“Occupy Wall Street” is more than a bunch of rich kids making love in the park, smoking dope and railing against capitalism, says the Ayn Rand Center’s Don Watkins.
“The real motive of the protesters is not to end ‘crony capitalism’ — it’s to attack real capitalism and end whatever is left of it in America,” says Watkins.
The movement continues to grow. Celebrities are giving their endorsements.
“Michael Moore and Susan Sarandon have dropped in,” reports Tina Susman for the Los Angeles Times. “A seasoned diplomat dispenses free advice. Supporters send everything from boxes of food and clothes to Whole Foods gift cards. They even have their own app, for the legions of fans following them on iPhones and Androids.”
So, what the protesters really want? The Media Research Center asked them:
Watkins at the Ayn Rand Center is wary of the movement: “Some Americans have expressed sympathy with the Occupy Wall Street protesters because they oppose bank bailouts and the incestuous relationship between Washington and Wall Street. Americans are understandably upset by what they see as ‘crony capitalism,” writes Watkins:
For years, Washington has favored certain bankers by intervening in the market. But that has nothing to do with genuine capitalism. Capitalism means that the government does one thing–protects us from force and fraud–leaving us free to conduct our economic affairs as we see fit. A capitalist government doesn’t intervene to pick winners and losers, or to save companies from their mistakes.
But the Wall Street protests aren’t calling for an end to government intervention in markets — they want to increase it. Most of them, for example, want to increase wealth redistribution in the name of fighting income inequality.
“Contrary to their rhetoric, they do not oppose the banks on the grounds that Wall Street is in bed with Washington. Notice, for instance, the plans to protest outside the home of investor John Paulson, who cannot be accused of getting government favors, and the lack of complaints about taxpayer money being poured into GM, Chrysler, and Solyndra. They chose to protest Wall Street because, whatever its flaws, it symbolizes genuine capitalism.
“What the protesters object to is not government stacking the deck to determine winners and losers. They just want the government to pick different winners and losers. They want to take the ‘capitalism’ out of ‘crony capitalism’ — not the other way around.”
Susman at the L.A. Times, however, doesn’t see the kids in the park as a threat. She asked some of the demonstrators about their long-term strategy and goals. “At a certain point, there’s a valid criticism in people asking, ‘What are you doing here?'” protester Chris Biemer, 23, told her.
Biemer, who recently moved to New York from Florida with a degree in business administration, says that ideally the group should team up with a nonprofit organization and get office space.
“It’s possible to stay here for months or longer, but at some point we’re going to become a fixture,” he said of their home in Zuccotti Park, a privately owned, publicly accessible plaza dotted with trees and flower beds about midway between the Stock Exchange and the former World Trade Center site.
Protester Victoria Sobel, “who like Biemer serves on Occupy Wall Street’s finance committee,” disagrees, writes Susman — and said the group’s strength lies in its ability to remain highly visible and in a place where anyone can visit and participate:
The 21-year-old New York University student happily reported Wednesday that bookshelves had been delivered to the UPS store where the group receives mail. They’ll sit beneath a tarp in the park, all part of Sobel’s vision to solidify the group’s foothold.
“It’s a moment of clarifying for us,” Sobel said, confident that as autumn’s chill turns to winter’s subfreezing temperatures, Occupy Wall Street will stay put. “We’ll layer,” she said with a laugh, when asked how they’ll manage the cold.
“Tourists stroll in to snap pictures and read the protest signs scattered across the ground,” reports Susman, “then wander off to their next sightseeing stop. Executives drop in on lunch breaks to talk politics and economics. Police hang back on the sidewalks, and follow along when groups of protesters stage marches.
“Protest numbers vary as people drift in and out of the park. Some live in the area and come by for a few hours each day or week. Others stay there around the clock, their sleeping bags, guitars and clothing bundles spread on the ground. On Wednesday, they included a sleepy-eyed young man in a rumpled T-shirt cuddling a pet rat, and a woman who pranced about in her underwear …”