Where's the Rage? Recession Sparks Mild Protests

The economy fuels massive demonstrations everywhere but here.

ByABC News
March 17, 2009, 10:43 AM

March 18, 2009— -- There's been no shortage of public outrage over the current state of the world financial system. Anger peaked this weekend when news broke that insurance giant AIG would be using some of the taxpayer dollars it received -- $165 million of $170 billion -- in a government bailout to pay bonuses to the same executives whose actions helped wreck the company and threatened the global financial system.

But while the recession and its attendant problems have fueled anger from Main Street to the White House, that anger has not translated into the mass demonstrations seen in other parts of the world.

The economy has sparked tepid rallies in a handful of cities around the country and more are planned, but if history is any guide, the vast silent majority of Americans will remain that way.

"We're not seeing mass demonstrations," said historian and social activist Howard Zinn, author of "A People's History of the United States." "We are seeing individuals expressing anger, but it is not taking the form of organized protests."

There have been angry words, but few angry deeds.

"The first thing that would make me feel a little bit better toward them would be if they'd follow the Japanese model and come before the American people and take that deep bow and say I'm sorry, and then either do one of two things -- resign, or go commit suicide,'' said Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, on an Iowa radio station referring to AIG executives.

In Europe, however, when people get mad, they tend to show it.

Some 100,000 protestors took to the streets of Dublin last month to protest higher taxes and a deepening recession. Greece was brought to a standstill when riots over unemployment and food prices turned violent. High unemployment rates, especially among the young, have led to protests in Chile, Italy, Mexico, Bulgaria and France.

Protesters enraged at the way their leaders have handled the economic crisis toppled the governments of Iceland and Latvia, and police in London, anticipating mass protests over rising unemployment and the recession, warn of an upcoming "summer of rage."

In the United States, where billions of taxpayer dollars have been funneled to banks that refuse to explain how they are spending that money, where nearly 2 million homes are in foreclosure, where 651,000 people lost their jobs last month, where daily headlines remind people of their dwindling savings, the streets are virtually empty of protesters.

Economic crisis has led Americans to take to the streets before, Zinn said. In the 1930s, workers protested in Minneapolis, in San Francisco and New York, organized "by a large and powerful labor movement."