Archive for November, 2011

29
Nov
11

Populism in America and The idiocy of “Occupy Wall Street”

About two years ago I wrote a blog about what Scott Brown’s win in Massachusetts might mean for the Unites States. At the time a lot of my good conservative friends were jazzed about the fact that a Republican won Ted Kennedy’s old Senate seat and that with his win it would usher in a tidal wave of conservatism, akin to what the Reagan election in 1980 or the Gingrich revolution in 1994 meant for the conservative cause. But I said “not so fast.” What Scott Brown’s election meant to me, and what the Tea Party movements are all about and what a lot of dissidence in this country right now is all about is the growing movement of populism, which after nearly a century of decay has sprung forth yet again, bringing with it all the evils it always brings forth. Populism is not and has never been an exact political movement, but it is largely responsible for the elections of Andrew Jackson, Andrew Johnson (who succeeded Lincoln but was embraced by party establishment), Grover Cleveland and both Roosevelts in America.

Populism basically states that the good of the people should outweigh the rule of the elite. When times are good economically people don’t usually turn to populism. As long as everyone is making money no one cares who is making the most money, but when times are bad people really concern themselves with how much other people are making and it is human nature to blame the elites for their own misfortune. There is also a false principal amongst populists (and leftists) that wealth represents a giant pie that can only be cut so many ways. In other words “If rich people have too much of the pie there isn’t enough left for the rest of us.” This concept is, of course, utterly false. Mark Zuckerberg created Facebook and has about 25 billion dollars right now. Guess what? That money didn’t exist until Facebook existed. It wasn’t stolen from anybody else, it was created by people’s desire for a new product (more on Zuckerberg later).

So wealth is created, not shifted around, a concept that populist don’t get, which brings me to the lovely people living the bum life on Wall Street right now (those that haven’t left or been kicked out yet anyway). The people of “Occupy Wall Street” have an agenda (what exactly it is they won’t say) but it is basically an agenda that attacks the wealthiest individuals and seeks to rid out “corporatism” in America. I have tried to find a more specific agenda but numerous google searches have yielded no results. Here’s the best definition of  “Occupy Wall Street’s” goal, taken from their own website “OccupyWallStreet.org” “This could be the beginning of a whole new social dynamic in America, a step beyond the Tea Party movement, where, instead of being caught helpless by the current power structure, we the people start getting what we want whether it be the dismantling of half the 1,000 military bases America has around the world to the reinstatement of the Glass-Steagall Act or a three strikes and you’re out law for corporate criminals. Beginning from one simple demand – a presidential commission to separate money from politics – we start setting the agenda for a new America.” The “seperate money from politics” is basically the gist of it, but in other words, take people’s money.

What Occupy Wall Street fails to understand is that Wall Street has no money and really doesn’t influence government. Wall Street manages and regulates stock, usually with the federal government watching every move they make. Traders do set prices on certain commodities but they don’t determine what get’s bought or sold, only you the consumer does. The stocks traded on Wall Street are all public companies, meaning anybody can buy them. In fact stocks are the most democratic of all financial institutions. A bank can keep certain customers out, the federal reserve sets it’s own interest rates, and bond prices, but anyone who has the money can buy stocks. The people that work on Wall Street and invest on Wall Street are a big reason why America isn’t as bad off as the rest of the world. Money made from Microsoft and Apple stock can be used by consumers and investors to pay down their own mortgage or start their own company. Stocks put the control of the company directly in the hands of the consumers! It is by far the most fair system for all americans.

But another problem with the people of Occupy Wall Street is that they target groups that they think have undue influence while leaving out people that truly do have influence. What if I told you there was an american billionaire whose company has sparked protests around the world, resulting in thousands of lives being lost, whose company targets young consumers and tells them what products to buy, whose company monitors and records your every move socially, politically, economically, and philosophically in order to sell you exactly what you want? That company is Facebook, and it is owned by Mark Zuckerberg, a democrat and one of the ten wealthiest people in America. In fact among the ten wealthiest Americans are people like Warren Buffet, the late Steve Jobs, Michael Dell, Oprah Winfrey, and Steven Spielberg. All have tremendous political and media influence, all seek to regulate social behaviors, and all are liberal. They have far more power and influence than the working stiffs on wall street, and yet no one is protesting them. Strange, huh?

Sadly the people of Occupy Wall Street and the people of the Tea Party movement have more in common than they like to admit. Both groups are angered at the way the country is right now and seek to divide and blame people so that they might feel better about themselves. Both movements are rooted in populism, a common movement during times of economic distress. The Tea Partiers blame government for what is wrong, and the Occupiers blame the rich, but both targets are monolithic structures that have very little to do with what really determines our lives. It is time we grow up as a country and take charge of our own actions. The Occupiers don’t have a great agenda. They are not protesting an unjust war, or trying to fight social injustice against minorities, they are simply bored or pissed off kids blaming others for their debts and stations in life. People like this and the movements of populism never produce greatness or success but only divide a fragile nation even further.

If I could talk to the occupiers I would tell them that their efforts are misguided. There are inequities in all life, but that doesn’t mean the system is rigged or that it can’t be fixed. If you are really concerned about economic inequities go visit a homeless shelter and volunteer, or perhaps open up your own wallet and give this holiday season. If not don’t blame the rich for the way things are. They’re no more guilty than you or me.

Sincerely,

Jack B.