Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Occupy Bend, please

It seems inconceivable that the "frisbee and hacky-sack" crowd in lower Manhattan wearing "V for Vendetta" masks would inspire protesters all the way in Bend, Oregon.

But, Bend is but one of many places around the state to join the general leftish angst sweeping the thinking world.

For a couple of weeks during glorious fall weather with brilliant colors everywhere, a couple of dozen protesters have taken over the former Bulletin site in downtown Bend. There are about a dozen tents, a motor home and plenty of signs decrying war, economic imbalance and the 1 percenters.

These 99 percenters, the ones without fortunes, are mostly young and hip. And, presumably, jobless. That's okay, because the unemployment rate in Central Oregon is nearly double the national average.

What else is there to do before snowboard season?

I'm not sure what these protests will accomplish, but there are good reasons for this spontaneous eruption of anti-corporate sentiments.

Here are a few:

This chart helps explain some of the anger out there. It shows that for every dollar you earn, a CEO in America gets $475. The next closest nation is Venezuela, where an executive makes a mere $50 for your $1.

Of course, this has been going on for decades. No one really noticed because every American believes he or she will be that CEO one day. The odds of that happening are worse than your chance of starting for an NBA team.

But now that the economy continues its free-fall, Americans are starting to wonder why we subsidize American corporations to close plants in America and open them in foreign countries.

We also wonder about our retirement.

Check out "Retirement Heist" by Ellen Schultz, a Pulitzer Prize journalist for the Wall Street Journal, hardly a left-wing rag.

She points out that major American corporations, like G.E., are blaming onerous retirement benefits for our economic malaise. But, she also reveals that it is the retirement benefits of a handful of executives that are bankrupting our economy. G.E. alone must shell out $6 billion, not million, to a few executives. No wonder there is no money left for the rank-and-file worker.

Bank of America reports nearly $6 billion in profits, but says it must charge its account holders $5 fee per month to use its debit cards. Banks point out that the Wall Street reform act, which limited their fees charged to retailers to 100 percent profit rather 300 percent profit, left them with no choice.

Well, we all have freedom of choice.

My choice is to not bank with Bank of America or any bank that charges a debit card fee. I also do not buy products with American nameplates. That includes HP, Apple, IBM, Ford, GM, Chrysler, etc.

Instead, I own a Samsung laptop and cell phone. My next printer will be a Canon product. I own a Honda, Toyota and Subaru that were made in Japan, not America.

I urge other Americans to do the same.

Also, the pyramid scheme of our economy is based on every household paying their mortgage. For those who tried to work with their bank to avoid foreclosure and were rebuffed, I urge you to stop paying your mortgage. It's not ethical, but it's one thing that banks respect since they do the same thing. Check out this story about a guy who tried to get a loan modification, but was repeatedly rebuffed. He stopped paying his mortgage, with minimal consequence.

Can you imagine if most Americans stopped paying their mortgage? That would not only "Occupy Wall Street," but would end up owning it.

We have the power. We need to use it.

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