Occupying Wall Street
Protesters Take Over New York City’s Financial District
In the midst of a week focused largely on the world of politics there is one story the media has largely not recognized. Contained in the news this week were an array of stories about bridge closures, Republican Presidential debates, the American Jobs Act, and the new Continuing Resolution which narrowly passed the House, and now is cooking up steam in the Senate. While jobs and economy are the dominant issues for both the government, and the Presidential Candidates, it has largely gone unnoticed that common American citizens have taken matters into their own hands. Appalled by the economy and unemployment, protesters in the masses have come together and camped out on Wall Street, at the heart of New York City’s financial district. This is not merely a baker’s dozen sign holders with bull horns, chanting their radical anti-rich and anti-government mantra; far from it. Reports show the numbers of protesters in the thousands. The pack, which calls themselves Occupy Wall Street, is not made up of homeless and underprivileged, as some may expect; rather, young, educated, and intelligent students, and young adults. Many are middle to upper middle class citizens, evidenced by the fact that in the crowd can be seen brand new laptops, tablets, and expensive phones. Why would so many busy young citizens take to the streets to occupy the financial center of the planet? The answer is a simple one: Wall Street needs to be punished.
Protesters are angry at the American financial system, protesting the involvement of money in politics, and the fact that so few people have been prosecuted in the aftermath of the financial fallout which spun our nation and economy into a recession. Some are also protesting the “unfair” monetary standing at Wall Street, wanting wealth to be more evenly distributed from the rich. This protest is certainly being heard. Police have already barricaded off the brass bull, famous in the financial district. Police even seemed to be finding excuses to make arrests at the protest, hauling 4 in because of a violation of a decades old law which states that no more than 2 members of a protesting group can wear masks. Earlier Saturday, 80 more protesters were also arrested most of them for blocking traffic and disorderly conduct; however, a few of these arrests degraded to resisting arrest, and one even to assaulting a police officer. (It must be made clear that the assault could be as little as a minor push, details are not yet released.) We have however, heard reports that peaceful protesters were maced or tazed. (see video here) The fact that law enforcement has taken these types of measures tells us one of two things about the Occupy Wall Street protest: they are either concerned that the protest may become violent, or the purpose of the protest has given them legitimate cause for concern. The fact that we are now over a week into Occupy Wall Street, and there is yet to be a single violent outburst evidences that the concern is the latter. If law enforcement is concerned about the cause of the protest, it must be a powerful cause. If we examine the protest at its roots, we can learn this is certainly the case.
There are three main arguments which Occupy Wall Street maintain as the cause of their protest and contend are detrimental to our society and nation. Two of which are legitimate, the third we can dismiss in a few short sentences. We will begin with the dismissal of the third. Occupy Wall Street believes the American financial system is unfair, because the weight of money is at the top of the scale. They argue that 99% of the wealth in our nation lies with the top 1% of people. Research shows this to be false; however, a great percentage of the wealth does lie with the top 10-15 percent. This is not a legitimate cause for protest. If a citizen is lucky enough, skilled enough, intuitive enough, and motivated enough to earn millions, or billions of dollars through their life, who are we to say that is not fair? All men are created equal in respect to their “unalienable rights” not their abilities, talents and skill sets. If a Warren Buffett or a Bill Gates can obtain riches through their effort and ingenuity, why should we protest? If you and I did not have the same opportunity to do so, that is a cause for protest; yet there is nothing in our political or societal system which stops anyone from obtaining wealth and riches. That is what equality means. I understand the argument that we are not all at the same “starting line” with respect to birth and so forth, but I see no difference in that respect. As patriotslog has recently expressed, the poor in America have it comparatively well off. There is nothing to stop a poor man from becoming rich. Even if we are not at the same starting line financially, we are all at the same starting line legally. No person or institution can stop me or you from making money just because we were not born with trust funds. That is equality. Bill Gates, Sam Walton (the founder of Wal-Mart) and Warren Buffett all attained their status on their own, with not genealogical help; in our nation that ought to be celebrated, not protested. We all have the chance to win the world, and hold it at our fingertips; protesting that idea is absurd.
The first legitimate argument which Occupy Wall Street forwards is that the influence of money in politics is a corrupting and deplorable practice. This argument could not be more correct. We live in a nation where the highest bidder passes the law, and where the highest spender gets elected. As an example, we hear much in today’s media about Governor Rick Perry requiring the HPV vaccination for girls entering sixth grade in the state of Texas. This in itself is a moral debate to be taken another day; however; the politics of it are our current concern. It has come to light that a high ranking aid in Governor Perry’s staff, Mike Toomey also served as the chief lobbyist for the pharmaceutical company Merck. Furthermore, Merck is the only one to produce an FDA approved vaccine for the HPV virus which is known to lead to cervical cancer. Merck compensated Governor Perry generously by donating to his campaign. Though he will argue it was only a $5000 donation, research shows it may have been much, much more. This is the type of influence Occupy Wall Street has lined up to protest. A second example; Washington has, more than a few times, attempted to close the tax loopholes and government subsidies given to big oil companies which are clearly not needed when profits in excess of $30 billion have been reported. Big oil has spent $8.6 million, given to whom we do not know, in order to stop these bills from becoming law. If big oil has been paying money to politicians, no matter whether the form is in campaign donations or private bank accounts, this ought to be considered nearly treasonous. If that is the case then those elected to govern our nation and to protect and serve are being bought for a price. Being bought for a price means you deliberately turning governing power over to a private institution, and allowing them, whom were never elected, to run our country. If military secrets—and therefore power—were being sold by lawmakers, nobody would question it as an act of treason, so why do we allow financial and governing power to be sold? Is that not on the same scale as defense power? Politicians are largely being elected in this country because their campaigns are well financed. This financial backing comes from private companies, citizens and lobbying firms, which in turn provides for a candidate to be elected. Once elected these donators have a special place in the elected official’s ear, which the rest of the citizens in their district do not. This means the citizens are being unfairly represented, which in itself is immoral to be most generous. Because nothing in this country is free, these political “investors” need to be paid back. This happens by law bills being earmarked with pork barrel spending, costing millions, and often billions of tax payer dollars yearly. It also means that these “investors” will have a great deal of influence on how an official votes. If Lobby Firm X tells a republican who believes taxes need to be higher that voting to raise taxes will mean their next campaign for election will not have the $8 million contribution the previous one had, that elected official is now being blackmailed into passing law with which he does not agree. We would be hard pressed to find a red blooded American who feels that is not a reason for protest.
The second legitimate reason for Occupy Wall Street to stage protests is the fact that so few people whom were responsible for the financial collapse, and subsequent economic fallout have been punished, or even reprimanded for their selfish and blatantly destructive actions. This is as good a reason to protest as any I am familiar with. The complex and dangerous bundling of mortgages and assets to sell and leverage at over 35 to 1 is the reason our economy is not still flourishing. Many private citizens and small businesses have a legitimate civil case against these big banks which led to a financial collapse, costing jobs, homes, income, and businesses. Leveraging at 35+ to 1 is stupid. It does not take a finance degree to know that. These banks knowingly put livelihoods at stake, and risked millions of jobs with their unsafe economic principals. Furthermore, many of these executives then received massive bonuses paid by our taxes. The banks argued that if they did not pay the bonuses the executives would leave. I say let them. They ruined our economy, why do we want them to stay? If tax dollars are the cause of big banks staying afloat, these banks ought to be accountable to the common tax payers. In President Bush’s memoir he states that he is ideologically opposed to the idea of bailouts. He prefers the market system, and believes irresponsible or poorly functioning companies ought to be left to sink. Bush says that he went against his intuition and ideology to bail out the banks anyway because the American economy would collapse if these banks were allowed to collapse. This is good reason to do what he did, but in hind sight President Bush was wrong. While worrying about American livelihood ought to be the first priority to a politician, and especially a President, our economy tanked even with the bailouts. Now big money knows that they can get away with fiscal murder, and the government will take the hit at tax payers’ expense. The amount of money the Bush and Obama administrations have spent on bailouts is enough to have paid every single mortgage in the country. If that avenue had been taken the banks would have collapsed, as they deserved to, but our economy would have taken a much smaller hit. Moreover, every American would have had a mortgage paid, and would then have greater spending power with which to boost the economy. I am not usually one to endorse large government handouts, but if they are going to bail someone out, giving the money back to the tax payers seems the more responsible and ethical thing to do. The government is set up to serve its citizens, not its banks. For this reason we ought to see much more criminal prosecution of the banks and their directors which steered our country into this quagmire. If civil suits are not successful in bringing money back to the tax payers which bailed out these banks, I see no reason why their boards and directors, presidents and CEO’s cannot be charged criminally and tried on theft by deception, a felony crime. These banks certainly lied to the world in saying that their investments were safe; therefore, racking up more money with more unsafe investments. Money was taken from deceived customers and it was lost. If that is not classification for theft by deception I do not know what would be. If common citizens must be held accountable for our mistakes and misdeeds, whey should these banks not also be held accountable for their blatant crimes? Moreover, reports show that child abuse has increased after the financial collapse. A lawyer worth his pay can punish the financial institution for contributing to this criminal activity.
Unknown to many, and most likely these protesters, is the fact that the government is currently working on a deal which would prevent criminal prosecution against the biggest banks most responsible for the collapse. Surely if Occupying Wall Street knew this, they would reinforce their efforts, but it is happening. President Obama is currently structuring a deal between the U.S. Justice Department, accompanied by all 50 state attorneys general, and the biggest banks in the country, which include Bank of America, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, Ally Financial and Wells Fargo. In this agreement, the banks would pay a large fee in return for a waiver of prosecution. The most illogical thing about this is that the settlement is being drawn up without any large scale investigation to determine the amount of wrong done by these banks. A payout which would then be passed on to customers is no punishment. I know that if Jack Conway, the Kentucky Attorney General signs this pledge, there is nothing he can do which would make him electable in my eyes.
So while Occupy Wall Street continues, largely unnoticed by the media, its causes are just, and patriotslog supports them. If the government knew how many Americans felt this way, maybe they would do the right thing.
24 September, 2011
Posted on September 25, 2011, in Occupy Wall Street, Patriotslog Articles and tagged arrests, bailout, bank, Congress, equality, Financial District, government, justice, law, money, New York City, NYC, Obama, occupy wall street, President Obama, protests, stimulus, taxes, Wall Street. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.