I recently visited Occupy Washington, D.C., just a few blocks from the White House. I congratulated the protesters there for having a list of responsible principles of non-violence. I disagree with their stated demands, the first official list I’ve seen. My response to those demands follows.
1.) The rich are already taxed by states and feds at up to 50% of income, while the lowest earning 47% of Americans are not taxed at all on income. While never decrying the immense incomes of actors and sports stars, Occupy crowds decry corporate owners and employees who actually provide jobs, develop products and pay the taxes which provide the safety net for the poor.
2) Wouldn't we all wish for a world with no enemies, no wars, no evil men attempting to take over the world? Unless Occupy protesters want to have a dictator or tyrant who cares not for their concerns at all, we must defend our freedoms.
3) Yes, the social safety net needs to be protected. Our money is not now wisely spent, fraud is rampant, unintended consequences increase government dependency, and government has defined poverty up in order to get more and more people on welfare. We have a multitude of poverty programs caring for the truly needy. Social Security is not strengthened by decrying the need to raise the age of retirement as we reach longer life expectancies. As to Medicare, all Americans receive Medicare when they reach the age of 65, whether they want it or not.
4) The end to corporate welfare is a laudable goal. I assume they disapprove of the recent government bailouts. Do they think this should also apply to government grants to failing environmental companies which have products which no one could afford to buy without government's interference, grants which turn into slush funds for companies which quickly go bankrupt? The basic axiom of crony capitalism is that one doesn’t need to break the law when many loopholes exist, an axiom which also works well for politicians.
5) It would be a wonderful world if we could actually produce enough solar energy, nuclear energy and windmills to provide enough electricity to live in a developed way. Four decades ago Gary, Indiana had orange air from steel mills which ran with no controls. Lake Erie was once so polluted that the lake itself caught fire. Pollution of air and water is dramatically lower now, and we should continue to make reasonable attempts to protect our environment.
6) Worker's rights are protected – those of all workers. The days of terrible abuses of employees was certainly ended by unions, whose bloated benefits now put budgets at risk. Capitalism allows workers to leave one company to work for another which gives better benefits, making a competitive environment which forces companies to compete for the best workers. The rights of those who wish to work without a union, the vast majority of Americans, should also be protected, from forced membership, from having to pay dues to union bosses, from having to make their votes in public, and from having their union dues sent to just one political party regardless of the beliefs of the worker. The right to vote for collective bargaining is a protected right. It should not be a command.
7) Jobs? They are created by companies which take risks in order to develop services and products which consumers want and need. When government provides all jobs, sooner or later the government runs out of other people’s money, as "the rich" decide to avoid tyranny by closing their businesses or taking jobs overseas.
8) Let's do get money out of politics! I love that one! How on earth do they plan to do this by excoriating corporations instead of Congress and the President? Politicians are forced to be money-raisers from their first day in office. Perhaps Occupy would approve of laws which force politicians to have the same health care, benefits and pensions as do the “folks”, as our President calls us. Congress should be forced to pass no law from which they are exempt, such as the currently exposed legal insider trading.
We need fresh solutions to make capitalism work once again.