The angry, youth-driven, anti-capitalism protests begun in New York City a few weeks ago are the latest manifestation of President Obama’s lengthening recession.
This dispirited movement appears to be composed of a confused collection of leftist 20-somethings who blame globalism, trade, the Federal Reserve Bank, investment brokers, corporations and capitalism in general for all of our economic ills and rampant unemployment.
They’ve dubbed their anti-capitalism protest “Occupy Wall Street,” declaring that the nation’s financial center is the source of all evil and, thus, all of our troubles.
The movement has spread in recent weeks to Los Angeles, San Francisco, St. Louis, Boston, Kansas City and elsewhere. It is unclear what its agenda is beyond overturning our capitalist system and everything that flows from Wall Street, which is capital investment that is the life blood of our economy - such as it is - and all job creation, or what little is left of it.
The signs they carry shed some rationale on what they are demanding and interviews with reporters reveal their anxieties, fears and complaints.
“The American dream is dead or dying,” Max Richmond, 26, a New York City-based carpenter from Millerton, N.Y., told The Washington Post.
“We want jobs not cuts,” read a sign held by a young protester in Los Angeles.
A 25-year-old forklift operator from Minnesota said he drove to New York to join the demonstrators to voice his frustration about the lack of full-time work. “One week, I get 34 hours, the next week I’d have 12,” he said.
These are many of the same people who have shown up to protest at the annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, with an irrational hatred of capitalism at the center of their complaints.
They are in very large part confused, uninformed young people who have picked the wrong economic targets for their grievances. Where did these ideas come from?
Much of this anticorporate, anti-wealth, anti-capitalism rhetoric sounds like it is straight out of college economics courses taught by left-wing professors. They are still there, raging against big business and capitalism, brainwashing naive students who believe that stuff and vote accordingly.
Then again, we live in the Age of Obama, a time when our president is fond of blaming big banks, corporations, hedge fund managers, Wall Street and “millionaires and billionaires” for all of our economic turmoil.
Mr. Obama is not into capitalism. He never speaks about the importance of unlocking private capital investment and its pivotal role in expanding our economy and job creation. The heart of his latest $447 billion jobs bill calls for raising taxes on businesses, investors and small entrepreneurs just getting started.
When he speaks before young people, he doesn’t urge them to go out and start a successful business that will put more people to work. He urges them instead to “go into public service” and political advocacy.
What is it about capitalism that these kids hate or do not understand?
The largest retail corporation on the face of the Earth is a company started by a small Arkansas store owner by the name of Sam Walton, the apostle of modern-day capitalism that lifted millions of Americans out of poverty. Today, Wal-Mart employs more than 2.1 million people worldwide, 1.4 million of them in the United States.
American capitalism has produced vast corporations such as Microsoft, Apple and McDonald’s that now employ millions of Americans in all walks of life and have made a lot of their employees very wealthy by investing in their companies.
Wall Street? Clearly these kids do not understand who really benefits from the stocks and bonds that are bought and sold there. More than half of all Americans now own a part of the nation’s corporate economy through their investments. Business pension funds, 401(k) retirement accounts and mutual funds have opened up investing and wealth-creation to millions of Americans in every income bracket.
The endowments that finance and bankroll our colleges and universities are invested in Wall Street, as are the nation’s largest philanthropic and charitable institutions. Many federal workers regularly invest part of their pension contributions in stocks for their retirement.
Globally, there is no better example of the benefits of capitalism than China, a famine-ravaged nation that was once the poorest on the planet with more than 1 billion mouths to feed.
Then in the late 1970s and early ‘80s, Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping put the country on a new path to capitalism and its economy exploded with growth and jobs. Today, it is the second-largest economy in the world after the United States, and 247 million Chinese have risen into the middle class.
But not all of America’s youths have turned against the world of business, making money and dreams of building the next big corporation. Of the 1.6 million bachelor’s degrees conferred in 2008 and ‘09, the largest number by far - 348,000 - were in the fields of business.
Of course, it’s hard to know what their professors are teaching them in these business courses. I’ve talked to some students who told me their teacher was “anti-business.”
When Frederick Smith, the founder and chief executive officer of FedEx, was a business student at Yale, his class was assigned to write a paper on a company they would like to start and how it would be run. His paper explained how he would start Federal Express. The professor gave him a C on his idea. The rest is history.
Don’t give up on these kids just yet. A lot of them out there have big dreams of starting a successful business, making a lot of money, creating millions of jobs and, in the process, rebuilding the American economy.
Donald Lambro is a syndicated columnist and former chief political correspondent for The Washington Times.