Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Occupying a Fence on Wall Street

by Chris McGinty (According To Whim .com)

I guess it’s about time that I wrote my thoughts on Occupy Wall Street, even if I don’t have that many. Let me start by saying that in most cases I’m a social liberal and a fiscal conservative. Mostly, I’m just a fence sitter. People seem to think that fence sitting is not making up your mind about something. I’ve been accused of not taking a side so that no matter what I can say that I was right. I’m not sure how that works with the accusation that once I have an opinion about something that I can’t be swayed, but that’s ok. To me fence sitting is more like not choosing a side immediately. You sit in the middle and look at all sides and then you figure out where to go.

As near as I can tell, Occupy Wall Street is a liberal movement that sprung up because our liberal president didn’t bring about the change that he promised. This of course interests me, because the conservative side of the argument seems to want to attack the protesters as though they were singing the praises of Obama. I think if I was going for a conservative spin I would be like, “What we have here is real Americans using their first amendment right to peaceful protest to speak out against being misled by people in power. The interesting part is that they are liberals who are upset with their liberal leader for not delivering on his promises.” Bam. Suddenly we have President Perry for four years.

But the conservative news… oops, I mean the conservative opinion mongers have trouble speaking in a way that rises above elementary school taunting. Instead of saying, “The protesters have interesting ideas that don’t agree with my opinions on fiscal responsibility,” they come out with the equivalent of, “The protesters are ugly and their mamas dress them funny.” They say things like, “These are a bunch of unemployed hippies.”

Normally, this type of tactic is used to deflect thinking from the actual issue. It’s the same thing as taking on our national deficit by saying that it’s liberal spending, but then not being willing to cut spending. The weird thing is that I see another odd paradox in the unemployed protesters argument. If nearly every one of those protesters are actually unemployed, then doesn’t it speak to just how bad unemployment is in this nation. If I was going for the conservative spin again, I would say, “It’s no wonder these liberals are protesting their own president, they want jobs, but there aren’t enough jobs created under this administration.” But no. They say, “These are just a bunch of lazy slobs who decided that they would just take their unemployment checks and go protest.” This is a weird argument because it more or less says that the unemployment rate isn’t our president’s fault because the unemployed won’t go get all the great jobs that are available.

My problem with the coverage of the Occupy Wall Street movement is that I’m not hearing anyone talk about what the actual problem is, you know, aside from trying to shame people into not using their first amendment right to free protest. The problem is that even if you agree with the Occupy Wall Street beliefs; asking the government to fix it is the wrong way to go. If you agree with it then as a society, and, for those of you who vote, as voters, we should be dealing with the gap between the haves and the have nots on our own, not asking the government to fix the problem. If you agree with it then we should be lowering the basic power scheme of corporations ourselves, not asking the government to fix the problem.

If Occupy Wall Street is outrage against 1% of the population controlling 38% of the wealth, if Occupy Wall Street is an outrage against the excess wealth of corporations, then this is what the 99% of the population should be doing.

Step One: Save money. Work two jobs for a while and live off the income of one. If you’re married or living with a partner, live off the higher of the two incomes and save the rest. If even half of our society did this, we would have a significant middle class again.

Step Two: Seek out small businesses for any purchases you can make through small businesses. The fact is that major corporations will lose all of their power to influence the government through lobbying the moment that they are profiting, but not excessively profiting. You don’t need the government to fix that.

Step Three: When you do purchase through large businesses, find as many as you can that operate in a way that is ethical and pro-consumer. I don’t think that we really care all that much that corporations have a lot of money. They provide jobs. We need jobs. I think that we don’t like corporations that misuse the money.

Step Four: Use the charitable donations tax break to lessen the need for government programs. Be sure to pick charities and non-profits that make things happen that you wish to see happen without losing too much of their donations to operations costs.

Step Five: View yourself as a profit center. This ties into Step One, but I want to give it its own section. The biggest problem that I see right now, as money goes, is that we would be afraid to work for a company that handles its money the way that many of us do. We would be afraid that we would show up one week for our paycheck to find out that the company was in bankruptcy. Saving is simply the way that we profit as workers. Example in Step Six.

Step Six: Avoid loans and credit as much as possible. The problem with interest is that it is money that is being paid out that isn’t being earned. Technically, it is a service, but it’s not a service that does something for you specifically. It’s not like hiring someone to mow your lawn or fix your car. It is simply purchasing something now as opposed to later. That’s all. I talked about being a profit center in step five. Let me ask you this. Would you start a business where you buy a product for $1 a unit and then sell that product for 95 cents a unit? No. You wouldn’t. You would be basically giving your money away, right? You wouldn’t even turn around and sell it for $1 a unit would you? That’s a rough equivalent of what you do when you work and then spend your whole paycheck without saving, and especially if you incur loan or credit debt while you’re at it.

Step Seven: Make your vote count. I’ve heard dumb people say that if you don’t vote you don’t have the right to bitch. My take on it is that if you vote for someone you don’t really back, you might as well have not voted. Rather than blindly voting down party lines, how about if you sit down each election and ask yourself, what are the three most important issues to me right now? Then when you vote, vote for the candidate who actually works (rather than just speaking about doing it) toward making your three priorities a reality. Even better, don’t vote for those who don’t. At the very least, even if you feel compelled to vote for the lesser of two evils, make it an informed decision. It may not make sense to some people to bitch if you don’t vote, but to me it makes no sense to be lazy about voting and then bitch about what you’re stuck with as leaders.

In closing, I just want to say that I get what the Wall Street Occupiers are upset about. The social liberal in me wants to even agree with them. A people oppressed by financial inequality are still a people oppressed. The problem is that the fiscal conservative in me doesn’t agree with trying to make the government fix the problem by punishing, through higher taxation, those who have made the kind of money that the Occupiers are angry that they aren’t making. It just seems like there is a contradiction in there somewhere, because the moment you tax the corporations at a higher tax rate, the lay-offs will begin, and the rehiring at a lower rate of pay will follow. To me that doesn’t fix the earnings gap.

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