05.02.2012 0

Occupy’s missed opportunity

Occupy Wall Street ProtestorsBy Bill Wilson — On May 1, 2012, the Occupy movement once again took to the streets, this time to celebrate International Workers’ Day, a leftist, invented holiday that was originally founded to promote Marxist and labor movement ideology. Eventually, it even became a national holiday of the then-Soviet Union to promote the workers’ revolution.

The ostensible idea behind the protest, as with its preceding Occupy Wall Street events, was a general strike of workers and students to shut down the economy and protest corporate “greed”. But as CNBC.com’s Jeff Cox reported in New York, “the total turnout for the morning marches wouldn’t have shut down a decent-sized side street in the Bronx, let alone any major thorougfares in the financial capital of the world.”

In other words, like last fall’s protests, Occupy’s May Day protests failed in their stated objectives to disrupt economic activity. This time, barely anybody noticed, unless one happened to catch a report of the smattering of protests on television or on the Internet.

It is perhaps an example where the reality does not measure up to the hype.

Over the past many months, there have been several comparisons made between the Occupy and Tea Party movements. In many ways, they are two sides of the same coin. The Occupy movement shares the same frustration with the Tea Party that the political system is broke, corrupt, and destroying the country.

But Occupy has failed to generate sympathy with their disruptive tactics. They lack public support because they continue, by design, to lack a coherent message or a political agenda. Instead, they appear more occupied with breaking stuff, camping out in parks, and sitting in front of buildings than actually accomplishing something meaningful.

Which is all just as well. If the protesters did manage to get organized, they’d likely demand a massive redistribution of wealth, proving to be just another orphaned offspring of Marxist ideology, only to be disregarded as quickly as Occupy’s favored tactic of seizing control of public spaces.

Compare that with the well-organized Tea Party that successfully mounted primary challenges in 2010 against Republican incumbents and appears poised to knock off long-time Indiana Senator Richard Lugar next week.

Overall, the Tea Party is engaged in a long-term campaign to reconstitute Congress — one seat at a time — with candidates that are more likely to take on the entrenched establishment. Even if Lugar ekes out a win in Indiana, his political troubles prove that the Tea Party is here to stay and that no deeply rooted incumbent on the right is safe.

In that context, the Tea Party is working successfully within the system while taking it on. In sharp contrast, the Occupy movement seemingly took the line that the system cannot be fixed from within, and so does not bother.

That is a mistake, but to be fair, given the poor performance of Congress so far at reining in the unsustainable spending and economically destructive regulations in Washington, D.C., it is hard to argue with the assessment that our political system is beyond repair. Many question if it is still representative of the consent of the governed.

As the Tea Party is rapidly learning, winning primaries and elections is not enough to undo the administrative state. But nobody said this would be easy. To win, the American people have to play the long game.

The frustration of the Occupy movement is understandable. When one in two recent college graduates cannot find work in this economy, when waste of the public treasury is at an all-time high, and when our monetary system is controlled by an unaccountable bank cartel, who isn’t frustrated?

But in the future the Occupiers may want to focus their energies on something more constructive than simply the anarchist tactic of “occupying” space based on specious First Amendment grounds of the right to assemble.

For example, recent partial audits of the Federal Reserve system revealed trillions of dollars of lending programs to bankrupt financial institutions all over the world. Beyond that, they showed some $1.25 trillion of outright bailouts of financial institutions that bet poorly on mortgage-backed securities, including $442.7 billion printed out of thin air to be given to foreign banks.

In addition, the successful Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) court case against the Fed by Bloomberg News and Fox News revealed another $15 trillion of emergency lending programs by the Fed in from March 2008 to March 2009, including $5 trillion to foreign banks.

In many cases, these were the same sets of banks coming back to the Fed, day after day, week after week, to refinance the same loans from the Fed over and over again. The Bear Stearns bankruptcy program went to the discount window to refinance the same $28 billion of loans over 65 times alone in a few short months as the company was folded into JP Morgan.

It is this same discount window today that 21 primary dealers of U.S. treasuries utilize to borrow at near-zero interest rates and then buy U.S. treasuries yielding higher rates. Taken together, these programs prove beyond any reasonable doubt that the Fed’s kick-the-can refinance scheme is the only thing holding up the entire, woefully undercapitalized global financial system.

Overall, there is an overwhelming case to be made for reform in the financial system. But Occupy seems to have little time for that. Instead, their tactics are misplaced, juvenile, and at times criminal.

They have missed the primary target, which are the government policies that created the credit bubble in the first place, wrecked the economy, and left future generations with a debt so large it cannot be repaid. How about articulating an agenda?

Occupy may have had something important to say, but it seems their moment has already passed. Misdirected frustration is no strategy for retaking the Republic. At best, it can call brief attention to an issue, but at worst, it is a recipe for anarchy. In this case, however, it may have just been a missed opportunity.

Bill Wilson is the President of Americans for Limited Government. You can follow Bill on Twitter at @BillWilsonALG.

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