The “Occupy Wall Street” movement is kicking up a lot of dust, and that cloud is growing. The protest apparently has spread to the nation’s capital, and to communities as far south as Florida and as far west as Oregon.
Americans are understandably frustrated with fat-cat CEOs and stagnant unemployment numbers, and they have decided to make their voices heard. But this Occupy Wall Street movement should seriously look at itself and ask what exactly it’s protesting — and to what end. Aside from taking shots at convenient targets and typical villains, these protests don’t seem to have much purpose.
That is not to say these folks don’t have a right to be angry. They should be. This also is not to say that Americans should sit back complacently while the economy continues to drift along listlessly. We should all push for change, and have a right to be heard.
But the sad reality is that the Occupy Wall Street crowd has missed the point and is wasting an opportunity to be part of the solution. At best the group is a distraction and at worst they are simply part of the problem with our broken-down economy.
The movement has no leadership. The protests don’t need a ringleader telling folks where to stand, or an anointed one to win a presidential nomination. But it does need a person or persons who can intelligently articulate what’s going on and why, prioritize demands and give riled-up protestors something concrete to focus on. Which leads me to my next point …
The movement is a mishmash of ideals. Is the goal to raise taxes on corporations or wealthy individuals? Is it an effort to spur job creation or claw back profits from big business (which just so happens to provide big employment)? Does Occupy Wall Street want an end to globalization, even if it means no more borrowing from China, slower exports and $10-per-gallon gas? Do we want to protect government jobs or erase the national debt? The goals are not only disparate — they also are contradictory.
Some even think a policy mission is unnecessary. More troublesome is the fact some people think it’s not important for protesters to have clear goals — just simply to show their solidarity and outrage at the status quo. Well, maybe misery loves company, but it’s hard to imagine moving beyond the current mess if nobody has any solutions or a sense of urgency to enact those ideas. Some hope Occupy Wall Street is just the incubator for future solutions, but if there isn’t direction by now, there might never be.
Villains are oversimplified. If the difficulties of our day were easily identifiable and easily solved, Occupy Wall Street wouldn’t even exist — because logical people could have fixed things already. A sign like “We are the 99%” is a great placard, but is it true? Is there really an evil cabal of a few thousand Americans keeping the poor, huddled masses under their thumbs? Former BofA CEO Ken Lewis, who got a $125 million payday when he left the smoldering wreckage of a financial company in 2009, is as good of a poster child as any. But do we really believe he and a handful of others are wholly to blame for the 2008-09 crisis? And even if so, do we still blame him now that it’s 2011? What about the gym teacher from Las Vegas who took out a “liar’s loan” he could never afford on a $500,000 house? Let’s be honest about the culpability of the American public here with its shared addition to debt and living beyond its means.