The Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement has captured the nation’s attention. Liberals are generally accepting it as a totally organic, grassroots effort that is completely justified. After all, rich financiers on Wall Street are entirely to blame — cough, cough — for the economic predicament we find ourselves in today. Conservatives are generally calling the movement contrived, misguided, and incoherent. As usual, neither viewpoint broadcast out on the 24-hour news cycle is wholly true.
People have every reason to be upset right now. Particularly the unemployed. If Occupy Wall Street represents anything, it is that something is woefully wrong with our system. The devil is always in the details, though. When it comes to our system, the problems are many, and the problems are difficult to understand. Many of the protesters that I’ve seen interviewed offer only vague accounts of what is wrong with this country, and most importantly, no solutions. My feeling is that most of them need to educate themselves on how we got into this predicament. That is, except Chris Savvinidis. He is extremely informed on the real ills of this country:
The first problem with the OWS movement is that the message is muddled. Everyone on the scene seems to have different ideas of what is wrong. They need a coherent, unified message, and solutions. Simply knowing in general that something isn’t right isn’t going to get it done. Especially if you’re going to camp out on the streets for more than three weeks. Articulate a message and offer solutions, organize protests for a single day at a time, and go home to sleep in your bed. Occupy Wall Street needs to get off the streets and turn this into a political movement if they have any hope of influencing change. The core differences between the Tea Party and OWS is that they didn’t disrupt high traffic throughways for weeks at a time, had a simple, unified message and solutions, and turned their beliefs into a political movement. The Tea Party also was as organic as movements come, while OWS has clearly documented labor unions playing a major role in mobilizing some of these people.
While a crowd should typically be good for local businesses, it appears that some businesses are being hurt by the prolonged occupation of the streets. After all, hundreds of unemployed folks who haven’t showered are setting up tents and tarps throughout the street, leaving a littered mess behind them. The crowd is obviously inciting chaos and blocking normal business traffic (plus resulting police barricades). Public bathrooms have been abused in some instances and many people are relieving themselves in the streets. While some cheap food producers may be benefiting, something tells me this movement is having an adverse effect on many businesses.
It sounds like the rationale for this disruption is that the many trillions of dollars the financial crisis took out of the economy far overshadows the impact on local business from this protest. Breaking up the demonstrations is equivalent to protecting the broken system, they might say. But again, what solutions are going to come out of camping in the streets?
From what I can gather, the protesters are against what they call income inequality in this country, corporate greed, and corporatism. The only offered solution I can gather, outside of the rare folks like Chris Savvinidis, is they would like greater income redistribution then we already have. So, basically, having the government confiscate more money from the wealthy, and hand it to them in the form of tax breaks and entitlements. Increased government spending almost always means an ever-growing federal government, which makes all of our voices smaller. I believe abusive levels of taxation is immoral and akin to stealing, so it’s hard for me to say all my problems would be solved if only a mediating party (the government) would steal more from rich people. What is abusive? You must look at total taxation when you have this discussion i.e. local, state, and federal taxes combined. When you’re getting hit above forty or fifty percent of your income, it’s reasonable to say that you’re approaching abusive levels.
A real shared sacrifice would be a flat tax. Tax policy is yet another aspect of our system that can be confusing, and I believe it needs wholesale changes. Herman Cain’s 9-9-9 Plan would scrap the entire tax code, offer a flat income tax for individuals and business, and do away with the payroll tax which working Americans get hit with. As I’ve argued with the FairTax, even if it turns out not to be revenue neutral (bring in the same amount of tax revenue to government), it would force real cuts that are needed, as opposed to the “cuts” we get which amount to nothing more than a reduction in the growth rate of government spending. Scrapping the tax code would put a dent in the lobbyist culture in Washington, where corporations and special interest groups pay for special favors with little interest to the people considered. If Americans were smart, they’d vote for someone who had the greatest chance of making significant structural changes in the federal government and to the system. Naturally, no one fits this bill more than Ron Paul. Without real change, corporatism, the unaccountable Fed, and printing money out of thin air will only continue regardless of which party occupies the White House or Congress.
There is plenty to dislike about Big Finance in this country. Being against the bailouts and general corporatism is a common bond between the Tea Party and OWS. If the financial crisis tees you off, you’d better start with Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and the Community Reinvestment Act. It seems to me that if you wanted to stop corporatism, you’d be protesting in Washington, DC in front of the White House.
Photo Credit: andrewshiue