Occupy Wall Street: some thoughts

I was riding with a friend—a local business leader—after a breakfast event last Wednesday. As we passed through a perfect example of old-school, small-town America on the way to an informal meeting, she pointed to the street she lives on. Sure enough, tucked right there in the middle of that tiny town—blink and you’d miss it—was “Wall St.” I laughed: “So you really do occupy Wall Street, huh?”

Of course it was a joke. My friend is very conservative and a Christian. And there is so much leftist nonsense infused throughout the Occupy Wall Street protests that I doubt much good can be done even by the hard working “End the Fed” disciples who have joined it for the purposes of educating it.

Steve Wynn’s alleged “big rant” against Occupy Wall Street actually contains a balanced insight into the movement:

That group is quite diverse. . . . There are people in there that think that government should give them more just because they are alive. There are people who are opposing government spending. There are people there that are opposing bailouts.

This is more honest than, for example, Ann Coulter’s dismissal of the whole as a parasitic “Flea Party”—though it does have that element in it pretty thick. Her article is certainly not without a good point, and in her latest essay on the topic she exposes a real problem: ideologically-driven ignorance and hypocrisy. There are a lot of simply uninformed people in the movement who have a good idea of corporate corruption and undue influence—yet these people are unequipped (thanks largely to their government education) to express their ideas by anything but the misguided attack on “capitalism” and “greed,” and a call for socialistic remedies. It’s the informed liberals who know better and are trying to leverage this ignorance are the real enemies here. Wynn catches this, too: “But if it’s a politician that does it, or a union leader, then it represents something much more pernicious. It represents a deliberate misleading of the public.” I think it is uncritical of Coulter to ignore this distinction between the mere dupes and the real creeps.

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(If Ann Coulter wished to be genuinely helpful to society, she would take a couple of her millions and start a training institute to teach young conservatives how to research, write, and publish effectively (note to parents: most colleges don’t do this). The courses should cover rhetoric and humor, technical skills in research and composition, legal reasoning and analysis, as well as the ins and outs of the business side of publishing and journalism; plus, she should leverage her connections to provide internships as part of the program. She could turn out an army of young conservative journalists with skills and confidence similar to hers—although hopefully less wasted on cynical, national partisanship—and they would be already well placed in the system when they completed. At age 50 and unmarried with no children, this is probably the closest Coulter will get to reproducing—and this is not to be taken lightly. And with her books all mainly devoted to contemporary issues which will fade with time (in the way old politicians’ names are forgotten), something like this is her best bet for a substantial and lasting legacy. It’s certainly a better testimony than that council chair she currently holds for GOProud.)

Speaking at that breakfast Wednesday, Congressman Phil Gingrey (R-GA)—hardly one whose Conservative credentials could be questioned—winced at the “Flea Party” label and acknowledged something deeper is going on. I think Wynn sees the same thing, although he targets only deficits and debt and partisan politics, which is a hair off.

Former Fed official Herman Cain says things like “blame yourself,” “get a job,” and “you should be occupying the White House instead.” Of course, all of this is true in general, but not enough in this specific case. Liberal leaders like Pelosi and others, as Coulter rightly blasts, hypocritically fawn over the protesters as their extension of the TEA Party—after having spent two years labeling the TEA Party evil, racist, un-American, Astroturf, S-O-Bs, and more. Suddenly, when populist protests arise with a Marxist flavor rather than a conservative, libertarian bent, then we can talk about the “dear” protesters. No surprise here.

It was unfair of Coulter to say that the mixture couldn’t even explain why it was protesting. This may be true for many who joined later, but the movement originally focused on the inordinate influence financial institutions and big corporations have in lobbying Washington. (Steven Colbert actually did a great job showing this anti-corruption focus early on. (Caution: some language.)) This is absolutely true and a laudable reason to protest—even if carried out in a thoughtless way.

It was also, therefore, unfair of the funny but misguided critiques showing alleged hypocrisy among the crowd for using all kinds of products from big corporations while allegedly protesting them. This probably does apply to a lot of the ignorant in the group who are blaming, mindlessly, “greed,” but again, originally, the protest was not over the fact that big corporations exist and sell things, but that they are able to buy undue influence through their lobbies in Washington. Again, this absolutely true.

But of course once any protest starts even remotely on the left, all of the walking-wounded old-school Marxists crawl out from under the porch and pretend they started it. These only work to discredit what good could have been done. There was a Maoist in California, backing up a Marxist who called for violent revolution and ended shouting, “Long live socialism!” (About half of the fifteen people there clapped.) There have been people defecating on police cars, exposing themselves, picking each others’ pockets, and much more—these freak shows only cast a dark shadow over what was originally begun.

The most annoying aspect is certainly that charge against “corporate greed.” Greed is not the problem: corruption and collusion between bankers, lobbyists, and Washington is the problem. The groups meet together, regularly, spending tens of millions of dollars annually just so that they rig the system to favor bankers, lobbies, and politicians. The only real work they do is figuring out how either to sell it to the people as a good thing, or hide it from them.

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Yes, of course there is greed, and it can have genuinely negative results in business. But it is nowhere near a socially destructive as its wicked sister Envy. And Envy is what I really see in many of the protesters out there—especially the ones trying to leverage government socialism to “tax the rich” and take for themselves. It is nothing less than envy that says, “This person has more than me, I don’t have as much as I want, therefore I should take from them and give to me. And when I can’t have what I want, I will lash out and destroy.” Thus the calls for violent revolution and the defecating on police cars, etc., which are just glimpses of Envy-bred violence. When Envy grips a political system, it destroys and enslaves societies.

And, Envy is the witch at the heart of that repeated decretal against “the income gap.” Calls to political action over the claim that 1 percent of the people own 40 percent of the wealth are nothing short of Envy gone to Washington—which has always been pretty much the name of the game in Washington. Margaret Thatcher destroyed the “income gap” argument here.

The truth is, as long as wealth is obtained honestly, there can be no legitimate complaint about the income gap and who owns most of the wealth. There can be no legitimate policy for redistributing it. And while many of the OWS protesters think there should be, this is not the bright element at the origin of the movement. Rather, it is when wealth has been arrived at over decades of special government favors to certain businesses, decades of Federal Reserve favors to big banks, and decades of political favors paid and repaid amongst the same old boy network, that a movement like OWS makes sense. Of course Wall Street is out of control—not because it’s rich, but because it has so often gotten rich by illicit and fraudulent means. And because the politicians are too bought-off to do anything about it—Democrat and Republican.

This is closer to what I first heard the movement had originated as. It was not a mere whine over corporate wealth, but about corporate corruption. It was a group of kids really ticked, and righteously so, because big bank representatives used scare tactics and threats of martial law to frighten Congress into passing bailouts—bailouts to save the banks which had simply done terrible business, should have been closed and led by the nose through bankruptcy court, but instead were deemed “too big to fail.” It was a bailout for absolute failures and frauds. And as soon as the bailout money came in, these same jokers paid themselves tens of millions of dollars in bonuses for having done such great business.

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Of course they had. They conned the public out of hundreds of billions. That’s what they always have done; and they did it one more time. Why not pay themselves a handsome bonus for a job well done, once again? It’s business as usual.

If OWS would merely focus on this across the board, and drop the socialistic stuff, it would gain the support of the liberty movement and probably a lot more; and the true causes of the problems—the corrupt corporations, the lobbies, the corrupt politicians, and the Federal Reserve counterfeiters—would shake in their boots. But the message has been corrupted because it was begun by leftists, joined mostly by leftists, and can think of nothing but a leftist answer. Thus, one group amongst them that is trying to create a list of demands has arrived as something like a $1.5 Trillion New Deal package where 25 million people go to work directly for the government. Are you kidding? And how fast did you want to become like Greece? So quickly does liberalism turn justice into envy and all is lost.

I think it’s a doomed movement, but it does have a glimmer of goodness if it focuses on the corruption specifically, and not on amorphous liberal nonsense. The movement’s mortal enemies are ignorance, leftism, and envy. Like the rest of America, this is an uphill battle. I’d rather spend time at small breakfasts in small town America any day.

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