Dear Occupy Wall Street,
First, sorry about this open letter thing. I know they've become very trendy lately and I hate to jump on the public correspondence bandwagon. But, I know you're busy and I don't know how else to get your attention.
Second, let me say thank you. You have the guts to do what I do not. Namely, leave my comfortable heated, toilet-equipped, blanket-stocked home to stand out on the cold, hard concrete to demand change. Our current system of wealth distribution is clearly broken and must be fixed. No great social change has ever been brought about without leaders like you demanding it.
So, here's the problem. Now that you've got the world's attention, you need an action plan. For the 98.99999 percent of us who support your goals, but not your methods, give us a call to action that we can follow. Here's where I think you need to start.
Take our money back. Wall Street may have pulled the trigger on killing the economy, but we gave them the gun. No one told us we had to invest our money in Wall Street stocks or real estate we couldn't really afford. We could have put it in our local banks and credit unions where it would have been invested in small businesses that needed capital to grow. But, those returns weren't enticing enough for us, so we opted to hand over our money to a bunch of people we'd never met, who invested in stuff we didn't understand. Then we crossed our fingers and hoped for the best. Maybe it's time we stopped doing that.
Demand corporate tax reform. General Electric, Verizon , Boeing, Dupont and many more companies all got out of paying income taxes in the years between 2008 and 2010. Did you? I bet not. If you vote for candidates who refuse to make corporations and rich individuals pay their fair share in income tax, we will never have the capital to reinvest in our country, our infrastructure, our education systems and ourselves. Without a good foundation to grow the next generation of Americans, there will be no economic recovery.
Vote against corporate campaign financing. The McCain–Feingold Act was only the tip of the iceberg. If we want to keep big money from controlling how our government legislates – including whom it makes pay taxes and to whom it grant government contracts – we must vote for candidates who refuse to take it. Furthermore, we must vote for candidates who will enact legislation that doesn't let anyone else take corporate campaign donations, either.
Stop buying cheap. Where'd you buy your last pair of sneakers? Your winter coat? Your furniture? There was a time when you would go to your local shoe store, clothing store and furniture store when you wanted something new. Your purchase supported the store owner, his employees, the people who manufactured the products and the truck driver who delivered them. Those people, in turn, supported other businesses in their towns – auto garages, restaurants and book stores. All those jobs are gone now. If you want to work in retail, you work for Walmart or Target and you don't make a living wage. If you want a good manufacturing job, you're out of luck. Until we start investing in and buying from businesses in our own towns and in our own country, we are never going to see jobs come back to America .
Get real.Could it be that our inflated expectations about what being middle class is all about helped get us into this mess? Is it really reasonable for every family to expect to have a four bedroom house, two new cars, a few iPads and a couple of flat screen TV's? We've come to think of these things as necessities, rather than luxuries and decided we had to own them – whether we could afford them or not. It's time we got real about what's important and what's not and adjusted our consumption and borrowing habits accordingly.
Re-engineer our unions. The unions have been vocal supporters of Occupy Wall Street, but they've had their hand in this mess, too. There's no doubt that unions are important. They represent workers and make sure they are paid a fair wage, treated properly and not taken advantage of. But unions, like the rest of us, got too greedy. When union-made products and services became so expensive that we could no longer afford them, companies outsourced their manufacturing overseas. Union labor costs public entities twice what non-union labor does and that is costing tax payers who are already struggling. The issue's a complicated one, but the unions are not without some responsibility for this situation and they, too, need to re-evaluate what's important in the long run and what sacrifices they are willing to make for the good of us all.
While some members of the Occupy Wall Street movement believe capitalism is the problem, I disagree. We had a system that could have worked, had we used it responsibly. Instead, we've behaved like a bunch of teenagers at their first kegger. We've over-indulged and acted like idiots and now we're paying the price with a bad economic hangover.
It's time we looked in the mirror, made the decision to change and started acting like sober adults.
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Jeanette Mulvey is the managing editor of BusinessNewsDaily. She has written about small business for more than 20 years and formerly owned her own e-commerce business. Her column, Mind Your Business, appears on Mondays only on BusinessNewsDaily. You can follow her on Twitter at @jeanettebnd or contact her via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.