Tuesday, December 10, 2013
The Occupy Wall Street movement reminds me of the tea party movement.
A protester in Monument Square takes down a tent Tuesday after police demanded its removal.
2011 Press Herald file
Both factions are angry at some faceless "other." The tea party was angry at "big government." This presumably does not include the Defense or Homeland Security departments. The Occupy Wall Street faction is angry at "the rich" and "corporations." This presumably does not include Warren Buffett or Sen. John Kerry, nor National Public Radio or Amtrak.
Each faction decries a different set of injustices. The tea party sees regulation and taxation as obstacles to growth. It thinks our generous social safety net discourages work and creates dependency. The Occupy faction sees an enormous disparity in wealth distribution and views the current political system as favoring the wealthy at the expense of the poor.
In short, both factions cite real and imagined problems, but neither demonstrates an understanding of those issues. Surely, regulation and tax policies are cumbersome. This causes businesses to incur excessive compliance costs and makes tax collection more expensive for the IRS.
Surely some in our society do abuse our generous social safety net. But not all regulations, taxes and entitlements are wasteful, cumbersome or abused. This nuance is lost on much of the tea party.
Likewise, the disparity between rich and poor is not healthy for society. Our current political system certainly favors those who can afford lobbyists, give generous campaign donations or funnel money to politicians in exchange for political favors.
But not all wealth disparities are due to gaming the system or being taken advantage of. Not all politicians are corrupt. Not all lobbyists act outside of the public interest. Corporations are not inherently evil.
This nuance is lost on much of the Occupy faction. Rather than seeking to understand these issues, each faction peddles easy answers.
This won't end well.
The photograph on the front page of the Oct. 4 Press Herald puts the "anti-capitalism protest" in perspective. Most of those young marchers on Congress Street are simply having fun and probably wouldn't know a hedge fund from a hedgehog.
But their recruiters succeeded in capturing Page 1.
Old Orchard Beach
It has been at least two hours since I read your lead story on the front page of the Oct. 4 paper, "Adding their voices" (on the protests about Wall Street), and I still cannot wipe that bemused smile off my face.
This article has transported me back to the '60s, when we were treated to protests across the country by what were then called "hippies."
People with painted faces, jugglers and costumed protesters wandering aimlessly in the streets and parks with dog-eared posters stating "Make Love, Not War" and, oh yes, "The Man Is Keeping Us Down." All of them had their own message.
The current protests, in the tongue-in-cheek words of a great American, Yogi Berra, are like "deja vu all over again."
I would like to be able to take a position on this show of shows, but their voices and messages are all over the place and confusing to an old guy like me. Maybe a few nights in a damp park will give them some clarity and thin the ranks a bit.
Until then, I am getting my tie-dyed T-shirt, headband and hula hoop ready for this weekend. One can never be overprepared, you know. By then I may actually have been successful in finding one of them committed enough to actually make me understand what this is all about.
Oh yes, one more thing: Do any of these people work for a living? How fortunate that they have all these days to wander and parade aimlessly on the streets of Portland looking for a cause. I am jealous!
(Continued on page 2)