The Wall Street Protest

It’s hard to know what to make of the ongoing protests on Wall Street, in part because the protesters themselves haven’t been able to send a clear, coherent message. They are angry, that much is certain. And perhaps some have reason to be angry. But hard times have tested the tempers of many New Yorkers, most of whom have resisted the temptation to block traffic on the Brooklyn Bridge.

Any large protest against the so-called establishment, whatever that may mean, is bound to attract a motley crew of aging baby boomers and feckless hipsters who fancy themselves revolutionaries. But the protesters also include many innocent victims of the terrible downturn, from college-educated young people with few if any job prospects to middle-aged parents who wonder if they’ll ever work again.

It is wrong to dismiss the fears and frustrations of those who would rather be working—somewhere, anywhere—than protesting outdoors in the autumn chill. That said, it is also fair to argue that their anger is misplaced. Shutting down the Brooklyn Bridge won’t bring back their old jobs or create new ones. Cheering the demagogic speeches of radical-chic agitators won’t create public sympathy.

The economic mess is global, and by no means is it the fault of “Wall Street”—whatever that means. Failed economic policy in Washington has led to scandalously high levels of debt and billions in wasteful spending. Regulations have choked innovation and job creation.

Do the demonstrators believe more government spending and regulation will create the jobs they want? If so, they are mistaken.

In fact, Wall Streeters might consider taking a page from the protests outside their offices. Perhaps they should take a day off to protest outside the offices of politicians who burden them with useless paperwork, who impose mandates that destroy jobs.

The frustration and anger of the recession’s victims are understandable. But they need to realize that the targets of their anger would like nothing more than a return to prosperity and low unemployment.

It turns out that Wall Street and Occupy Wall Street could have something important in common: both want a return to better times.


  1. TG 1450 says:

    Yes, both Wall Street and Occupy Wall Street want a return to better times.  The difference is, the Occupiers are ready to do their part; Wall St. isn’t.  Occupiers want jobs created so they can be productive and build decent lives for themselves.  The Wall Streeters who crashed the economy on the other hand, don’t want to pay their fair share of taxes or accept regulations to stop them from messing up the economy again.  That’s the difference.

    1. Your Imaginary Fat Cat says:

      Speaking as a former “Wall Streeter” (former because the same collapse that left you jobless left me and thousands of my colleagues jobless too) just trying to support a family, I’d love to hear how you think I could have paid so little taxes,  I was getting 40% lopped off of every check, and I’m no millionaire.  Just a laid-off worker bee (or “corporate zombie” or “fat cat” to you… sadly)

      Look, I understand the rage because I feel it too.  Believe me.  But generalizing evil motives and spewing ill-informed hatred on everyone who works in finance isn’t helpful or even accurate.  These banks didn’t make money when the economy tanked; quite the opposite.  They WANT you to have a job and employment to be low because that is GOOD for the economy and good for profits across the whole business world.  If you don’t believe me, try reading any bank’s 10-K or 10-Q post-crash and tell me what you see.  And if you don’t know what those are, then you’ve proven my point.

  2. Morgan, Subscriber-No-More says:

    I’ve very much enjoyed the Observer’s regular coverage, most of which I can read online, but after flipping past their almost cartoonishly pro-business editorials every week in disgust, I think you’ve finally crossed the line on this one.  After several years, I’m happy to let my subscription lapse (though I actually let it lapse several weeks ago and you continue to send me newspapers for free, so who knows).

  3. Mikey says:

    Why I don’t support the Wall Street protestors:
                    The biggest issue I have with this movement is a lot of the ignorance I have seen amongst the protestors.  Capitalism is a failure, Ben Bernanke is the devil, and oh yeah bankers need to be put in jail. This one gets the most though: “Edward Heath, 36, of Chicago, who is unemployed, said he was participating in the protest, in part, to ensure a more fair tax regime. When I asked about his views on Warren Buffett’s “Buffett Rule,” he replied: “I really can’t comment because I haven’t heard of him.”
    The problem does not begin at Wall Street; it begins in DC.  While I do admit Wall Street is greedy and was a catalyst of what occurred in 2008, they are not the root of the issue. In MY opinion, all of these protestors are placing a majority of the blame on bankers due to their wealth. A common theme amidst these protestors aside from their liberal views is unemployment. They recount the instances where CEOS from AIG, Goldman, etc. took wealthy bonuses after their negligent actions helped fuel a near collapse. I can sympathize with the protestors regarding their frustrations with their status of unemployment and having to see such greed-filled actions occur. However, I will not place a majority of the blame on the banks.
    Washington enabled every bank to lend out sketchy mortgages. During the often praised President Clinton’s time in office, the “The National Homeownership Strategy: Partners in the American Dream” was created which fueled the housing bubble. President Bush continued this strategy throughout his years in office. But how can one put all the blame on the mortgage banks on Wall Street? Who’s not to place any blame on the dumbass consumer who thought they could somehow afford a 500,000 dollar house with the 50,000 dollars of capital they have in their bank account? It’s simple. Don’t live beyond your means you dumbass. How can someone not blame the politicians in Washington who passed and maintained the strategy/laws that enabled these bankers to make such loans, purely for political reasons/their own interests.
    Many of these individuals complain the bailouts given to these banks were highway robbery on the middle class—our tax dollars funding the greed filled banks of Wall Street. What these protestors don’t realize is that a lot of these major banks paid their loans back, WITH INTEREST. Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, Morgan Stanley, Capital One, Bank of NY Melon, AMEX, etc. paid their loans back in full as well as interest. The general sentiment in 2008 through the brains of every economist out there was that if these banks were not bailed out, America and possibly the globe would spiral into a terrible depression. Look at how much damage Lehman did; can you imagine if other investment banks went under as well? It would have been a domino effect to say the least.
    Bottom line: Wall Street is not the biggest problem with America.
    Also, I would love to know how much of these “informed” protestors even know how this country is run, let alone what happened in 2008. I watched a 10 year old girl get arrested by the NYPD on Saturday as a protestor for blocking the Brooklyn Bridge. She must have had such a strong opinion on what is going wrong with this country. I mean she was probably what, 6 years old, when shit hit the fan? What six years old wouldn’t know what was going on? Then you have the protestors trying to make a mockery of the NYPD for doing their job. If you’re going to block the Brooklyn Bridge and knock over police barricades prepare to be handled with force. And where are your solutions ?!?! I’m so confident that ALL of you could run such complex organizations better than the individuals who are in the CEO seats now. There’s a time and place for everything and with our economy on a tipping point, an “American Revolution” is not one of them.
    One last jab: These protests are backed by unions, which is a bit hypocritical to me, being that I feel as if it’s safe to say a majority of these unions have their 401ks,pension plans, investments etc. invested in the very “greed filled banks” that they are protesting.

  4. Erik Henderson says:

    The governments failure to regulate a giant credit bubble out of existence is why the gov/ politicians deserve some anger.  How on earth is lessened regularization gonna do anything but create more bigger growth also known as bubbles. 

  5. Jim Young says:

      I don’t believe most of Wall Street is evil, just
    carelessly self-interested when they let some of the most dangerous lapses in responsible
    regulation get implemented.  We used to keep them fairly in line with
    Glass-Steagall type rules, rules (and more honest-agent, independent, auditors,
    and rating agencies) that kept reasonably insurable risk separate from the
    uninsurable risk.  It is absurd to have our government bailing out the
    most reckless risk takers who mixed the funds and allowed inflated,
    unsustainable, values their commissions and bonuses were based on to
    climb.  Harding, Coolidge, and Hoover should have shown us that recklessly
    lower taxes (lower as a percentage of GDP than almost 30 of the most
    economically developed countries) aren’t sustainable.  I do blame those
    who took my bank deposits and either lent, or watched others lend, grossly
    leveraged versions of my deposit, driving up prices and creating an
    unbelievable $672+ trillion derivatives market (according to the Bank of
    International Settlements).

      But enough whining, how about getting a consortium of
    the former Wall Streeters, economists, government watchdogs that were actual
    watchdogs, not lap dogs to answer questions by panels of the best
    representative spectrum of the OWS movement based on the PBS “By The
    People Model,” most recently seen in “What Next California”
    where 400 citizens were asked to participate in panel discussions over a three
    day weekend.  I’d love to see them include a preponderance of the 
    former Wall Streeters/ frustrated whistleblowers and what I consider honest
    broker financial types that know the industry best (Nomi Prins, Yves
    Smith/Susan Webber,  Herbert M. Allison, Nicholas Dunbar, Frank K. Martin,
    Joseph E Stiglitz, Barry Ritholtz, David Cay Johnston, Robert Reich, John B.
    Taylor, Mike Konczal, Brad DeLong, William K. Black, Paul Krugman, Thomas
    Friedman, Robert Scheer, and the many capable Wall Streeters who aren’t the
    leaders of what seems a modern day version of Herbert Hoover’s “anarchical”
    capitalists that he blamed for ruining the reputation of capitalists at least
    as ethical as he).  Lets hear from the
    silenced whistleblowers like Frank Raiter, demoted and finally booted out of
    Standards and Poors for showing a little integrity in not going along with
    phony ratings.

     Cut through the high
    dollar noise machines and take this discontent to positive actions.  I don’t believe most of Wall Street would
    continue the worst practices of the few, they are among the smartest of us,
    just get them to use their brains for the good of more of us.  Turn this supposed disorganized rabble loosely
    labeled OWS and turn it as positive as possible, with the people I’ve mentioned
    gathered in larger groups than the media two conservatives for every one person
    they can get away with labeling a liberal, and whomever else you want for fair
    balance, and have them respond to the real concerns expressed by large panels
    of ordinary citizens, that consolidate the various concerns it to digestible
    bites like the PBS “By The People” programs.