10/6/11

When I first saw videos of protesters being carted off in mid-September, I expected "Occupy Wall Street" to be nothing more than a flash in the pan. After all, discontentment aimed at our nation's financial elite is nothing new and has become commonplace since the beginning of the financial crisis. As the movement has gained momentum, grabbing headlines and aligning itself with the Arab Spring, my interest has been further piqued and I now feel compelled to share some thoughts on this. Provided some protesters still have some battery life left on their smartphones, this might even make it to Liberty Park.

Depending on whom one reads or listens to, the Occupy Wall Street movement can either be characterized by the broad variety of its participants or the lack of any concrete demands of the protesters. While the former trait demonstrates the universal appeal of the protest, the latter is the criticism most often directed at those occupying Zuccotti Park and other locations across the country. The Adbusters poster which helped launch the protest (http://tinyurl.com/3ghjbne)asks the simple question: What Is Our One Demand? Answering this question, I believe, should be a fundamental priority of the protesters nearly three weeks after the protests began.

The Occupy Wall Street movement, in its current form, is a hard sell for the average American. Few among the 99% of less fortunate Americans would consider themselves to be adequately represented by these protests. Revolutions aim at overthrowing an existing order. That Occupy Wall Street appears to be aimed at toppling the financial system rather than some government is troubling. While few, even among the most vehement protesters, would argue that Washington D.C. is comparable to Mubarak or Gaddafi's regimes, many of the protesters seem to believe that this protest is similar to those we have seen in the Arab Spring. The unfortunate truth is that ridding the United States of Wall Street will do little to better the plight of the 99%, if not significantly worsen it. Who will loan to businesses once America's great banks will be destroyed? Are the protesters at Liberty Park ready to pool their savings in order to help Main Street run its businesses and pay the 99% its wages? Probably not.

Matt Taibbi is wrong to call Goldman Sachs the 'vampire squid.' By focusing on one scapegoat, he occults the depth and breadth of the problem faced by the 99% of Americans the protesters purport to represent. The true vampire squid is not Goldman Sachs, it is the nexus of political and business relationships which have effectively turned our nation into a corporatocracy rather than the representative democracy imagined by the United States' founding fathers. Goldman Sachs is not the only company lobbying our government whether though campaign contributions or other means. Hundreds of financial firms and industrial companies of all stripes have a vested interest in the political process in Washington D.C. And so do we, the 99%. Evidently, the typical voter is outmatched by large corporations in his effort to gain his elected representative's ear. Corporations' interests are far less diffuse and are easier to define than the needs of the average voter. Furthermore, the 99%, by definition, does not have the same means as a large corporation. Reclaiming the ear of Washington D.C. is one of the aims of those participating in Occupy Wall Street. I believe this aim should motivate the protesters' "one demand."

When looking at the broad canvas of History, the winners are remembered for what they stood for, the losers for what they stood against. When Barack Obama was elected, he seemed poised to become the president who brought change, cementing a legacy among the greatest presidents this nation has seen. Instead, President Obama has distinguished himself by his disinclination to ruffle feathers, a strategy which alienates both his base and his opponents, and which is part of the reason the Occupy Wall Street protest is occurring. The Tea Party has secured its chapter in the story of this long financial crisis. By precipitating the debt ceiling drama and forcing the United States onto the path of austerity, they have made their small contribution to our current situation. They will never be more than a chapter, however, because they did not stand for a healthy American fiscal balance sheet, only against a rise of the debt ceiling. How else to explain their adamant refusal to increase government revenues? If the Occupy Wall Street movement is to be more than just a footnote in these dark times, Occupy Wall Street needs to find something to fight for, it's "one demand."

What should this one demand be? I believe ending the influence of money on our elected representatives should be the goal of these protests. This could be achieved with new campaign rules and an entity with the power to enforce them. While some will be loath to fund another governmental organization and see an increase in regulation, this should be more than offset by the end of the countless tax breaks and byzantine regulations obtained by lobbyists and campaign donations. Furthermore, reducing the influence of money in politics should open the door for a true third party, one that could more accurately represent the needs of the 99%. The Republican and Democratic parties can no longer be characterized by what they stand for, only what they are against. By cloaking this with ideology and an illusory conservative-liberal clash, party leadership still manages to draw voters to the polls. Yet it should be obvious that the political process serves only to defend the interests of those who invest the most money into it. The issue of delegation versus representation is non-existent in Washington today and the question of whether our government represents its electors or corporations is asked far too seldom.

In sum, all I hope from the protesters on Wall Street is that they turn their attention to Washington D.C. and demand that money be taken out of politics. A government that truly had the best interests of its people in mind would not give Wall Street or corporate America the breaks they receive while trying to appeal to the typical voter on social issues that will never be addressed once in office. If there is a revolution to be had, it is the reclaiming of American democracy by the people. And this is not an issue that matters to the 99% or the 1%. It matters to all of us.

A member of the 99%.

Comments (35)

10/6/11

Sorry this is so long guys, I was getting sick of writing S&T apps.

10/6/11

Good post.

"For I am a sinner in the hands of an angry God. Bloody Mary full of vodka, blessed are you among cocktails. Pray for me now and at the hour of my death, which I hope is soon. Amen."

10/6/11

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Household_income_in_t...
Actually you are most likely in the top 10% of income earners. If you don't think you're the enemy also you are kidding yourself.

Masters in Finance HQ - The #1 site for everything related to the MSF degree!
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10/6/11

I'm not in the 90% but that's not what this is about. Something about this protest resonates with me and I'm outlining a measure by which it could be deemed "successful." That's probably a pipe dream, but there's no harm in trying.

10/6/11

All good. But I hope before you cheer-lead for increased taxes you also push for responsible government spending, and amendment that says any additional tax revenue be directed at the deficit and only the deficit and once the debt is paid down, taxes will revert to current levels and progress lower. All combined with a steadily shrinking size of government and reinforcing of our constitutional rights.

Masters in Finance HQ - The #1 site for everything related to the MSF degree!
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10/6/11
ANT:

All good. But I hope before you cheer-lead for increased taxes you also push for responsible government spending, and amendment that says any additional tax revenue be directed at the deficit and only the deficit and once the debt is paid down, taxes will revert to current levels and progress lower. All combined with a steadily shrinking size of government and reinforcing of our constitutional rights.

Not everyone has to think exactly as you do, ANT.

"For I am a sinner in the hands of an angry God. Bloody Mary full of vodka, blessed are you among cocktails. Pray for me now and at the hour of my death, which I hope is soon. Amen."

10/6/11

I can cheerleader for whatever I want bro, and increased taxes isn't something I'm cheering for.

10/6/11

You're born, you take shit. You get out in the world, you take more shit. You climb a little higher, you take less shit. Till one day you're up in the rarefied atmosphere and you've forgotten what shit even looks like. Welcome to the layer cake, son.

10/6/11

Aww, you called me bro...

Masters in Finance HQ - The #1 site for everything related to the MSF degree!
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10/6/11

Yeah guy.

10/6/11

They have some points, but it would be nice if their 13 demands were in any way feasible or related to Wall Street.

I would suggest that if you really hate Wall Street, a simple, single demand is going to be much more effective:

No TARP 2.0. Let them fail.

10/6/11
IlliniProgrammer:

They have some points, but it would be nice if their 13 demands were in any way feasible or related to Wall Street.

I would suggest that if you really hate Wall Street, a simple, single demand is going to be much more effective:

No TARP 2.0. Let them fail.

+1

10/6/11

Excellent write-up. I agree with much of what you had to say. Big money poisons politics.

Also, at no point did you cheerlead for tax increases. Not even remotely.

10/8/11
TheKing:

Excellent write-up. I agree with much of what you had to say. Big money poisons politics.

Also, at no point did you cheerlead for tax increases. Not even remotely.

Why is there big money in politics? Because the government spends 3.6 trillion dollars a year.

I am not cocky, I am confident, and when you tell me I am the best it is a compliment.
-Styles P

10/6/11

I would suggest that if you really hate Wall Street, a simple, single demand is going to be much more effective:

No TARP 2.0. Let them fail.

There is absolutely 0% chance of TARP 2.0. It was a horrible sell to the American people. That's why special lending programs from the Fed were later used to loan many multiples of what TARP gave for cheap (e.g. free money to re-capitalize banks).

This worked so much better since the average American could never name (much less understand) the arcane "special liquidity facilities." It's really quite beautiful "spin" on things since people like CNN Anchor Erin Burnette (who is marrying a Citi MD) can now ridicule OccupyWS and point out that "all the money loaned from TARP was paid back with interest".

OP, I think it comes down to a pervasive sense of unfairness. These people are not financial analysts - they have other jobs so its easy to ridicule their lack of understanding. I think most realize that the financial industry is immensely important- but at the same time they realize "something" fishy is going on via still-absent financial regulations from Congress, obsure lending to banks from the Fed, and few to no justice department indictments on bankers. I think they just hope that some politicians will want to capitalize on such views after they see enough public support. I agree a more centralized message would be nice, but this is just a group of unorganized citizens not a lobbying firm.

10/6/11

Excellent composition and superb message.
+1

Making money is art and working is art and good business is the best art - Andy Warhol

10/6/11

Hey guys,

I've been reading this site for awhile and have found it incredibly helpful. Anyways, this is my first post, and I wanted to leave you with a humorous link on this topic:

http://www.occupyoccupywallstreet.org/
BTW, I'm not connected with this group. I just found the link on CNBC.

10/6/11

Hahahahahhahahah

Masters in Finance HQ - The #1 site for everything related to the MSF degree!
MSFHQ

10/6/11

This is coming froma HS student who has limited knowledge about WHY they're protesting. Shit away as you pls

These Hippies are just wasting their time. They feel that since they got into college and got a degree, they should be handed a job in their prospective fields of study. Last time I checked, college was just a time for you to find yourself and pick up a new skill or two. Will potential employers take the best students who they think learn these skills "best"? Sure. Do they have to take everyone or even ANYONE? Nope. The job market sucks right now and you sleeping in a park, smoking a bong, and yelling at police officers won't help you out. I hope high finance gets back to 06 levels and these guys end up making a decent living. Can we all just get along?

Learn Programming, Lectures by Professor Mehran Sahami for the Stanford Computer Science Department

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KkMDCCdjyW8

10/7/11
Buyside:

This is coming froma HS student who has limited knowledge about WHY they're protesting. Shit away as you pls

These Hippies are just wasting their time. They feel that since they got into college and got a degree, they should be handed a job in their prospective fields of study. Last time I checked, college was just a time for you to find yourself and pick up a new skill or two. Will potential employers take the best students who they think learn these skills "best"? Sure. Do they have to take everyone or even ANYONE? Nope. The job market sucks right now and you sleeping in a park, smoking a bong, and yelling at police officers won't help you out. I hope high finance gets back to 06 levels and these guys end up making a decent living. Can we all just get along?

I feel more or less the same way about the protesters, but I'd like to think something good will come of this. As far as finance going back to 06 levels, don't hold your breath. That was incredibly far from what can be considered an equilibrium.

10/7/11

I remember there being a total of 10 articles on google news about the movement during the first few days. 3 weeks in, they made the FRONT PAGE of the WSJ! I'd like to think that the NYC cold will force them indoors in the coming weeks but they seem determined to make a change (no word on what sort of change yet) and they sadly don't really have anything to lose. They're already receiving tons of support so what frightens me just a little is not knowing what we'll see if this REALLY picks up steam.

10/7/11

The reality is that its making headlines but the lack of one or 2 main messages is key for their success...but then again the confusion of what the movement is all about is helping to get all the media attention.

I concur with the original post that says:
"all I hope from the protesters on Wall Street is that they turn their attention to Washington D.C. and demand that money be taken out of politics."

4/2/12

I get an email from security """protesters will be in our area today...blah blah details blah" So some colleagues decide that it would be a good idea to go to lunch a few blocks away rather than the cafeteria. Saw the protest, about 200 people (some with babies and infants) standing in a crowd, chanting "what do we want? JOBS! when do we want em? NOW".

hmm...so I thought 'are we supposed to give them some jobs?' Now, Ive heard of sending out cold emails to everyone in a certain group, but at least on WSO I have never seen anyone suggest that a mass demand outside bank doors is the way to get into FO/BO.

10/7/11

GoodBread, your principles are right on--big money and politics is a bad thing, and the people are getting hosed because of it. But we should also bear in mind that corporations are far from the only organizations that lobby the government with their money. There are plenty of unions and special interest groups outside of Wall Street, and their wallets aren't anything to shrink at either.

Metal. Music. Life. www.headofmetal.com

10/7/11

Absolutely In The Flesh.

10/7/11

Goodbread,

Your post makes sense but yo lose me on your Tea party analysis. Your conclusion that they "did not stand for a healthy American fiscal balance sheet" is inaccurate at best. Stopping the unpaid for spending is the fist step in that direction. Bringing spending under control is key. Take for example the 535M wasted on Solyndra. We do not have a revenue problem, we have a spending problem. At least the Tea Party pushed the debate. Other wise the debt ceiling gets raised and we dig ourselves into a deeper hole. Raising taxes is not the answer. There is an old adage, "If you want less of something tax it". Isn't that what the govt does with alcohol, tobacco, fatty foods now, etc? If y raise taxes now growth will get stunted even more than it is. Lower taxes and watch the economy take off. You write a Wall Street blog I would expect yo to know this.

10/7/11
lour:

Goodbread,

Your post makes sense but yo lose me on your Tea party analysis. Your conclusion that they "did not stand for a healthy American fiscal balance sheet" is inaccurate at best. Stopping the unpaid for spending is the fist step in that direction. Bringing spending under control is key. Take for example the 535M wasted on Solyndra. We do not have a revenue problem, we have a spending problem. At least the Tea Party pushed the debate. Other wise the debt ceiling gets raised and we dig ourselves into a deeper hole. Raising taxes is not the answer. There is an old adage, "If you want less of something tax it". Isn't that what the govt does with alcohol, tobacco, fatty foods now, etc? If y raise taxes now growth will get stunted even more than it is. Lower taxes and watch the economy take off. You write a Wall Street blog I would expect yo to know this.

The reason I condemned the Tea Party is because if they were deadly serious about reducing American debt, they would have agreed to a comprehensive solution that addressed both spending and revenue. If you don't think the US has a revenue problem, you've been living under a rock. When you have a once-in-seventy years credit crisis, tax receipts are going to drop and transfer payments are going to increase. That's exactly what happened and that's why were in such deep of a hole now as well as because of the Bush tax cuts, the war in Iraq and bailing out AIG. I never said raising the tax rate is the answer. But there's no way we are going to reduce our debt without a combination of revenue increases and spending cuts. To assume that we'll be as successful as Ireland has been post-bailout (and the jury is still out on that) is foolish, especially considering how dependent on domestic demand our economy is.

Raising taxes will stunt growth, but so will cutting spending. The problem is, the mild recession following the tech bubble was followed with the Fed put, tax cuts and increased spending, leaving no palatable monetary or fiscal tools available to today's policymakers during the worst crisis our nation has faced since the Great Depression. The Bush tax cuts worked out just great for the economy didn't they lour?

10/7/11

At least $535MM wasted. Just the tip of the iceberg. People who think the government needs more money fail to realize the utter waste that goes on there.

Imagine if the government did basic, phase 1 cost savings. Reduce some headcount, consolidate some buildings, shut down a couple of agencies, etc. Could easily save billions.

Oh, billions are just a drop in the bucked. Yes, until you consider that it is SOMEONE ELSES MONEY.

Masters in Finance HQ - The #1 site for everything related to the MSF degree!
MSFHQ

10/7/11
ANT:

All good. But I hope before you cheer-lead for increased taxes you also push for responsible government spending, and amendment that says any additional tax revenue be directed at the deficit and only the deficit and once the debt is paid down, taxes will revert to current levels and progress lower. All combined with a steadily shrinking size of government and reinforcing of our constitutional rights.

Me thinks you should run for office. Too bad "reason" and "logic" never prevail.

My name is Nicky, but you can call me Dre.

10/7/11

Good post!

10/7/11

Na, no running for office for me. Not enough showers and soap to keep me clean once I get around those pigs.

Masters in Finance HQ - The #1 site for everything related to the MSF degree!
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10/8/11
ANT:

Na, no running for office for me. Not enough showers and soap to keep me clean once I get around those pigs.

Haha. I have found that politicians are fairly unintelligent, especially members of Congress.

I am not cocky, I am confident, and when you tell me I am the best it is a compliment.
-Styles P

10/7/11

Great post. I agree we need a combination of both.

10/8/11

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10/8/11

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