Brooks and the Milquetoast Revolution

In today’s New York Times column, David Brooks mocks the Occupy Wall Street protesters for offering only mild and ineffective solutions to the country’s problems, rather than radical changes that would significantly alter the American system. It’s funny, but I haven’t seen or heard any OWS protesters claiming to be radicals or to want to overthrow the American system. Rather, I have seen people who love their country and want to let their leaders know they are not expendable. This should not be radical; in fact, no one should ever have to assert this position. We should assume all Americans are of value and that repairing our nation will require shared sacrifice.

He says, “They will have no realistic proposal to reduce the debt or sustain the welfare state. Even if you tax away 50 percent of the income of those making between $1 million and $10 million, you only reduce the national debt by 1 percent, according to the Tax Foundation.” I happen to think that removing the Bush-era tax cuts, ending corporate subsidies for corporations making huge profits, and closing tax loopholes that enable rich individuals and corporations to pay taxes at an exceptionally low rate or not at all, you will have an impact on the national debt.

But what if I am wrong? I am a humanist and not an economist, after all. I don’t have the solutions for the economic problems of the country, but I do feel that everyone should be subject to the same laws, same punishments, and same regard. After the financial collapse in 2008, we were told that banks were too big to fail and that we must rescue them. Taxpayers bailed out the banks only to see them become even larger through mergers and continue the same dangerous behaviors that caused the economic failure in the first place. We rescued them, rewarded their bad behavior, and are now being treated as if our voices do not matter.

If the banks are too big to fail, and the government won’t break them up, we must make them smaller ourselves by moving our money to credit unions and smaller banks. We must hold corporations accountable for their crimes. We must ask them to pay their share of rebuilding our country. Mr. Brooks is correct; this is not radical. He may also be correct that it will not solve all the financial problems of the United States, but it will be fair.

It is more important for me to live in a fair and just society than it is to live in a prosperous society. We should not need a revolution to achieve this.