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The pundits are already busily constructing the demise of “Occupy Wall Street,” swiftly and mysteriously classifying its message as both “incomprehensible” and “distinctly left.” But not only does its message seem clear, it seems universal—downright democratic (lower-case “d”).
And so, allow me to offer my messaging services to boil it down to the elements.
Government can’t fix this problem. That’s the line we’re hearing, and OWS agrees. Our elected officials are unable to solve this crisis; we need private sector job growth. Yet despite the fact that corporate earnings have continued to expand during this recession, corporations are still finding ways to be sleeker, smaller, and safer in the face of “instability.” That instability, some would argue, is the result of government regulations. But governments have been passing regulations since the its inception without ever resulting in such a panic attack. And therefore, the question rises of why “the panic” this time?
Corporations hold all of the cards. Our policy of private sector capitalism—an excellent policy, by the way, especially when paired with a sense of morality—has shifted an ever-greater reliance on the private sector to fuel our economy. We cannot opt-out of phone use, circulate our money without banks, or eat without manufacturers. Therefore the idea of “going off the grid” is a preposterous one. With their necessity firmly cemented, governments are left with no stick, only carrots. When corporations are asked to do something (i.e. hire), they ask “What’s in it for me?”
Occupy Wall Street wants to bring risk back to business. The agenda is not redistribution of wealth or tax rates; its message is in the simple idea of a return to capitalism where risk is rewarded. (Sound crazy? It isn’t.) Risk is hiring new employees, expanding business, and making small business loans. Non-risk is credit derivatives, mortgage-backed-securities, substandard insurance, and other instruments that have been engineered to be “safe bets.” This kind of win-win growth in the financial sector is a shortcut in capitalism that threatens, indeed is threatening, our entire country. And normally, it would be the role of the stablest institution, government, to take on the risk and spend, loan, and employ until others feel safe. But with a misguided spending crunch now firmly in place, the government is rationing out carrots. And thus, the stick falls in the hands of the public.
If the message of Occupy Wall Street is hard to hear, it is because they are speaking softly, and carrying a big stick.