As someone who admittedly knows very little about economics, government, capitalism vs socialism, or the financial industry, this bit on what Mark Jeffrey's thinks Occupy Wall Street is really about was enlightening.
Over the last several days, there has been a lot of talk about OWS being socialist, un-American and about 're-distribution of wealth'. Nothing could be further from the truth.
In a capitalist system, if you make a product or service the world finds of value, you are rewarded. Sometimes, you are rewarded with an obscene amount of money. As you should be: this is what God intended when he invented capitalism and opened the stock market on the 8th day. If you are Steve Jobs and you make insanely great products, everyone runs out and buys every newer, smaller more awesome version.
If you suck, or you operate your business like a fool, or you're just plain unlucky timing-wise, you are rewarded with going out of business. Every single Internet entrepreneur knows this. In fact, we all know people who've lost companies or sold them for crappy valuations: I lost a company myself back in the crash of 2000.
Again, God looked down and lo, even this was good. All Internet entrepreneurs would also (eventually) say this is a good thing: you get your head snapped back, you learn about business and yourself. You come back twice as smart. The market benefits eventually with renewed strength: everyone actually prospers in the end.
But in 2008, when the banks failed, this did not happen.
The banks -- who either ran their businesses like fools, or who intentionally created a bubble (and if this is true, I would go so far as to suggest this may be labelled Financial Treason, since they hurt America on an epic scale with full knowledge of what they were doing -- and didn't care) -- the banks should have gone down in bankruptcy. Their assets should have been sold in auction, and a thousand new creative business opportunities would have been created. Startup people from the Internet world would have descended on the carcass of Wall Street with insanely amazing ideas.
In a proper capitalist system, this is what would have happened. And we all would have benefitted! Even the idiots at Goldman Sachs, etc. who got us here: some self-reflection would have done them good.
The state stepped in. The state funded the banks with our money, yours and mine. A full 20% of the valuation of the United States of America was annihilated by these morons, and we simply funded them back up from the Treasury (actually worse: from the non-federal Federal Reserve -- which I won't even get into here).
You know what that's called?
Socialism. The fusion of the state and corporation is called Socialism. And this is what OWS objects to. That's what they are angry about.
(One of the best comments I read on this is 'Capitalism without the possible consequence of bankruptcy is like Christianity without Hell.')
Some argue that the banks were 'too big to fail'. I say that's bullshit, but let's let that stand for now. When an Internet company is on its last legs, and is almost dead, they do generally have at least some options. They can raise additional capital, but usually at egregious terms: the new investors want to wipe out the old investors percentage-wise, they want 2-5x liquidation preferences, they want control of the Board, etc.
And the almost-dead company has to accept these terms: they have their hat in their hand and have no choice.
This is where the banks were in 2008. Except: we never forced terms like this on them. We should have. That's what you do in Capitalism.
As American Citizens, and bailers-out-of-the-banks, you and I should have had pro rata stock shares in every bailed out bank. You and I should have pro rata dividends that come to us quarterly, it should not go into the pockets of the bankers as immense bonuses. And you and I should have pro rata voting rights on Board issues.
You want to be too big too fail? Fine. Here's the term sheet from the American People, who are now forced to be venture capitalists and should at least reap the rewards of investment. Yes, our terms are egregious, but We, The People are saving you from bankruptcy.
This is called Capitalism. We didn't see that happen with the banks. Instead: we saw socialism happen, we saw redistribution of wealth alright: we saw the bankers get our money! (And for those of you who argue the banks paid it all back you're wrong; and even if they did, the Fed printing more money in massive quantities creates inflation which effectively robs us as well).
The State did not do its job. The State did not protect We, The People. Instead, it protected the corporations at the expense of the people.
And we know it happened, and we're pissed off. And we don't believe that anything has actually changed, and we seem to be powerless through our existing political system to do anything about it: both Democrats and Republicans are on their side, not ours, so even voting doesn't matter like it should in a real democracy. We can't vote on who runs the Federal Reserve (hint: he's ex Goldman Sachs, so who do you think he sides with?)
That is what OWS is really all about. It's about true democracy, true capitalism, and America.