Monday, October 03, 2011

The Cat supports Occupy Wall Street, the revolution that won't go away

Michael Moore paid the protestors a visit, and on television was asked what he wanted. I want to see those responsible for the mess doing the perp walk, he said.
Michael Moore

From small beginnings, the Occupy Wall Street uprising is gaining steam. And it is spreading.
And commentators are paying attention. This is what Ezra Klein wrote in the Washington Post:
It didn't seem that the whole world was watching, at least not then. The next day, I tried to contact the protest's organizers for an interview, but it didn't come together. An effort to look up their demands online didn't yield much. I figured the protests would fizzle. Instead, they're gaining strength. Almost 1,000 protesters were arrested this weekend on the Brooklyn Bridge, and sympathy protests are spreading to cities all across the country. Occupy Wall Street is leading papers and news shows. The whole world, or at least the whole country, actually is watching.
The protesters are also gaining institutional support. is sending e-mails about "an amazing wave of protest against Wall Street and the big banks has erupted across the country." They're planning to join with organized labor to march to the Occupy Wall Street site on Wednesday.
Ezra Klein

When starts paying attention, then you better believe this thing has legs.
And in his column in the New York Times Nicholas Kristol offered some aims for what is right now a diverse, almost aimless group of protestors:
Where the movement falters is in its demands: It doesn’t really have any... So let me try to help.
I don’t share the antimarket sentiments of many of the protesters. Banks are invaluable institutions that, when functioning properly, move capital to its best use and raise living standards. But it’s also true that soaring leverage not only nurtured soaring bank profits in good years, but also soaring risks for the public in bad years.
In effect, the banks socialized risk and privatized profits. Securitizing mortgages, for example, made many bankers wealthy while ultimately leaving governments indebted and citizens homeless.
We’ve seen that inadequately regulated, too-big-to-fail banks can undermine the public interest rather than serve it — and in the last few years, banks got away with murder. It’s infuriating to see bankers who were rescued by taxpayers now moan about regulations intended to prevent the next bail-out. And it’s important that protesters spotlight rising inequality: does it feel right to anyone that the top 1 percent of Americans now possess a greater collective net worth than the entire bottom 90 percent? ...
Nicholas Kristol

And Kristol sets out 3 concrete demands for the protestors to consider:

So for those who want to channel their amorphous frustration into practical demands, here are several specific suggestions:

¶Impose a financial transactions tax. This would be a modest tax on financial trades, modeled on the suggestions of James Tobin, an American economist who won a Nobel Prize. The aim is in part to dampen speculative trading that creates dangerous volatility. Europe is moving toward a financial transactions tax, but the Obama administration is resisting — a reflection of its deference to Wall Street.

¶Close the “carried interest” and “founders’ stock” loopholes, which may be the most unconscionable tax breaks in America. They allow our wealthiest citizens to pay very low tax rates by pretending that their labor compensation is a capital gain.

¶Protect big banks from themselves. This means moving ahead with Basel III capital requirements and adopting the Volcker Rule to limit banks’ ability to engage in risky and speculative investments. Another sensible proposal, embraced by President Obama and a number of international experts, is the bank tax. This could be based on an institution’s size and leverage, so that bankers could pay for their cleanups — the finance equivalent of a pollution tax.

The Cat would add one more to this list: Demand that those who helped cause the financial meltdown in 2007/2008 face the music. 

Demand that the authorities (that's you, President Obama) take immediate steps to investigate, identify the wrongdoers, and drop the hammer on them. 

And keep on doing this until ordinary Americans see with their own eyes that it is not just ordinary Americans who are hurting (by losing their homes, losing their jobs, losing their savings) but also the powerful, who plunged the country and the world into this terrible mess because they abdicated their responsibilities, and were driven by greed and a feeling of entitlement.

If Obama wants to turn his faltering re-election campaign around, he should listen to Michael Moore and ensure that those responsible do the perp walk. Soon.


  1. Hey Cat,

    Long time no see.

    Have a look at this visual representation of the United States.

    Billion dollar gram:

    Toward the bottom you will see the relative size of the Wall Street revenues, profits and bonuses.


  2. Thanks, Anon. Interesting graph.

    The bonuses paid to Wall Street is only a small fraction of the picture. "Wall Street" is not just the investment bankers with their share of bonuses, but the revenues earned and profits earned and salaries and bonuses paid to all the financial companies (investment banks, pension fund management companies, other intermediary organizations, hedge funds and shareholders) who profited mightily and still do from the derivative instruments that caused the meltdown in 2007/8. We have to add to that the cost to the ordinary Americans who through taxpayer funds or federal debt (resting on their shoulders) pumped trillions in direct funds, asset repurchases, equity investments into failing banks and Fannie and Freddie, guarantees etc. to solve the mess created by the Wall Street technocrats.

    The rating agencies, investment bank gurus, hedge fund managers, lawyers and accountants who were responsible for the subprime instruments, their origination, their review for creditworthiness, their loose regulation due to loose laws, were partly or mostly to blame for the mess that struck the world then.

    So what the protestors are protesting about is a corrupted system, with incentives allowed where incentives should not be allowed, regulations relaxed when they should not have been, and an easy tolerance of financial shenanigans when they should not be so tolerated.

    Wall Street capitalism is broken; most people know that; the people occupying Wall Street are demanding that it be fixed.

    If Obama does not listen and take active steps to fix it, he will be toast come November 2012.

  3. Just to clarify, for those who do not link to the billion dollar gram for 2009:
    1. The largest cost is 11 trillion dollars cost of the worldwide financial crisis.
    2. The Wall Street bonuses exceed Wall Street profits.



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