MCCULLOUGH: Wall Street protesters need clear objectives to gain traction



Many are calling the people camped out in New York's financial district the anti-tea Party movement, the left's belated backlash against the conservative crusaders for smaller government. But much like I was with the Tea Party in the beginning, I'm confused about their goals.

As near as I can tell, the Wall Street protesters are unhappy with the economy. To paraphrase Bruce Willis in "Die Hard," welcome to the party, pals.

Most of us are unhappy with the economy. People are broke, cities are broke, states are broke and the country is broke. The future isn't too bright right now. And we all know what caused it: a combination of greed and irresponsible behavior.

Here's the past half-decade's economic calamity in a nutshell: A government push to allow more people to buy homes, combined with deregulation, gave bankers the ability to take advantage of a whole new segment of the population with predatory lending practices. And a great portion of those folks were willing victims.

That may be an oversimplified explanation, but the point is that no one forced anyone at gunpoint to take out $300,000 loans they couldn't afford. At the same time, the banks knew these people couldn't pay the money back, but they loaned it anyway based on the guarantee of the United States government and an insurance company that apparently, for lack of a better description, lost its mind. The banks knew better, too. But it's hard to see clearly with dollar signs in your eyes.

What I'm getting at is there is plenty of blame to go around. Our time now would be better spent trying to find solutions based on compromise. Yet here we are, still rattling sabers and looking for scapegoats, so divided that both sides are taking to the streets, clamoring to punish somebody. The Tea Party has become so radical in its hatred of all things government that it won't listen to any idea that didn't spill from Ayn Rand's mouth, and now it seems the kids on Wall Street, backed by labor unions, are attempting to start their own eat-the-rich uprising.

Who knows, maybe after both sides get all their aggression out they'll try to meet in the middle.

Yeah, I couldn't keep a straight face when I was writing that last sentence, either. But both sides being so diametrically opposed isn't helping anyone.

When the Tea Party started, I thought it might be something I could get behind. First, it was supposed to be nonpartisan, which is nice for us independents. And who doesn't think we're taxed too much? But for the longest time I could never get a straight answer about their concrete goals other than they hated big government and high taxes. The Tea Party was too low on specifics for me to get behind it. Then at some point it was apparently hijacked by the far right, and I've never given them any serious consideration since.

I suspect the same thing will happen now with the Wall Street movement. Without some concrete objectives it will be harder to draw folks from the mainstream. Hatred of banks -- as justified as I think that is -- is not enough. What are you going to do? What's your plan, besides being mad?

Until that question is answered, their wheels will continue to slip.

Email Nate McCullough at nate.mccullough@gwinnettdailypost.com. His column appears on Fridays. For archived columns, go to www.gwinnettdailypost.com/natemccullough.