Blair: OWS Protest Lacks Answers on Economy

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair said those protesting against the financial industry may not have the answers to economic improvement.

“I’ll tell you my problem with the Occupy Wall Street thing,” Blair said today in San Francisco at a conference for investment advisers held by Charles Schwab Corp. (SCHW) “A protest is not the same as a policy. Someone who’s demonstrating will often make demands, but they don’t necessarily have answers.”

Demonstrators have camped out for about six weeks in Lower Manhattan’s Zuccotti Park. They’ve inspired thousands to take to the streets from London to Tokyo to protest economic inequality and what they call corporate greed. Protesters say they represent “the 99 percent,” a nod to data from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office showing the top 1 percent of earners saw inflation-adjusted, after-tax earnings increase by 275 percent from 1979 to 2007. Those with incomes in the bottom fifth saw an 18 percent jump.

Blair said he worries that if government tries to reform executive compensation, it may make the problem worse. Companies may be better able to align pay with achievement themselves, while government should be focused on creating jobs, he said.

“What I learned in my time as prime minister is that those that shout loudest, don’t necessarily need to be heard the most,” Blair said. Blair was prime minister of the United Kingdom from May 1997 to June 2007, according to his website.

Blair spoke at this week’s Impact conference, which has more than 4,000 people registered including about 2,000 investment advisers, according to Susan Forman, a spokeswoman for Charles Schwab.

-- With assistance from Esmé E. Deprez in New York. Editors: Rick Levinson, Alexis Leondis.

To contact the reporter on this story: Margaret Collins in New York at mcollins45@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Rick Levinson at rlevinson2@bloomberg.net.

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