It’s hard to know what to make of the ongoing protests on Wall Street, in part because the protesters themselves haven’t been able to send a clear, coherent message. They are angry, that much is certain. And perhaps some have reason to be angry. But hard times have tested the tempers of many New Yorkers, most of whom have resisted the temptation to block traffic on the Brooklyn Bridge.
Any large protest against the so-called establishment, whatever that may mean, is bound to attract a motley crew of aging baby boomers and feckless hipsters who fancy themselves revolutionaries. But the protesters also include many innocent victims of the terrible downturn, from college-educated young people with few if any job prospects to middle-aged parents who wonder if they’ll ever work again.
It is wrong to dismiss the fears and frustrations of those who would rather be working—somewhere, anywhere—than protesting outdoors in the autumn chill. That said, it is also fair to argue that their anger is misplaced. Shutting down the Brooklyn Bridge won’t bring back their old jobs or create new ones. Cheering the demagogic speeches of radical-chic agitators won’t create public sympathy.
The economic mess is global, and by no means is it the fault of “Wall Street”—whatever that means. Failed economic policy in Washington has led to scandalously high levels of debt and billions in wasteful spending. Regulations have choked innovation and job creation.
Do the demonstrators believe more government spending and regulation will create the jobs they want? If so, they are mistaken.
In fact, Wall Streeters might consider taking a page from the protests outside their offices. Perhaps they should take a day off to protest outside the offices of politicians who burden them with useless paperwork, who impose mandates that destroy jobs.
The frustration and anger of the recession’s victims are understandable. But they need to realize that the targets of their anger would like nothing more than a return to prosperity and low unemployment.
It turns out that Wall Street and Occupy Wall Street could have something important in common: both want a return to better times.