How Steve Jobs’ life discredits ‘Occupy Wall Street’ movement

In fairness to the Gen X burnouts, progressive astro-turfers and labor bosses who comprise the band of bloviating brothers known as “Occupy Wall Street,” it is a little difficult to root for Wall Street these days — yes, even when that generic caricature, “Wall Street,” is pitted against marijuana-dipped liberal protestors who seem to be as motivated by skipping work as they are sticking it to millionaires.

Because, let’s be honest with ourselves fellow capitalists, the abuses perpetrated by some of Wall Street’s most powerful men and women a few years ago are prime contributors to our continuingly perilous economic plight.

In fact, if you were to rank the reasons our economy is in the tank and the unemployment line is still around the building, the top three reasons would probably be: (1) a government that over-regulates all aspects of the economy, except Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae; (2) the bogus idea — turned public-policy, turned financial best practices — that everyone should own a home, even if they can’t afford to pay back the loan that made access to home ownership possible and (3) the eagerness of some of Wall Street’s most powerful men and women to manipulate (1) and (2) in truly dangerous ways.

The free market in a nation ruled by laws, of course, has a pretty good remedy for the kind of fraud that percolated in Wall Street’s halls of high finance circa 2008 — prohibit it and punish it. But that criminal deterrent didn’t prevent some of Wall Street’s most muscular actors from committing it and avoiding the grasp of the law. This is wrong.

A couple months back, a liberal wag over at Rolling Stone penned a pieced entitled “Why isn’t Wall Street in Jail?”  Here’s how the story put it:

“Over drinks at a bar on a dreary, snowy night in Washington this past month, a former Senate investigator laughed as he polished off his beer.

” ‘Everything’s f____ up, and nobody goes to jail,’ he said. ‘That’s your whole story right there. Hell, you don’t even have to write the rest of it. Just write that.’

“I put down my notebook. ‘Just that?’

” ‘That’s right,’ he said, signaling to the waitress for the check. ‘Everything’s f____ up, and nobody goes to jail. You can end the piece right there.’ “

Rolling Stone is not the Financial Times, and the author of the admittedly one-sided piece is a hyper-liberal with an agenda. Still, there is a certain populist and pragmatic appeal to the issue he raises: How in the name of the Rule of Law did no one go to jail for offenses so obvious and so damaging?

In my view, there are at least a couple Wall Street types who should be sharing a jail cell with the social engineers who shielded Fannie and Freddie from sensible reform (that’s you, Barney Frank).

The most efficient, least economically harmful way to curb the use of reckless financial practices and fraudulent accounting is to, very simply, punish it. And it didn’t happen.

Unfortunately, the failure of our legal system to hold certain Wall Street actors responsible for their share of our economic mess provides more than ample pre-text for Michael Moore and his ilk to march and protest and clamor for the death of capitalism and broad-brush banishment of Wall Street.

But, as with all things Michael Moore and America’s illiberal left, reality exists somewhere beyond the reach of their European socialist talking points.

As tragedy and fate would have it, news of the Wall Street march was crowded out Wednesday night and Thursday by news of the death of a man whose life vindicates the enduring wisdom of free-people exercising legitimate profit motives in a free- enterprise system.

Steve Jobs life and remarkable contribution is, in so many respects, the best possible rebuttal to the wholesale, anti-free-enterprise rhetoric emanating from the Occupy Wall Street marchers.

That’s because, in so many ways, Jobs was the ultimate capitalist — an innovator, an entrepreneur, a visionary whose creative genius was given wing by an economic system that makes capital and profit widely available to the authors of big ideas.

Steve Jobs was all those things. His legacy is a global mega-empire that, just a few short months ago, surpassed Exxon Mobile as the world’s largest company.

In the end, no human system is without flaw. And the American free-enterprise system, as recent events have shown, is hardly without its own blemishes. But those blemishes are not the defining characteristics of the way we Americans do business.

The marchers on Wall Street have got it wrong. The face of American capitalism doesn’t belong to Fannie, Freddie, AIG or an exaggerated caricature of Wall Street. The face of American capitalism is Steve Jobs. The former should be punished for violating the laws of our system. The latter should be celebrated, along with the free enterprise economic system that made his rise possible.

Josh Penry is a former Colorado Senate Minority leader and a graduate of Grand Junction High School and Mesa State College.


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