Thursday, October 6, 2011

This year it seems as though revolution after revolution keeps on taking place somewhere in the world. First it started in North Africa and spread rapidly across the Middle East. For the most part, the movements in the Middle East were for democracy and heightened due to economic woes and social inequality, so I could see where the protesters were coming from.

However, the latest protest in New York, "The Occupy Wall Street movement" to me seems entirely ridiculous for 2 big reasons: It's extremely short sighted with its generic demands that are, in truth, unrealistic to accomplish, and that they are targeting the wrong people

1. I'll start with the their demands. The main goal of the Occupy Wall Street is to end government corruption by asking the President to create an oversight committee to monitor lobbying. That's really cool and original, did they think of that themselves? I mean it's such an innovative concept that will surely accomplish a lot and revolutionize the way we support our government and our political leaders.

Sarcasm aside, this is not a new thought and it's too general. It sounds like they haven't fully thought through how effective a committee would be. Let's face it, most Congressional members are non-cooperative with opposing party members. So let's imagine that the President decides to act on this protest and he forms a bipartisan committee. In order to be fair, the bipartisan committee would have to have an equal number of Democrats and Republicans despite the fact that Republicans have a majority. What would likely happen is that Democrats will target Republican representatives for catering to special interests and vice versa. Strategically speaking, these bipartisan members will reject claims about lobbying when it concerns members of their own party so that they can have leverage when it comes to voting on important issues.

2. They are targeting the wrong people. Congratulations protesters, you have determined that Wall Street executives and their respective firms have received $1.5 trillion from the bailouts in 2008 and 2009. Obviously this must mean that they are hoarding money from the government because they have a lot of influence on the government.

Now for the serious part. Yes, the government paid AIG and other Wall Street firms a lot of our taxpayer money and it is difficult to imagine what would have happened had the government decided not to bail them out. Some say the banks are too big to fail, and others say that we should have let them rot and gamble with the potential repercussions. But to say that Wall Street can basically hold the government to ransom is dogmatic and misinformed.

There are several executives across a wide domain of industries who lobby politicians such as environmentalists, oil executives, energy executives, labor unions, trade unions, health, miscellaneous businesses, etc. In fact, the Finance, Real Estate, and Insurance lobby constitutes just 14% of all lobbyist spending between 1998 and 2010 while health, communications, and natural resources together constitute over a third of lobbyist spending in that same time frame.

Finance isn't even the lone reason behind the spending. Real Estate was buoyed by the 2000s housing bubble so naturally a lobby would be able to spend a decent amount to prevent restrictive laws. Insurance has been steadily escalating its premiums and policies over the past decade due to adverse selection and moral hazard so even if there were movements to stop their influence, the insurance companies would be more than able to deal with that. So if the Occupy Wall Street movement is going to target the Financial sector, they should be willing to put an offshoot movement and target other major lobbying sectors like healthcare and energy because they too contribute a lot. 14% is a small part of the puzzle and while eliminating that kind of influence is a good thing, it doesn't really stop the overall presence of lobbying.

So while Occupy Wall Street can help some frustrated people vent their frustrations out on some bigger organization, it won't solve anything because they'll realize that all their economic woes are not caused by Wall Street. While several firms on Wall Street did fail disastrously during the 2000's, there are deeper problems that we are not recognizing and targeting one particular organization for what they did in the past is no guarantee that we will have a better future.