“No Man’s life liberty or property is safe while the legislature is in session”.

- attributed to NY State Judge Gideon Tucker

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The OccupyWallStreet & Related Protests

Is it just me, or does OccupyWallStreet look and sound like something out of a Tom Wolfe novel? Very much like Bonfire of the Vanities. The politicians and unions all lining up behind the scenes to attempt to maneuver for advantage. Major liberal media celebrities and unions are joining in. Even a few apparently risk-oriented House Democrats, like John Lewis and Frisco Nan.

But interviews with the  ordinary crowd members reveal no actual knowledge of what the movement's/event's objectives and demands actually are.

Never the less, some Democratic Congressmen, and even Wonderboy himself speak of common cause with the anarchic crowd.

What disturbs me is that the movement's public calls to echo Egypt's grassroots democracy overlooks the fact that the US has a standing Republic form of government with freely-elected representatives and president.

This entire event seems to be little more than an attempt by the far left to try to take government out of the existing Constitutional institutions and put it into the street, because they don't like the fact that voters rebuked the Democrats last November by cutting their Senate majority and returning the House to GOP control.

It's as if, having had all three key elements of legislation- House, Senate and White House- for two years, they aren't satisfied with the results. So they simply intend to overthrow the Constitutionally-mandated process of federal government by sitting in on Wall Street and elsewhere in major US cities.

To better understand how skewed and out of touch with reality the movement's supporters are, here's an editorial from the weekend Wall Street Journal by SEIU's president, Mary Kay Henry, entitled Why Labor Backs 'Occupy Wall Street.' I've helpfully highlighted Henry's contentions which are seriously at odds with the truth, in red.

"The images of row upon row of stoic airline pilots, fed-up students and thousands of Americans marching through downtown Manhattan have captivated the nation.

Seemingly overnight, the organic, scrappy protests in the financial center of the world have blossomed into a national movement from Chicago to Los Angeles, calling attention to the gross inequality in our society and the unwillingness of our politicians to correct this imbalance.

The Occupy Wall Street actions are a potent example of what is happening across our country as the anger and frustration of ordinary Americans builds. While the media and pundits obsess over what the Occupy Wall Street protester's want, the protesters have already succeeded in shaking our conscience as a nation and forcing a national conversation about everything that is wrong with our economy.

The hard truth is that things are pretty lousy for most Americans right now. And while students, seniors and workers didn't cause our economic collapse, we're the ones paying the price.

It's been three years since Wall Street CEOs crashed our economy. When Wall Street was on its knees, the American taxpayers came to their rescue with trillions of dollars in bailouts and promise from the big banks that they'd invest in our recovery.

Instead, the banks used our hard-earned tax dollars to enrich themselves. They robbed millions of Americans of their jobs and their livelihoods. They refuse to invest in the small businesses that drive America's job creation and growth. And they continue to kick us while we're down by foreclosing on millions of families.

Today, the richest 5% of the population holds 72% of the wealth in our country. We have 25 million Americans looking for full-time work. And those Americans lucky enough to have a job have seen their hours slashed and their benefits cut. I recently met a worker in Chicago who told me he's been forced to feed his family by foraging for food in the dumpsters behind the grocery store by his house. Not because he's out of work but because his hours had been cut back and there simply wasn't enough money to keep a roof over his family's head, pay the electric bill, and put food on the table every night.

We have an entire generation of young people who were promised good jobs if they worked hard, played by the rules and attended college. They kept their end of the bargain and when they graduated they were left with no job prospects and a record amount of debt.

Americans watched in horror this spring as Republican politicians held our country hostage during the debt-ceiling debate to win harmful cuts to our communities and more tax breaks for millionaires. And this week House Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor again turned their backs on the American people by refusing to even bring the American Jobs Act up for a vote.

The anger of the American people has been brewing for quite some time, and now that it's boiled over there's no bottling it up. The importance of Occupy Wall Street can't be measured by any set of demands. What's more important to understand are the values that unite the protesters and their authentic understanding of what has gone wrong in our economy.

We can begin to right the wrongs of our economy and respond to the growing demands of the American people by putting our country back to work and by holding Wall Street and big corporations accountable for the damage they've inflicted on us all.

When Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz was asked what one demand on Washington the Occupy Wall Street protesters should make right now, he didn't hesitate a moment before saying: create jobs.

We can't begin to fix what is wrong with our economy without creating good jobs. We have work that needs doing in this country and millions of Americans looking for full-time work. It's time to put the two together to make America a stronger nation. And it's time to use the money being made on Wall Street and in corporate boardrooms across the country to put Americans back to work.

Congress can begin by passing the American Jobs Act and immediately put Americans to work rebuilding our outdated and dangerous roads and bridges and ensuring our kids have first-class schools. We can invest in our communities to keep teachers in our classrooms, police on the beat, health-care workers at our hospitals and clinics, and ensure that we have enough firefighters to protect our communities.

The 2.1 million nurses, janitors, school-bus drivers and other members of the Service Employees International Union stand arm in arm with the peaceful Occupy Wall Street protesters. While unions cannot claim credit for Occupy Wall Street, SEIU members are joining the protesters in the streets because we are united in the belief that our country needs a change.

Nobody can predict what's next for the Occupy Wall Street movement. And no one institution or person should try to exert their pressure on this inspiring collective of people.

The importance of the Occupy Wall Street protests lies in the simple fact that all it takes is a small group of courageous people to light a spark and forever change the arc of history. The auto workers in Flint, Mich., lit that spark in the 1930s through their sit-down strikes and forever changed American industry. The civil-rights activists lit that spark when their sit-ins forced us to confront the racial inequality that poisoned our nation.

We saw that spark in Tahrir Square and across the Middle East this Arab Spring as a few brave people inspired millions of fed-up citizens to challenge their governments and demand better lives. It's what I've witnessed for the past 30 years as a union organizer watching working people stick their necks out and stand publicly for a union to win a chance at a better life for themselves and their families.

And it's what countless Americans see in this growing Occupy Wall Street movement. They see the opportunity to restore the very American notion that each of our citizens deserves a shot at reaching his or her own dreams, of finding a good job, and leaving the next generation better off.

The people are finally speaking. Now it's up to our leaders and CEOs to listen and respond."

I won't refute those highlighted passages point by point. Suffice to say:

-"Wall Street CEOs" did not "crash" our economy. For that, thank Barney Frank, Kent Conrad, and Chris Dodd for pushing Fannie and Freddie to guarantee low-doc, no-doc, low-quality mortgage loans.

-To my knowledge, banks were told to take TARP money, and no managements signed papers agreeing, in exchange, to loan money to questionable businesses at near-zero rates.

-Borrowers of money for mortgages who don't continue to pay those loans knew they'd be in default. They are adults, not children. Nobody 'robbed' them then stole their homes.

-The best, though, is this howler:

"We have an entire generation of young people who were promised good jobs if they worked hard, played by the rules and attended college. They kept their end of the bargain and when they graduated they were left with no job prospects and a record amount of debt."

I can't recall, when I was in college, anyone promising me a "good job" if I worked hard, graduated, whatever. This is a union boss' view of the ideal America- not reality in a free-, or even mixed-market economy.

-Then Henry simply states that it's time to be socialist and forcibly take public company capital for employment, against the shareholders' wills, in the economy as government sees fit.

Of course, that last bit is sort of what Wonderboy & Co. have done with Stimulus I and II (the latter a/k/a The Jobs Act), only instead of taking corporate money directly from those firms, they just borrowed it from China and spent it, expecting to get it through higher taxes on corporations and the wealthy.

-Henry also confuses the early-mid years of American unionism with some sort of utopia, when it was, in reality, an unsustainable money grab in some then-key industrial sectors. One way they 'changed American industry forever' is drove some of it into bankruptcy, taking the union pensions with them, while driving others offshore.

Good job, Mary Kay!

- How about this passage, dripping with entitlement-speak:

"that each of our citizens deserves a shot at reaching his or her own dreams, of finding a good job, and leaving the next generation better off."

What is to prevent anyone from that shot now? Go talk to Herman Cain. Sometimes you have to make your job, rather than sit still while others hand it to you.

Perhaps if some of Mary Kay's precious union workers hadn't spent so much of their high, unionized wages on vacation homes and pickup trucks, while living lifestyles that caused them to require so much expensive medical care later in life, they'd be in better financial shape to weather the current environment. Perhaps not taken on housing debt they couldn't afford.

This is America, folks. Nobody promises you the good life. You have to earn it.

Come to think of it, maybe I have the wrong Tome Wolfe novel. Maybe the appropriate one to cite is much, much older than Bonfire.

Anyone remember Radical Chic and Maumauing the Flack Catchers?

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