Occupy Wall Street
I have to admit, I’m somewhat fascinated by the Occupy Wall Street protests going on. I’ve seen some people on Facebook making comments like “why don’t they all just get jobs?” or “why are they so angry that some people are rich?” A lot of people just want to know what these people want.
That’s a legitimate question, but these people make even the Tea Party (an umbrella under which you’ll find everything from billionaire libertarians to anarchists, racists, homophobes, and religious nuts) look organized by comparison. I feel like it’s not fair to say that the movement has a goal because those participating come from such diverse backgrounds and have a widely varying litany of complaints. The only common thread seems to be general frustration about our economy and the financial industry’s role in it.
That at least I find quite understandable. There are two types of people in America these days. Those who think our financial industry is a serious threat to our economic well-being and those who just don’t know anything about it. It’s impossible to have even the slightest clue why we’re in the current economic morass and not believe that without serious change we’re going to end up here time and again. I’m fairly certain many of the guys on Wall Street (who both realize the threat and spend loads of time and lobbying bucks trying to maintain the status quo) would agree.
Our financial industry has evolved from a way to efficiently allocate capital into a casino playing with taxpayer money. Every time the roulette wheel comes up red the investment bankers make millions, and when it comes up black, we taxpayers pay for it. And even though everyone knows this now, we’ve still lacked the political will to fix it. The financial reform of 2010 was a reasonable first step in the right direction, but even that now faces the possible threat of Republican control of Congress and the White House in the near future.
The financial industry and its captive politicians will try to paint the movement as poor people whining and mere class warfare, just as the far left dismisses the Tea Party racist and bigoted. And just as with the Tea Party criticism, that won’t be entirely untrue. But in the end it misses the bigger picture. When candidates say things like "Don’t blame Wall Street. Don’t blame the big banks. If you don’t have a job and you’re not rich, blame yourself," they’re missing the larger point which is that our financial system, not the protestors in Manhattan, is a serious threat to our way of life.