I'm at the Lexington Occupy Wall Street protest nearly all the time and, after two days of inquiries, I haven't found a single organizer who has seen Leland Conway here, let alone spoken to him as he said.
If he had spoken to anyone in an organizational role, he would know that ending capitalism is not a stated goal. Also, none here advocate "government command and control of the economy," although we're quite against the economy's current command and control of our government.
As Conway derides us for our current lack of focused talking points, consider: Without stated demands to rally behind, people have taken to the streets in more than 1,300 cities throughout the world. A conversation is happening in the shadows of banks and statehouses that will result in creative solutions to the injustices that drove us to the street and to action.
One thing Conway got right: the assertion that we should be angry about crony capitalism. If by crony capitalism he means the current system by which vast sums of money are required to run for office, resulting in our representatives' accountability to their wealthy donors over their constituents, then, yes, that's exactly what we're angry about.
The problem isn't "government meddling," but the laissez-faire approach to capitalism, which leaves corporate power unchecked by failing to institute meaningful protections for the consumer and citizen against fraud and abuse. We all believe strongly in numerous basic freedoms as a principle of human existence. The distinction is that we do not include the freedom to oppress among them.
Moreover, laissez-faire capitalism has failed to enrich our lives. It reserves initiative for those already empowered. It stifles innovation that threatens already established revenue streams. It sees individuals as numbers to be crunched, commodities to be bought and sold, and tools for the enrichment of those at the top.
Corporations are entirely free to do as they please; how are actual people to be free from the whims of those corporations?
"Profit is the goal." Conway said that right. Not a fair day's wage for a fair day's work, but profit. Not consumer safety, but profit. Not the general welfare of the people, but profit.
As to his claim that jobs and economic growth are guaranteed byproducts, look around you. If our system guaranteed either, it stands in serious breach of contract.
Conway went on to make several points regarding misdeeds by the Obama administration. Rather than debate those, I'll briefly explain why they are moot. We do not endorse any politician or party. This is not about Obama. If we were interested in defending his policies, it's unlikely we would be in the streets right now.
Conway didn't do his homework. He grossly misrepresented our intentions, our grievances and our proposals. If he had spent more time on research and follow-up, he could have printed that we are fed up with a socioeconomic system that values money over people. He could have told readers that we want to see the power of the vote hold sway over the power of the dollar. He could have offered a fair, fact-based analysis.
Instead, he built a town full of straw men and laid waste to it with faulty assumptions.
I invite him in good faith to join us on the corner. I'd love to have a conversation with him about creating a system capable of addressing the issues that divide this country ideologically.