The time we spent in downtown Oakland recently brought us into our closest contact yet with the Occupy movement. When a close family member was discharged from the hospital two weeks after major surgery, we experienced the joy of driving through the protest during Friday evening rush hour while taking her home. Needless to say, our opinions of the movement haven't changed much since we first wrote about it last month. There are a lot of things to dislike about the Occupiers: their sense of hopeless victimhood, the incidents of violence in their camps, and their monopolization of public space. But maybe worst of all is the economic ignorance that's spread like wildfire from the protests. Truly, no good can come from the sight of politicians lining up to pander to these people. If you want an example, check out this report from the East Bay city of Richmond.
With unemployment topping 16% and a long history of violent crime, you might think that a place like Richmond would be hard at work trying to create more economic opportunity for its citizens. Unfortunately, this is the Bay Area we're talking about, and class warfare and grandstanding are taking precedence over logic and economics these days. Back in June, the City Council nearly foisted the highest sales tax in the Bay Area on its blue-collar populace. And now, they're pandering to Occupy Wall Street by proposing to divest the city from business dealings with private companies that don't pay net income taxes. That's right: never mind the poverty, unemployment, and crime, Richmond has a statement to make! Namely, that it doesn't want large employers to do business with the city, that it can't be troubled with little things like context (i.e., many companies didn't pay income tax between 2008 and 2010 because of, you know, massive losses and crony capitalism), and that it cares more about displays of solidarity than actual solutions to real problems. Mayor Gayle McLaughlin states Richmond's stance far better than we could: "This movement is asking something of us as public officials. This item is a place where we can say, 'We represent the many.'" If you've been to Richmond recently, you can judge for yourself how "representing the many" is working for McLaughlin.