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The Economics of Occupy Wall Street

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On a normal day, college students in Arkansas don't particularly care what's happening in New York (at least, not unless it's on SNL or ESPN). But on a not-so-normal day last week, as I left a Chipotle on Dickson Street -- the veritable heart of our little college town here at the University of Arkansas -- I noticed a gaggle of Occupy Wall Street protesters shouting, waving and generally avenging capitalism.

Of course, scary financial empires are few and far between in Fayetteville, so I suppose it was a satellite movement -- moral support and such.

As a plucky member of the 99%, it would be easy for me to jump on the bandwagon. But what would I be supporting?

Occupy protestors are angry because they think the system is rigged against them, and they resent the rich because they feel like there's a power monopoly. They have a long list of complaints, a shorter list of details, and they are missing solutions altogether.

The most common, and politically catchy, refrain is that the rich should "pay their fair share." But the numbers just don't back that up. Sure, some wealthy Americans don't need to take a normal paycheck, so they don't pay income taxes on money they already earned.

But CBO data shows that the "top 1%" pay more income taxes than the bottom 95% combined. That's more than their fair share.

In fact, the bottom 51% of income earners--the majority of Americans, including myself--pay no federal income taxes at all. The system gives us an incentive to milk all the money out of the government we can, and let somebody else pay for it. Of course I'm not about to throw a pity party for the prosperous, but I would argue that students have no reason to jump on the Occupy bandwagon for fairness' sake.

Look, I'm a broke college student, and I am fully aware that there are exceptionally wealthy Americans. But here's the kicker: that doesn't hurt me. And it doesn't hurt you either.

Economics is not a zero sum game. That means the success of one person does not cause the demise of another, both can succeed in a free market. Bill Gates has a big fat slice of the economic pie, and according to OWS economics that shrinks my piece. But in the real world, he made the entire pie larger, so my share can be bigger too.

As businesses reel in profits, they use that money to invest in expansion, hire new workers, pay off debts, and pay dividends to people's retirement accounts--all sorts of things that, well, just don't sound evil.

A better use of our time would moving this urban outdoor adventure to Washington to picket Barney Frank and Christopher Dodd, along with their affordable housing regulations that fed subprime lending.

As students, we have a chance to improve our society and spend our days adding value to it. We cannot afford to throttle back the prosperity of some; we should be in the business of creating opportunities for all.

We shouldn't be angry with 1%; we should ensure opportunity for 100%. That's what capitalism does.