Occupy Bedford Falls
We are entering that politically correct amalgam of festivals known as “the holidays”. That being so, we will be treated to those heart-warming Christmas movies of old that constitute a beloved part of our traditions. Dominant among these celluloid masterpieces is the classic, “It’s a Wonderful Life”. As a former mortgage guy, I love the fact that its hero, George Bailey, is a benevolent money lender. The villain, Mr. Potter, engages in a similar enterprise, without much benevolence.
I suspect the current occupants of New York’s Zucotti Park – and the Zucotti counterparts around the nation – identify themselves with George and liken the investor class to the slimy and bitter Potter. Clarence the Angel demonstrated that Bedford Falls would have been much worse off if George had never been born. While he did not run the no-Potter scenario for us, we can assume that life would be better without him, or at least unchanged. Is this the assumption we should make about the 1 percent? Glance at the Forbes list of the 400 richest Americans:
- Should academic mathematician-turned-hedge fund billionaire James Simons never have been born? Should his foundation to fund educational initiatives in math and science around the world instead have funded government regulators? Should the money he raised to combat autism instead have built jails for successful businessmen?
- How about John Paul DeJoria, another parasite? The shampoo billionaire blows good money on locating dangerous land mines, when not wasting it on feeding hungry Africans. The greedy bastard should stop breathing the same air as the noble 99%. Those funds can hire more deserving bureaucrats, can’t he see that?
- And wouldn’t the youth trying to free themselves from methamphetamines and those struggling with dyslexia be much better off without Charles Schwab – personal worth of 3.5 billion – throwing his dollars at them. Does he not know how many unions could benefit politically from those greenbacks?
There are doubtless greedy and selfish millionaires and billionaires in the world. So too are there poor and middle-class among the greedy and selfish. The dirty little secret here is that greed repels greed, and that at least some of the Occupy Wall Street demonstrators are fueled more by covetousness than by righteous indignation. It’s much easier to curse “Wall Street” or the “1%” than to name names and specify crimes. Indeed, Cato Institute scholar Michael Tanner observes:
Roughly 80 percent of millionaires in America are the first generation of their family to be rich. They didn't inherit their wealth; they earned it. How? According to a recent survey of the top 1 percent of American earners, slightly less than 14 percent were involved in banking or finance.
As for not paying their fair share, the top 1 percent pay 36.7 percent of all federal income taxes. Because, as noted above, they earn just 16 percent of all income, that certainly seems like more than a fair share.
My burden is not to defend the rich. They do not need me. What is needed is some cold water to douse the self-righteous and irrational flames emitting from these anti-capital gatherings.
In Dickens’ timeless Christmas Carol, Ebenezer Scrooge was rebuked by the Ghost of Christmas Present for his blanket assertion that the poor had better hurry up and die in order to reduce the surplus population:
``Man,'' said the Ghost, ``if man you be in heart, not adamant, forbear that wicked cant until you have discovered What the surplus is, and Where it is. Will you decide what men shall live, what men shall die? It may be, that in the sight of Heaven, you are more worthless and less fit to live than millions like this poor man's child. Oh God! to hear the Insect on the leaf pronouncing on the too much life among his hungry brothers in the dust!''
The same moral indifference that dismisses the poor can be – and is now – aimed at those of means, as well. We should each take care to learn who the 1% are and what they do before letting the vitriol and, more recently, violence fly. Unless these protestors can credibly connect the dots between their own sad lots in life and the success of the 1%, their complaints will and should be increasingly interpreted as mostly covetousness and little justice. Yes, there are Mr. Potters out there. But those who are constantly looking for Potters to slay do not elevate the needy in the manner of George Bailey.
It could be that every time the bell rings at the Stock Exchange an angel gets its wings.