Occupy – Reason for Real Hope?

I am inspired by the Occupy Wall Street movement and the local gatherings like Occupy Seattle.  I have hope, almost (which is scary, because I remember what happened last time, or rather, what didn’t . . . on so many issues). Pete Seeger, Arlo Guthrie and friends playing Occupy Wall Street at Columbus Circle reminded me of those heady days when so many of us thought “Change” was possible.

Yet, that is part of the hope, both in seeing what the people did via so much grass-roots activism in getting Obama elected, and in the realization of most of us this time not to put our faith in a candidate and on the Democrats being different enough from the Republicans. Turns out too many of them are owned by Wall Street, too (and that is one of the most crucial things that needs to change, which is indeed a formidable goal).

Occupy Seattle March

Why are people occupying and marching? Is it really as vague, incomprehensible and unreasonable as some pundits make it? Personally, I think the “We are the 99%” and “Banks got bailed out, we got sold out” slogans do a pretty good job of explaining why people are so upset.

Lets see, according to The Atlantic, “Half of all workers made less than $26,364, the median wage in 2010,” and “The size of the missing workforce is 10 million. ” In spite of being bailed out at public expense, banks are raising fees and trying to foreclose on people they talked into loans with unfair terms, even “losing” paperwork so they can foreclose, as in the case of Dixie Mitchell and her husband in Seattle which was reported in the PI (and fortunately, Washington CAN is helping them fight).

Alternet‘s article, Which Bank is Worst for America? details how the banks congressional influence led to the collapse.

One of its biggest coups was the overturning of the Glass-Steagall Act, a Depression-era law that created a firewall between investment banking and the commercial banks that hold deposits and make loans.

How much of our tax dollars went to the bailout?

Among our big five, Citigroup was the largest beneficiary of these funds, with $45 billion, but even Goldman Sachs got $10 billion. Wachovia/Wells Fargo and JP Morgan got $25 billion each, while Bank of America got $30 billion. According to ProPublica’s calculations, the big five have all paid back their TARP funds.

Oh, they’ve paid it all back? Wait, there’s more.

But TARP was only one way in which the federal government subsidized the big banks. The Federal Reserve also handed out trillions in unsupervised loans during the so-called crisis period.

And if those numbers weren’t big enough, just this August Bloomberg reported even more secret Fed loans to the big banks: “The $1.2 trillion peak on Dec. 5, 2008 — the combined outstanding balance under the seven programs tallied by Bloomberg — was almost three times the size of the U.S. federal budget deficit that year and more than the total earnings of all federally insured banks in the U.S. for the decade through 2010, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.”

Just a coincidence, I’m sure, that so many in Congress, Democrats as well as Republicans, had large donations from Wall Street.

Just who are the recipients of all this largesse? There are many, but most play key roles on Congressional committees that oversee their businesses. Consider just one example: Senator Chuck Schumer, D-New York, one of the most powerful members of Congress (Schumer is known as “the senator from Wall Street”).

According to the National Journal‘s rankings, Schumer is tied with two others as the 10th “most liberal” member of the upper chamber. But he owes his career to Wall Street.

The article also notes that “(t)wo of Obama’s top bundlers are also connected to Goldman Sachs,” but “Mitt Romney is the clear favorite candidate of Wall Street this year, having taken in $2,339,588 from securities and investment companies.” Don’t despair, or rather, do despair, if you’re not a Wall Street banker, because the Washington Post reports that:

. . .Obama has brought in more money from employees of banks, hedge funds and other financial service companies than all of the GOP candidates combined, according to a Washington Post analysis of contribution data.

As the Washington Post notes in another article:

(I)n the tug of war between Main Street and Wall Street, Obama has made his loyalties clear. Just take a look at the long list of Wall Street contributors to his campaign. Unfortunately, Mr. President, you are the company you keep.

How corrupt is Congress? According to the Spectator:

Uniquely among legislatures in the developed world, our Congressional parties now post prices for key slots on committees. You want it — you buy it, runs the challenge. They even sell on the installment plan: You want to chair an important committee? That’ll be $200,000 down and the same amount later, through fundraising. Unlike most retailers, though, Congressional leaders selling committee positions never offer discounts. Prices only drift up over time.

Bank of America is trying to get more taxpayer funds, to cover their derivatives, which apparently many be ready to blow.

Why is Bank of America moving derivatives from Merrill Lynch to an insured subsidiary? Is it because the derivatives could blow up at any time leaving Merrill with gigantic, unsustainable losses? If that’s the case, then it would make perfect sense to shift them into a depository institution that’s covered by the FDIC. That way, the taxpayers would wind up paying for the damage and no one would be the wiser.

Back to the Occupy movement. I’m inspired that people are on the street, especially because they’ve got the rest of us talking. That is something that cannot be taken away, even though some jurisdictions are trying to crack down on protesters and Twitter may or may not be censoring trends (and maybe even tweets, although that may be my own paranoia and lack of sleep at the time; more at a later date).  What is going to be exciting is what changes are we going to be pushing for?  No matter how impossible it seems, getting money out of politics has got to be a major one if any other changes are going to work.

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