Part 2 of 2
By Tera Ertz
As we saw in the last post, this Occupy Wall Street protesters sign was not incorrect in its assessment, merely incomplete. Wall Street and the American economic system is in fact responsible for most of the poverty on the planet today, and it is that responsibility that has led to great advances in technology, medicine, communication and transportation which has in turn led to a higher standard of living and a longer life expectancy for most of those living in poverty or suffering in the world today. But, let us now examine what would have made the statement complete, other than perhaps a “Thank you America” or a “Thank you Almighty God.” While either of these two statements would have been entirely appropriate to include in this statement, it still would not have completed the true picture of Wall Street and the economy it represents. It should have read as follows: “This district is responsible for most of the poverty and suffering on this planet and ALL of the wealth.” That would have been an accurate, if still ungrateful assessment. In studiously studying for this column, I slid on over to dictionary.com to get a definition of the wealth revered by those who love the poor and downtrodden and reviled by those who love attention. The definition most commonly used is:
Wealth n – 1. a great quantity or store of money, valuable possessions, property, or other riches
Now there is no denying that Wall Street represents a great deal of money. It is, after all, not only the home of some of the world’s most powerful banking institutions (banks which by the way do not own the money that resides with them, that is owned by the individuals who deposited it), it is also home to the world’s largest, most influential, and most dynamic stock exchanges, and yes that is plural. Now, according to the Wikipedia entry for Wall Street, not all of the brokerage firms remain on Wall Street today. That technological advancement I mentioned above has allowed these companies to branch out to Jersey and other areas of New York City, and these days, you can even trade on the exchange with a computer and internet connection. But, for simplicity’s sake, let’s concede that Wall Street is indeed, at least in spirit if no longer physically, the heart beat of America’s economy. It is through this rather amazing complex financial structure and exchange of capital for a share in a company that the economy of America grew to dominate the globe. It has withstood a Civil War, multiple economic revolutions, two World Wars, a Cold War in which its opposite, communism in its fullest implementation ever imposed on mankind, fell into ruin and rubble. It has survived bank runs, stock panics, the Great Depression, multiple recessions, the Savings and Loan crisis, over-regulation, deregulation, re-regulation and most recently the worst attack on American soil since World War II, and the attempts of many to turn the latest recession into another depression. Through all this, over the course of two centuries, individuals have gotten rich or lost their shirts, corporations have risen to the pinnacle or crashed into the dirt to be replaced by the next new thing. Still, the heartbeat of America continues its steady rhythm of liberty and creativity, mutually beneficial exchange and prosperity. The heart beat is fed by the millions of people across the country participating in the commerce and ideals represented in this tiny 8 block area. But, I mentioned that Wall Street is not just responsible for all the wealth in America, but around the globe.
When Wall Street trembles, markets crash is not yet an adage, but it should be. Examining just the last four years or so, we see the noticeable impact of America’s economy in every single corner of the globe. It is our participation in the UN, and the main part of that organization’s funding, that allows groups like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund to bail out failing economies and subsidize growing ones. It is our dollars that assisted failing European countries (you know the ones we’re supposed to look to for guidance on how best to run our country) before their collapse could implode the economies of the entire Eurozone. Every major economy on the planet shudders and convulses at the mention of an American default or new policies that shift trade imbalances more in our favor. Every minor economy quakes at the mention of a cessation of the money and food we send to more than 150 countries if we ever elect any politicians actually willing to put our money back in our pockets instead where their mouths are. Just as importantly, when we elect politicians who will finally quit vilifying this district, and the tens of millions of people in this country that participate in it one way or another, and get out of its way, it will also be responsible for the increased access to capital through private investment, increased stability in world markets, and strong economic growth that will occur. In short, if responsibility is control or influence, Wall Street is responsible for every dime, franc, euro, dinar, and rubble on the planet, not to mention the pesos.
There are two more definitions I’d like to proffer to my fellow misguided citizens currently Occupying Wall Street, before they try to tear down the economic structure on which the entire world economy rests.
Responsible – 2 : characterized by trustworthiness, integrity, and requisite abilities and resources
Were there some bad apples in the bunch at the beginning of this mess? Quite probably, there are usually a few in any bunch. Were the bailouts a bad idea? I’d say so, but I’m not an economist. The other is this:
wealth – mid-13c., “happiness,” from M.E. wele “well-being”
Wealth and riches have never just been about the money we have or the possessions we hold. Don’t get me wrong, property was always part of the equation, but our Declaration of Independence states the pursuit of happiness as a right, rather than the pursuit of property. That could have been stylistic, but given the rest of the attitudes of the Founders, I’m inclined to believe they meant exactly what they said, the wealth is about well-being and happiness, just as much as it is about property. Does it make sense to silence the beating heart of this country, on which the happiness and well-being of the entire planet depends? Should we shatter the foundation of prosperity, that is populated by men and women of integrity and trustworthiness, with the requisite abilities and resources to throw off the shackles of indecision, apathy and fear to begin rising once again to the promise and the challenge of being a people free to fail as many times as it takes to succeed? Learn the Lingo, and be wary the wielders of words.
You can check out more of Tera Ertz writings at The Pursuit of Happiness Show, or follow her on Facebook.