Conservative media outlets have criticized the Occupy Wall Street protesters as mob-like, left-wing extremists with no voice and no real agenda — or as the Democrats' answer to the tea party. But the protesters' critique of capitalist society can't be so easily dismissed.

Pope John Paul II was a great leader who played an important role in the collapse of communism and the fall of the Berlin wall. But he was also a sharp critic of the shortcomings of capitalist societies that were not balanced with morals and values.

The "all-consuming desire for profit and the thirst for power at any price with the intention of imposing one's will upon others are opposed to the will of God and the good of neighbor," he warned.

John Paul also said that "structures of sin" work against the common good, and he criticized economic systems that lacked the "option or love of preference for the poor."

Somewhere along the way the profit motive has pushed aside loyalty to long-term workers, eliminated promised pension plans, and led to the exploitation of overseas workers, loss of American-made products and CEOs being paid millions while workers barely earn a living wage.

Wall Street continues to operate like Las Vegas, yet it gets saved by the federal government while hundreds of thousands of Americans struggle to put food on the table. One in four people in Baltimore currently lives in poverty.

Which is worse, a society ruled by a power-hungry, greedy dictator or a government run by power-hungry, greedy corporations?

Perhaps the Occupy Wall Street protesters will provide the impetus not only for much-needed change but ultimately for a better America.

Michelle D. Breau, Sparks