The Wall Street protests, as I understand them, seem to touch on the following themes:
● Restoring public campaign financing of presidential elections — mysteriously lost in 2008 — to curb Wall Street money; asking our politicians not to beg for cash from the likes of a quid pro quo BP or Goldman Sachs.
● Rejecting the high life and living more modestly and ecologically, avoiding nests of idle privilege like Costa del Sol, Vail, or Martha’s Vineyard, or vapid excesses like tens of thousands of dollars in trinkets around one’s arm or a single blouse that costs more than the monthly salaries of most Americans.
● Lowering our profile abroad by stopping targeted assassinations, renditions, and preventive detention, and closing Guantanamo.
● Asking why middle-class taxpayers should subsidize tuition loans for the elite at tony private colleges, while the masses go to State U at a fraction of the cost.
● Anger at crony capitalism, no doubt of the sort epitomized by no-income-tax-paying Jeffery Immelt’s GE or the insider fixers at Solyndra; equal anger at the “unearned” billions of those who — rather than making money at manufacturing, farming, drilling, or construction — make their living at money manipulation and speculation of the cutthroat George Soros type or high finance and insurance, which alone lead to obscene fortunes of the Warren Buffett caliber.
● Wondering why politicians float in and out of Wall Street, always ending up at lucrative private landing pads — like Peter Orszag at Citicorp — or looting millions on the way out in the manner of Franklin Raines. Why do our elites, in the fashion of a Larry Summers, bounce about high academia, high government, and high Wall Street, profiting and power-brokering along the way?
But ultimately, the protesters ask us to ponder the very nature of compensation: Why does a municipal worker make $30,000 a year when Matt Damon and Johnny Depp manage to extort $20 million for a month’s work — money that we pay for in higher ticket and download prices? Why are their unionized camera and sound crews left to split up the crumbs? Did John Kerry really need a multimillion-dollar custom-made sailboat, docked out of state to avoid the people’s taxes? Did Al Gore need a yacht, a fourth home, a private jet trip? Did Michael Moore really have to sue for an extra million or two to add to his multimillion-dollar horde? Did John “Two Americas” Edwards really need a 4,000 sq. ft. “John’s Room” when millions do not have a 400 sq. ft. living space? These are the sorts of questions that are finally airing at these protests.