Tired of Class Warfare Yet?

More than two decades ago -- 1987, to be exact -- there was a program on PBS conceived and hosted by Fred Friendly, the legendary CBS TV producer of Edward R. Murrow's shows and former president of CBS News.  It was called Ethics in America: Public Trust, Private Interests.  Fred would assemble a bevy of political, social, and educational luminaries of the day to discuss thorny moral issues.  One of them was how to treat the homeless.  For example, on that particular panel were Rudy Giuliani, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York at the time, and Ed Koch, then-New York City mayor.

Fred, acting as host of the show, started off the situation with a homeless person in New York City asking for money at a subway stop.  Just about all of those 12 or so members of the panel said that they would give.  Then, he upped the ante and asked whether or not you would bring the person home to use your shower if he asked.  It went on from there, Fred keeping the ethical dilemma pot boiling by increasing the amount of charity you would be willing to give before saying enough is enough.  It got contentious at the end, and nothing was really decided about what was the right thing to do because many in the panel had their own beliefs and agendas that clashed with each other.  But that was the point.  Doing the right thing can be difficult, especially, like in the example, when there are people who take advantage of others.

That's the lesson in assessing the Occupy Wall Street crowd now ensconced in Zuccotti Park in lower Manhattan.  They want any possible guilt you might have about your success and your sense of kindness and fairness to force you to give them everything without them having to earn or pay for it.  It is narcissism, pure and simple.  Occupy Wall Street wants to destroy capitalism and institute socialism to make that redistribution of wealth possible.  And here is the rub: the people whom they rant against, like the bankers and the Wall Street tycoons, invariably use their wealth to invest.  Those investments are used by companies to create jobs; fund research for life-saving medical devices and drugs, for example; and create economic growth for their employees and the country.  Oh, and by the way, furnish more taxes to the government.

In addition to that irony, here are two more: the protesters call themselves the 99%, meaning all those who do not control a huge chunk of the wealth in this country.  Well, in terms of the world, the U.S. is such a rich nation that the whole of the U.S. would be considered the top 1% of the wealthy if you were using the world as the database.  So, the protesters are protesting themselves.  Also, it is the height of duplicity when music moguls like Russell Simmons (net worth about $325 million) and entertainers like Alec Baldwin (net worth about $65 million) go down to Zuccotti Park to rail against the 1% when they themselves are part of that group.  That's really not surprising.  The entertainment industry has no shame, or humility for that matter, and contains the world's most abominable hypocrites to boot.

What caused the protesters to take to the streets?  Ostensibly, it was the financial crisis and its culprits.  Occupy Wall Street blames the brokerages and the banks.  However, there have been egregious behaviors on the part of those in government and in private enterprise leading up to and during the financial crisis.  As an example, the loopholes that banks and investment firms lobbied for and got from Congress over the years allowed them to hide toxic assets from the public legally.  That kind of cronyism was and still is rampant between financial companies and elected representatives.  Was it legal?  Yes. Was it ethical?  No.  The public should have been protected by the rating agencies, organizations such as Moody's, that gave financial instruments backed by lousy mortgages acceptable ratings during the years leading up to the financial meltdown.  The Congress should have never allowed the companies to hide their toxic assets, the financial services companies should never have bundled awful mortgages into financial instruments to sell to an unsuspecting public in the first place, and the rating agencies and the SEC should have never allowed those instruments to be foisted on the American people.  There is blood on many hands for our economic recession.

The Occupy Wall Street protesters, by concentrating on one aspect of the crisis, forget that the government was equally complicit.  Plus, they want to throw out the baby with the bathwater by getting rid of capitalism altogether, an economic system that has made America the economic powerhouse it has become.  What has socialism, the system they extol, ever accomplished?  Two recent major "achievements": potential financial default (Greece, Portugal, Spain, Italy, and Ireland) and political collapse (USSR).

President Obama, who never met a socialist he didn't like (Hugo Chávez, for example), is predictably heartened by the Occupy Wall Street protesters.  On October 18, he told ABC News concerning the demonstrators: "The most important thing we can do right now is those of us in leadership letting people know that we understand their struggles and we are on their side, and that we want to set up a system in which hard work, responsibility, doing what you're supposed to do, is rewarded. And that people who are irresponsible, who are reckless, who don't feel a sense of obligation to their communities and their companies and their workers, that those folks aren't rewarded."  The phrase "we are on their side" spoke loudly about where his heart was.  Then, on October 27, in his weekly address, he bashed the wealthy again, using Occupy Wall Street vernacular: "The average income for the top one percent of Americans has risen almost seven times faster than the income of the average middle class family. And this has happened during a period where the cost of everything from health care to college has skyrocketed."

So, the president continues to use the class warfare card, which he employed from the beginning of his 2012 campaign that was launched months ago.  That election will be a referendum for the American people, and it won't be about jobs even though that will be the rhetoric.  It will be about whether we want capitalism to be the driving force of our economic engine in America -- or do we want to continue the slide to socialism (Obamacare and Cap and Trade just two examples) that Barack Obama instituted when he took office?  Each voter must, therefore, ask: will a classless society devoid of any reward for success be our future?