Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Revolt of the “Masses”

By Rick Gould, CPA, JD

It has been a little over two months since the start of the “Occupy Wall Street” movement. In that period, the protests have spread from a local origin on Wall Street to a nationwide show of dissent. Billed as “A Day of Action”, 5,000 protesters marched into Foley Square in NYC as similar protests took place in Chicago, Boston, DC, Berkely, LA, Portland, Las Vegas, Philadelphia, Dallas and other major cities.

New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg’s decision to raid Zuccotti Park at 1A.M. last Tuesday morning was, in my opinion, both inevitable and correct. The safety implications, the tents, the garbage, the lack of toilets, the sleeping bags, the loud chanting and the drum circles in the park made his order a necessity.

I live, work and breathe in this New York City-world of mergers and acquisitions and investment banking. I fully understand public frustration with the many inexplicable abuses on Wall Street. My stomach churns and fists clench at the thought of all the pain and suffering that the abuses of Bernie Madoff, Sylandra, MF Global and other Wall Street greed has inflicted. It is blatantly obvious: we need better controls.

Strip away the drama and it is clear: we need to get people unemployed back to work. We need to curtail the big bonuses given to Wall Street fat cats when they have led their companies to large losses and/or bankruptcy.

However, I don’t agree with the methods being used by the protesters. Tearing down barriers, torching cars, theft, storefront window-bashing, blocking subways and office buildings, and organizing riots… these will never get the protesters what they want. The patience of residents, business people, store owners, NYPD and the Mayor’s office has worn thin.

The protesters need to do a sanity check on their goals, the results desired and how they will get there. What they truly need is a quality PR firm to guide them in communicating their message.

The goal of the protesters seems to be to inconvenience the millions of people trying to get to work, to school, or to the colleges in the area. The protesters feel they themselves are the “exploited masses”. But those that the protesters are ultimately hurting are the hard-working middle class, the 99%- NOT the 1% they claim to be so angry at. This is a misdirected rage that is counterproductive and will not inspire support for the creation and redistribution of wealth they seem to be championing.

The protesters should be targeting the following as their causes: corporate greed, big bankers, home foreclosures and the 9-20% unemployment rate (depending on method of calculation and geography). Pointing out specific problems and proposing exact solutions may lead to actual reform and legislation and the advancement of their cause. Anger, violence and the deprivation of others’ rights will not. Be careful: the world is watching.

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