October 4, 2011

Let's Occupy Wall Street!

I’ve been watching with great interest, the news about the “Occupy Wall Street” movement. For about two weeks now, several hundred protestors have camped out in the streets of the New York Financial District to protest…what, exactly?

It’s hard to say.

Trying desperately to understand from whence cometh such zeal and angst, I’ve read every newspaper story I can get my hands on. This morning, I surfed the morning TV and cable news shows, trying to get a handle on this protest. Each reporter interviewed someone in the crowd and asked, in one way or another, “Why are you here today? Exactly what are you protesting?” 

Their answers? “We’re here to fight the inequity of the system.”  Click. “I can’t get a job.”  Click. “Billionaries get too many tax breaks.”  Click.  “The government hasn’t done a thing to fix the system, so we have to take matters into our own hands.” Click. “Corporations have too much power.” Click. Click. Click.

Huh? Each of these rebels spoke with great conviction and passion, in vague generalities. But when asked to give specifics or suggest remedies, they didn’t seem to know.  

This morning on MSNBC, protest leader Harrison Schultz was asked to describe the goals of the OWS movement. His answer? “The fact that we don’t have a coherent set of goals, is what the media have been blasting us for the most.” Well...yeah. If you're playing hooky from work and sleeping on the streets and throwing rocks at police officers and forming a human blockade on the Brooklyn Bridge? Yes, you should know why you're doing it and have a goal in mind.

When pressed for specifics, Schultz answered obliquely, “Change.”

But what is a movement without goals? Why is it so unreasonable to ask what they are? How can I possibly give you what you want, if you won’t tell me what it is? Way to change the world, bro. You’re beginning to sound like a congressman.
The group’s website seems to do a slightly better job of specifying grievances and goals:

#1: Impose punitive tariffs on all imported goods and raise the minimum wage to twenty dollars an hour. But what if China or Russia has a natural resource that we don’t?  Do we double the price of that product, just for spite? And is every fast food worker and boxboy really worth that wage?  Next stop: $10 Big Macs and $5 apples.

#2: Institute a universal single payer healthcare system and shut down all private health insurance companies. Fine. Now, tell me how you intend to pay for it. And what shall we do now with a million unemployed insurance workers, and thousands of empty office buildings? How shall we replace the tens of billions of dollars in lost tax revenues? Go ahead, I'm all ears.

#3 Guaranteed living wage income regardless of employment.You don’t suppose a few million people might just sit on the couch and just collect their monthly check?

#4: Free college education for all. Nice ideal, but with what money? And why bother, if you can get a monthly check for staying home?

#5: Eliminate fossil fuels and use alternative energy. In case you’re not paying attention, that’s already happening. But as we all know, that technology just isn’t there yet.

#6: One trillion dollars in infrastructure spending now. Fine. Now tell me how you intend to pay for it.

#7: One trillion dollars in ecological restoration, and decommission all nuclear power plants. Fine. Now tell me how you intend to pay for it. And how do you suggest we replace those megawatts?

#8: Racial and gender equal rights amendment. You might get that. But bigots will still be bigots, and I can always give a dozen perfectly legal and  legitimate reasons to fire you, or not hire you in the first place.

#9: Open borders. Anyone can travel anywhere to work and live.Voluntary surrender of our national sovereignty and the rule of law? You’ve got to be kidding. Our national economy is huge, but just try adding another 100 million people into it. People who don’t have to work or pay their bills.

#10: Paper ballots and impartial observers. You don’t trust our democracy? Fine. Go find somewhere else better to live. I dare you.

#11: Forgiveness of all debt, everywhere. Do I really have to explain why this is insane?

#12: Outlaw all credit reporting agencies. And eliminate all accountability? Sure, that will make us a better nation.

#13: Allow all workers to form a union at any time. Umm…sorry to break this news to you, but our nation already has thousands of union halls and thousands of organizers. They’re all in the phone book, and on the Internet. Just pick up the damn phone.

Let me get this straight: No one has to work to make a living. No one has to pay their bills. Everything can be had for nothing, and no one has to answer for their mistakes. Take all the profit out of commerce, and drive all entrepreneurs out of business. Someone tell me again, please, how will this create millions of jobs? How will this system generate taxable profits, so as to support millions of people added to the public dole? Surely you explained it in there somewhere. I must have missed it.

Some of these demands do sound like noble ideals, such as education, living wage, infrastructure, baby seals, and health care. But all of these things cost money, at the same time that you're shrinking the tax revenue stream. Some are simply impossible at the moment, such as alternative energy.  You can't legislate prejudice away. No government anywhere has the authority to forgive all debt. And no country, anywhere, will ever open up their territory to all. It just isn't going to happen.

What our country needs is more people accepting responsibility for their own lives, not looking to the state to provide their needs. We need more accountability, not less. More givers, fewer takers. Responsibility, not entitlement.

Please believe me, I really want to understand this logic. But let’s suppose that the traders and analysts of Wall Street no longer got those huge annual bonuses. Let’s say that the billionaires of the nation now pay their full earnings in tax to the national treasury. Now what? Would that mean that you suddenly get a job? Or a raise? Or better health care? Please, someone explain this to me.

I just don’t get it.

1 comment:

  1. You've shown a lot more patience with this BS that I have.