We at Everyday Counsel support the overall goal of #OWS, but are unimpressed with the manner in which that group and its supports have articulated what they want. This post and several following it will deal with the #OWS protests and analysis of the goals and ideals surrounding them, offering some suggestions along the way.
There has been a lots of speculation as to what the point of all of the #OWS protesting actually is. Almost as loud are the admonishments made by some, openly or in private, about how people should accept the way the economy is being run and money is being managed because “Financial services are one of the last things we do in this country and do it well…”
That quote ends with a threat that people should stop attacking financial services, or face having more jobs outsourced.
The consensus within some of the money managing circles is that the people protesting are unsophisticated; lacking the knowledge necessary to form any kind of opinion as to whether the financial industry is doing right by the average consumer.
Maybe these voices are right.
The only problem there is that one does not need to have a vast understanding of micro and macro economics, nor the ability to read a balance sheet, nor an advanced understanding of what derivative trading is to understand that what is happening now is not working. The funny thing is, the people claiming that the #OWS protestors are unsophisticated, seem to lack a good deal of understanding of how the economy works, just don’t care, or have gone about maliciously attempting to earn what otherwise should have been an unearnable few million dollars.
The people delivering the quotes in the New York Times’ recent article about what financial industry types are saying behind closed doors (quoted above) demonstrates a shockingly paternalistic and ignorant point of view about the state of the nation and the #OWS protests.
The most obvious thing they are missing is that Wall Street is not the sole target, and truly they are one piece to a larger more broken system. (Maybe this is the reason why some of these people feel so sensitive these days?)
Something else they’ve missed, is that, while hedge funds, venture capital firms, and other financial service companies do their part in motivating portions of the economy, individuals spending money is what actually lets is function; to wit, the financial services companies provide a kind of bonus growth within the economy. They cannot, however, provide the kind of kick to the economy’s butt that the release of, say, the iPhone 4s can. Apple cannot rely on a hedge fund to buy its phones. Venture Capitalists will buy the phone, but given how few of them there actually are, their individual purchases will mean little. This means that no matter what they believe about their impact on the economy, their institutions are much less viable than focused groups of average Americans.
This kind of thinking extends to corporate America as a whole and it has made being an individual less great than one might think. More people are living pay check to pay check, and in some cases it actually pays to stay unemployed. Meanwhile, the roughly 29 million companies, partnerships, and business entities in the country are gaining more and more power over the economy and within the U.S. politico (and really it’s more like 7.7 million companies).
More and more the American individual is being discounted as unimportant. Politicians and economists pay lip service to concepts like job creation, but policy decisions currently point to fiscal austerity over spending on employment. This means that no one is going to be hiring because they simply do not have a reason.
Which bring us back to #OWS. People are very much feeling the squeeze of a receding economy and if you listen to what people are saying about the possibility of creating new jobs, there is no place for them. More and more corporations have a voice that can be heard, and it is being demanded that people live with the policy decisions those companies lobby for.
It seems to us, that #OWS is about pointing to a series of inequities wherein a very tiny minority is making decisions that the rest of us have to live with and suffer for.
We the People are not being represented and it is about damned time that changes.