The OWS Dream
The Occupy Wall Street demonstrators, while all over the spectrum in their demands, have one thread in common (beyond their inconceivable level of ignorance): they hate capitalism, are spoiled by living in a prosperous society, and have a socialist/Marxist vision of utopia. While refusing to admit the failure of this mindset in other nations, the American incarnation appears to be convinced that by their sheer determination and self-assessed superior intellect, they know the key to a "fair and just" society: themselves and redistribution. It is little wonder why Barack Obama was so quick to endorse this juvenile and narcissistic movement; he would be there organizing it if weren't for his day job.
Unfortunately, in the United States, there are just not enough true-believers, so a well-covered combination carnival atmosphere and faux revolution are in order. Much is dependent on the mainstream media, living in their own fog of self-importance, to play up the so-called virtues of the movement and their really, really genuine empathy with the downtrodden exploited by the cigar-chomping oppressors of mankind -- anyone who may own a business, or worse, work for a bank or on Wall Street. The very sound of the word "corporation" conjures up the specter of Godzilla trampling innocent women and children as it devours anything in its path. Accordingly, there must be a better, more equitable economic and political system to replace capitalism, the scourge of the human race.
To them, there is. And this success story is only 1,300 miles south of the United States: Venezuela, the home of Hugo Chávez, the darling of the Hollywood left and the Occupy Wall Street crowd. You see, Hugo really hates capitalism and those who pursue wealth and create jobs, so he has nationalized hundreds of companies and trumped up charges against their owners, all in the name of social justice. There are now virtually no privately owned major corporations (so that evil word can now be struck from the Venezuelan lexicon).
As a further benefit to the Venezuelan society, nearly all of the owners of these businesses and the vast majority of the country's private sector have shut up shop and fled the country, taking their capital with them. Not to worry, however -- Venezuela must now import many goods it used to produce, as non-oil exports have ground to a halt. Petroleum exports used to account for 78% of the nation's dollar intake a mere 10 years ago; it now accounts for 92%.
However, the ideal socialism of Hugo is also helping the nation with its cash needs by selling even less oil now than in 1998. As part of the "revolution," the former managers and operators of the state oil firm PDVSA had to be replaced -- and they were, by good Chavez loyalists. The result: oil production has fallen from 3.3 million barrels per day in 1998 to 2.25 million barrels today. However, because of domestic needs and commitments to regional allies, 1.0 million barrels are sold at subsidized prices, leaving just 1.25 million barrels to be sold at full export prices. Not a problem; instead of reinvesting cash in the industry for the future, just spend nearly all of the money on subsidizing domestic oil, clothing, and a myriad of newly imported products that were once produced in-country by those evil capitalists.
Unfortunately, human nature sometimes rears its ugly head, and black-market trading in currency and hard-to-get goods sprang up as the result of the arbitrary peg of the Venezuelan bolivar against the dollar, necessitated by an effort to maintain a higher value for the oil exports while in reality the market value was two or three times lower. The solution is simple in socialist nirvana: black-market trading is now punishable by up to seven years in jail. That crackdown worked, as foreign exchange is now scarce and Venezuelans have begun asking friends from abroad to send them necessities such as diapers, sanitary towels, and baby milk. But Hugo and his fellow-travelers really do have it all under control. Just ask them or any of their good friends in the U.S.
In a development that should warm the hearts of the public-sector unions in the United States, the government of Venezuela, in a further attempt to even out oil and currency fluctuations, has looked to the understanding of the workers. So much so that public employees have staged frequent protests over unpaid salaries, worsening conditions, and a freeze on collective bargaining. Certainly not as repressive as Wisconsin and that awful Governor Walker.
But Hugo, if nothing else, is resourceful. His primary solution to these short-term problems is to borrow from the Chinese. Since 2008 the country has borrowed $12 billion, and China is being repaid in discounted oil shipments, cutting the annual oil revenue by a further 20%.
But in what can be described only as a foreign capitalist plot, inflation has intruded on this idyllic paradise. Venezuela has the world's highest inflation rate. By mid-2011, food prices were almost nine times higher than when price controls were introduced eight years ago. In 2010, consumer prices had increased by 28% (2009: 27%; 2008: 19%). (For those in the Occupy Wall Street crowd that incurred $200,000 in student loans in order to major in gender studies, that means a Starbucks 12-oz. latte that cost $3.00 in 2008 would cost $5.80 today.)
Enter our hero, Hugo. President Chávez has used legislative powers granted him by parliament to decree a "Fair Price and Costs Law." He has made inflation illegal, and the state will set "fair prices" across the entire economy. Bravo -- why didn't Jimmy Carter think of that in the late 1970s? Those loyal Venezuelans that cannot and will not be able to find cooking oil or powdered milk or sugar will no doubt be assuaged in their unending search for life's necessities.
So the Occupy Wall Street crowd and their cheerleaders in the White House, the media, and academia are right: let's get rid of capitalism. Then the United States can have an economy that has shrunk by seven percent since 2007, whose GDP per capita has fallen by nearly nine percent since 2007, whose inflation rate exceeds twenty-eight percent, whose real unemployment is stuck above sixteen percent or higher, and whose people are relegated to a daily search for life's basic necessities.
Or perhaps they and Barack Obama might consider growing up, learning some facts, and leaving their egos and narcissism behind to concentrate on growing the American economy and not government and the entitlement mentality.