Rethinking Occupy Wall StreetO
I thought of Alexis Goldstein as just another disgruntled employee from the world of finance, but she’s not. She had worked for
It is hard to contrast the joy of community I feel at Occupy Wall Street with the isolation I felt on Wall Street. It’s hard because I cannot think of two more disparate cultures. Wall Street believes in, and practices, a culture of scarcity. This breeds hoarding, distrust, and competition. As near as I can tell, Occupy Wall Street believes in plenty. This breeds sharing, trust, and cooperation. On Wall Street, everyone was my competitor. They’d help me only if it helped them. At Occupy Wall Street, I am offered food, warmth, and support, because it’s the right thing to do, and because joy breeds joy.
I was privileged enough to make it in the door on Wall Street, and to get bonuses during my time there. But I never felt as fortunate, or joyful, as I did the night after the eviction of Occupy Wall Street from Liberty Square, when we had our first post-raid General Assembly. When the thousands of supporters who filled the park necessitated three waves of the people’s mic. When our voices together echoed not just down the park, but up into the sky as the buildings caused the sound to ricochet off their glass walls.
One glaring question is not addressed in Ms. Goldstein’s article: What does the Occupy Wall Street movement believe in? What are its core principles?
Ms. Goldstein writes with passion about the “joy of community,” which is wonderful and worth knowing about, but what does it mean in the context of a working environment? If Ms. Goldstein and her OWS compadres were designated to replace Jamie Dimon and the rest of the upper-echelon of , what changes would she implement? The dissolution of the company? A less competitive working environment?
Ms. Goldstein “is a member of the Occupy the SEC working group and the Break Up B of A campaign in New York.” Because of this, I did further research and happened upon the www.occupythe sec.org website. According to this website:
Occupy the SEC has submitted a 325 page letter to the SEC, FDIC, the Federal Reserve and the OCC, to comment on the notice of proposed rulemaking for the Volcker Rule. In our comment letter, we answered 244 out of 395 questions asked by the Agencies.
The Volcker Rule is Section (619) of the Dodd-Frank Act of 2010.
Here is an excerpt from this 325 page letter:
Market making is an indispensable component of liquid, efficient markets. This service, however, simply does not belong in banks…
The bank lobbying effort is certainly understandable: market making is a profitable business and one that banking entities certainly do not want to lose. It is well-known that the major dealers have always fiercely guarded their dominance of market making, particularly in the less regulated OTC markets.
Firms that attempt to enter this business are regularly strong-armed through anti-competitive arrangements with inter-broker dealers… Despite the banks’ desire to continue reaping such profits, their contention— that banking entities alone are able and willing to provide this valuable service to the market, and that regulation will cause irreparable damage to the financial system at large—is unfounded and nonsensical.
According to Felix Salmon, the finance blogger at Reuters, the people, along with Ms. Goldstein, who wrote this letter “are whip-smart and extremely talented.” They go over the Volcker Rule with a fine-tooth comb. Here’s another example from Mr. Salmon’s 2/14/12 column:
The letter also picks up on the Volcker Rule’s proposed treatment of carried interest. As we all know from following the Romney campaign, carried interest is treated as capital gains for income tax purposes. But in the Volcker Rule, it’s treated as fee earnings. As the letter says, “carried interest should not provide loopholes to banking entities and to covered funds in both the realm of taxation and the realm of regulation”. Carried interest is income, yes, but it’s also an ownership stake — but under the proposed rule, it’s exempt from the definition of “ownership interest”. Which seems silly.
I am amazed at how a little bit of research, research that would not have been available to me twenty years ago, can lead me to rethink my perspective on so many issues of the day. Occupy Wall Street is the latest example. I’m going to peruse their website and their 325 page comment letter in an attempt to learn more.
See my WSO blog