Occupy What?

By Beryl Wajsman on October 26, 2011

Ok, everybody gets it. Economic disparity between the wealthy and the workers is expanding at a faster rate than at any time in the post war period. We have seen the destruction of a free and fair market by rapacious corporate chieftains. But why occupy Wall St.? The problems do not lie in Wall St. or Bay St. and certainly not in Pace Victoria.

If these protestors really understood the markets, they would know that the stock exchanges are the great equalizers.  No you can't beat the markets. But if you understand them, then a relatively small amount of money, properly invested, can produce a healthy supplementary income. People should pay as much attention to that as they do to sports.

occupy_what_02.jpgThe real problems lie in our capitals. Over-regulation that stifles industrial growth and under-legislation that does not address the real problems. For example, the lauded Dodd-Frank bill that is some 2000 plus pages does not even touch on the issues that allowed the Lehman collapse to happen. Does not restrict the ETFs that control trading and destroy the individual investor. And does not forbid the kind of exotic instruments that led to the sub-prime debacle. What these protesters, no matter how good their intentions, do not know about the real causes and effects could fill volumes.

Their frustration with lack of jobs and a contracting economy is understandable, particularly when corporations are sitting on historically high cash reserves. But the protesters need to understand that the reason the corporations are not expanding is that they don't know what new regulations they are going to get hit with next. Nothing good can come out of a 2000 page bill. The protesters want more government intervention. What they should be protesting for is for government to get out of the way.

This year's Lehman, the Euro debt crisis, was not caused by markets or the private sector. It was caused by the avarice of politicians to acquire more power and control over people. The Eurozone is a leviathan that does mot work. Government is no longer the solution. It is the problem. And the protesters should be in our political capitols not our financial ones, pressing elected officials to get us back to the service state not the control state.

occupy_what_03.jpgBut to bring the protests to Canada is truly meaningless.  There are no specific systemic issues. There was no failure of regulation as there was in the States with the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act that led directly to the excesses of the Lehman era. That was a responsible piece of regulation.  Naturally it was repealed. Under President Clinton no less. As a friend of ours said,  if there is an earthquake whose epicenter is in New York City, one doesn’t send search and rescue crews to Montreal.

How can we be frustrated with the players in a Canadian banking system that abided by the rules and adhered to a solid national regulatory system that kept it out of trouble in 2008 with the implosion of the U.S. economy? Canada's Federal government pleaded with the Big 6 of Canadian banking to take its bailout money, but they were greeted with a resounding “Why?” 

Are the “Occupy Montreal” protesters railing against the top 1% of taxpayers within the rest of Canada who continue to support Quebec social benefits which they themselves do not enjoy, such as subsidized day care and parental leave?  Or is it against the 1% of income earners in Quebec who continue to send almost half of every dollar they earn either West to Ottawa or East to Quebec City. Maybe that 1% has every bit as much to complain about as the remaining 99%.

The "occupy" movement is putting its energies against the wrong enemy. It is a disproportionate response to an abstraction that does not exist. 


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Beryl P. Wajsman

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