The Nature of the Problem 1.0 #OWS

by Cosmo Houck

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People ask me a lot to explain OWS to them. I’m not really sure why, because I haven’t been to any of the protests, and I haven’t been involved in any way. I think it’s just because I’m young and occasionally voice dissatisfaction with the status quo.

Anyway, while I can’t speak for any of the OWS protesters, I have some ideas about why they’re out there. In fact, I think anyone who’s confused just hasn’t been paying attention. It’s complicated, though, because there are so many things to be pissed off about there’s not always perfect ideological coherence between everyone who’s angry. For some reason this seems to be a problem for some people (journalists), and you can pick up on it whenever they describe protests as “inchoate”. I think there’s enough wrong out there that to expect everyone who shows up at a protest to conform to some overarching ideological purpose is absurd.

Anyway, it’s been bothering me, because there’s all this really disturbing information out there, stuff that should have people up in arms, and I get asked what OWS is all about–like it’s some great mystery. Maybe it’s just in my head, but I’d like to think a lot of people are out there because there’s a lot wrong with where we’re at.

The other day, through Gizmodo, I came across this presentation that Zach Holman gave. I thought it was pretty cool. Infographics seem to be all the rage, but they too often (in my eyes) subordinate information to style. A nice crisp and clean slide format seems like a happy compromise.

Then I got to thinking: many of the myriad challenges we face can be expressed pretty simply through some brutal numbers; what if instead of writing some absurdly long soliloquy, I could do it through slides?

My end result isn’t nearly as polished as its inspiration, but that’s what I decided to do. I used this color palette from Colour Lovers, and I got to work. There’s a lot I didn’t get to, foremost foreign policy and the enormous prison population in this country. There’s a lot that’s messed up. I’m happy with what I’ve got so far, but I’m not satisfied. Maybe if this meets a favorable reaction I’ll expand it.

Additionally, and this is really important, all I did was collate other peoples’ work here. I’ll list my sources after the gallery with the slide number–go check them out.


SLIDE 3: Simple Google search for unemployment numbers

SLIDE 4: Huffington Post article on unemployed workers

SLIDE 5: The Weekly Standard on the income drop under Obama

SLIDE 7: A variety of graphs from Mother Jones on income inequality (this will pop up again later)

SLIDE 8 & 9: The Vanity Fair article credited with providing the 99% slogan for OWS

SLIDE 10 & 11: The Mother Jones graph compilation again

SLIDE 13: A few articles. I didn’t use ProPublica, but they have an accounting of the pure bailout money given to Wall Street. the New York Times has a much larger figure that takes into account other things, like loans. This is the number I used. And Bloomberg provides the information on banks investing money in government treasuries.

SLIDE 15: Took these names from two sources. The incomparable Glenn Greenwald on why Dems who fantasize about OWS support should rethink, and this Slate article (which, admittedly, makes the case that Wall Street doesn’t have remarkable ties to the administration)

SLIDE 17: The Greenwald article from above.

SLIDE 18: The WSJ.

SLIDE 20: Democracy in Distress.

SLIDE 24: Ok, this great quote came to my attention in a Gawker post about how a woman made it into an OWS sign and then lost her job. She took the quote from this thoughtful piece over at The Atlantic.

SLIDE 28-32: This new report from Citizens for Tax Justice and the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy via Salon.

SLIDE 34 & 35: This report by the American Society of Civil Engineers.

SLIDE 37: The Huffington Post on college grads and entrepreneurship.

SLIDE 38: “The End of Men” over at The Atlantic got me thinking about this, and then I got that top five from NPR.

SLIDE 43: This great excerpt came from that same Vanity Fair piece again-the one credited with providing the OWS slogan.

SLIDE 44: I’ve seen this pop up on Facebook all prettified and everything, but I’m pretty sure this blog post is the origin point for this great Venn Diagram. Go check it out-it’s a good read and deserves credit.

SLIDE 45: I love this quote, and used it in my blog post “Much Ado About Voting“. Unfortunately, it’s only available online for $30 or so. For more info, check out my post.

And that’s it.