"There's something happening here.
What it is ain't exactly clear." -
It's been very easy to dismiss the Occupy Wall Street movement
as a bunch of pot-smoking hippies ironically protesting capitalism
while texting on their iPhones. The media has been having a good
time poking fun at the protesters, often referring to their scent
as "patchouli smelling " or "badly in need of a bath."
The Occupy Wall Street movement hasn't yet solidified to a
concise message. But it would be wrong to ignore the emotion behind
When the Tea Party first started, some members of the media
labeled it a racist movement. Whether that element was there, it is
still highly debated in the media. But the group soon found its
message and became a viable political force, calling for lower
taxes and less government spending.
The mainstream media is ignoring the very real emotion behind
Occupy Wall Street, instead trying to impress viewers with snarky
remarks about the movement, which has grown beyond the media's
And while the message may not yet be clear, it still resonates
with how many Americans feel.
The Focal Point of Occupy Wall Street's Anger
I don't think the protesters' issues are "other people are rich
and I'm not and that's not fair." Or even a protest against
capitalism. Other than those who are true socialists, most people
believe that the capitalist system works and can lead to
fulfillment of the American Dream.
What I see as the focal point of their anger is the belief that
the American Dream
is no longer attainable. That it has been hijacked by those who
head up big corporations and by politicians.
As Nicholas Kristof wrote in
The New York Times
on Saturday, "The banks have gotten away with privatizing profits
and socializing risks…" That isn't capitalism. I'm going to guess
that if the banks (and their executives) that made the bad loans
actually suffered as a result, the way capitalism is supposed to
work, there would be no Occupy Wall Street.
The banks (and other corporations) have gotten away with it
because they've bought Congress and the White House. They own it,
plain and simple. All that's missing is the title.
So even though politicians offer all kinds of promises about
changing the system, the truth is they want to keep their jobs just
like most Americans. Perhaps even more so with their lucrative
pensions and first class healthcare benefits.
The way to keep their jobs is by getting along, taking the
lobbyists money and doing their bidding. And if their constituents
actually are aware of what's going on and try to vote them out, the
lobbyists' money will buy a lot of campaign ads that belittles
their opponent's military service or makes you believe the
challenger is an imbecile or a crook.
Call me naïve, but I believe most people in this country aren't
asking for a handout. They want to get up every morning, grab their
briefcase or their lunch pail and do an honest day's work for an
honest day's pay. They want the opportunity to succeed at their
Economic Growth Curtailed by Bailed-Out Banks
What is maddening for these people is the idea that growth is
being curtailed by banks sitting on billions of dollars that they
won't lend. Particularly when those banks were bailed out by
taxpayers for really stupid business decisions. Even worse is that
many of the executives whose blunders caused the collapse are still
in charge and collecting seven- and eight-figure salaries.
Most people are intelligent enough to understand that a
struggling business can't bring on more employees. But how do you
) ousted CEO Leo Apotheker taking home $13 million in severance,
during a period where the company laid off employees? Keep in mind
that revenue, earnings and cash flow are the highest they've been
Bank of New York Mellon
), which also has reported higher revenue, earnings and
, plans to lay off three percent of its workers, but still found
$17.2 million to hand to outgoing CEO Robert Kelly.
Even the wildly ineffective
(Nasdaq: YHOO) former CEO Carol Bartz got a check for $10 million
when she was shown the door, while other laid-off co-workers, who
were presumably better at their jobs than she was, received
The sense of entitlement isn't just among the incompetent, but
also in the criminal.
(NYSE: KV.A) former CEO Marc Hermelin is trying to collect $37
million in retirement benefits despite serving jail time for
mislabeling drugs, having KV's business shut down by the Feds for
shipping oversized morphine pills and an investigation concluded
Hermelin didn't act in the company's best interests.
I don't believe the Occupy Wall Street movement is about
begrudging successful people their wealth. It's about not
permitting just a very few to hold all the power over the
government, corporate America and ultimately our lives.
If that is not yet the concise message, that's what it should
So what does this all mean for your investments?
If you own some of the big banks, the protests might ironically
increase profits. If the politicians truly get fearful of the
populace, they may start to force banks to stop being so stingy and
get some of that money out on the street. More loans should lead to
more earnings and may actually spark the economy…
Healthcare and Dividend-Paying Stocks: Two Sectors Immune
But two areas should be relatively immune from any change that
the protestors are able to bring about - healthcare and
dividend paying stocks
Yes, healthcare is big business and could eventually become a
target for protesters as well, particularly companies that charge
high prices for critical medicines. But no one is going to create
new therapeutics, diagnostic tools, or provide services unless
there's a profit incentive.
Wanting to cure cancer is a great motivator, but it's an
expensive proposition. Trying to find investors to put up money to
fund innovative companies will be tough if their opportunities for
profit are curtailed.
Look at mid-size but profitable healthcare companies like
(Nasdaq: MYGN) or
Also, consider companies that have raised their dividends
annually for at least a couple of decades. That proves they have
the staying power to withstand all sorts of economic, political and
) has been raising its dividend every year since 1974.
), a member of
The Oxford Club's
Perpetual Income Portfolio, has increased its dividend each year
since 1977. Over the past 10 years, the dividend has grown by an
average of 10 percent per year.
These companies have products people use every day and will
continue to use every day whether they're taking it to the streets
or going to work.
We may look back upon this period as a time when America changed
for the better - when two political movements emanating from
opposite ends of the political spectrum made both our country and
its citizens more financially sound.
What will likely remain the same though, is the performance of
the stocks of quality companies that provide needed services and
Times may be changing, but the performance of investments that
have withstood the test of time, likely won't.
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