Wherein I Agree With Occupy Wall Street Protesters

Thursday, October 13th, 2011

The Occupy Wall Street folks have finally, at long last, figured out that the Bank Bailouts did nothing but help the rich and powerful. Too bad they didn’t join with the Tea Party who also balked at the huge transfer of wealth from the middle class taxpayers to irresponsible investment bankers who gave loans to people who couldn’t afford them.

Unfortunately, the OWS folks put their hope in Obama’s promised change and got more of the same. I remember a conversation with a prominent liberal activist. She was decrying the money in politics and corruption of the power. I said to her, on election day,”How do you think Barack Obama got elected? All that money came from Wall Street and lobbyists. They’re your problem now.”

Three years later, disenchanted socialists drum in circles and scream in frustration at what was blindingly obvious. The Dems are wholly bought and paid for.

Where the Occupy Wall Streeters differ from Tea Partiers is fundamental philosophy: Instead of the middle class bailing out banks and investment houses and GM, the Occupy Wall Street folks would prefer that the money had come directly to them. Pay off their student loans. Pay off their mortgage. Pay them $20/hour whether they work or not. Just pay them. In short, they want a socialist society where behavior is completely untethered from consequences.

Tea Partiers want to keep what they earn. They don’t want to pay for someone else’s stupidity. They don’t want someone to pay for their stupidity. They want to be free from the burden the Smartypants Set™ put on them and their children. They fear that this debt will make slaves of American citizens. They worry that their children will have less opportunities to pursue the American dream–to pursue happiness.

Like Tea Partiers, the Occupy Wall Street crowd feel disregarded and diminished. They feel that the little guy doesn’t get a break.

Students are disillusioned: They have student debt for worthless degrees for jobs that don’t exist. Many kids live with their parents and will never be employable with the education they have. As an aside, David Mamet has a wonderful essay on the hopelessness and entitlement of these folks in his book The Secret Knowledge.

The Occupy Wall Street folks have plenty to be angry about. Many Tea Partiers are angry, too. It’s just the cause and solutions that differ–well, solutions, and tactics.

Starting riots, pooping on police cars, laying in filth, sharing drugs, making it impossible for the working class people to work, is no way to make a point. Or rather, it makes the wrong point.

The Democrats will use the Occupy Wall Street crowd to foment discontent and cause confusion going into the 2012 election. It should be noted that they (hello Chuck Schumer, Chris Dodd and Barney Frank) were architects of both the absurd lending practices and then the bailout of those same institutions when they failed.

For those on the conservative grassroots side, it’s unwise to dismiss OWS’ers all out of hand. Some of these people really believed that Barack Obama was going to bail them, personally, out. They believed that he cared about them. They believed that he was a man of the people and understood them and would bring fundamental change in America that would benefit them.

Many of these people are seeing the suffering and believed the Democrats had the solution.

These folks share the alienation from the “elites”. Tea Partiers are scorned, loathed and feared by establishment Republicans. Now, politicians try to curry favor from Tea Party types, but it’s only to save their own hides. Will real reform ever come? Can the Tea Party expect transparency from the GOP when the Republicans are in charge again? It will be demanded. Will the demands be heeded? The Occupy Wall Street folks face the same problem with the Democrats.

The average American citizen feels profoundly alienated from the leadership who continues to make promises and continues to break them. This electoral swinging is a desire, on the part of voters, to find leaders who are responsive to the average, working middle-class person and small business guy who doesn’t have lobbyists making sure to guard his interests. The only place the citizen has to express their discontent is the ballot box. They’ve been doing it over and over and the message keeps resulting in disappointment.

Here are some areas where both sides can agree:

Government transparency

No more bailouts

Higher Education reform

Re-looking at American foreign policy and the best use of military resources

Government-corporate nexus (aka crony capitalism)

There’s more, but this is a start. There are many dark elements of the Occupy Wall Street crowd–the use of intimidation and violence to achieve ends, for one. Still, the alienation and betrayal and the looking helplessly toward the future seems to be a universal American citizen phenomenon these days.

America’s elected leaders no longer seem to serve their citizens but themselves and the big money folks who put them in power. Changing that is something everyone can believe in.