Occupy Wall Street has, in a few short weeks, gone from a sideshow to the fulcrum of a national debate about wealth and jobs and a sense of despair that's palpable among many. You can't be on the sidelines on this one; you are pro or con.
Which, frankly, is the problem, because I am not sure what being pro or con actually means in this case. Am I pro justice for those who got us into this mess, chiefly the lenders who lent recklessly and should have known better, and the investment bankers who pooled their miserable loans into unfathomable tranches that have done much to impair the American economy? You bet. From the lenders to the processors to the robo-signers to those who took huge bonuses after being saved by TARP and yet were integral to this corrupt process, to the ratings agencies that checked off on it all, I've seen little or no justice at all. You mean to tell me that no one did anything wrong at Lehman? Can you honestly believe that no one at Countrywide has gotten in trouble with the authorities? How about the outrageous acts of the executives who ran Fannie and Freddie into the ground and made fortunes doing so?
Where are the indictments?
But that doesn't seem to be the focus of the protests. The focus seems to be against the rich. Who can blame them? I think the rich have gotten a great deal in this country. I believe that they should have to pay more than they are doing. Is that a radical position? Lest anyone forget, that was Abe Lincoln's position during the Civil War, and he remains the greatest force of honesty in the history of American political debate.
Yet, the rich have gotten away with this outrage because of Congress. Is it "Wall Street's fault"? Congressional Republicans seem addicted to the dollars of the rich and let them get off scot-free.
So I don't get the geographic focus.
All that said, the alienation in this country is palpable, and it is caused by everything from a dysfunctional government that can't get its act together and has created a level of uncertainly that makes it difficult to hire, to a presidential emphasis on creating green jobs when the only real growth area that needs employees is in the oil and gas patch, to a belief that we are being crushed by our trading partners who take our jobs at will.
Once again though, none of those seems to be the target of Occupy Wall Street.
So, am I pro Occupy Wall Street? If they were to embrace any parts of the issues I am talking about in any coherent fashion, you bet I am.
Until they do, let's just say, who can blame them? There's plenty wrong with society right now. But can I join them? Not until I know exactly what they really stand for. If they stand for any of the issues I just described though, you bet I can.