must be increased in some way to offset the costs of police overtime. One possible method of funding the costs of the reaction to the “Occupy” protests is through a federal block grant funded by a slight reduction in some of the Bush tax cuts: As calculated by the think tank AmericanProgress.org, the Bush tax cut for millionaires reduces tax revenue by approximately $120 million per day ($5 million dollars per hour); this means that the total costs of the police reaction to the occupation could be recouped by cancelling 156 minutes of the Bush tax cuts received by millionaires.
It makes no logical sense for people to point out the costs of the occupations when there are far more expensive issues for them to focus upon. When compared to the problem that they are protesting, the occupations cost an insignificant amount to society. Everybody who comments on the costs of the occupations in the future should simply consider that the same amount of money is lost every two and a half hours that the Bush tax cuts are extended for millionaires.