"One would think that the Democratic establishment’s embrace of Occupy Wall Street would preclude these politicians from fraternizing with those whom the protesters are directing their anger toward. But that doesn’t seem to be the case."
The above quote was taken out of this piece from The Weekly Standard. It perfectly illustrates a dangerous misconception that I think could be one of the biggest pitfalls of the ‘Occupy Wall Street’ movement. OWS can’t squander the tremendous opportunity created by the momentum it’s gathered; it needs to refine the message, contain the emotion, and move to a substantive dialog.
There are 2 key parts of the OWS message that MUST be separated out, or else they’re in danger of simply perpetuating irrational anger toward the finance industry with no real path forward to make things better:
PART 1: Protesting the Lack of Accountability
There is anger and rage at the organizations and individuals who bear some direct responsibility for the economic disaster of 2008. It’s channeled toward those who acted irresponsibly and took excessive risks. Big bank bail outs and lack of regulatory action has created the perception that the entire financial crisis, while devastating to the masses, had little consequences for the industry that allowed it; this is a major source of the rage driving OWS. It’s real, it’s tangible, and if there’s to be any progress forward, it needs to be acknowledged and dealt with. Calling for accountability is a noble cause and very important; but, it needs to be coupled with a message about the future and navigating the path forward.
PART 2: Calling for Redirection and Refocus
Wall Street needs to be redirected and refocused to more effectively work for Main Street. Call it “greed” or call it “the profit motive”; harnessing this powerful driver and using it to promote economic growth, job creation, and new innovative solutions is the real answer. Wall Street and finance are vital components of our economy that allow it function effectively and embody our unique American free market values. OWS needs to advocate partnering with high finance to address the issues, implement new rules, and develop innovative solutions that enable Wall Street to direct its efforts more toward Main Street companies.
Sentiments such as “not fraternizing” with Wall Street, while sounding nice, undermine the ability to work together. If OWS is to succeed, it needs to be less militant toward the establishment of Wall Street and more focused on outlining what specifics need to change. Yes, there are some very serious, rage inducing events that should be dealt with; however, the big push of OWS should be toward redirecting Wall Street to better partner with Main Street.
In previous blogs Rage Against the Machine? and Dam Wall Street: Making Wall Street Work For Main Street the case is made for how the WAIN Street Business Credit Health Index can help this cause. While there can be no single solution, focusing on mid-market and small businesses is a significant piece to the puzzle.