Trying to understand the Occupy Wall Street message

Posted By on October 17, 2011

By now most in America have at least acknowledged that there are legitimate protests movements in several cities including NYC; some protesting are anarchists and anti-American types looking to hijack any radical movement, but many are legitimately angry with the state of our nation, the partisanship that favors and bails out the Wall Street banks (and government hand-picked corporations) and the close to home pain of high unemployment. occupywallstreetprotestWe have all probably read, watched or listened to commentary from reporters, politicians and celebrities, and may of us have settled on our own personal opinion from what we see and hear, but I doubt if it is fair to conclude that all are as nutty (or as heroic) as they are being portrayed. One thing seems clear — the “slumping” economy has enough people upset that they are willing to “slum” in streets in order to protest the state of the nation. Unfortunately finding an easy accurate personification or even group message is difficult. I’ve concluded for the most part, the protests against free enterprise, capitalism and business competition, which made our country exceptional, is misplaced. They are right to be angry … but few understand economics or history when they begin to endorse Communism, Marxism and  Socialism philosophies.

Nevertheless, the disparity between the wealthy and those aspiring to “at least” achieve status of middle class in the country is spreading further apart. President Obama’s class warfare comments haven’t offered much optimism for unity and his policies have done little to add jobs, encourage hiring or expand our economy (I also think his class-warfare contributes to the anger – not presidential, in my opinion). The Administration continues to push the same spend and expand government policies it started through borrowing and taxing  …  rather than tacking (as did President Clinton in the 90’s)  in order to trigger America’s economic engine … business and American entrepreneurs fueled by private investors willing to fund them with risk capital. The only answer I continue to hear from those to the left of center is that “we didn’t spend, tax or regulate enough.”


Obviously those running the largest banks have done little to temper their greed and haven’t shown remorse for their part in the recession. The politicians in congress didn’t help either; they set up and regulated (or didn’t) through government control lending arms – the failed Fanny and Freddie lending programs. Personally I believe the low standards encouraged irresponsible lending by these government arms which in turn caused banks to do the same in order to compete with the government lending — something most old time community bankers would never have done if government hadn’t lowered the standards and guaranteed the higher risk lending. But, even after bailing out the failed banks and corporations with even more taxpayer and borrowed money, few in the political realm addressed their own spending problems within their own circle (the Washington DC beltway). Few did little to curtailed government waste and fraud, choosing instead to just ask for more money … be it in higher taxes or borrowing (they have already borrowed over $14Trillion). They continue to live as if “they” can borrow and forward problems to another administration (look to the Obamacare Healthcare Law … that’s how it is funded) … but back to the Occupy Wall Street situation.

I would like to be more sympathetic to the protestors gripes … because the broad based philosophy that corporations fund politicians and politicians take care of those who keep them elected is true. Money buys power, and power helps keep those with the money in position. BUT most who are protesting don’t seem to see it this way. The ones I’ve heard are not trying to clean up the cronyism and bring back competitive capitalism, they want “their cronies” to punitively legislate business even more.  According to those on the left, those who succeed, student-with-25K-loaneven if they are the most innovated, the smartest and work the hardest, are to be discouraged and prevented from high levels of success … by redistributive methods.   People came to this country not because they were promised or guaranteed anything material, but because the dream of Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness was real in America.

I realize that the economy and lack of jobs is the big picture for many who are protesting in cities around the country. Some people are dealing with debt from house devaluation,  overextended in consumer loans or suffering medically or from the lost of a job. These will be continuing problems so as long as the economy remains slow.

I also noticed an entitled attitude from many of those who by choice took on debt for an education … at an extreme cost. For some reason many have decided that going to college is something that requires irresponsible borrowing? I have yet to understand the logic that is being encouraged by universities, parents and government alike … cosigning and extending dollars well beyond what commonsense dictates … particularly disciplines that are not in high demand without a realistic path to solvency. I have a respected friend tongue and cheek say, “I’ll pay for my kids education so long as they aren’t studying the –isms and –ologies.” I’m sure there are exceptions … but looking at the career market, job security and salaries available, it doesn’t make sense to borrow or spend a parents hard earned money in order to land a job with lessor job opportunities. At some point, parents, students and universities will be forced to make wiser decisions when it comes to education the workforce … and how much it should cost. For the record, there are a variety of ways to learn and get an education … borrowing heavily should be at the bottom of the list (or eliminated from the list).


Over the board though, college grads on average have a lower unemployment rate. currently just over 4% compared to the 9.1% for the general population. Yes many have debt, but having a degree certainly give one a leg up over those with just a high school diploma, GED or no secondary education. Don’t discount it.

But … my personal opinion for those not focusing on lucrative and guaranteed jobs in high paying careers would be not to take on debt. Avoid the “no job” 4 year college party experiment financed on borrowed money … instead, get a part time job, go to community college for the general study courses and only borrow for the unique “in your major” courses that will benefit your career … and ask yourself honestly, “is there a career path in my profession and is a job going to be available to me upon graduation after 4 years (or require addition schooling and loans)?


Too many of those “slumming” on Wall Street “appear” to be students or recent graduates who are unable to find work. Some due to the economy, some due to personality (noticing how they carry themselves and act) and some do to their field of study. If you are young and reading this, be smart and rethink your path before your debt to too large or you find your education is not marketable.

Here are a couple points that came to mind after writing this:

  • Learn history and realize that no philosophy in the world has ever set more people free and lifted citizens to a higher standard of living than American democracy. You DO NOT want to replace it with the failed socialism, Marxism and Communism being ballyhooed by a few counterculture ideologues .
  • Accept personal responsibility, first for yourself, then for your family and finally for others when you can lend a hand. No other nation does that as well as the United States. Appreciate this American exceptionalism and that we are a generous nation of different, but very good people. Take pride in this and do your part “even when thanks from others does not arrive.”
  • Study at least one course or read on book seriously to better  understand economics and how the financial system benefits society. Apply yourself so that you understand these principles and the free market concept. Commonsense  individuals know values and individuals given a basic education can discern quality, value, worth and need. “Choice and competition” is what continues to improve society and all the organizations that are part of it (products, service, business, corporations and government) should operate under its principle.
  • Exercise your right to vote, and vote for leaders who will judiciously legislate and lead government on your behalf – understand also that a government that becomes too large becomes dictatorial and infringes on individual rights. Remain on guard.
  • Live life without regret … generally that mean focus on the positives and lift up others when you can.
  • Carpe Diem.


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  1. lacking in consistency, constancy, or visible order, disconnected; fitful: desultory conversation.
  2. digressing from or unconnected with the main subject; random: a desultory remark.
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