Michael Bloomberg's recent comments regarding the Occupy Wall Street protests were spot on. He sees that the messaging coming out of these protests is not going after specific companies that have done bad things, it's going after corporations.
The problem isn't just corporations in general: It's some of the people that run some of the corporations.
Most of the people in this country work for decent companies, ones who don't game the system, don't bribe the government, pay their taxes, and are good members of society. Corporations employ the vast majority of regular people, and most people in this country are still doing fine — most of them, because they have a job with one of those corporations.
Bloomberg touches on these themes in his comments here.
"Everyone's got a thing they want to protest, some of which is not realistic," Bloomberg said during his weekly radio show on Friday, according to The Village Voice. "And if you focus for example on driving the banks out of New York City, you know, those are our jobs...You can't have it both ways: If you want jobs you have to assist companies and give them confidence to go and hire people."
The protesters, the mayor said, are not directing their attacks at the right place and could put workers out of jobs.
"The protests that are trying to destroy the jobs of working people in this city aren't productive," Bloomberg said. "What they're trying to do is take away the jobs of people working in the city, take away the tax base that we have. We're not going to have money to pay our municipal employees or anything else."
Bloomberg also attacked the labor unions who joined the fray this week, saying that "their salaries come from—are paid by—some of the people they're trying to vilify."
The problem isn't Wall Street. These people are protesting at the wrong place entirely. The problem is K Street, the capital of special interest lobby groups in Washington, DC.
The bailouts that didn't have enough strings attached to them—those were nailed down in Washington, not Wall Street. The money they talk about there being too much of in politics (interesting how they leave out special interest money from organizations they agree with, isn't it?)—yeah, K Street is the capital of that, too. Foreclosure issues—again, K Street. Unfair tax breaks—K Street.
This even leaves out the really childish things protesters want, essentially asking for the level of government spending they have in some countries in Europe, while conveniently ignoring the fact that those countries have higher taxes across the board, not just on the wealthy.
There are a lot of reasons to compare this potential nascent movement with the early stages of the Tea Party, but the primary reason I see is because they cartoonishly paint a picture of one segment of society, building a straw man so they can demonize them more easily.
The Tea Party does the same thing with government. The Tea Party myth that we could solve our economic, debt and deficit problems by slashing government spending and cutting taxes is just as much a fairy tale as these "Occupiers" pretending higher taxes on the wealthy would allow us to balance the budget, avoid trimming entitlement programs, and have enough left over to pay for huge economic stimulus projects.
Maybe more sober heads will prevail, and whatever evolves out of this amorphous uprising will buck the trend of every other angry populist movement in modern times. I wouldn't bet on it though.
Solomon Kleinsmith is a former nonprofit worker, serial social entrepreneur and strident centrist independent blogger from Omaha, Nebraska. His website, Rise of the Center, is the fastest growing blog targeting centrist independents and moderates.