The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Monday, October 10, 2011


After everyone from Nicholas Kristof (of The New York Times) to Mahmoud Amadinejad (of the Islamic Repubic of Iran) began comparing the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement (a.k.a. the 99 percenters) to Tahir Square in Cairo, I thought it might be worth trying to understand exactly what the OWS positions are.

Like many within OWS, I do think Wall Street bears a significant portion of the blame for the economic debacle that has been visited upon us since 2008. I do, however, wonder why those who are angry at Wall Street aren’t equally angry at the Obama Justice Department who has not indicted a single Wall Street senior executive, even though their actions and decisions are in the gray area that is close enough to criminal behavior to be indictable (think: Michael Milken). You’d think the OWS members would be picketing the Justice Department or the Obama White House—curious that they aren’t.

Like many within the OWS, I do think that many senior executives at major U.S. corporations are compensated without regard to their accomplishments and often, without considering the value they bring to shareholders. I find it interesting, however, that the OWS protesters don’t carry signs decrying the enormous income disparity between say, someone like Bono and the lowliest member of his roadie crew or someone like George Clooney and the grips who build his movie sets.

Like most within the OWS, I agree that capitalism isn’t a perfect system, but unlike the majority of people sitting in parks and carrying signs, I believe that history has indicated that it is the only viable economic model that gives people from humble beginnings the opportunity (not the guarantee, the opportunity) to improve their lot in life. I also wonder why many within the OWS movement use "capitalist" as a pejorative term, but at the same time, decry a lack of well-paying jobs. Exactly who do they think creates private sector jobs?

Like many young people within the OWS, I think it's a travesty that institutions of higher education drive a majority of their students into significant indebtedness. But I wonder why instead of demanding student loan forgiveness and thereby sticking the overburdened 99 percent with the bill, the OWS doesn’t question whether those in higher education are selling a product that ill-prepares most liberal arts students for the economy of the 21st century. Maybe a few elite universities should be occupied as well.

Like many within OWS, I recognize that there are income disparities across the broad spectrum of people that make up our population, but I wonder why OWS members believe, against all of human experience, that everyone should be guaranteed an equal outcome, regardless of the work they put in, the career they choose, or, the luck they have. On a similar note, I wonder why members of the OWS become enraged when discussing income disparity and the “1 percent” they claim is raping the other 99 percent, but seem less than concerned about the huge disparity between the 10 percent who fund the vast majority of all government functions and the remainder of the populace who fund relatively little.

Like many within the OWS, I agree that no one should become destitute because they become seriously ill, but I wonder why no one asks whether there a difference between catastrophic health coverage provided by private insurers but subsidized by the government (a relatively low cost form of universal health care) and dollar-one coverage that is enormously expensive and ruinous to our already monumental indebtedness.

Unlike many within the OWS, I’ve learned that life isn’t fair, and that no one is guaranteed a job, a happy, stress-free life, or a cradle-to-grave government security blanket. What we are guaranteed is the opportunity to achieve those things, and in return, our society only asks that we take responsibility for ourselves and our actions.