Imagine there is a nail sitting upright on the floor. You step on it, and your foot gets punctured. The result is a lot of pain, and possibly an infection. I want to take a second to ask who should be blamed for this situation. Do we blame the nail? Obviously not, as the nail’s purpose is to exist and be a nail. It did not actively seek to cause your foot pain. It was just being a nail. It is your responsibility not to step on the nail.
The problem with Occupy Wall Street is that it takes the wrong approach to viewing Wall Street. Wall Street should not be viewed as an active entity with volition. That perspective divests the individual and the consumer of all responsibility. Instead, Wall Street, and its turning gears, should be viewed as just that, turning gears. Wall Street is a machine that operates on the profit motive, with people working to make profits. It is inevitable that these people will do what it takes to make money and gain power. It is our responsibility as consumers, citizens, and political participants to be wise in the decisions we make.
Take a look at predatory lending for example. For those of you who don’t know, the practice is fairly straightforward. I, as the banker, will give you a loan for a home that you obviously cannot afford, knowing that you will default. Once you default, I will take the home (which is worth the amount of the loan) and whatever money you have managed to pay thus far. Therefore, I will make money in the end. This is one operation of the machine that is Wall Street. Now, the Occupy Wall Street folks will tell you that this is an unscrupulous practice which needs to be regulated and stopped by the government. I do not share the same view. My argument is that you, the consumer, should not try and buy the $750,000 dollar that they obviously will never be able to pay off. Instead, settle for a rent to own 2 bedroom. The same can be said about car loans. Do not try to purchase the $70,000 BMW. Buy a used Civic instead that you can pay off in 2 years time.
A good number of Americans live under the fallacy that having a college degree makes you deserving of having a career which pays at least $80,000 per year. I’m sorry, but if your GPA was 2.7, and your chief extracurricular activity was smoking marijuana, you have no right to expect a luxurious life. Youth in this country exist in a bubble of excess spending and poor financial management. If you already have student loans to pay off, what are you doing maxing out your credit cards, ruining your history, and accumulating debt? It is not difficult to get a job, nor is it difficult to make enough money to live a decent life. This is especially true if you live in places like Cleveland, Baltimore, Atlanta, or any of the plain states. The only thing is that the first job you get may not be the dream multi-million dollar executive salary position you want. And, because you watched too many romantic comedies, you thought it was alright to get married and have a child by the age of 23. You really think you can support a family on your $35k per year entry level job?
Hard work is rewarded in this country and in this economy. The problem is that it is not rewarded instantly, and it is not rewarded simply. You have to be good at politiking, and you need initiative. You need to be experienced, talented, and highly qualified to land the top level executive positions. Chances are, however, you’re not going to get to that point until at least your late thirties. If you need to get a job busing tables, then that’s what you have to do. It is nothing to be ashamed of. The reality is that a full time minimum wage worker makes roughly $1000 per month. Go from minimum wage to $10 per hour, and you make $1600 per month. Just five more dollars per hour, and that becomes $2400, which is enough to live comfortably if you live within your means. Blue collar vocational positions also pay very well. A mechanic at a Lexus dealership can make upwards of $25 per hour.
The problem is not Wall Street. They are just doing their jobs, and they are doing them very well. The problem is that American society breeds a culture of false entitlement and frivolity. Students spend their time partying instead of building their resumes, getting experience, and getting good grades which will allow them to have successful futures. I’m not saying that all enjoyment should cease in lieu of hard work and industriousness. Rather, it is more appropriate to lead a balanced life. There is a time for play, and there is a time for work. Unfortunately, for too many, work time turns into play time, and then all time turns into play time. Companies will always hire people who work harder and have more impressive resumes over people who do not. This is just a fact.
The most beautiful thing about this approach of individual fiscal responsibility is that it is the best way to end unethical practices on Wall Street! We sometimes forget that free market forces still matter somewhat in this country. The “unscrupulous Wall Street tycoons” that the people in the park settlements are all riled up about prey upon irresponsible Americans who do not understand how to responsibly use their money. Predatory loans became fashionable because a lot of people were getting them. If Americans take the time to better understand how money works and how to use it better, then predatory economic practices will stop because there will be no market for them. If nobody bothers to get a ridiculous loan for a Maserati they can’t afford, then these loans will inevitably stop existing. The interest rates will decrease as well. As a population of consumers, it is our job to make it more profitable for the financial institutions to be ethical. It is not easy to be responsible, but it is the real way to fix this economy.
After all, the nail will always be there. You are the one who needs to watch where you step.