Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Occupy Wall Street’s Lack of Focus

Tibor R. Machan

Rolling Stone magazine ran a piece recently arguing that what OWS is doing doesn’t amount to attacks on money or banking but is aimed at corruption. While this is a spin that may work for some folks, it doesn’t sound credible for me.

When someone, some organization or an institution is charged with corruption, this is a serious matter. It is comparable to accusing some people of malpractice in medicine, education, engineering or the like. And such a charge requires specific proof in order to make it credible. Otherwise is it irresponsible.

All the while OWS has been afoot, however, no specific accusations have been laid out by the participants or leaders or supporters. It is all vague and unfocused. It is much more like scapegoating those on Wall Street, given that the group doesn’t bother to be specific and fails, moreover, to go after the main culprits, for example those in Washington who urged the banks to make borrowing easy. In 1992 Bill Clinton’s administration did, in fact, implore banks to do just that, through Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, for example. So why are these not the targets of OWS?

Of course there is another little thing that’s odious about OWS. This is the use of the term “occupy.” That term is used to refer to what huge, imperialist countries do with some of their neighbors, namely, send in troops to occupy them, to run roughshod over them, and to raid and pilfer them good and hard. Is this what OWS is proposing to do with the firms that are located on Wall Street or associated with them? Are they going to invade these just as Hitler did some of Germany’s neighbors and Stalin did with the Soviet Union’s? I do not believe this is any kind of an attractive image or even analogy. It easily makes OWS out to be aggressors.

There is no doubt that OWS folks can list numerous general failings that have occurred on Wall Street, plenty of misdeeds that have been perpetrated thereabouts, usually with the support of Washington’s politicians and bureaucrats. Yet there doesn’t appear to be much recognition of this within the ranks of the OWS folks. When they are interviewed they tend to lash out imprecisely, even blindly, and mostly at those in American society who are doing reasonably well, economically. The strategy seems to be to garner the sadly widespread prejudice around the country directed at those in the business community. In other words, OWS appears to be but a current version of the age old mentality and practice of business bashing. This is what fueled much of what the Third Reich was all about, including the deadly anti-Semitism evidenced during that era. While OWS doesn’t show direct hostility to Jews, it does appear to pick on those within the business community, giving the clearly guilty politicians a pass at the same time.

Of course there are other problems with many who join OWS, not the least of which is the mentality most of them share about how they are entitled to free goods and services from others in American society. Protesting tuition at higher educational institutions is but a more glaring symptom of this, the belief that others must be forced to pay for the education of young protesters. Why exactly? (Here one failing of the media covering OWS becomes quite evident since hardly any journalists pose the challenging question to protesters about why other people’s resources ought to be confiscated so as to support them?) And if the purpose of some protesters is to complain about unemployment and general economic malaise, wouldn’t it be imperative that they actually figure out who is mostly responsible for these, what policies have produced them? And shouldn’t members of the media press the issue with them when they are being interviewed?

Or is OWS simply a noisy lament with nothing better than ignorance backing it, a kind of shaking one’s fist at the sky when one’s picnic has been rained out? Which isn’t a very useful thing and certainly points at no one who may be guilty of anything at all.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Did Rubio’s Parents Do Right?

Tibor R. Machan

Despite what Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio has reportedly believed throughout much of his political career, it seems that his parents didn’t flee Fidel Castro's communist Cuba for political freedom in the US. What some media appear to have “revealed” is that they came to the US in 1956, prior to Castro’s rise to power, so as to improve their lives. And, as reports to tellingly make clear, this is a mere economic reason for emigrating, not the noble one of escaping oppression.

Let me tell you right away that when you live in a hopelessly defunct country, it makes little difference whether you are oppressed or impoverished. Both can kill you good, and both are mostly the result of how the country is being run by the politicians who have taken it over. Batista versus Castro--who cares? Hitler versus Stalin--who cares? Bad news either way and responsible folks, especially parents with young kids, will do the right thing and get out before it’s too late.

When I was smuggled out of Hungary at age 14, I left mainly because of my very bad prospects there, economic or otherwise. I had already begun to open my mouth in unwise ways, such as questioning Karl Marx’s dictum in school, “From each accordingly to his ability, to each according to his needs.” I used to run past the Soviet Embassy and shout obscenities at the frozen guards and tell jokes like “Why is that woman in that famous statue on top of Gellert Hill holding her palm leaf up high? Because beneath her stands a Soviet soldier and she is afraid he will steal it form her.” Or, “How come just seconds after Molotov told Stalin that they’re driving out to the countryside did Stalin’s chauffeur enter the room reporting that his car was waiting for him? Because Radio Free Europe announced the trip a couple of seconds ago.”

I don’t know whether my mother in Budapest and father in Munich, who were considering helping me escape, felt the threat to me was economic or something else. They fortunately decided that it would be safer for me to live in the West. Let’s just say when one is threatened by a dictatorship, often this occurs via economic oppression and deprivation--loss of one’s job, confiscation of one’s property, eviction from one’s abode, etc., etc.--not just out and out jail and torture. Of course, there are also those and deportation--mainly to somewhere like Siberia back in those days in communist countries--or outright murder. All in all the idea is that one’s life is going to suck big time or get snuffed out!

I don’t know about the parents of little Marco Rubio but in any case, I would applaud their actions and as an adult, the Senator is rightly thankful for what they did for him and themselves. Ah, but when it comes to political haggling, any possible weakness in one’s opponent is fair game. Never mind his policies, never mind yours, just besmirch the opponent good and hard and gain power any which way, right?

I supposed leaving a country for reasons of wanting to escape poverty and improving one’s economic circumstances is not noble enough for the members of the US media who delight in this kind of “revelation.” Gotcha is what matters. But why is pointing out that Rubio’s parents left for America for the allegedly “conventional reason of economic improvement” something newsworthy?

Well because of an ancient prejudice among millions of people against those who want to live well, who want economic success instead of failure. To endure poverty is heroic, to escape it petty, by this line of thinking. Never mind that when one’s child lacks food and clothing and the rest of those lowly economic advantages in life, the kid’s likely to grow up in hardship and will need some serious catching up to do.

My parents wanted me to do well enough in life to get a good start and the uniform gross mismanagement of Hungary at the hands of the communists--and, earlier the fascists--was a good enough reason to get me out of there.

Of course, I took a big risk too, since fleeing was hazardous--the border was booby trapped, guards were targeting all those who fled on foot like I and my companions did. (Not that I fully grasped this--for me it was more like an adventure.) But needless to say, it was all worth it, even if we had failed--trying is better with those damned dictators than putting up.

I personally am glad that Sen. Rubio’s parents had the foresight to get him out of Cuba before Castro took over the place and started to make a royal mess of it.