We’re not exactly sure what the unhappy campers occupying Wall Street and other public places in America want. In some cases, neither do they, it seems.
Some are bizarrely railing against “the 1-percenters” – a cute new disparaging term for the top 1 percent of earners, who pay between 28 and 38 percent of all income taxes in this country, depending on which source you believe. Apparently that’s not enough, or perhaps they have too much political influence for the protesters’ taste. Some protesters are less obtuse, holding signs saying “Eat the rich.”
Some are oddly complaining about the student debt that they, themselves, agreed to take on in return for the privilege of a college education. What do they want? Less education, or someone else to pay for it? Or maybe they want their professors to earn less or maybe work more, or perhaps less-expensive campuses? Maybe they’d be happy with tents instead of lecture halls?
Are the protests a manifestation of the class warfare our president is waging? If so, did he ever dream his divisive rhetoric would sprout results so quickly?
It’s all just a little incoherent at this point. Regardless, the young protesters need to go into their civil disobedience with their eyes wide open. Despite the country’s newfound hardships, most of these kids still enjoy a lifestyle dwarfing that of 99 percent of the world’s population. Moreover, they need to be careful not to be made into useful tools for those who simply want to grow stifling government even more, and sap the lifeblood of the private sector; and, yes, there are those who only wish to bring down the very system that has provided that lifestyle.
Having said all that, if the focus of the protests is on corporate greed, they will have good company.
The truth is, even now the capitalists are giving capitalism a bad name.
Ordinary Americans are fed up to the gills with the old ways – of corporate excess, of fat-cat multimillion-dollar salaries and bonuses that go on even as wages stagnate or decrease, moms and dads work two jobs and others are laid off completely – and after taxpayers bailed out some of the country’s biggest, most irresponsible and unaccountable firms because they were “too big to fail.” People see the financial sector doing better, while their own cupboards are increasingly bare.
If protesters manage to mine that particular discontent and disgust that spans every sector of American society, then they will find a deep, rich vein indeed.
Yet, they need to understand that “eating the rich” is no solution.
First things first: It’s time for this government, and the Federal Reserve, to open up the books and show us precisely where all that bailout money went. It was our money; we have a fundamental right to know where it went.
Meanwhile, it’s time for the corporate world to start paying attention to the country’s burgeoning restiveness. You are losing the public relations battle, and badly. Your CEOs and other top executives need to band together and reduce their salaries and bonuses – and hire everyone they can find work for. Don’t tell us there isn’t work; your remaining employees are doing two and three people’s worth.
At the same time, the government needs to set domestic taxes and regulations at a level that induces business growth – and stop approving trade deals that put American workers at a disastrous disadvantage.
If that’s what these youths want, we want it for them even more than they do.