Occupational Therapy for Wall Street Demonstrators

You've probably caught wind of the "Occupy Wall St." demonstrations that have taken root in major cities across the country.  Seemingly the latest trend in coffee-shop activism, the protests have hit a nerve in the nation's collective self-conscious by targeting systematized financial disparity.  

The 99%, as they call themselves, are a loose conglomeration of mostly Gen-Y social-justice warriors with an indignant flair for the dramatic.  The group's identification stems from a concern that 99% of the country is being exploited for wealth by a domineering 1%.  It would be difficult to deny that such a disparity does exist, but the solutions are far less agreeable.  While many on the so-called "right" of the political spectrum would likely support the protests in nominal terms, the reality is that "Occupy Wall St." is quickly becoming the toast of "leftist" establishment operatives.  In fact, the political disparity may be as daunting as the financial.

Indeed, the engine behind "Occupy Wall St." is fueled by a vendetta against "capitalism" as a system of economy and coercive redistribution of wealth as the ultimate goal.  Any good doctor knows the importance of identifying the symptoms of an ailment as being distinct from the underlying cause.  It seems that the core of "Occupy Wall St." has identified the symptoms of our nation's financial malignment, but has mistaken the symptoms for the cause.  Unfortunately, their present diagnosis could trigger more harm than good.

While empathizing with the very basic tenents of the "Occupy Wall St." demonstrations, Sheldon Richman has posted a poignant analysis correcting the misdirected motivations of the disenfranchised activists.

Here are some quotes from Richman's article:

Unfortunately, the protesters most likely fail to appreciate that everything associated with the Great Recession is a product of a long-standing and deep-seated partnership between big influential business/financial interests and government – the corporate state. Through most of American history, banks and other financial institutions have operated in league with government, especially since the Federal Reserve opened its doors nearly a century ago, and that this money-manipulating cartel has facilitated war, cheap credit to favored interests, and bailouts.

What the protesters miss is that corporate power is derived from government power – it’s the most dangerous derivative. Without State power no bank (or collection of them) could set the economy on a balsawood platform of inflated currency and cheap credit, creating the conditions for recession and long-term unemployment; nor could it stick taxpayers with the cost of bad investments. Such mischief requires a central bank and congressional power to compel the taxpayers. Washington and Wall Street need each other. They don’t agree on everything, but their public feuds should not mislead anyone into thinking they are adversaries. They are in cahoots, dependent on a system that constrains regular people’s honest economic activities and benefits an exploitative elite.

Ultimately, "Occupy Wall St." is a beneficial opportunity to spark debate regarding the fundamental economic issues of our time.  While many of the demonstrators will have to overcome years of pre-conditioned political dissonance in order to arrive at the necessary solutions, the underlying problems are very straightforward when honestly evaluated, and the debate should yield healthy results.  At the very least, it seems as if the public at large could be gradually honing in on the most pervasive sources of financial injustice.  In other words, if you're investing in disgruntled activism, sell short on Wall St. and buy long on the Federal Reserve.

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