Occupy Wall Street: Right Idea, Wrong Address
Anyone who hasn't heard about the Occupy Wall Street protest that has spurred demonstrations across the country obviously hasn't been paying too much attention to the news lately. While it's unclear exactly what these protestors want (they've admitted they don't have specific goals), it is plain as day that these people are pretty upset, and rightfully so.
The unfortunate reality is that the anger expressed by these outspoken Americans is justified, but misdirected. Many have taken the rhetoric to heart and believed politicians, many of whom have blamed business for the problems now facing our nation.
Of course, it seems completely natural for many of today's elected officials to lay the blame on corporations, especially given that many officials, particularly those in the upper-echelons of the federal government, tend to pursue socialist agendas. They're naturally anti-business.
The problem is that the protestors we've seen all over the news are mad at the wrong people. They shouldn't be mad at businesses, but at the same government that has been telling them where to direct their anger. Though business certainly hasn't helped, nearly all of this nation's problems that have these protestors upset can be directly traced back to bad policy.
Take, for instance, the mortgage bubble. The beginnings of this travesty can be traced back to President Clinton and a Republican-controlled Congress. First President Clinton established his policy that home ownership was a fundamental American right. Next, they encouraged federal agencies like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which are completely unaccountable to voters or any other authority, to help pursue that policy.
As if that weren't enough, under Clinton and his Republican Congress, the Glass-Steagall Act was repealed, which allowed banks to mix banking and investment [read: gambling] operations. Glass-Steagall was enacted in the 1930s after the explosion of massive debt accumulated and encouraged among banks led to Black Monday, the Great Depression, and a wave of bank failures (sound familiar?).
To summarize: First, politicians decided they wanted everyone to own a home, whether they could actually pay for it or not. Next, they repealed a law that had been on the books for over a half-century specifically to restrict banks from making dumb loans and/or cheating their clients by selling them what they know to be bad investments. Finally, politicians encouraged banks and businesses to create a wave of expanding debt to finance home purchases and new constructions they had to know was unsustainable beyond a certain amount that the market could absorb.
The bottom line here is that big business was hardly to blame for the catastrophe. What they did was not only legal, it was encouraged by government policy structured to win over the hearts of voters.
And when everything went south, did the government change its thinking? Of course not. Look no further than the 2008 bailouts. Instead of forcing business to deal with the consequences, the federal government decided to bail them out at taxpayers' expense. In many cases businesses didn't even want bailout money; it was forced on them.
There is actually one story of the heads of several banks being called into a board room at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, where they were FORCED to sign letters of acceptance for government funds. Then-Secretary of Treasury Hank Paulson actually wouldn't allow these CEOs to leave until they had accepted government money.
Now, admittedly Mr. Paulson served under a Republican president; but that doesn't make him any less of a crook or a lowlife. The man should be facing kidnapping charges, among others.
So should the Occupy protestors be mad? Absolutely! But they shouldn't be on Wall Street demonstrating outside banks, but marching on Capitol Hill calling for smarter policy!
All of this really goes to show the significance the upcoming presidential election. It may be the most important in generations; for in the end it will come down to a Socialist running against a Capitalist - a Liberal Democratic candidate against a Tea Party-er.
What we will see in 2012 on the one side is an anti-business candidate who finds it necessary for government to appropriate business, to provide a central planning authority for the US economy because, obviously, the market simply can't be trusted to make sound decisions (warning: sarcasm).
On the other side will stand a candidate who wants to limit government regulations to those that are necessary to keep businesses from making poor decisions that may have catastrophic consequences on the level we have seen since 2007, while at the same time permitting healthy economic growth. However, such a candidate will also want to force companies to suffer the consequences of any bad decisions they make, as opposed to giving them a bailout to cushion their fall.
Between the two, it the preferable choice would seem obvious.
As a side note, Dock David Treece is currently competing for his own column on financial news site MarketWatch.com, but he needs our help. Readers are encouraged to visit http://blogs.marketwatch.com/great-columnist/2011/10/18/bernankes-money-binge/ and use the Facebook 'like' button at the bottom of the article to vote for his work by October 30th. Let's help one of Safehaven's own!