When I’m confused, I admit it. And I’m very confused about what Occupy Wall Street (#OWS) hopes to accomplish.
I applaud their zeal. In my younger, more idealistic days, I’d be out there myself, loud, unwashed, and certain of my correctness.
I applaud their hypocrisy. It takes a special band of jolly roustabouts to decry capitalism and the “top 1%” as they madly type their progress into devices manufactured by one of capitalism’s greatest success stories (Apple) utilizing services (Twitter, Facebook) that exist only because the 1% at venture capital firms are willing to stake their and their clients’ capital to change the world with risky investments in technology.
When those risky investments pay off, and venture capitalists (and working-class employees at the companies they fund) become the 1%, often more due to luck than skill, folks like OWS and unions cry foul. This despite the fact they are also human and therefore somewhat competitive and naturally inclined to want more for themselves and their families, be it more money and/or more piece of mind (a humorous nod to Iron Maiden, not a typo).
Unions exist because the collective workforces involved want higher wages and safe working conditions, noble pursuits both. However, they also want zero competition from other labor stripes and guarantees that their irrational pay and benefits never go away. Sounds a lot like monopolistic behavior at its finest.
You can’t sell out when you’ve already bought in.
I certainly don’t arbitrarily and reflexively defend investment banks and other financial institutions. I malign individuals who protest, are in unions, bake cupcakes, and trade derivatives, individuals who make bad financial decisions that pollute the collective society. If you don’t understand how much you can borrow or how a mortgage works, you shouldn’t get one. Banks and mortgage companies were willing to lend to deadbeats only because the government wanted everyone in America to own a home (and it still does, for some ungodly reason) and thus virtually guaranteed lenders lack of ultimate financial culpability.
The OWS folks simply do not (or refuse to) understand that it is the government that actually collects and spends taxpayer money. Financial institutions didn’t steal it; our elected officials gave it to them, and it was the right decision. It may have saved the free world, and the majority of that money has been paid back with interest.
Ironically, the government-sponsored (now government-owned) entities Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are the least likely to pay back a dime. They are the very institutions that caused the crisis; without them, Goldman Sachs would have had far fewer mortgage-backed securities to sell and bet against.
We all want a better system and a better way of life for the majority of Americans. To suggest the top 1% of earners tuck themselves away in bulletproof caves to count their gold coins and devise ways to screw the other 99% is downright silly.
In fuzzy round numbers, the IRS says the top 1% pay 40% of taxes while earning only 20% of income in the U.S. That’s a progressive tax system that’s working
That means the people OWS hates are paying for the street cleaners and services they’re sucking from as they make their case in parks and downtowns across the country
That means that a guy like me, a former Phish-following neo-hippie and current investments guy, now bounces around San Francisco in a fancy limo between investor meetings, wondering which side I should be on.
Against the backdrop of Oracle World and passionate anticapitalist protests, I realized that the very existence of fervent, close-minded “sides” is what’s wrong here.