OWS: Sound and fury signifying nothing – By George J. Marlin

 The following appears in the November 4-10, 2011 issue of the Long Island Business News:

In the late 1960s, protests were serious enterprises. Hundreds of thousands turned out in cities throughout the nation to express their views on the Vietnam War. For instance, on April 15, 1967, over 100,000 antiwar demonstrations hit the streets of Manhattan. One month later, on May 17, 1967, I marched down Fifth Avenue with 70,000 in a “Support Our Boys in Vietnam” parade.

Today, many on the left are attempting to portray Occupy Wall Street as the successor to the anti-Vietnam War movement. However, having viewed firsthand OWS assemblies in New York, Philadelphia and Baltimore, I can’t buy that line.

First of all, the crowds are miniscule – a few hundred at each spot. The only time their ranks swell is when municipal union bosses send in their members. (Considering the average salary of public-service employees is higher than private sector workers, I don’t understand what they have to complain about.) Also, what takes up most of the occupied territory are manned booths distributing radical literature and selling Che Guevara shirts, not protestors.

As for the protestors, they are a hodgepodge of old hippies, parlor anarchists, back-alley revolutionaries, professional agitators, environmental radicals and young narcissists. A survey conducted by top Democratic Party pollster Douglas Schoen revealed they are far removed from the American mainstream. Ninety-eight percent would support civil disobedience and 38 percent said they are prepared to engage in violence to effectuate their political agenda. These findings should not come as a surprise: Brian Phillips, an OWS leader in New York, told National Public Radio, “My political goal is to overthrow the government.”

Most painful for me is listening to inarticulate, ignorant students who condemn the American system as immoral, oppressive and evil, and are convinced they are the anointed ones destined to restore peace and beauty to the United States. These self-righteous kids, many of whom accept living allowances and tuition from their much despised middle-class parents, claim they are the champions of the “powerless” laborers and the poor – groups they never encountered during their sheltered suburban and gated-community youth.

In New York, these disparate protesters appear to have two common goals: They want Wall Street banks emasculated and taxes increased on the state’s wealthiest residents.

What the protestors fail to grasp is that the financial industry they loathe employs hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers and is the largest component of New York’s economy. Prior to the Great Recession, 20 percent of state tax revenues and 13 percent of city tax revenues came from Wall Street.

After the 2008 market crash, New York lost more than 40,000 financial sector jobs and billions in tax revenues. And if the anti-bank protestors have their way, there will be more unemployed and even less revenues to finance local government. That’s why Mayor Michael Bloomberg described the protestors as job killers. “What they are trying to do is take away jobs from the people working in the city,” he said. “If the jobs they’re trying to get rid of in the city – the people that work in finance, which is a big part of our economy – go away, we’re not going to have any money to pay our municipal employees to clean the parks or anything else.”

As for New York’s “millionaires” tax, which actually would kick in for people with incomes at $200,000, OWS protestors do not understand that it has driven scores of wealthier New Yorkers to low-tax states. Gov. Andrew Cuomo reacting to OWS demands refused to reverse his opposition to the tax extension and warned the mob thusly: “You are kidding yourselves if you think you can be one of the highest-taxed states in the nation, have a reputation for being anti-business and have a rosy economic future.”

Thanks to the 24/7 news cycle, Occupy Wall Street, a creation of the media, has received far more attention than it deserves. But I have faith that common sense New Yorkers will realize this “revolution” is driven by fun seekers and adventurers and not those with real grievances.

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