“These men combine to bring about as much financial stress as possible, in order to discredit the policy of government and thereby secure a reversal of that policy, so they may enjoy unmolested the fruits of their own evil doings. I regard this contest as one that will determine who shall rule this free country-the people through their chosen representatives, or a few ruthless and domineering men whose wealth makes them peculiarly formidable because they hide behind the breastworks of corporate organization.”
- Teddy Roosevelt
I recently received correspondence from a reader in response to some of USTV Media’s postings regarding the Occupy Wall Street movement, accusing OWS of being anti-business, with the target of its ire being misdirected away from “the politicians” where it is claimed it belongs.
“But seriously, i’m a business owner and I can hardly stand to hear about the corporations taking everything over and being greedy. I highly recommend that you put your anger where it belongs–with the politicians. They write the rules and the laws and corps wouldn’t get away with anything without them. Corporations and banks are in business to make a profit, you can’t be pissed at them for that.”
I reference this note because I think it highlights what comprises a fair amount of the criticism surrounding the OWS movement. It also brings to light the nature of the disinformation about the movement which is currently infiltrating the national discourse. This kind of criticism makes some bold assumptions about what those supporting OWS understand or don’t understand about the true nature of the conditions which are currently ailing our country, politically and economically. I find that a number of people who make these assertions have rarely ever talked with people who are actually participating or supporting the movement. Nor have they taken much time to read from the multitude of statements from the people involved, or read any one of hundreds upon hundreds of articles, interviews, analysis, etc… of what this movement is about and what is animating the purpose of its efforts?
The statement that protesters don’t seem to know “why” they are protesting is a favorite talking point from the establishment media mouthpieces, particularly those who work for corporate television. The protestors know why they are there (the fact that “Wall Street” is in their name should serve as a helpful hint). However, those who retain ownership over most of the media in this country have no interest in seeing the mass majority of citizens hear those critiques too clearly, as those audiences might start agreeing with those critiques, and thus join the chorus in demanding a little more (a lot more, actually) accountability in the workings of our system of governance towards the well-being of the great majority of “we the people,” for whose interests it is ostensibly dedicated to serving.
As for the letter writer’s points which they highlighted in their discourse to me about “businesses already paying taxes,” well, most do, yes. Unless that is, you are business big enough and/or influential enough to purchase the lawmaking (or law enforcing) apparatus enabling your enterprise to avoid that act of citizenship responsibility (or yet still, to receive generous subsidies from the public till).
The USTV Media website has literally thousands of articles and postings from over the years on topics which touch on this and related issues, which we welcome people to peruse through for further insight and background on why we have the perspectives that we do on this issue. This excellent piece by Matt Taibbi, does a really good job in elaborating on the whole meme of OWS being “anti-business”, and the accusations that the movement is inherently anti-success, anti-wealth, which is slathered like bad propaganda throughout the corporate media.
Focusing in on this point, Taibbi states:
And we hate the rich? Come on. Success is the national religion, and almost everyone is a believer. Americans love winners. But that’s just the problem. These guys on Wall Street are not winning, they’re cheating. And as much as we love the self-made success story, we hate the cheater that much more.
In this country, we cheer for people who hit their own home runs, not shortcut-chasing juicers like Bonds and McGwire, Blankfein and Dimon.
That’s why it’s so obnoxious when people say the protesters are just sore losers who are jealous of these smart guys in suits who beat them at the game of life. This isn’t disappointment at having lost. It’s anger because those other guys didn’t really win. And people now want the score overturned.
All weekend I was thinking about this “jealousy” question, and I just kept coming back to all the different ways the game is rigged. People aren’t jealous and they don?t want privileges. They just want a level playing field, and they want Wall Street to give up its cheat codes, things like: (Go Here for more).
As Taibbi would state, there is a clear distinction between supporting business and condoning criminal fraud. (Al Capone was a “businessman”, too, by the way). There is also simply no comparison whatsoever between relating what the average, American businessman and investor is familiar with in regards to what their daily experience of what business is, to what these behemoth corporations which are larger than a majority of nation states are engaged in. Half of the 100 largest economies in the world are nation states, but corporations, and some of them are larger than all but the top 10 biggest countries on earth.
The evidence as to to the extent of our political and economic corruption by certain cliques of business interests is simply incontrovertible and overwhelming. Critics, such as the letter writer, can choose to dismiss such critiques as “crap,” but I would assert that doing so is much more an act of ideology than empirically-reasoned analysis.
The letter writers says that we should address our anger towards “where it belongs–with the politicians.” But what about those whom these politicians are meaningfully responsive to, the one’s whose interests they are preeminently representing? Hint: it’s not you or I. There is a reason why the prevailing lingo on Wall Street refers to Goldman Sachs as “Government Sachs”; it is because of the literally hundreds of that firm’s employees and managers who have served in government, and then moving back and forth between those government positions and the private firm that they were supposedly regulating while in government. All the while maneuvering the law and the full weight of the coercive power of the state to serve their individual business interests. This is what a large percentage of these major corporations have been doing with dramatically increasing success over the past decades.
The OWS protests understand this growing plutocratic manipulation of the political process by these narrow interests. The basic thrust of their arguments are very much in accordance with the foundational principle which animated the original American Revolution. That revolution was, if about anything, was a rebellion against the idea that government was a tool to confer privilege on insiders.
Gerald Celente sums all of this up very well in this short interview. He nails it, simply and straightforwardly. He is especially pointed in his criticism of the crushing regulations against average businesses, which are often actions designed to favor the major corporations that use government as their tool for those special privileges for themselves.
In the end, these current protestations spreading the land are about injustice and inequality of access to the law. As Alan Grayson
“Wall Street wrecked the economy three years ago, and nobody’s been held responsible for that. Not a single person has been indicted or convicted, for destroying twenty percent of our national net worth, accumulated over two centuries. They’re upset about the fact that Wall Street has iron control over the economic policies of this country, and that one party is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Wall Street, and the other party caters to them as well. That’s the truth of the matter.”
And if anyone thinks any of this is no longer happening, or that these banks are not simply huge corporate welfare queens whose idea of garnering profit isn’t simply to loot the American treasury to cover their actions, and failed schemes, they need to read this, again from Matt Taibbi, who reports that…
Bank of America is shifting a huge collection of Merrill Lynch derivatives contracts onto its own federally-insured balance sheet. This move of risky instruments off the uninsured Merrill balance sheet onto the commercial bank’s balance sheet was done to prevent Bank of America’s creditors from attacking the firm with collateral calls and other sorties. Essentially, an irresponsible debtor, B of A, is keeping a loan shark from breaking his legs by getting his rich parents to co-sign his loan. The parents in this metaphor would be the FDIC.
The FDIC naturally is not pleased with this development, but the Fed, the supreme banking regulator, is apparently encouraging this move. Here’s how Bloomberg characterized this move:
In short, the Fed’s priorities seem to lie with protecting the bank-holding company from losses at Merrill, even if that means greater risks for the FDIC’s insurance fund.
Again and again, the Fed proves it has no appetite for allowing Wall Street to eat its own pain, and continually encourages banks to stick the government with its losses and bad assets. This move will allow Bank of America to keep a Band-Aid over its disastrous financial situation far longer than it would be able to in a genuinely free market. People should be outraged at this development.
Yes, you can blame the politicians for this, but as Celente points out, who are these politicians, and where do they come from? Who are they actually serving? Half of Congress are millionaires, and their “service” within that body almost invariably nets them even more lucrative opportunities with powerful financial players after their stints in legislation-making, often with the same firms they were ostensibly overseeing in a regulatory role.
The excellent Acadamy Award-winning film Inside Job details much of this in much more insightful, often enraging detail. It highlights why there is so much legitimate anger at banking institutions for their special type of “profit making” which they so cavalierly engage in with impunity.
Perhaps the best single piece yet written on this whole issue comes from Glenn Greenwald, with his “Immunity and Impunity in Elite America”.
Thom Hartmann provides some good overview on this, as well, particularly in regards to the history behind it, with this excerpt from his book Unequal Wealth.
“In the absence of the controls recommended by the Founders and early state regulation, corporations have continued to grow in size and power without limit. But they haven’t done it just by creating new wealth in the economy.
Much of it, instead, has been accomplished by increasingly consolidating existing wealth, moving it out of the hands of the middle class and into the hands of the top few percent of Americans economically. Of course, some new wealth has been generated, but nowhere near enough to explain the observable facts.”
Of course, there is, unfortunately, a seemingly limitless supply of similar reports, history, studies, evidence, etc… detailing the ongoing trends of how more and more continues to find itself into the hands of fewer and fewer. And how this trend is not the natural result of success in “the market,” but rather the result of concerted and designed policy.
If people choose to consider these efforts to counter this looting of America as misguided, then so be it. But to challenge them as illegitimate is another matter entirely, and one that should be challenged by open, empirically-informed debate as much as can be managed in what is left of an arena of democratic discourse in this country.
“When wealth and splendor, instead of fascinating the multitude, excite emotions of disgust; when, instead of drawing forth admiration, it is beheld as an insult upon wretchedness; when the ostentatious appearance it makes serves to call the right of it in question, the case of property becomes critical, and it is only in a system of justice that the possessor can contemplate security.”
- Thomas Paine; The Rights of Man
- Andy Valeri, USTV Media