Occupy Wall Street is a fascinating phenomenon. What started as a protest by a few hundred bored New York City college students has swelled to tens of thousands across multiple cities. And it continues to grow.
Will it have any effect? I was alive but not really aware of the Vietnam protests in the early 70’s, when tens of thousands joined in solidarity against the war. Historians probably disagree on whether those protests caused the U.S. to drop out of the war, but it was a pretty polarizing time regardless. Now, people protest the gap between the rich and the poor– at least that’s what I interpret the overall message to be– and I wonder if any of the banks are changing their business models as a result. I doubt it.
Perhaps more to the point, is this really the solution to our country’s (and our world’s) financial problems? The manifesto of the Occupy group seems to be “let’s tax the rich more!”. It seems to me that such a goal is very short-sighted and in fact smacks of some kind of revenge. We– the common people making less than a million dollars a year– always perceive the millionaires as living lavish lifestyles and stomping on the little guys. I don’t personally know any millionaires, but I doubt they’re all bad people. Should they be forced to shoulder a greater financial burden, in percentage, than others simply because their income exceeds a line we’ve drawn in the sand?
It seems to me the real problem with this whole mentality is that people seem to think raising taxes will solve our problems. I submit that we’re only giving a broken government more stuff to waste. It’s like giving an alcoholic another six-pack. Our leaders have proven time and again that they’re completely incompetent when it comes to simple budgeting. We’re a trillion and a half dollars over budget this year alone, and Congress talks of “slashing” that shortfall over the next decade. Doing the math and assuming we trim an average of $150 billion per year for ten years, we’re still left with a titanic $13.5 trillion deficit in those ten years. How is that possibly good?
So if our government can’t control its spending as it is, why would raising another few billion dollars a year from the crowd of millionaires change things? If anything, it would allow the government to dump more money into black holes like defense spending, homeland security, and a thousand ridiculous pork projects.
Don’t tax the rich. Spend less. That’s what I wish the Occupy Wall Street folks would advertise.
Regardless of how it turns out, I think we’re seeing the start of some very interesting times.