Guy W. Farmer: Occupy Wall Street: Why are they? | NevadaAppeal.com

Guy W. Farmer: Occupy Wall Street: Why are they?

Guy W. Farmer
For the Nevada Appeal

My erudite friend Sam Bauman has somehow managed to convince himself that the amorphous “Occupy Wall Street” movement is the American version of the “Arab Spring,” which has deposed a couple of repressive dictators in the volatile Middle East. I disagree with my liberal friend, however, and have a couple of questions for the Occupy Wall Street protesters: Who are they and what do they really want?

The protesters run the gamut from old 1960s hippies out for one last hurrah to anarchist wannabes who want to replace free-market capitalism with government-controlled socialism. Some of them might even like to overthrow the government, although that’s not going to happen. A few of the most visible protesters are the usual suspects – the unwashed people with bright green hair who smell bad. They give the movement a bad name.

My liberal friend calls Occupy Wall Street “a lesson in history” and compares it to the Bolshevik Revolution in czarist Russia. “Soviet workers groups joined … the Bolsheviks and then ousted the provisional regime,” he wrote in an e-mail. “The pattern seems obvious. A nation blunders (and) segments of the population demonstrate” until “small, organized groups … move in and come up with objectives,” leading to a change in government.

Although that’s what happened in 20th century Russia, it’s simply not comparable to the United States in the 21st century. One reason is that Occupy Wall Street represents only a tiny fraction of our nation’s diverse population, sort of a far-left version of the right-wing Tea Party, which has never attracted more than 20 percent of the American electorate. My guess is that the Wall Streeters represent no more than 5 percent of the electorate.

What do they want? Well, that’s an interesting question. Some of them merely want their elected representatives to listen to them, which is reasonable. Others want to reform our economic system to make it more “fair.” Translation: They believe in income redistribution. At this point I’ll surprise you by agreeing with New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, who wrote that Wall Street bankers “took advantage of deregulation to run wild, and pay themselves princely sums. …” And then, when the economic bubbles burst, “the bankers were bailed out by taxpayers.”

Those same greedy bankers went on to show their gratitude, Krugman added, “by turning on the people who had saved them (the taxpayers),” throwing their support to politicians who promised to keep their taxes low and dismantle banking regulations. Now that’s an analysis I can live with.

So while I acknowledge the need to rein in Wall Street’s excesses – raising taxes on billionaires and eliminating tax exemptions for corporate jets and yachts, for example – I can’t support those who want to replace capitalism with socialism, a failed system. One last question: When will the Occupy Wall Street protesters turn on President Barack Obama? After all, it’s his economy now, and he’ll have to run on his dismal record next year.

• Guy W. Farmer, of Carson City, has followed American politics for many years.