October 24, 2011


Hey Blog, while I've been away the U.S. has entered into full-scale class warfare...well, ideologically anyway--so far no gunfire. I speak of course of the Occupy Wall Street movement, not to be confused with the Porcupy Wall Street movement, which involves porcupines.

I totally understand the OWSers fury at government bailouts, giant bonuses for CEOs, and legislative decision-making based on corporate political donations. That stuff makes me as sick as the next person. There is a lot of graft and corruption in government fueled by corporate interests (among other fuels)--I get it. Some small percentage of Americans (1% or whatever) calls the shots for the rest of us in many ways, and that's not fair. I left my last job largely because I was tired of working for rich white guys with briefcases full of venture capital and memberships in private clubs catering to rich white guys.

But I'm afraid I'm not digging a lot of this Occupy stuff. It's all WAY too black-and-white for me, and that is never good. The they/us dichotomy worries me. Just when does political fervor cross the line into a new kind of bigotry?

Blog, here's a few of the things about OWS that bother me:

1.  The idea that all millionaires/CEOs/rich capitalists are evil. I happen to know several of these and they are actually nice people. For example, some family members and the guy who pays my salary. Now perhaps there's a higher percentage of bad rich people, based on the adage "power corrupts," but countering that is the fact that rich people aren't driven to desperate acts by poverty, like a large percentage of criminals are. Long story short, there is good and bad in everyone.  Except Mother Theresa and Hitler, I guess.

2. The belief that corporate America should be hated. I say, feel free to hate the bad things corporate America does from time to time. But remember some of those same things are the reason you can afford that fancy smartphone, and don't point fingers till you're willing to give it up. You can't have it both ways, and good luck refusing to own anything produced by corporate America. I adore the idea of shopping locally and supporting small business, but you can bet some of the tools and services those cozy companies use are provided by big corporate entities. We're all too interconnected to declare full scale war on each other.

3. The sense of entitlement. This is my biggest beef. Nowadays too many people have the habit of declaring anything they want is "a basic human right." I kind of prefer limiting it to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness"...and the pursuit sometimes involves work and smart choices, contrary to popular belief. For example, this is the first generation to have decided society owes them a college education. That's always been something you chose to pay for, maybe even (what a concept!) SAVE for, or not, depending upon your circumstance. I say, if the taxpayers are supposed to pay your tuition, how is that fair to the generations of people who came before and sacrificed for their degrees? If you demand now that those people pay for your higher education as well as their own, who's the good guy and who's the bad guy in that scenario?

4. The disdain for free market capitalism. Heck, Blog, the system that has thrived in America for centuries is now on the "out list," apparently. In its place, we're asked to redistribute our wealth willy-nilly. (Of course, it's the prosperity-challenged who want this. I'm not sure how they'd feel if they suddenly inherited a million bucks and were told they had to give most of it away.) I still don't understand what motivation anyone in the U.S. would have to work, if we put such plans into place. If society is going to pay off your debt, guarantee you a paycheck even if you don't have a job, etc., why wouldn't we all stay home and watch TV?

And what would happen if all these "dreams" came true? This is what I envision:

1. Stripped of capital, America's companies reduce payroll (oh boy, 2009 again), increase prices, and cut back on innovation.

2. Forced to cancel all collection of student loan payments and write off the debt, the U.S. government must cut back on programs and/or raise taxes.

3. With the ability to receive adequate income without working, the rising number of the unemployed stay home, reducing the government's tax revenues still further and forcing corporations to outsource more jobs overseas. Productivity suffers.

4. The impact on the housing market caused by the mandatory write-off of defaulted mortgages is chaos. Banks' balance sheets are thrown out of kilter, there's reduced money available to lend, so only the richest can get new mortgages. Meanwhile some people make a killing selling homes the were previously mortgaged to the hilt.

Bottom line, Blog: economic and social chaos. Which is what comes of tampering with the normal order of things, commerce-wise. If we hate government bailouts of banks, why should we love government bailouts of anything else? Bailing out college grads or homeowners may seem "nicer" than bailing out rich bankers, but it gets you in just as much trouble as a society.

A lot of things need to be fixed, Blog. And here's my list of a few I can think of that we could do:

1. Simplify the tax code so the ultra-rich can't weasel their way out of paying their fair share. That will get us a lot further than raising their taxes only to have them find the usual loopholes anyway.

2. Make government smaller. (Remember "power corrupts"?) How about limited terms, campaign finance reform, and some other such remedies?

3. Fix the broken parts of the system that failed to regulate the financial industry as they should have.

4. Pass reasonable legislation to prevent management bonuses for companies that receive any government support, to limit credit card interest rates and unreasonable fee systems, and similarly curtail gross abuses.

5. Mandate financial studies classes in public high schools, to teach kids practical lessons about credit card debt, student loans, budgeting and saving. (Better their parents should do this, but it seems they've largely dropped the ball and made as big of mistakes as their kids!)

6. Rethink the idea that you have to have a four year college degree right after high school to be a success in the world today. Encourage technical schools, apprenticeship programs, and other worthwhile options for building a skilled workforce...and thus motivate colleges to get their tuition costs under control in order to compete for students.

And above all, Blog: Everyone stop thinking in black and white! Regardless of politics, religion, race, or economic status, we are all people, good and bad. Egg the house of a millionaire and you may have caused trouble for a guy who just gave fifty grand to a school for autistic kids, or whose company is actually responsible for you having a job. Sure, he could be a "greedy capitalist pig," but you don't know, just like you don't know if the OWS protester next to you is a genuine compatriot or simply hoping to steal your cell phone while you're distracted with chanting.

We've got a crapload of things to fix in this country, and wasting our energy on "them vs. us" is getting us nowhere. The government and corporate America know we're pissed, already! Better to leave the park, go home and vote, write letters, teach your kid about compound interest, buy goods responsibly, and get informed about economics, the practices of companies in which you own stock, and the positions of your elected officials.

We're only going to win this by working it out bit by bit. And doing it, as much as possible, together.


  1. Thank you thank you thank you for putting to concise, intelligent words so many of the things that have been bothering me about this whole occupy movement.

    I couldn't have said it better.. no really. But I totally feel what you said. All of it. I've been very frustrated by this business but couldn't really put my finger on it. I guess I just don't see how sitting around in cities not working is going to fix anything. Go out and GET A JOB. It probably won't be your dream, but it will be a job. And do it to the best of what you can while looking for something better. But DO something. That's what this country is based on.

    And no, you are not 'entitled' to a college education. Amen to that.


  2. Thank YOU for commenting, Sam! See, this is where the OWSers are doing themselves a disservice and undermining their cause. Their true foes are people who have benefited unfairly from the system, who have done their jobs poorly and still been rewarded. But some of the Occupy movements "demands" seem to be another version of unfair benefits: free college and mortgage--even credit card--bailouts. Maybe they think that will just even things up, but the problem is, once again its the taxpayers and those who depend upon government programs who would end up making up the loss.

    It's unrealistic to think increasing tax rates for the rich will provide funds to solve all our economic problems...it's much more complicated than that. And bottom line, handouts are never the right answer for a society built on hard work and innovative thinking.

  3. Well spoken, Anonymous...I agree with your point about the complications of society's problems often being ignored. Humans are lazy by nature, and reluctant to do the "homework" required to have a reasonably full understanding of the issues, from both sides. They also tend to prefer the easy solution--whether sensible or not--to doing hard, long term work to fix our problems. We do need courage, and patience, and willingness to sacrifice, and pragmatism, and IMNSHO option, greater critical thinking skills.