Mon, 11/17/2011 4:33 PM – Thoughts on the Occupy Wall St. Protests

On the Occupy Wall St. (OWS) protest, now spreading not only around the country but around the world students want to know why big, bad banks get bailed out but the government won’t bail students out from under huge student loans. The average student debt upon graduation is over $27,000 and much higher figures are not all uncommon. Many graduates are having a hard time finding a job.

All the emphasis on redistribution of wealth from the rich to the rest of us is pure and simple socialism, whose last heyday in the U.S. was the 1930s. To that end, one 1930s experiment that our president would love to do again is punitive tax rates on the rich. Hopefully, the Congress will not follow it up with trade wars another 1930s staple, blaming foreigners for the loss of American jobs. It is interesting how closely public discourse is following the 1930s even if the economic pain is not nearly as great this time.

Balancing the budget has not had been a real public issue for 50 years except for a brief nod during the Clinton years. Especially given the huge rush of deficit spending the last three years and encouraged by our president’s socialist rhetoric, the OWS crowd seems to think that the government has enough money to bail out everyone and that rich could pay for it all if the government would just get on them.

Comments from some 18th century luminaries might shed some light on that:
• “The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public’s money.” – Alexis de Tocqueville Democracy in America
• “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports.” – George Washington
• “America is great because America is good, if America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great!” – Alexis de Tocqueville

People have different definitions of good. I take my cues from the Bible, which contrary to the perception of many Christian Republicans has a lot to say about bringing about justice for the poor. But, Occupy Wall St. is not about helping the poor. It is a grass-roots lobbying group which wants for itself what the banks have been given. It displays economic naivete as to the extreme importance of banking to the modern economic system but more than that it is just another self-interested group wanting money from the government. On the other end of the spectrum were ads this weekend from the AARP telling retirees to let their representatives know that reducing any of their benefits would not be tolerated.

I wonder, what is the limit of individualistic self-interest when it comes to campaigning for government action?

Gone is the time when self-sacrifice was a common virtue ala WW2. Today, America as a whole is just a larger Greece, with everyone clamoring to get whatever they can from the government, the overall public good as in keeping a manageable level of public debt be damned. Willingness to sacrifice one’s own good for the common good was the ideal in ancient Greece. Plato would be horrified.

Self-sacrifice, the surest example of God’s goodness which is our highest example has been replaced by its opposite. America, as Tocqueville feared, has ceased to be good and a decline in prosperity of every kind has followed it hand-in-hand. I don’t know how to turn it around other than prayer.