As someone concerned about the success of the US economy, I have been doing a lot of thinking about my response to some of the opinions and demands put forth by demonstrators from Occupy Wall Street and related movements. In some ways, I agree with them, but not in the way that they would think, however philosophically, we are on opposite sides of the spectrum.
The Occupy Wall Street movement is diverse and has no clear objective or political platform at this time. However, common Occupy themes could be summarized as follows:
- Disgust with big banks and corporation getting bailouts while average Americans have continued to see erosion in employment and income.
- Disgust with inherent “unfairness” over the fact that the richest have more than they used to and that there is a growing income disparity between the richest and the poorest.
- A desire that the government “do something” to redistribute wealth from the richest to the poorest and regulate banks more so that the problems in 1 and 2 become less severe.
However, let’s break down what the problems are leading up to our current economic stagnation:
- Ongoing outsourcing of jobs, especially in manufacturing, seeking lower labor costs, development costs, and easier regulatory climate. This leads to a shrinking jobs base and lower income in the population. The growing trade deficit that also results shrinks Americans’ total assets and leads to growing public and private debt.
- Housing bubble. Spurred by cheap lending and fiat currency and government policies aimed to make housing “affordable for everyone” caused housing prices to soar artificially. Buying and selling houses even became a good investment business. Of course, anyone who was honest with themselves knew that it would not last. It was the government through Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac that pushed out and guaranteed all those loans beyond what private enterprise was willing to do on its own. That created such a huge inflationary bubble that it was a giant explosion when it burst. It wasn’t the banks that started it, it was our government.
Then came the bank bailouts and an even further lowering of the federal reserve interest rate. It was hoped that this government intervention in the market would finally be useful. What it did instead was give cheap money to banks who then turned around and invested it in stocks, created a second stock bubble. Then stocks crashed again when the Greece news hit.
As you can see, government intervention only creates unforseen problems. It may make a few people wealthy by riding on the misfortunes of others, but it rarely increases overall wealth and economic production. Rather, it usually has a negative effect on overall production and tends to drive industry overseas. The richest get richer when they are the first to spend money they receive when cheap money is allowed by the Federal Reserve. They then buy stock, houses and other things and drive up prices for the rest of us. This is an invisible tax on the middle class and the poor. Then when these bubbles pop, the ones who lose the most are the poor and middle class. Is this what OWS wants more of?
I would side with Ron Paul in stopping ALL government mucking in the markets, whether it be the Fed and too big to fail banks, the minimum wage, entitlement programs, and most workplace regulations. Let freedom reign. Let fit companies survive and poor performers dwindle away. Let’s make America the most attractive place for businesses to relocate to. (By the way, you may be surprised to learn that it was Medicare that caused the cost of medicine to skyrocket by providing unlimited payment and separating the medical consumer from the payor).
Rather than rehashing the failed social democrat/progressive policies of the New Deal, the Fair Deal, the War on Poverty and the Great Society, let’s resume the ideals of freedom and liberty that made this country great in the first place. Let’s stop bailing out banks and stop printing money that helps only bankers. Let’s banish workplace regulations and allow workers and employers to freely engage with each other without the government sticking its nose in it. Let’s let those who are inclined work as hard as they want for as much money as they can get people to voluntarily pay them.
Occupy Wall Street – you should occupy the Fed and the Department of Labor!