Thursday, October 27, 2011

'Occupying' Our Sense of Right & Wrong: Calls for Modifying the U.S. Economic System

The ugly scene in Oakland this week -- where police broke up an Occupy Oakland protest that resulted in the serious injury of an Iraq War vet -- I fear, is just the beginning. Is this scene – where officials violently cracked down on protesters (some of whom, a minority of the protesters, were inciting the police with their own violence) – going to replicate itself all over the nation in other disgruntled, makeshift tent cities?

As more and more Occupy Wall Street protests spring up -- newly emboldened by recent Congressional Budget Office numbers showing that over the past 30 years the top 1 percent of U.S. wage owners have seen their incomes rise by 275 percent as compared to 40 percent for middle income wage earners – and you consider that a recent with a New York Times/CBS poll found that 74 percent of Americans believe our country is on the wrong track, and you find that there’s an overall unsettled feeling out there, like the way the air feels right before a big storm, electric, with an edge of unpredictable danger and the meteorologists can only speculate about what's going to happen next.

While I was watching the new footage of the Oakland protests, I read Nicholas Kristof’s column in today’s New York Times about the merits of some of the Occupy Wall Street group’s arguments. And damn, was that piece powerful and persuasive. Some excerpts from the writer who billed himself “as passionate a believer in capitalism as anyone:”

“Capitalism is so successful an economic system partly because of an internal discipline that allows for loss and even bankruptcy. It’s the possibility of failure that creates the opportunity for triumph. Yet many of the major banks are too big to fail so they can privatize profits while socializing risk.”

Privatizing the profits while socializing the risk . . . I haven't heard anyone put the current economic situation that succinctly and that well.

Kristof also quoted the CEO of “one of the world’s largest money managers” as suggesting that what we need is to modify the nation’s economy, practice “'inclusive capitalism’ and embrace broad-based job creation while curbing excessive inequality.”

“You cannot be a good house in a rapidly deteriorating neighborhood,” the CEO told Kristof. “The credibility and the fair functioning of the neighborhood matter a great deal. Without that, the integrity of the capitalist system will weaken further.”

Then you listen to conservative Republican Joe Scarborough in the video above from today's Morning Joe, where he’s talking about a guy in his late 20s who worked for a hedge fund a half dozen years ago who complained to Scarborough that he was only making $2-3 million a year and was thinking of leaving his company so he could go to a boutique hedge fund where he’d get an even more lucrative salary. Noting that even CEOs who run their companies into the ground now receive multi-million-dollar golden parachutes, he said, “It is so skewed that it is perverse.”

Why yes, yes it is.

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