The Occupy Wall Street protests are spreading, and they've reached Lexington.
Hundreds of people across the country have been gathering in front of banks and financial centers to protest, er, something. That's the problem; no one really knows exactly what they are protesting.
Even the Associated Press profiled them and came to the conclusion that they don't really know what it is they are angry about — just that they are angry.
I stopped by the protest in Lexington on its first day. I talked to four people, and none of them could articulate exactly what they wanted to see accomplished. One told me to look it up on Twitter or their Facebook page.
When you find the organizers of the movement, they will tell you that their enemy is capitalism. They hate it. They seem to think that a government command-and-control economy will work better. Little do they know what they are asking for.
The problem is that their anger is misdirected. While many on Wall Street did benefit from government bailouts, it would do us well to remember who gave it to them. I call it crony capitalism, and it has ruined real capitalism.
As I tried explaining to some of the protesters here in Lexington, capitalism was never supposed to be in partnership with government — that's how it got screwed up. The problem isn't capitalism; it's government meddling. Their eyes glazed over, and one of them called me a "typical Republican."
They seemed blissfully unaware of the fact that GE, whose CEO Jeffrey Immelt, sits on President Barack Obama's jobs advisory board, made $14 billion in profits last year and paid nearly zero taxes while shipping jobs to China.
They were completely ignorant of the fact that Solyndra, the failed California solar panel company that received $535 million in a federal loan guarantee, was packed with high-level Obama fund-raising bundlers. They had no idea that the Obama administration pushed for approval of the loan despite warnings that the company was not on solid ground.
The list of green companies and financial companies tied to the Obama administration that received bailout or stimulus cash is endless, yet if you ask these protesters to pinpoint their anger, they will start mumbling something about the Bush administration.
To be fair, Republicans do deserve a great deal of the blame. In some ways, they paved the road that Obama is driving on. I'll never forget the chill that went up my spine when President George W. Bush stood before the cameras after the TARP bailouts and said, "I've given up on my free-market principles to save the free market."
Capitalism is not rocket science. It's simply the free exchange of goods among willing parties. Profit is the goal; jobs and economic growth are the guaranteed byproducts.
Capitalism isn't greed. It's not an emotion. It is the economic system that has improved more lives around the world than any other in history.
Whether the protesters realize it or not, capitalism has significantly enhanced their lives. It relies solely on initiative, ingenuity and individuals. Only when government — led by Republicans or Democrats — tries to control it, to adapt it or re-engineer it, does it get messed up.
If only the Occupy Wall Street protesters knew that the system of government they are advocating doesn't trust them and doesn't think they are capable of managing their own lives. If only they knew that it's the very system that led to the problems they are angry about.
Capitalism, on the other hand, believes in them and their individual potential. It knows what they could achieve if they put their minds to it. And it's waiting for them and for all of us, to bring us wealth and prosperity again — if we let it.