#OWS (Occupy Wall St) and Dave Ramsey

This is not a political blog for a reason; however, in police work, politics plays an occasional role.  I’ve been getting emails about what I think about #OWS and how can people protest while still adhering to the law.  Although, I’ve covered protestors before in my Open Letter to San Francisco Protestors, that was directed more toward a group of people who were directly protesting against the police and in favor of a suspected murderer.

I’ve posted time and time again, both here and on Facebook and Twitter, about what I think about taking personal responsibility for one’s actions.  Lately, I have grown tired of seeing #OWS on Twitter.  Instead of flaming them, however, I did two things.  First, I started using #occupyyourjob.  It’s hard to sum up what I think about the whole mess in 140 characters or less.  #occupyyourjob was the most succinct way I could come up with to explain that I have worked hard to get where I am and I did it with hard work…not with government assistance or other people’s money.

Second, I went to check out the #OWS site for myself.  I’d encourage you to do the same before taking a stance…either to blindly scold them or blindly support them.  I’ve seen more of the latter, sadly.

The #OWS folks are angry.  Unfortunately, the lion’s share of them can’t articulate what/whom they are angry with or why…or better yet, how to fix what they are angry with.  I could go on, but I got the okay to cut and paste an article written by Dave Ramsey about this very subject.  The man is much more eloquent than I and I’m honored to post his column below.

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DEAR OCCUPY WALL STREET…

“I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore!” Yeah, that’s great. But what do you want? What are your goals? What are your demands? What result are you looking for?

The beauty of being vague is that anyone who has any emotion can get caught up in the excitement and join your crusade. They’ll just get mad at something and assume that you’re both mad about the same thing. Put a few hundred of these people together, and boom. You’ve got a crowd, a headline and a lot of attention … but no message.

A lot of people on Twitter are saying I totally agree with the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) demands and goals. The only problem is that I have no idea what their demands and goals are. And neither does anyone else. If all you ever do is stomp around, yell and hold up signs protesting a million different things, sure you’ll get some attention, but over time, you’ll just look foolish. You end up coming across like a three-year-old having a temper tantrum.

This is what’s happening to the OWS movement. They’re being discredited because no one has stepped forward and really stated what it is they’re after. The whole group is just coming across like a bunch of jacked-up, jobless, wannabe hippies. That’s not going to change anything in this country. You’ve got to state your goals clearly if you want to accomplish something.

So in the absence of any clear goals, let me comment and offer some helpful advice in some areas that seem to be getting a lot of disorganized OWS attention.

“No Government Bailouts!”

Banks and big companies should not receive taxpayer money for a bailout while their CEOs are making hundreds of millions of dollars. If that’s your gripe, then you’re protesting in the wrong location. Pack up and head to Washington, D.C., to deliver your message to the current administration. Don’t get me wrong—I totally support a company’s freedom to pay their leaders well. I just don’t believe that I, as a taxpayer, should subsidize those huge salaries in the form of taxpayer bailouts. I pay my own team members; I don’t need to pay everyone else’s too.

By the way, you may be shocked to learn that the Tea Party agrees with you on this one—and so do I.

“Down With Corporate Greed!”

Gordon Gekko was wrong. Greed is not good. Greed is bad—very bad. It’s a spiritual disease, and it is a disease that sadly affects a lot of companies across the country. If you believe a specific company is acting purely out of greed, then don’t just get mad—do something.Point out where and how they’re greedy and let the world know. Stop doing business with them. If enough people listen to you, the company will get the message because you’ll hit them where it hurts: the bottom line. If they don’t get their act together, then they’ll go out of business and another business will take their place.

But if you’re saying that all businesses are greedy and that capitalism itself is evil and ineffective, then I’m sorry—you’re just being stupid. You’re being misled and misinformed by some of the louder voices around you. Are you wearing clothes? Have you eaten any food lately? Do you have an iPhone in your pocket to check in with Twitter and Facebook while you’re out marching around? Good. All of those products and services are brought to you by quality companies dedicated to serving you well in a capitalistic system that works just fine.

“Wall Street Is Evil!”

If you have this painted on a sign, well, now you just look ignorant. Wall Street is a street that people drive on. The New York Stock Exchange is a building where people exchange stocks in New York. This is the flea market of the financial world. Don’t turn Wall Street into some terrible monster attacking American citizens. It’s just a road with some buildings on it.

But here’s what happens. Sometimes when people don’t understand something, they start to fear it. And as the fear grows, it turns into anger. But just because you don’t understand something, you shouldn’t see it as bad or frightening or a conspiracy. You should just think of it as an opportunity to learn something new—something that could actually be a blessing to you.

For example, imagine a group of natives out in the jungle in the farthest part of the world. I mean, picture a group of people who have never seen anyone outside of their tribe and have certainly never seen any kind of machine. What would they think if they saw a Red Cross helicopter land near them? And what would they think of the strange-looking men and women who jump out of the chopper and start walking toward them? They’d be freaked out! They wouldn’t know or care if the Red Cross was there to help them with food or medicine. They’d think it was the end of the world or something because their minds would be totally blown!

I hate to say it, but a lot of OWS protestors are just about as uninformed as those jungle natives when it comes to how the American financial system works. A road and an office building. That’s Wall Street.

“Wealth Redistribution Is the Answer!”

I’ve heard a lot about wealth redistribution over the past few years, and I’m sure you’ve heard it too. Call it whatever you want, but this is how it usually sounds to most Americans: “We are the 99% of Americans who don’t have as much as the 1%, so we’re mad and think the government should take their wealth and property away so that I can have a piece of it. Wealth inequality is a moral breakdown! We should all spread the money around so everyone gets a fair share!”

I have my toughest critique for those who believe this: You are a thief. When someone takes my money and gives me no say in the matter, that’s called theft—whether they’re using a gun or the government. At the core of this demand is envy. And that’s not the same as jealousy. Jealousy just says, “I want what you have.” Envy is a different beast. Envy says, “I don’t think I can ever have what you have, so you shouldn’t have it either.” Decades of horrible economic teaching and the politics of envy have kept this monster alive and growing and moving forward.

This way of thinking makes you assume that all rich people are evil and have scammed their way into wealth. That may be true in the tale of Robin Hood, but I choose to live in the real world. Sure, there are some scoundrels, but the vast majority of successful men and women got that way by working hard and serving people—lots of people.Steve Jobs and Bill Gates changed the world in ways we’re just now starting to realize. Their positive impact on the world has helped all of us live better lives, and they made fortunes for themselves by doing so. Why is it that you’re holy if you help one person but evil if you help a million? That’s just stupid.

A good friend of mine is a country music legend. He’s made a bazillion dollars over his career, and he just bought a $400,000 car. He’s worked like a crazy person his whole life, spending decades in tour buses, writing songs in the middle of the night, and entertaining enormous crowds of cheering fans. He paid a price to get there, and I’m happy for his success. Would it be right for me to walk into his house and demand my “fair share” of his wealth? Heck no! I’m a terrible singer! I didn’t do one thing to contribute to his success, so why would I be entitled to a share of his wealth? He’s given me years of entertainment through his music. That’s my fair share of his hard work.

My problems aren’t his fault. And my problems aren’t McDonald’s fault or Home Depot’s fault or Walmart’s fault, either. My problems are my fault! And the more people these companies serve, the more money they make—and that’s none of my business! If you don’t like McDonald’s, then here’s an idea: Don’t eat there. But don’t walk into the restaurant and demand a portion of their proceeds for the day.

When you scream, “I’m in the 99%!” you just look like a whiner. Those of us willing to pay the price to win look at you and shrug. Heck, when it comes to the music business, I’m in the 99% myself! But that doesn’t mean I have to tear Toby Keith, Brad Paisley or even Kanye down. Oh, and a special note just for Kanye: Capitalism has been pretty good to you. I celebrate your success, but you look a little hypocritical protesting capitalism while wearing a $50,000 watch.

Celebrate the Land of Opportunity

This is the greatest country on the planet, but even here, you’re not guaranteed wealth, talent, fame, a full head of hair or six-pack abs. Those things are not in the Constitution. You are, however, guaranteed the freedom to make your life what you want it to be. And when you do that, when you build your life around your dreams and passions and hard work, you’re guaranteed the right to keep it. No one has the right to take it away from you.

So to summarize, I’m not very impressed at the moment. I’m not impressed by your temper fit. I’m not impressed at your lack of goals and focus. I’m not impressed by the fact that the only thing I see about your movement is ignorance, immaturity and envy. Grow up—and get a job.

Yes, there are jobs out there. There are jobs out there that haven’t even been invented yet. Go create the next Facebook or Weed Eater. Go pick up so much dog poop that you can start your own fertilizer company. And stop complaining that companies are TOO RICH while also complaining that they aren’t RICH ENOUGH to hire you! I’ve seen a lot of you guys. I wouldn’t hire you, either. But if you take all of that energy and excitement and pour it into something new and creative, you’ll get the chance to serve a whole lot of people really well, and over a decade or two, you’ll get to become the very thing you’re now protesting: rich people who actually earned their money.

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There it is.  Seems to me, Dave is as big a proponent of personal responsibility as I am.  On his radio show, Dave spent three hours speaking with #OWS supporters.  Usually, only one hour of the show is available for non-subscribers, but Dave put up the entire three hours.  If you’re interested, check it out here.  Thanks to @ramseyshow for giving me the go ahead to republish Dave’s piece!

What about you?  Do you support #OWS?  If so, why?  Which of their “one demands” do you agree with and what would you do to accomplish it?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic. Snark is encouraged. Being a prat is not.

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11 thoughts on “#OWS (Occupy Wall St) and Dave Ramsey

  1. I cannot and would not support OWS for the exact reasons you point out -or as Dave points out. When I was in law enforcement I worked day in and day out serving an entire city where just 40% of the city paid taxes.. which is also the home of a very prestigious and very expensive Irish-Catholic university.

    Quite the imbalance. Previous to OWS I saw the result of the breakdown in society by this populace who I was dealing with of being fourth generation recipients of government assistance. It lended itself to a LOT of entitlement. Not that different than what the OWS crowd has going on, except they just avoided the hassle of protesting, sleeping in tents, and making signs. They just collected the monthly checks.

    Point is, that made me as sick as OWS does. Longest I have ever been unemployed since my first job at age 12 (thats over 25 years of working) has been THREE weeks. Even as I peruse job boards now.. the work is out there. Don’t like the money it pays? Do what I’m working on and start your own business.

    This nation is not perfect, make no mistake. but the beautiful part of it also is that we all have the ability to enact a change. I don’t rely on the government to take care of me. I don’t figure they WILL take care of me, so.. its up to me. If I dont like the job paying me the wage I’m working for, well, I agreed to take it.. so I can move on.

    And so can they.

  2. MC, I heard about your blog sometime ago but I finally got around to checking it out yesterday, and I gotta say I’m loving it! Your writting style is exactly what I like (weird I know), and your writting is eloquent but also very entertaining, I’m hooked!

    Now on to OWS, I am an immigrant in the US (as I like to say I’m Ukrainian by birth but American by choice), I came here from the former Soviet Union and I have to say a lot of what OWS is saying reeks of the exact same shit that the communist USSR was made of. Folks in case you missed it communism doesn’t work and the USSR didn’t survive (thankfully)! I find it very funny that my family having been in the US for less than 20 years has so much more than the average natural-born American. We don’t have it because the government handed it to us a silver plater, sure we were on welfare for the first 3 months that we were here but then my parents, not knowing a word of English, went to work (working long days doing difficult, exhausting manual labor and than going to school at night to learn English). My parents worked their hind quarters off for everything that we have. My family is not rich, but everything that I have I worked for it. And I don’t want it any other way because I know the value of my hard earned dollar, I don’t want a hand out, I never even accepted financial aid (even though I qualify for it ten times over) to go to college, I’m paying for it myself (whether it’s smart or not is something else altogether), even though sometimes I have to work 2 full time jobs to be able to do it, but I know the value the education that I’m getting.

    What makes this country so great is not that it’s perfect (it’s far from perfect) but that it is built on the blood and sweat of men and women who wanted to make a better life for themselves and their families. And that is the only way this country is going to stay great, because as Thomas Jefferson said “The democracy will cease to exist when you take away from those willing to work and give to those who are not.” No one is entitled to Bill Gates’ billions just like no one entitled to my measely earnings, in order to have anything you have to work for it and earn it. That may be the biggest problem with society today, everyone wants a piece of what they didn’t work for or earn (why work when the government can cut me a check?)

    • Wow. You are an inspiration. Thank you for commenting! It’s eye-opening to get a perspective from someone that wasn’t born here and truly knows the value of hard work and earning what you have.

      Keep up the good work! You’re welcome ’round MCPD anytime!

  3. Excellent article, I linked it on my blog last night. I love it because it’s not just another agenda driven, insult laden rant. It’s concise and it’s TRUE. Ramsey has a large audience and I’m glad he wrote it.

  4. I hear what Ramsey is saying, and I agree 100% with it. Personal responsibility and all that, I’m not entitled to what someone else worked for, all that. I’ on board.

    What I would protest, if I weren’t busy with my job and caring for my family, is the dishonesty that runs rampant in the financial industry. That’s what I’m against. Those people are screwing over the 99%, to use an overused term, and getting away with it; not only getting away with it, getting paid for it and bailed out when their houses of cards collapse. Of course, we are all responsible for our own financial educations, but these people could certainly do their part by NOT taking advantage of the undereducated. And what about all the taxpayers who are educating themselves, and whose loans are not defaulted? Our taxes went into those bailouts, too. Through no fault of my own, and the greed and irresponsibility of those banks, and the ignorance and irresponsibility of some of their clients, I lost something. How is that fair?

    But, like I said, I’m busy here. I can’t spend weeks camped out on some random street int he nearest financial district. I believe 100% that they are making fools of themselves by protesting people with money while doing absolutely NOTHING to earn money. I sympathize with some of their feelings, but I can’t help thinking they could surely be doing something productive to change their lives, instead of holding up signs bitching about them.

    As for the job situation, I never could understand why some people insist they can’t get jobs. I have a high school degree, which I earned after my first son was born, and no college or votech or any other higher education, and it has never taken me more than two weeks of active searching to find a job. Yes, it may have been a crappy job as a hostess at Applesbee’s, or a temp job on the graveyard shift at a chem lab, or a job packing frozen meat patties, but it put food in my son’s mouth, clothes on his back, gas in my car; hel, eventually it got me the downpayment on a 3 bedroom house. But I don’t buy things I can’t afford (except the house), so I don’t have to worry about hitting a certain salary. If I can’t afford it on what I am already earning, I don’t get it. If my pay gets dropped, I will start making budget cuts. That is what responsible people do. So get the shitty job. Sooner or later, something better will come along, but in the meantime, DO SOMETHING! Besides camp out on Wall Street. That won’t make you money any faster then working at McDonalds. In fact, you’ll just get poorer.

    • I completely agree. I echo Dave’s sentiments re: the bailouts. They never should have happened and the president’s and/or CEO’s that took huge salaries are crooks. The problem is OWS as a whole has no cohesive, articulate goals and certainly no answers as how to achieve them.

      I applaud your hard work and living within your means! Outstanding work!

      • One of the few things that China, Iran, and formed USSR did absolutely correct is having death penalty for major financial crimes. If stealing $5 is a misdemeanor, stealing $500 is a felony, any amount exceeding $1,000,000 should be eligible for the needle or life without parole, if you ask me.

  5. #OWS ….. I don’t see it as a movement any more than I see the tea party as a movement. I just see them as symptoms.

    The subsidies, tax breaks, and general babying of corporations that are putting the majority of the jobs they’re being given these incentives for in the first place , putting those jobs outside of the USA, pretty much defeats the entire purpose.

    There are less people making money. Less money being spent. Any business that relies on customers is forced to cut back in order to continue to operate within budget, which puts more people out without a job.

    It feeds on itself.

    There can’t be job growth unless there is spending growth. There can’t be spending growth unless there’s job growth.

    I’m not pursing a college degree because I want to make more money, I am doing it because it appears to me that it is the only way I’m going to be able to survive and be employable in the USA. I think a lot of other people have the same idea.

    There IS a problem with job growth, the economy, etc. in this country.

    How is doing the same thing over and over going to fix it?

    figure that’s the primary frustration of #OWS. lot of shuffling paper around, talking out the sides of their mouths, but no real solution to the problem.

  6. “I have worked hard to get where I am and I did it with hard work…not with government assistance”

    Um, ahem, I hate to burst your bubble but, you work for the government, so you’re getting government assistance. You probably also receive a pension, which is funded with government money and guaranteed with government money to earn a minimum return (unlike a private sector pension, which has no such guarantee). You also benefit from government-paid insurance plans, likely far better than available in the private sector — more government assistance, paid for with tax revenue. You’re trained by the government — skills which you could take into the private sector — and therefore have received another form of government assistance in the form of education.

    If you lost your job, where would you look for another job? Probably a police department. Another government job. So unless you plan to leave police work, you’re working for the government, so you’re getting government assistance. The public sector — government — has created a job for you with taxpayer funds. That’s not to say you don’t work hard nor that you don’t do an excellent job. Nor is it to say we don’t need you working at your job. But don’t fool yourself into thinking you’re not getting government assistance. Anyone working in the public sector is receiving government assistance.

    As for bailouts, they were loans, not gifts. They were repaid with interest. The government/taxpayers made money on them.

    • Insofar as receiving a salary from a gov’t agency, you are correct; however, that is not what I meant by “gov’t assistance” and I think you knew that. I contribute quite a little bit to my retirement (and by the way, they’re cutting my pay and raising my contribution to my retirement…so I’m not sure even your technical “assistance” is as good as you think). If I lost my job, I could find employment in any number of places in the private sector.

      I’ve developed quite a bit of knowledge in the collision area and I could be employable by an insurance company to investigate collisions. I’ve been told I don’t suck at writing…I think I could find work as a freelance writer. I type like a whiz and I’ve held a number of office jobs in the past. I can’t be pigeon-holed into only law enforcement. Am I grateful for the opportunity my department has provided me? Absolutely. However, I am not naive enough to think that my personal situation matters to the department in the least. We have a symbiotic relationship.

      As for bailouts, I understand the concept. I still think it was a terrible idea and the very idea of capitalism dictates that if a business can’t sustain itself, it dies. Paid back or not, the man/woman at the top had no business running a corporation into the ground and then personally benefit financially from it.

      • No, I didn’t know what you mean. I can’t read minds nor can you.

        You can’t decry “government assistance” at the same time you work for the government — the government is assisting you like it assists anyone else who receives a government check. Would you consider “workfare” to be government assistance? It’s no different from what you’re doing: the government created and maintained a job from which you benefit. Look at a PD like Vallejo as an example of cops who don’t think they’ve received “government assistance”: they’ve bled the city dry and right into bankruptcy with their salary and pension demands. They have their hand in Uncle City’s pocket just like everyone else but they don’t think they’re getting “government assistance.”

        As for your pension, if it’s a typical public employee system, your employer has contributed the significant majority of your benefit as well as guaranteed your future payment. If you’re self-employed or work for a small business, you don’t have that luxury.

        As for getting a job outside the government, you’re fooling yourself if you think you can find a job easily at your age and in today’s marketplace. You live in California, with one of the highest unemployment rates in the country. Skilled office workers can’t find jobs and turn out for job fairs by the tens of thousand. Insurance companies are laying off employees — they’ve made claims denial so cost effective they’re cutting back staff. As for freelance writing, that’s a marketplace saturated by supply. I know writers who used to make thousands a month who now earn a few hundred a month. The ranks of freelance writers are filled by unemployed cubicle jockeys hoping they can grab a few crumbs from the underemployed writers with far more experience.

        I have a close friend who thought he was secure in his law enforcement job. He’s well educated, with a college degree, with specialized law-enforcement skills. He’s well groomed, early 40s, well spoken, articulate, the model cop. He was laid off. No other agency is hiring in his area and he can’t move because his wife, thankfully, has a job. He had to leave law enforcement. Like you, he thought he could find a job easily. No one wanted him. He thought he could get an office or sales job, but those were filled by people with much more experience than him. Skills alone won’t sell you in today’s highly competitive marketplace — you need experience and lots of it. Why hire a former cop who’s worked in an office when you can hire someone who’s been working exclusively in an office the last fifteen years? Plus, if you’re laid off from your law enforcement job, you won’t be eligible for many jobs because many employers only interview those who are currently employed. Let’s see — do I hire the laid-off traffic cop for the office manager opening or do I hire the office manager who’s currently employed? An employer won’t be interested in a laid-off cop who will quit as soon as he or she finds another law enforcement job.

        My former cop friend ended up taking the only job he could — he works for a janitorial firm during the graveyard shift. He cleans public bathrooms in fast food restaurants from midnight to dawn. Yes, it’s work and he works hard at it, getting paid minimum wage with zero benefits.

        We need what you do. We need law enforcement. I’m not saying you’re not a critical member of society in a critically important job. I hope you always have the job that you obviously love. God bless you if you do. But don’t fool yourself into thinking you’re not taking government assistance. And, yes, you probably could find a job outside law enforcement. But the pay would be crap and I expect you’d hate it. (But I don’t know that because, after all, I can’t read minds.)