Occupy Wall Street at 2 Months
I work next door to Foley Square, just blocks away from Zuccotti Park. For the past two months I've occasionally walked by the protestors, but haven't paid that much attention. I've never been a fan of extremist politics of any kind, so I've been fine with just reading about the Occupiers rather than engaging any of them. Now that Bloomberg has raised the stakes and the movement seems to be growing, however, I want to see where this all ends up. From the looks of tonight's rally, I'd be surprised if this doesn't survive in some form through next November.
Despite what the right tries to convince everyone of, this is not a group of spoiled and lazy kids who don't want to work. Yes, there probably are some of those out there, but those out there protesting are far more diverse than people are willing to admit. Those camping in the park have probably mostly been from the 18-35 crowd, but those who came out for tonight's rally were, from the looks of it, from every age group and economic class as well (although they were sorely lacking in racial diversity).
Here are my thoughts right now about this movement:
I'm glad this is going on. One of my biggest concerns for years has been the growing economic inequality in the U.S. Economic inequality is bad for our Democracy, and it helps create a system that sacrifices the interests of the many to those of the few. Our middle class has been hollowing out for decades, and nothing is being done about it. Banks have been left to do whatever they want, and practically get rewarded for their irresponsibility. They'll do it again if allowed to, and those who make out will be happy to move to France, or New Zealand, or wherever else if and when our economy implodes the next time and things really get messy.
On the other hand, hearing and reading some of the demands of some of these protesters reminds me of why I'm a Republican. Most of the solutions I've heard from the Occupy people involve drastic, enormously expensive, big-government actions. I don't think students with government loans should be bailed out. I don't believe people should be allowed to retire when they're 55, and I don't believe we should be talking about increasing social security payments, especially when our federal budget is already bursting at the seams.
The rich have done extremely well in recent years, and should be paying much more in taxes than the middle class, but I'm leery of people who think we should confiscate most of anyone's wealth in one full swoop in an attempt to solve current social or economic problems.
Government should provide a safety net for those who cannot take care of themselves (kids with deadbeat parents, the disabled, etc.) and I'm fine with Government guaranteeing some basic retirement for the elderly (even those who neglected to prepare for retirement themselves). When it comes to making sure we have a stable, healthy middle class, however, I'd much rather see our government work to institute policies that encourage the growth of well-paying jobs. Globalization has benefited the few-- including the fortunate in the developing world-- but it has wreaked havoc on American workers. Meanwhile, Washington stands by waiting for things to magically get better, promising that our half-baked version of the free market will solve all our problems if we just give it more time.