OCCUPIERS’ IDEAS POOR GAMBLE

By PATRICK M. COVERT

(BUFFALO, N.Y.)–Ever since the “Occupy” movement started my reaction has been one eye roll after another.  The concept, I suppose, is that 99 percent of the world’s wealth is controlled by one percent of the population, and these protestors say “no fair.” 

I guess no one told “Occupiers” life is not fair.  These people say they have a right to happiness.  I would remind them that they have a right to the “pursuit of happiness.”

New York MTA sought to avoid damage by allowing free access to subway, this lost revenue adds to current $17 million security and safety budget overrun. (Occupy photo)

Our Nation is a meritocracy, built around capitalism.  Our best and brightest are able to keep the big wheel spinning because of the promise of compensation.  The chief executive officer (CEO) of a large corporation receives a salary and bonus commensurate with his education and experience. 

The CEO is paid for what he knows plus his ability to interpret the “big picture,” delegate and keep the firm profitable.  He has a big responsibility and answers to his own bosses— the stockholders. 

He has worked hard and taken risks to achieve his CEO status. The 99-percenters want to take this away from him. 

So what drives these men to do the extraordinary things which drive innovation and keep putting products in consumer’s hands?  I’d be willing to bet they are not motivated to give away money! 

If we remove benefits for superior performance and innovation, I doubt we can continue to produce a selection of quality products at prices accessible to the general public. 

The 99-percenters’ Socialist ideas are dangerous.  Innovation drives industry and keeps America competitive. 

I am not happy that profit is made at the expense of those with limited resources. I realize, however, that the profit does not go directly into someone’s pocket. Rather, it first pays to grow that business and its product line, then to compensate those who toiled and took risks to grow the business. 

If 99-percenters do not like the corporations, they can stop spending money on their products.

I will draw an example from the oil industry.  I do not like paying more than $4.00 per gallon of gasoline—especially as oil executives pull record profits and bonuses.  To put it in perspective, how can I complain if I continue to give money to the industry? 

I drive a car with an internal combustion engine every day.  I put more than $30 worth of gasoline into it every week, along with other petroleum based lubricants for every moving part.  Many consumer products I buy contain plastics of some sort, of which many are petroleum based.  There is tar on my roof shingles, asphalt on my roads, and natural gas that cooked my eggs this morning.  So do I have any right to complain about oil profits? 

Cash transaction diesel fuel price at Breezewood, Pa., March 2011. A year later diesel tops $4.25 a gallon. (NMCovert photo)

Maybe 99-percenters still think they can have their oil and eat the profits, too.  Without large profits, what would persuade oil companies to continue to dump cash into geological studies to find more oil fields? 

What benefit would executives have to spend their bonuses developing more efficient oil drilling rigs, transportation methods, or refineries?

Why would a CEO sign off on research dollars regarding “fracking,” or refining oil sands? 

Eventually these fossil fuels will all be depleted and our voracious appetite for hydrocarbons will have to be satiated. 

When the movement recently occupied Niagara Square here, they powered their lanterns and generators with gas and kerosene, while blogging on their laptops made from petroleum products, and iPhones™ made with Chinese labor. 

The movement claimed a victory when the Buffalo Common Council voted to make “fracking” illegal in the city. Innovation such as this novel method of collecting shale gas has now been outlawed, allowing other cities and counties to develop new technology while we sit on energy we cannot use. Thanks, 99-percenters!

In other areas, these largely homeless and unemployed activists occupy Wall Street in New York City.  So far, their protests against misuse of public and private funds have cost NYC taxpayers $17 mil. for overtime to maintain safety, security, cleanliness, and legality of the protest. 

According to the Occupy manifesto, they take major issue with investment banks and their executive compensation.  Maybe they don’t understand what investment bankers do.  They help people, who have worked hard for their money, give it to people who have innovative ideas for development and expansion.  In other words, helping people without money build their big ideas into reality. 

Buffalo has a problem getting investment dollars to the right developers to build the right projects.  If the bankers have no incentive to make money, why would they strive to invest in good ideas, instead of wasting capital on bad plans?

Furthermore, why would someone with money risk it by investing it for no return?

First Niagara Center in Buffalo is surrounded by potential development sites awaiting investers. (Center promotional photo)

The “Webster Lot,” adjacent to the First Niagara Center, home of the NHL’s Buffalo Sabres, needs the right touch to bring people and business to this growing area downtown.  Without incentive to invest, this could turn into another empty lot and further drive good jobs and consumers out of the area.

This country is great, in part because we embrace new ideas in all areas, with the expectation of financial reward.  The American dream is a get-rich-quick scheme with a white picket fence. 

Remember the pet rock, or the Windows™ operating system?  Would Steve Jobs have risked all he had to develop the Macintosh® if all that awaited him was the same waiter’s paycheck? 

I intend to continue shaking my head each time I drive past a “We are the 99%” sign as I text my friends and drink a cool glass of 5w-30.—©2012 Patrick M. Covert

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(Editor’s Note: The Covert Letter style is based on respected print guidebooks. The author’s use of the male gender CEO reference enhances readability and is not intended to slight business women. )

Patrick Covert joins the Covert Letter as an editor at large after what he calls a sabbattical from journalism. A native of Frederick, Md., he began his literary career in layout and design with the Gov. Thomas Johnson High School newspaper, on which he was music columnist.  He is an Ambulance Driver/Field Training Officer and CPR instructor for a national ambulance service.  Mr. Covert resides with his family in Buffalo, New York.