Monday, December 12, 2011

My response to Occupy Wall Street

Last week I published a summary of my interpretation of Occupy Wall Street. The movement has sprung up in many cities and appears to be similar in all of these. This is my response to those movements.

First, let me say that I get it. There's a lot of frustration out there. People are out of jobs and worse yet, they feel their future has been stolen by financiers who haven't been and won't be punished for their incompetence. People like Patrick Meighan have been arrested (read his story here) and jailed over non-violent protests. I know that there have been some criminal acts committed by some of the Occupiers, but that doesn't change the message these people are trying to bring (it doesn't excuse it, but that's a different story).

I also agree with parts of the message of the Occupy movement, the financiers should be punished. The banks should have been allowed to fail and the people creating the mess should certainly not be in charge of the business that I involuntarily bailed out. And like them, I'm not convinced that the system can work itself out - I'm just that cynical.

But I also know that we live in the United States of America, a country with a system of laws and that we have to obey those laws. Even if politicians and bankers committed fraud and theft, that doesn't give me the right to break laws. If someone refused to leave when instructed by police, they deserve to be arrested. When Mr. Meighan (same story as above) was arrested, he complained in his blog that in most situations of this type, "the police just give you a ticket and let you go. It costs you a couple hundred dollars." One thing that is different in his case is that he would have gladly taken the ticket and ripped it up and never left the park he occupied. Police have an obligation to enforce the law (which he acknowledges in his blog) and in that case that meant physically removing the Occupiers and cleaning out the park.

I also know that it's possible to move up in the world. I grew up in a not-too-priviledged environment. I won't go into the details, but my college was paid on a combination of scholarships and grants (until I lost the grant because I made too much in a below-minimum wage job). I have worked at one job or another (and sometimes two at the same time) since 1973. My father taught me that there is always a job available for someone who was willing to work. This past weekend, I heard that Scheider National Trucking needs to hire 41,000 and Pizza Hut needs to hire 28,000. These may not be jobs that people want or may not pay as much as their last job, but they are jobs. And they pay at least minimum wage.

I decided sometime back to adopt the slogan "Think Globally, Act Locally." What that means to me is to elect the kind of representatives who push an agenda of personal responsibility. I believe this is the only way (if there's a way) to fix our national problem. By encouraging people to work, even at low-paying jobs, to pay off debts and to support the family, politicians begin encouraging a way out. As for acting locally, charity begins at home, helping the people in your community. I can't help Mr. Meighan in LA, but I can help the single lady in our church who sells real estate and hasn't sold any in a while. I can help the people who will come to me in February through April to file their tax returns (without charging them) so they can get the refunds and credits that are available under current law. I can help the couple whose husband is in a wheel chair and unable to work.

So while I understand the Occupy movement, I can't say I agree with it. I believe that instead of protesting, the occupiers would be better of returning to work and starting their own personal recovery. That's my thoughts, what are yours?

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