Yesterday I had the privilege of heading downtown with Presidential candidate Gary Johnson to OWS [Occupy Wall Street]. My interest in going was to gauge whether this is truly the new sans-culottes (as some have said) or a fading parade for social misfits.

The stench of un-showered bodies and marijuana was overwhelming. No surprise there. Protesters held signs with phrases like: “I Love You” and “Compassion”–and other vacant blanket statements with premises rooted in ill-defined feelings of entitlement. I tried engaging one woman in her 50s in a discussion about Social Security and various entitlements. After underscoring objective facts about the insolvency of our current system: taxing the 'rich' more would barely cover the interest on the national debt, etc. the cheeky response I received was: “Well, I simply have always been on the side of the underdog–that's why I’m here.” (She also said that “I meant nothing to her” as someone who could possibly support a Republican, Gary Johnson).

Tally 1 for the social misfit theory.

Just when I was about to throw in the towel and head home there was a woman who stood out in the crowd. Wheelchair ridden, yet she was unabashedly moving herself around through protesters. She repeated: “You are in the wrong place; you should be on the doorsteps of the politicians. It’s not Wall Street that is the problem. It’s the government bureaucrats.” – razor-sharp insight. She came over to ask me who Gary Johnson was.

We spoke. Elizabeth was a homeless woman from Midwood, Brooklyn. She had many health problems over the course of her life; including recently cancer. It took me a couple of minutes to realize that –despite her misfortune– this woman was remarkably rational. It was clear that she had at least a partial grasp on the moral imperative we face, while at the same time was living proof of it. And she was appropriately self-conscious of this fact.

During our conversation she revealed that Medicaid paid $32, 000 for her wheel chair. It didn't work. Then Medicaid sent another; costing the tax payer an additional $32,000. That one stopped working the same week that she received it. She boldly conjectured that this money pit abounds because bureaucrats don’t care — not their money. If this wheelchair corporation wasn’t able to so intently lobby their government representative, they wouldn’t have received the contract with Medicaid. This brand of moral hazard — bleeding tax payer money, costs us dearly.

OWSers, it’s your money too. Or is it?

Protesters not only want to have this continued; but, they’d add to the calamity with Obamacare. She told me the taxpayer had been previously supporting her in a $383,000 a year nursing home. What she really wanted was to live modestly in an apartment. Doing this would instead cost the taxpayer $70,000. She was first denied the (70K/yr) ‘Section 8’; but, was then ordered to receive it from a NYC judge. Shortly after receiving court order, she was sent a letter from the NYC housing authority (signed by Sheldon Silver amongst others) stating that the judge had no authority. In fact, she showed me all of her legal documents to support her claims. Almost anything I asked about she could back up with hard numbers or legal notices.

We discussed Obama’s initiatives and the so called “shovel ready” projects.

Whether she knew it by name or not, Elizabeth seemed intuitively aware of Bastiat’s Broken Window fallacy. For instance, she told me about a massive ‘street cutting’ project on Ocean Avenue in Brooklyn. What were they fixing? Upon inquiring, the workers told her that there was no reason for the cutting. One could think this is a predictable cocky response from a tongue-in-cheek worker who simply didn’t want to be inconvenienced by a wretched woman. But after weeks of investigation, she came to the (highly probable) conclusion there really wasn't any problem to fix. It was yet another Keynesian Obama initiative to create work. Students of the Austrian school understand why this is wrong. Elizabeth does too.

Toward the end of our discussion she paid me a compliment: “If this man follows your line of thinking, he’ll be successful.” I smiled and assured her that the Governor and I have discussed some of these issues. “Tell him to go to Midwood. I’m going to tell the Rabbis all about him.”

We thanked each other then headed in opposite directions.


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