Seizing on the popularity of Occupy Wall Street, a broad coalition of liberal-left groups and organizations created the 99 Percent Spring, a movement aiming to recruit and train 100,000 Americans to learn the ways of non-violent direct action. The initiative includes support from MoveOn.org, AFL-CIO, Greenpeace, the Working Families Party, 350.org, Campaign for America’s Future, United Students Against Sweatshops, CodePink, Global Exchange and Color of Change, among other groups.
The plan has been heavily promoted by celebrities such as Edward Norton, Elijah Wood, Marisa Tomei and Jason Alexander and political heavyweights like Van Jones, founder of Rebuild the Dream.
However, Occupy Wall Street protesters have expressed mixed feelings about the 99 Percent Spring, a response that should have been expected given a statement like, "Occupiers have varying opinions," is a beige platitude akin to, "humans have varying opinions on life." OWS is a big tent movement, and as such, it attracts the entire gamut of the (generally) lefty political spectrum.
"I can’t blame the Occupy movement for being at best suspicious," says Joe Macare of Truthout and the Occupied Chicago Tribune, and observer of the Occupy movement, pointing out the 99 Percent Spring has adopted the language and imagery of Occupy Wall Street.
"I think Van Jones means well and is a smart, formidable guy, but I disagree with a lot of what I’ve read in his analysis about the extent to which President Obama, as opposed to just the Tea Party, the GOP-controlled Congress, etc., needs to be held responsible for the mess the United States is in. If Rebuild the Dream and MoveOn.org are serious about challenging corporate power, that’s going to mean calling out a lot of Democratic policies and a lot of Democratic politicians who are bought and paid for by the private sector."
In a recent blog post for The Nation, Jones argues that all of this class war chatter is detrimental to Occupy, a movement founded on the very notion that wealth disparity exists and must be confronted for the sake of the survival of the "99 percent."
"The vast majority of Americans do not oppose their fellow Americans, simply because they are rich," Jones wrote.
In making this statement, Jones constructed a straw man. Generally speaking, Occupy Wall Street opposes corruption and corporate power, which they perceive as illegitimate wealth hoarded by the "one percent" who have rigged the US political system in their favor. The issue is not that there are rich people living in America. The issue is that some absurdly rich people, the "one percent", are only the "one percent" because they cheated, with an assist from the government, and are currently crushing the underclass in order to collect even more wealth than ever before.
Indeed, the majority of Americans do see a problem with wealth disparity. In a recent Pew poll entitled, "Rising Share of Americans See Conflict Between Rich and Poor," 66 percent said they believe there are "very strong" or "strong" conflicts between the rich and the poor—an increase of 19 percentage points since 2009.