Last updated on August 30, 2020
Why Occupy Wall Street Failed
In the fall of 2011 I spent a lot of time in Lower Manhattan’s Zuccotti Park, which was Occupy Wall Street’s base in New York City.
I would go down there after work to take pictures, chat with people, eavesdrop, and just walk around.
It was interesting because I identified with the protesters. Just a few years prior, I was bumming around South America spending my days smoking weed in parks, selling jewelry and bashing capitalism.
In other words, I was an idiot.
But that was my life before Atlas Shrugged.
Reading Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged screwed my head on right and allowed me to see the protesters in Zuccotti Park for what they were: Confused.
What Was Occupy Wall Street?
Occupy Wall Street was the aftermath of the 2008 Financial Crisis.
People across the country were suffering after losing their jobs, homes and retirement savings.
The protesters were enraged with the bankers, who they felt caused the crisis. Why did the bankers not lose their jobs, or their homes? And why did the bankers get billions of our dollars in bailout money? Where was the money for the people?!
This was the logic used to blame the following groups of people for the 2008 crisis in America:
- Anyone with money (especially the 1%)
- Bank CEO’s
- Corporate executives
I took pictures of their signs that said things like this:
Chase! Give Us Our Money Back. $92.7 Billion!
A Job Is a Right! Capitalism Doesn’t Work!
1,000,000,000,000 in Student Loan Debt, Big Banks Stole Our Future!!
Wall Street Stole My Retirement Fund!
The protesters were right to be angry but they were wrong about who to blame.
What I like about Atlas Shrugged is it clarifies the blurry lines between government / media / society / business.
In other words, why would the bankers refuse free bailout money from the government? Is it even wrong of them to ask? Why is it their fault that they were rewarded for bad behavior instead of punished?
Not one banker or Wall Street executive went to jail in the aftermath of 2008.
Once you see through the bullshit of any social or economic issue, you see that the government is always to blame. Think about it. If mortgage brokers were forcing people to take out mortgages they couldn’t afford, where were the police? Why didn’t the authorities shut down this criminal operation?
If Wall Street bankers tanked your retirement account, why did the government bail them out and not you?
The government works for corporations, not for the people. People are mistaken that we exercise capitalism in America, but it’s actually corporatism. The financial services industry played a major role in causing the crisis, but it was the politicians who turned the blind eye.
There will always be immoral humans. We created a government to regulate the system in which these folks get caught.
But unfortunately for us, the U.S. Government is complicit and the public overlooks it.
Related Reading: What Happens at Burning Man?
Why Occupy Wall Street Failed
If Occupy Wall Street had focused on the lack of regulation that led to the financial crisis, the lack of accountability among regulators, the nonexistent criminal charges and the billions of taxpayer dollars used in bailouts, the movement could have been relevant.
I assume you know the catalyst for the crash for the crash in the housing market, but did you know the housing crash was the result of a government policy called the Community Reinvestment Act?
The policy, which gained popularity in the 1990’s, requires banks to lend to risky borrowers. They persuaded banks to do this by guaranteeing all conforming mortgages issued to low credit Americans. Unsurprisingly, this resulted in banks knowingly and repeatedly selling mortgages to customers who couldn’t afford them. After all, it was a government mandate!
Is anyone surprised this end in disaster?
The Community Reinvestment Act was meant to gentrify neighborhoods and support diversity. But regardless of intentions, government policy and bureaucracy always fail.
If Occupy Wall Street had used its voice to highlight the specific root of the issue — the government — America might be better off since 2008, instead of worse.
Occupy Wall Street Failed to be Relevant
Since Occupy didn’t think the government should be as limited as possible, the group lost momentum. They got confused on who to blame and couldn’t hold intelligent conversations with reporters. The fight went from student loans to criminal justice reform to climate change.
The public lost interest and ended up right back where it was:
Did Wall Street actually steal their retirement savings? Or is it that Americans shouldn’t be investing in the stock market in the first place? The average American has no clue how the stock market works, what impacts it, which companies they’re supporting or who the arrangement benefits. They invest in the stock market for retirement because someone told them to. Who benefits?
1) Wall Street (fees)
2) Public companies
Despite all the crying about Wall Street in 2008, Americans are still aggressively investing in the stock market, through retirement accounts, with every paycheck.
Related Reading: History of Retirement: Why We Invest in Stocks
Occupy Wall Street was the first to pitch the idea of cancelling all student loan debt. To me, this suggested the protesters saw through the bullshit of the “college is the key to success” paradigm. But sadly, that’s not the case. Student loan origination has skyrocketed since 2008 and young people are more imprisoned in debt than ever before. In 2009, President Obama decided the Fed should lend directly to the students, which resulted in colleges raising their tuition. Few people realize this and look at the government for “help” with the student loan crisis. *Sigh*
Related Reading: The Dirty History of Student Loans
As already mentioned, the crux of the 2008 crisis was too many people were buying homes they couldn’t afford. To “fix” things, the Federal Reserve has kept interest rates artificially low. This intervention indirectly boosts home prices and the American people falsely think they are getting a good deal because “interest rates are so low.” It’s an absurd and comical cycle. There’s nothing wrong with mortgages or owning a home, but an examination of the only-in-America 30-year mortgage should be seriously questioned.
Related Reading: The 30-Year Mortgage is Trash
It’s remarkable how little has changed since Occupy Wall Street. It’s almost as if we didn’t learn our lesson. If only the movement had connected the dots that government is the root of all our issues, things may have turned out differently.
Everyone is fooled into thinking the next administration, the next party, this candidate or that candidate, will save us from our troubles.
Wake up, folks.
Occupy Wall Street and the 99%
The best thing to come from Occupy Wall Street was the slogan: WE ARE THE 99%.
This message resonated with people who noticed that bank CEO’s, executives and politicians around the world didn’t seem to suffer.
It’s almost like there is an invisible line between the people (you and me) and the global elite that control the system in which we’re enmeshed. And for some reason, every “crisis” seems to widen the gap between the two parties:
Doesn’t it make sense to limit the role of government?
Believe it or not, most Occupy Wall Street protesters proceeded to vote Democrat following the Financial Crisis of 2008.
Don’t get me wrong, both parties are the worst and have no interest in empowering the people. But philosophically, why would anyone voice support for the party that wants to expand government?
If the government hadn’t bailed out the banks, the 1% might have actually suffered. But they knew the government would have their back because the government protects corporate interests, not yours. They then use your money (taxes) to bail out the corporations that screwed you.
Why are you sleeping?
Related Reading: Why are Liberals So Stupid?
If you had talked to me about the crisis before I had read Atlas Shrugged, I would have complained how evil the mortgage lenders are.
But I’ve learned that everyone has the capacity to be evil, which is why have a system in place to catch bad actors (laws, computer system, HR, school policy, etc.).
In the early 2000’s, slimy mortgage brokers sat in the kitchens of illiterate, poor families across America and convinced them to sign on the dotted line for a brand new $500k home.
The system that should have caught this behavior is called the government. Remember that the government buys the loans from the bankers and it is the government’s responsibly to underwrite the loan and determine its quality.
But it didn’t do that because it had ulterior motives to increase diversity and decided that this goal was more important than protecting the lives of the people.
Occupy Wall Street missed the chance to call out the colossal failure that is government and that is precisely why the movement failed.