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.


R 3 years, 4 months ago

"$300,000 loans they couldn't afford" - nah this wasn't the underlying issue at all,it was just the "loss leader" product of the week. The underlying problem was the creation of a new class of stock like product called the CDO. That allowed the combining all these new mortgages' collateral and interest income so they could be stripped, recombined and TRADED. So the banks made more loans to create more CDOs when they made money and then bet against the items in the futures market as a hedge... Then one day, it stopped and nobody knew who owed anything and quite a few who did - couldn't prove it. Can you say "Oops"?

"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." Not quite sure about this, but the TEA Party is really pretty simple from a 30,000 foot level. First, it members believe the government should fulfill its obligations under the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, nothing more. This would free up the charitable sector (including - but not limited to - gasp! "the church") to do what it does best - provide aid and assistance to its local community. Finally, with laws on the books that past the "common sense" test, the private sector would be free to generate some wealth to feed the charitable sector and the government at a smaller level. Look at us now nationally, we are trying to reduce Washington spending - all the while locally asking for assistance in Federal funds, both directly and through the state, to build rail projects, bus operations, HOT lanes and MARTA expansions that are so expensive but don't have a high enough user rate to even attempt pay for themselves. Why? If the area needed buses, why did Gwinnett spend so much money on the Braves Stadium?

Hate Government? Not really, but the TEA Party recognizes that governments are a lot like fish in a tank, in that they will continue to expand to fill their environment. (Think Kudzu without the frost) Government is operated by man and has all of mens' sins, without the presence of a redeeming soul. Government will grow until it can literally take no more, and then like everyone else, grumbles loudly when put on even the smallest of diets. So in comes Heath-care to the rescue, but that's another chapter.


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