Saturday, November 12, 2011

To Occupy or Not to Occupy . . . Is There a Question?

As of late, the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement has been getting a lot of publicity, gaining a lot of supporters and shaking up America with the sheer scale of its protests. I’m not buying what they’re selling though. Why not? Because I don’t know what their goals are, and apparently, neither do they.

That’s what scares me most about OWS: its members are, essentially, directionless. They don’t know what they’re doing, but by God (if they believe in one), they’re going to protest. What are they protesting? What do they want? I don’t know, it differs depending on who you ask. I’m hearing a lot of complaints about, obviously, Wall Street and big business and how there is such a divide between the 1% who control America’s wealth and the valiant 99% who are standing up to say they’re not going to take it anymore. I’m still confused, though: what, exactly, do they want?

Here’s what I do know: the “redistribution” of wealth will accomplish nothing. Taxing the crap out of the rich, while it may boost the economy in the short term, will drive us even deeper into the proverbial doo-doo in the long run. As Margaret Thatcher once said, sooner or later socialists will run out of other people’s money, and then where will they be? What do these people expect? That Wall Street will bow to the demands of some not-so-happy campers and rain money from the sky upon them? It’s a heartbreaking fantasy that simply will not come to pass, and the OWS movement would be better off doing something to actually help their communities rather than begging for alms like the blind beggars they seem more and more like with every passing day—and blind, they most certainly are. And with people like Roseanne Barr and Michael Moore backing it, I know it's not something I or America should want any part of.

Don’t get me wrong, I think there a lot of people out there who need to be paying their taxes but aren’t. I think that if there must be an income tax, then it should be a flat rate that works for all, and all should be paying it (except for special cases like military servicemen and women, because they’re paying enough as it is, and I am very grateful for it). I don’t think we really need progressive tax brackets if everybody is actually paying their taxes, but even if we did have a progressive scale, I don’t think the wealthy need to take as big a hit as many seem to think they do. Nor do I think big business needs to be “punished.” I agree that our corporations and manufacturers should be doing more to provide jobs for Americans, especially in this economic crisis, but at the same time, I understand why they’re outsourcing jobs; when the demand for goods and services becomes too high, sometimes production costs dictate that you cut corners in order to stay afloat. It sucks, yes, but when you’ve got to choose between paying workers here more or workers there less, sometimes the only logical choice is to pay workers there less. Furthermore, there are some jobs that people here just don’t want to do. That’s still not an excuse, but still . . . just saying. Nevertheless, Exxon needs to be paying taxes just like the rest of us. So does G.E. And I don’t know what the heck is going on with Bank of America . . . still, I agree that those who have been blessed with much by the system should do their part to keep that system afloat. It makes no sense to give them ridiculous tax rebates when the economy is swishing steadily around the bowl, about to take its final plunge.

The biggest problem we face, though, is that American initiative—our drive to overcome our obstacles, to rise above our circumstances and find our niche—has been eroded to the point that we feel we are entitled to something even if we haven’t earned it. With each passing day, with each tent that is pitched outside a city hall, we are trudging another step closer to the dystopic future that Ayn Rand foretold in Atlas Shrugged, wherein the “haves,” no matter how hard they had to work to reach their level of success, are vilified for what they have gained. How many Hank Reardons will we see in the years to come, forced to give up the secret to their success simply because God forbid that one person should do better than anyone else and get away with it? If somebody figures out something good that serves a purpose and people like, why should he or she have to share with the competitors? It makes no sense, but I get the distinct feeling that this is what the deluded end of the liberal left wants, because they don’t like people who do well, unless, of course, it is themselves.

Fact check, kids: how did America become a global superpower in the first place? We did things better! We made things better! Our industry was unparalleled, our ingenuity was unmatched and our tenacity made us the very best. Big business put us on the map, because of geniuses like Ford and people who were just plain lucky like Rockefeller, and for all of the liberal left’s namby-pamby boohooing about the social injustice of capitalism, let’s just think for a moment about how crappy things would be without it. Think of the technological advances, such as the medical breakthroughs, we never would have known about without the resources a free market gave us. We’d be just another third-world country without the benefits of capitalism and industry, and although I apologize in advance for being callous, I don’t want to live in a third-world country. America rose to the top of the food chain on its own steam because we had the drive and our progress was something the rest of the world wanted. We had the American dream—we used capitalism as our model, and we tempered it with kindness. Yeah, kindness! Complain all you want about our heartless American government, but we do quite a bit in terms of humanitarian aid, abroad and on a domestic level. We went into Nazi Germany and helped put Hitler out of the world’s misery. We went to Iraq and took out a dictator that killed his own people for “funsies.” And yet the world hates us for our arrogance, our interference and what we have been blessed with, while incessantly demanding more. Shall we bankrupt ourselves pulling every drowning man out of the maelstrom? It cannot be done.

Now, I’m not saying we should discontinue all humanitarian programs—shoot, no! Frankly, as a Christian and simply as a human being myself, that would be wrong on far too many levels. I’m not saying we should cut off all the foreign countries that have grown to depend on us or all the people here in the United States who need Welfare to survive (we do need to regulate Welfare better, though. I support drug testing). No, what I’m saying is that we here in America need to become less dependent on these things. In the United States, more must be done to secure job opportunities for citizens, but in order for this to work, said citizens must be willing to do their share, without waiting on someone else to step in and make their obstacles just go away in an instant. Some may say that the “bleeding heart” left are the last to admit where they obtain the money that they so generously give away. I say it is quite the contrary: they proudly proclaim that they are taking it back from the deep pockets of the corporate fat cats and the unappreciative wealthy of the nation who don't know the meaning of "paying it forward,” when in fact they are indeed nothing but pickpockets who are unwilling to do anything for themselves and hide behind a Robin Hood-like façade of looking out for the “little guy.”

Here’s the thing: if I were wealthy, I would absolutely be charitable. I would absolutely pay my taxes. I would absolutely attempt to handle my business affairs in an ethical manner. I would absolutely be a fair employer (if I owned my own business), and I would absolutely use what I had been given for the good of humankind (or world domination. Yeah, probably world domination . . . or both, even). Here’s the thing, though: right now, I barely have two pennies to scrape together (okay, that’s an exaggeration. I have plenty of pennies, but nothing on paper or in an account somewhere).

Yep, that’s right: I'm in the 99%. So is my family. My dad is disabled and just barely scraping by on Social Security. He worked almost 20 years at a low-paying job with gosh-awful hours just because it was the only way for him to make ends meet, and then multiple sclerosis forced him into early retirement and worse, early decrepitude. My mom has to take care of him 24/7 so he doesn’t fall down and kill himself, and she cannot afford to hire anyone to help her. I've been on the ragged edge of financial disaster for my entire life. But I don't feel the need to "Occupy" anything. I'm not going to wave signs and scream at people and complain about how life isn't fair. I'm just going to keep working hard and hope that one day it pays off. So far, so good, I think. And there are people who would probably bash me for where I am right now, people who would tell me I don’t deserve to be in college while there are people who are struggling just to find a job. Well, let me tell you, I earned this. I rose up from nothing. I had no money of my own, no rich relatives to ask for a handout—nothing except my own personal drive to succeed. I studied hard so I could get my GED, and then I studied hard to get a 26 on my ACT. I earned academic scholarships through hard work and a determination to prove that I was worth giving a chance to, and thankfully some very generous people chose to grant me that opportunity. Now I’m at the University of Missouri—the best and most prestigious journalism school in the country, if not the world, and I am only here because of the hard work I put forth and the connections I made along the way. I am very thankful for what I have been blessed with, and if some nobody from Couch, Missouri can make it this far, anybody can. I still have less than $1,000 to my name, but I’m still working hard and doing the best I can. And I’m going to continue to persevere, because I have hope. Not the clichéd Obama-poster brand of hope, which is the political equivalent of waiting for Santa Claus to deliver you from the cruel fate of socks for Christmas, but the kind of hope for a better tomorrow that comes from putting your all forward and knowing (or at least praying) that everyone around you is doing the same, and in so doing is helping to improve the world around them. 

1 comment:

  1. Good Writing Chris! I think it's encouraging to know that at least somebody isn't obsessed with stealing other people's stuff ^_^