08 Oct

Occupy Wall St. AND Main St.

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The “Occupy Wall Street” movement is amazing.

When I first heard of it, I thought it’d last a day, fizzle out, and we’d never hear of it again. But the tenacity of the core group, and its strength has really moved me. Instead of believing protests are useless (especially after the huge world-wide “Don’t Invade Iraq” protests that preceded President Bush’s futile and expensive attack on Iraq), this has possibilities, even without “official” demands.

I wonder about some of the suggestions/ideas presented by protesters. I’ve heard/read ones like “eliminate all student loan debt,” “eliminate all consumer debt,” “raise the minimum wage to $20/hour,” “stop cutbacks to social/economic programs,” “distribute wealth and taxes more fairly.” Some of these are silly, some are sweet, and some have no chance for realization without dangerous and unnecessary pain, in my opinion. But the way this is opening up discussion and debate is amazing.

I also believe that many of our current practices are more “socialist” than capitalists want you to believe. For example, the idea (as I understand it) behind capitalism is that the market decides what businesses survive and fail, not the government. So if you make something everyone wants, you will succeed. However, if no one, or too few what want you’re selling (or you engage in bad business practices such as inefficient advertising, or pay yourself too much from your profits), then your business will fail.

If that’s the case, then bailouts and tax cuts (especially to the point where companies don’t pay any taxes despite huge profits) are not capitalism, and they’re surely not fair. I mean I pay my taxes, follow the rules, yet if I lose all my money in a bad investment or mismanagement or because I don’t earn enough to pay for rent AND food. Others have it even worse: massive debt, no job, no home, no money…

Where’s our bailout?

Here’s an idea I read online (sorry, I don’t remember where it came from, but to be clear it’s not mine):

Give every individual tax payer $10,000.

Some numbers:

  • In 2008 there were 216,885,347 taxpayers in the United States (source)
  • In 2008, the average tax rate for taxpayers was 12.24% (source)
  • As of me “now,” the US budget deficit is $14,843,530,108,739 (source)

$10,000 x 216,885,347 taxpayers x (100% – 12.24%) = $1,903,385,805,272 or about $1.9 trillion.

So on the surface, this would increase the deficit from $14.8 to $16.7 trillion.

For comparison, the 2008 bailouts were about $865 million (source), much of which was paid back, although not all. I had a hard time finding actual costs because many sites add the losses banks suffered and “wrote off” as additional costs, which makes to me. These values were in the $1 to $4 trillion range (source and source).

Let’s assume it’s in the middle, about $2 billion. If so, “The People’s Bailout” is about equal.

HOWEVER…
I believe this money would almost immediately stimulate the economy. People would pay off loans and debts allowing them to spend more (which would add to local/state revenue via sales tax, etc.); others would buy stuff now; unemployed people may be able to make investments in their future by starting their own businesses and getting off of unemployment; the list goes on…

When combined with fair tax reform, where wealthy people pay their fair share (at least to pre-“We’re doing SO well we don’t need your money!” levels), we will all reap the benefits.

I think of this as a level, fair “bailout for the people” that doesn’t ignore those in the “99%” who have played by the rules and are debt-free, while also giving a hearty handful of help to those who really need it.

But here’s the thing:
If we the people got that kind of money, it would be our responsibility to do something worthy with it, to really invest in ourselves and communities, like in The Parable of the Talents from Matthew 25:14-30 (source) (where I love how “talents” now has a different meaning). Otherwise it’s just financial masturbation, and suddenly we the people are no different than the heartless corporations targeted by the Occupy Wall Street movement.

It’s one thing to say “we don’t like the way you run your business,” but it’s another to then run your “business” (what I’m calling “Main St.” here) with integrity.

 

This may not be a perfect solution, but it’s certainly different enough to allow for change. Otherwise, we the people can not sustain our current journey along the status quo, paying tolls to those who are merely in the business of collecting tolls.

 

Image source – Thank you vilhelm