Brent Batten: 'Occupation' writer beats columnist to the punch line


The occupation is spreading south.

Kindred spirits to the Occupy Wall Street crowd are planning events in Tampa and even Fort Myers to spread their message of dissatisfaction with the capitalist system that has brought us the iPhone and an Internet capable of connecting the world in real time.

The imperfect system is also prone to fits of 10 percent unemployment and, with enough government meddling, high foreclosure rates. Those imperfections are enough to drive the disaffected to demonstrate among the financial institutions of New York and now, if the aforementioned Internet is to be believed, in cities in Florida and all over the country.

The appearance of the occupation movement so close to home offers a columnist an excellent opportunity to poke fun at the protestors.

The standard approach would be to come up with a set of “demands” the protestors seek. Such a list would be exaggerated beyond all reason, in a satiric effort to show how out of touch the protestors are.

It would include unrealistic “demands” like:

■ “Raise the minimum wage to $20 an hour.”

■ “Guaranteed living wage income regardless of employment.”

■ “Free college education.”

Can you imagine the laughs we could have over those “demands?”

A minimum wage of $20 an hour? Har! Who could hire a grill cook or a stock boy or a grass cutter at $20 an hour? If the wage of a store clerk goes up to $20 an hour, what would be the appropriate wage of the store manager? $80 and hour? What would that do to the price of food and basic services? Would the worker receive any real benefit if his wages shot up, but the price of everything shot up at the same time?

No one would work anyway, since we all are guaranteed a living wage regardless of employment. We’d all just sit around collecting $20 an hour for doing nothing, producing nothing. Or maybe we’d go to college for free first, then collect our guaranteed money? Can you imagine someone proposing this? What a riot.

The faux “demands” would go on.

■ “One trillion dollars in infrastructure (Water, Sewer, Rail, Roads and Bridges and Electrical Grid) spending now.”

■ “One trillion dollars in ecological restoration planting forests, reestablishing wetlands and the natural flow of river systems and decommissioning of all of America’s nuclear power plants.”

Stop it. You’re killing me! As if there’s a stack of $2 trillion at our disposal. The comedian who would write such a thing must be ignoring, for humorous effect, the fact that money spent on one thing cannot be spent on another. That taking $2 trillion out of the economy would have a disastrous ripple effect throughout on workers whose livelihoods would be wrecked by this sudden transfer of resources, ignoring also that millions who rely on nuclear power would be left without electricity.

There would be a few other funny “demands:” Ending dependence of fossil fuels in favor of “green” energy, a return to paper ballots counted at precincts and forgiveness of all debt _ home mortgages, student loans credit cards, World Bank loans, all of it.

Then the humorist would end with something ludicrous like, “These demands will create so many jobs it will be completely impossible to fill them without an open borders policy.” Riiiiight. Can’t you just see investors rushing out to back enterprises that will hire minimally skilled people for no less than $20 an hour, given that all previous investments have just been turned to losses by universal debt forgiveness.

For good measure, one last demand would be tacked on. “Open borders migration. Anyone can travel anywhere to work and live.”

Indeed that would make for a funny column. Unfortunately, it isn’t possible.

Not possible because the preceding demands have already been laid out, in all seriousness, by one of the allies of the Occupy Wall Street movement.

They are found on the web site and are attributed to an individual identified as Lloyd Hart.

In fairness, the Occupy Wall Street movement is nebulous and Lloyd Hart may carry no more weight with it than I do.

But the web site posting his goals offers streaming video from the protests and a press office to respond to reporters’ questions (although it did not respond to mine, “Is this guy for real?”).

Not everyone linked to the movement likes the demands. Some point out their absurdity. Others say they are unnecessary, recalling that the neither the French Revolution nor the Arab Spring had demands.

While the jury is still out on the Arab Spring, most of us would agree that the blood-soaked French Revolution, ending in autocratic rule by Napoleon Bonaparte, is hardly the punch line anybody would hope for.

Connect with Brent Batten at

© 2011 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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