As the "Occupy Wall Street" protest becomes a movement, joined in the past two weeks by union workers and environmentalists and acknowledged publicly in legitimacy by President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, we have to ask the question: How big can Occupy Wall Street grow?
Many times larger, seems to be the answer. The movement, which began with a relatively small group of protesters in New York's Lower Manhattan and continues there three weeks later, has spread to other cities in the U.S. and around the world. Considering the origins of the movement, which is a protest and campaign against the 2008 Wall Street bailout and other mounting social and economic inequalities that are widening the gap between the rich and the poor, the growth prospects for Occupy Wall Street seem exponential.
The group is non-party affiliated, aggressively speaking out against Democrats, including Obama, and Republicans -- a tone that seems to resonate with many Americans tired of the political games both parties are playing with their lives through constant posturing in lieu of reasonable solutions.
The federal government's debt is growing, while job creation and wages are flat. Companies that were bailed out by the government during the 2008 financial crisis are reaping record profits, and they are doling out billions in bonuses while Americans continue to suffer amid an official unemployment rate of 9.1 percent and an unofficial rate that many believe may be at least two times as high.
Interest rates from banks are near record lows, but banks aren't lending to most American consumers, even as they are adding on an increasing number of fees for their services. And thus, Occupy Wall Street is striking a chord that seems to speak across party lines on behalf of the average struggling American who feels that enough is enough.
Gaining more traction, then, becomes rather easy when considering that a majority of Americans have been hit or touched by harsh economic realities and Washington's woeful ways in recent years. To understand how big the movement can grow, one needs only to consider the tens of thousands of teachers in unions who haven't gotten pay raises in recent years, or other union workers, such as the recently-striking Verizon landline workers who feel the corporation and the government hasn't been on their side.
Environmentalists gained traction through the protests in recent weeks by joining forces with the Occupy Wall Street movement, as have legions of America's 20-something sect that have been cast by pundits as a lost generation in recent months due to too few job opportunities and a general lack of hope.
Add it all up -- union workers, environmentalists, 20-somethings, the unemployed, and more -- and the numbers the Occupy Wall Street movement could ultimately attract before the New York protest, which was planned to last for several months, ends. The question then will become how the so-called leaderless movement will focus its energy and girth to create change.