Let Reason Rule

This responds to an article in the Wall Street Journal from November 3, 2011 by Jeff Greene, “We Should Listen to the 99%”. Mr. Greene is an investor and was a Democratic candidate from Florida for the U.S. Senate in 2010. He is a signatory to the Giving Pledge, which commits participants to devote the majority of their wealth to philanthropy.

I am pleased Mr. Greene found the educated, middle class “occupy” protesters “sincere.” I find him to be sincere as well.

Mr. Greene concludes the protesters are “angry and frightened about the future” because they believe 99% of Americans are becoming more insecure, while only 1% of Americans are becoming more secure. Ninety-nine to one! Sounds like an unfair fight to me but people in America are free to express themselves. That expression helps us all digest what we observe, and reach our own conclusions about what has the ring of truth and what does not.

Mr. Greene puts blame for the insecurity of the protesters on a combination of bad government housing policy, bankers, low relative gas taxes, and a non-competitive education system. (Clarifying note to Mr. Greene, those Federal highways were paid for by the drivers who paid those relatively low gas taxes.)

Perhaps Mr. Greene represents the intersection of the “occupy” people and the “tea party” people, or perhaps he represents the ultimate in statist policy presumption that tells people where to live, what forms of transportation to use, and what skills the government will train them to perform. How about the following ideas Mr Greene?

Young and capable people are being asked to finance unsustainable social security and Medicare/caid entitlements. My daughter, a college student, doesn’t understand why she is expected to finance my retirement and health care benefits and pay off 15 trillion dollars in debt accumulated by my generation. She and the “occupy” people are right to be incensed about this. So, let’s restructure the entitlements to transition to a sustainable model where each generation has a chance to receive benefits of equal value. This means that each participant needs to share in both the risk and the return of these programs, not presume their children will subsidize them. If these problems are addressed with fundamental structural reform that fully addresses the multi-generational issues many will be willing to pay additional taxes to help with such a transition to sanity.

The political soup of the now taxpayer owned mortgage bundlers, Fannie and Freddie, has contributed materially to the culture of greed, self dealing, and influence peddling that corrupted the mortgage market and motivated its derivative financial engineering. So, let’s close down government intervention in the housing market and require both lenders and borrowers to suffer the consequences of dishonesty, while holding all parties accountable for performance of the obligations contained in the mortgage contracts they freely enter into. Let’s also make the Federal Reserve accountable to the people for its actions by requiring an annual audit.

One can presume from Mr. Greene’s comments that he understands the role of national, state, and local education interests in driving down the quality of education while driving up the cost. So, let’s put the power to choose and to allocate funding in the hands of the parents that care. Let’s also reflect on Mr. Greene’s comments about required skills and let employers tell the educators what skills they need, as they will be the ones hiring.

Finally, I am pleased Mr. Greene has committed a majority of his wealth to philanthropy as it demonstrates an understanding that it is more productive to deploy his money in the diversified private charitable realm than to allow it to be consumed by government in the form of estate taxes. I hope he is also allocating some of the capital derived from his individual success as an investor to business opportunities that may employ some of those protesters he identifies with.

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