A “working group” of the Occupy Wall Street protesters has issued a new list of “demands.”
Let’s have a look at them, shall we?
And, before we do, we should state upfront that we are sympathetic to what we view as a serious problem in the U.S. economy, which is the juxtaposition of 1) extreme inequality, 2) super-high unemployment, and 3) record high corporate profits.
The United States needs to find a way to reduce this inequality, or the country will become a nation with an entrenched ruling class (1%) and hundreds of millions of serfs (99%). That’s not the America we grew up in, and we doubt it’s the America most Americans really want.
Anyway, on to the latest demands… (The protesters’ demands are in black, our annotations in red).
Jobs for ALL – A Massive Public Works and Public Service Program
The second part is good: The country could absolutely benefit from launching a massive infrastructure investment program. We think the federal government should commit to spending $1-$2 trillion on roads, bridges, schools, airports, trains, and a national broadband network over the next 3 years. This would help employ idle construction workers, and it would help fix the country’s crumbling infrastructure. It would also pump money back into the economy.
(But can we really afford such a program? No, not really. We’ve already got debt coming out of our ears. But adding $1-$2 trillion of debt to the $14 trillion mountain we’ve already built up won’t sink us. Unlike welfare programs, infrastructure can be funded with debt tied directly to the assets, if that is necessary. The major problem with our budget is not infrastructure spending, but the entitlement programs, which can’t possibly pay out everything they’ve promised. Those, we are sorry to say, will have to be reformed.)
The first part of this demand — “jobs for all” — is, sadly, a pipe dream. Even the best economies have some unemployment. But it certainly would be nice to have “jobs for more.”
And now on to the details…
We demand a massive public works and public service program with direct government employment at prevailing (union) wages paid for by taxing the rich and corporations, by immediately ending all of America’s wars, and by ending all aid to authoritarian regimes to create 25 million new jobs to…
Lots to discuss in there. Let’s go phrase by phrase…
We demand a massive public works (OK) and public service (depends what this means) program with direct government employment (no — this is a bad idea — in most cases, the government should hire private contractors) at prevailing (union) wages (no, not “union” wages — reasonable, market-driven wages) paid for by taxing the rich (fine, as long as “rich” is defined appropriately) and corporations (fine conceptually, devil in details), by immediately ending all of America’s wars (not “immediately” — the last thing we need is to throw the Middle East into anarchy), and by ending all aid to authoritarian regimes (even authoritarian regimes we like? Why?) to create 25 million new jobs (hear, hear! — but many of these should be private-sector jobs) to…
- Expand education: cut class sizes and provide free university for all;
Great on more money for education — it is CRUCIAL that we improve our education system. Good on reducing class sizes. No on “free university for all.” A free college education is not a right. Students will appreciate the education more if they have to pay something for it. Yes, it would be good to find ways to reduce the skyrocketing cost of state universities and private universities. But suddenly making college “free” would cost taxpayers an ungodly amount of money.
- Expand healthcare and provide free healthcare for all (single payer system);
“Free healthcare” is pipe-dream. We’re going to pay for it one way or another. (Either with taxes or with insurance and doctors’ fees). Having the government provide a national insurance option — and relieving companies of this burden — would be a big help. It would also be extraordinarily expensive. So there’s no free lunch.
- Build housing, guarantee decent housing for all;
Absolutely not. We have way too much housing in this country — that’s why house prices are collapsing. If you want to advocate converting some of the excess housing inventory into low-cost housing, fine. But we don’t need any more housing.
Also, New York and other cities actually do a good job of providing temporary and low-cost housing. The idea of providing “free” housing, forever, is a bit too socialist for us. In the old days, that’s what families and friends were for. If we try to make housing and food and everything else “free,” we will eliminate almost every incentive to work and succeed. And we want to keep those incentives. (We don’t object to communism because of the “equality” ideals inherent in it. We object to communism because it simply doesn’t work.)
- Expand mass transit, provided for free;
Good on expanding mass transit. Bad on providing it for free. Why shouldn’t the government offset the cost of building and operating trains, buses, etc., by collecting fares from those who use them? That seems eminently reasonable.
- Rebuild the infrastructure — bridges, flood control, roads;
Hear hear. And new technology infrastructure, too. Like a national broadband network.
- Research and implement clean energy alternatives; and
The government is funding a lot of green energy “research.” On the implementation side, we support intelligent subsidies, etc., but they need to be very long-term, because otherwise companies that develop and provide the technology will get creamed when the subsidies run out.
- Clean up the environment.
Need some specifics here. The environment is actually remarkably improved since the 1960s and 1970s, though the ever-increasing population continues to be a challenge. If you’re talking about stricter emissions controls and so forth, please just be prepared to pay more for transportation, gas, oil, et al. Again, there’s no free lunch.
- These jobs are to be open to all, regardless of documentation/immigration status or criminal record.
Huh? Just employ everyone, even if they’re here illegally? No thanks. If this is going to be a federal program designed to provide jobs for Americans and others who can work here legally, they’re going to have to have the right documentation. Sorry about that.
And we worry a bit about the “open to all” phrase. We hope that doesn’t mean “open to all, regardless of performance, experience, competence, punctuality, skills, and any other criteria that The Man might wish to deny employment based on.” Again, communism doesn’t work. The reason so many of our companies build such great products is because their employees work hard and have an incentive to create them (competition). The moment you require everyone to just employ anyone, regardless of performance, we’re screwed.
So, in short, we agree with you on education and infrastructure spending and incentives for clean-energy technology. We absolutely have to improve our education system. And we’d like to see the government launch a $1-$2 trillion 3-year plan immediately. And we’re going to be lapped by China and other countries if we don’t begin to kick our oil habit.
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