Occupy DC: A Loud and Clear Yawp

Protestors have converged on DC, rallying against Afghanistan, Wall Street, and stuff.

There are all manner of demonstrations, mostly small, going on around DC today. Judging by the signs, they seem to be some confluence of the Occupy Wall Street protests and anti-war rallies, presumably timed around the tenth anniversary of the Afghanistan mission.

Ezra Klein prints some useful insights from Rich Yeselson on the hard, tedious work required to turn resentment and anger into a useful political movement. Whether these protests “will grow larger and sustain themselves beyond these initial street actions will depend upon four things: the work of skilled organizers; the success of those organizers in getting people, once these events end, to meet over and over and over again; whether or not the movement can promote public policy solutions that are organically linked to the quotidian lives of its supporters; and the ability of liberalism’s infrastructure of intellectuals, writers, artists and professionals to expend an enormous amount of their cultural capital in support of the movement.”

He expands these thoughts in great detail later in the piece but the key takeaway is that “anger alone can’t sustain action. And action alone can’t sustain political militancy.”

As noted previously in this space, I’m rather skeptical about this movement because it currently seems so disjointed. Yeselson, who’s far more a kindred spirit to the protestors, seems to agree, arguing that they need to go from random, pie-in-the-sky goals to more coherent, achievable objectives.

Esquire’s Charles Pierce demurs:

If the primary criticism of the ongoing demonstrations is that they seem to lack, as a hundred media reports have put it, “a cohesive public message,” that is also one of their great strengths. This is a very loud and clear yawp against the irresponsible use of power by unaccountable institutions, including, increasingly, the government itself. The protests here are omni-directional. They appear inchoate because their target is so diffuse — an accelerating sense in the country that there is no pea under any of the shells, that the red Jack is not in the deck, that the wealth of the country is being swindled and gambled and frittered away by so many people in so many ways that to sharpen the focus on one of the long cons is to let a dozen others reach fruition. This is a protest about declining wages and corporate greed, about baroque financial schemes and the unfathomable fine print on the back of your credit-card statement, about a grand critique of mutated capitalism and outrage at the simple tragedy of foreclosure fraud.

No doubt, these things frustrate a lot of people.  Indeed, many of them frustrate me.  And plenty of the Tea Party folks, too. Enough so that Occupy Wall Street is getting lip service from the Progressive Establishment, with a handful Democratic Congressmen and even President Obama and Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke expressing sympathy with the frustrations that have sparked the protests.

Right now, it seems to be some variation of the 1960’s alienation with “the system,” without anything quite so pressing as the civil rights movement or the war in Vietnam to rally the troops.

Primarily because there’s no draft–but also because the casualties are so much lower–the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan just haven’t mustered the same resentment. Then again, it’s worth noting that it’s been a long time since a majority of Americans supported either war and quite a while since an overwhelming majority opposed them. It hasn’t seemed to matter.

Similarly, the various bailouts that so animated the Tea Party and now seem part of the inchoate resentments animating their lefty analogue, were opposed by most Americans to little effect. Indeed, most on my side of the aisle seem to forget that President Bush did the first round of auto bailouts on his own initiative after Congress specifically declined to do so.

There’s a lot of anger out there. Mostly, it’s manifesting in people dropping out of the political system in disgust. Neither the Tea Party nor the Occupy Wall Street gang quite seem to know what they want or seem to have any real plan to get it. But they clearly want something other than what they’re getting.

Photo credit: AP and AP.

FILED UNDER: *FEATURED, Economics and Business, US Politics,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. There’s a lot of anger out there. Mostly, it’s manifesting in people dropping out of the political system in disgust. Neither the Tea Party nor the Occupy Wall Street gang quite seem to know what they want or seem to have any real plan to get it. But they clearly want something other than what they’re getting.

    That’s definitely true. What strikes me about the “Occupy” protests, though, is that they seem to be protesting things that neither Wall Street nor Washington has any real ability to change. Having a crushing student loan debt is a horrible thing in a rough economy, but outside of the absurd idea of some universal debt forgiveness, what can either Wall Street or Washington do about this? There are complicated arguments that can be made about the Higher Education Bubble, and they should be addressed, but that’s not really going to help the people who’ve already graduated. Obviously, having a job would help but, again, I would submit that the ability of government to create real jobs is far less than people seem to think that it is.

    The biggest problem I see is that there’s just a general sense not just that things are bad right now, but that there’s no real hope of them getting any better. When America was in that condition once before, there was a guy named Ronald Reagan who came along and convinced people to believe in America again. I don’t see anyone in politics now capable of doing that and, unless and until the economy turns around, this pessimism is going to continue to be with us.

  2. Tano says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    there was a guy named Ronald Reagan who came along and convinced people to believe in America again.

    Oh give us a break with this hagiographic crap. Reagan won because the economy was bad (somewhat by design, since Volcker was tightening the screws in order to defeat inflation), and Carter was widely seen as an ineffectual and out of touch leader. Reagan showed his sense of humor in a debate, and people figured that they might as well give him a chance.

    The “believe in America” stuff – morning in America, and all that, came later, and reflected nothing more than the fact that the economy started picking up.

  3. Janis Gore says:

    I haven’t seen “quotidian” in ages. It’s a fine word and you used it well.

  4. garretc says:

    Not that I can speak for everybody out there who has a problem with student loan debts, and I don’t have to deal with that myself, quite yet, but I think you’re missing the point, Doug.

    Student loan debt shouldn’t be an issue if you could get a job once you leave college, and that’s the premise all these kids are going to school on. We’ve been told all our lives “Do well in school and go to a good college so you can get a degree and a good job when you leave”, but now that we’re leaving school, there are no jobs, regardless of whether you got a “useful” major or a “useless” one. Sure, Washington and Wall Street may not be responsible for student loan debt, but it’d be hard to argue that their not, to a very large degree, responsible for the horrible jobs market that makes it almost impossible for recent graduates to pay off those loan debts.

    If we could graduate and get a job and start paying off the loans there’d be a lot less reason to complain…

  5. waltm says:

    Wonder if there is Huey Long type warming up somewhere.

  6. Terrye says:

    Gimme Gimme Gimme I want free stuff.

    It is like the guy with the MBA and debt…well who the hell’s fault is that? Who did he think he was going to go to work for with that MBA? Why…those horrid evil Wall Street types no doubt.

    I know the economy sucks, but blaming the rich won’t help. You could steal all their stuff and divide it among the starving masses and in a year most of these people would be broke again.

    And I am not rich either. I am just an old broad and I have lived long enough to know that all this power to the people nonsense always ends up with someone’s boot heel on someone’s neck and rationed gasoline.

  7. Drew says:

    What time is the Detroit – Yankee game?

  8. Hey Norm says:

    This all strikes me as pretty similar to Tea Party protests.
    Only without the Koch Brothers funding.
    Keep the government out of my Medicare, complaining about taxes after Obama cut 95% of the countries taxes, birtherism, etc.

  9. James Joyner says:

    @Hey Norm: Agreed. But it’s almost unfair to analyze populist movements as if they were polished political campaigns. Ordinary people are remarkably inarticulate about political ideology and mass movements are naturally going to attract a hodgepodge of people with various bitches, some of them more legit that others.

    I’m still trying to wrap my head around this one.

  10. Terrye says:

    Hey Norm…yeah but the Tea Party people were not threatening to kill people. I know it is not fair to punish the man for the faults of the few, but the left does it all the time so why not?

    “It’s time to tax the millionaires!” reads the email, according to WTEN in Albany. “If you don’t, I’m going to pay a visit with my carbine to one of those tech companies you are so proud of and shoot every spoiled Ivy League [expletive] I can find.”

  11. Racehorse says:

    No one made me or anyone else go to college. The main idea of going to college was for education, not just to get a job. When I graduated in the ’70’s, the job market was bad then too. We didn’t go around acting crazy and wanting a handout to pay for college, housing, or health insurance. Some of us worked 2-3 jobs at minimum wages to pay for our college and make it through. We didn’t complain. The system may not be great, but until someone comes up with something that makes sense, I’ll stick with what we have. The communist “line” ? Forget it. The “99%” will be in full backlash against this movement of people who are just out to have a party and want a free ride. They knew the cost of college going in and coming out.

  12. John Burgess says:

    I saw a group of about 100 yawps in downtown Sarasota today. They had various handmade signs, but traffic was moving and I didn’t get a chance to examine them. While passing through them, I saw a number of middle fingers by other drivers equal to the number of horns honking in support.

  13. Bennett says:

    @James Joyner: Sure, there may not be some perfectly written out manifesto, but I don’t think it’s too hard to grok a simple message from all the different groups. We have separation of church and state, the occupy movement wants a better separation of corporation and government. But deep down we all know that it wouldn’t matter if there were clearer goals. The right will never care, because it’s a liberal movement. Simple fact. Any and every liberal gripe is illegitimate from the start, just like the President.

  14. mattb says:

    @Racehorse:

    We didn’t go around acting crazy and wanting a handout to pay for college, housing, or health insurance. Some of us worked 2-3 jobs at minimum wages to pay for our college and make it through.

    No offense, but to compare the cost of college in the 70’s to the cost of college today — unless you went to a top tier university back then — isn’t a convincing argument. Given how tuition has outpaced inflation at all levels (it wouldn’t be a bubble otherwise), it is all but impossible to imagine working a job (or multiple jobs) and successfully paying for a college education out-of-pocket at that time (at least not as a full time student).

    I’m not arguing that today’s tutions are fair… but the harsh reality is that “working one’s way through college” — especially if you have no scholarships or financial assistance — is simply not possible any more. The best one can hope for — in this sort of situation — is either to only go part-time, rely on ROTC, or minimize the amount of debt that you graduate with.

  15. jan says:

    About the only aspects OWS has with the teas is that they both adore costumes. The latter chooses colonial garb and anything that is red, white and blue. While the former and current movement seems to trend towards zombies, super heroes and anything that is blood curdling in appearances.

    Incoherent euphemisms, though, seem to be the sub titles behind the mission of the original OWS Movement. However, now it has turned into professional politics, attracting the big boys, Unions, public sector employees, SEIU, — all the groups who have been upended in other battles across the country are converging on this ragtag, post pubescent crowd’s stage, attempting to turn their public temper tantrum into a meaningful revolution of sorts.

    However I think it too is backfiring as people are revolted by the photos, stunned by the arrogant demands and arrested development of so many in this group. There is a lack of credibility/stability flailing around these street rallies which defies most from taking them seriously. Also, the theatrics, the slovenliness, lack of consideration for how their disruption effects others is manic in its presentation and self-centered, self serving and muddled in what it is hoping to accomplished.

  16. Drew says:

    Oh, I don’t know, jan. I saw footage of them chanting “what do we want?” “We don’t know!” “When do we want it?” “Now!!”

    With such deep and cutting edge social commentary how can we not listen to these experienced, intellectual titans? ……………(snicker)

  17. Drew says:

    PS –

    Michael Medved interviewed some Melissa Something or other today. And she was so-you, know, all down for the struggle and you know Venezuela has wealth distribution…….and Apple had it all wrong because, like, there’s this cooperative in Cleveland that does laundry where we all make decisions collectively like when to put the clothes in the laundry mchine and don’t concentrate the wealth because that’s bad because, well, like that’s bad……….

  18. Ron Beasley says:

    @Drew: She sounds like a Tea Partier.

  19. Racehorse says:

    @mattb: I agree that college education costs have skyrocketed, along with medical care, food, and, of course, gasoline. How to balance the cost of 4 years of college against the years it takes to get a return is really debatable. Why have the costs increased so much? I looked at a master’s degree, but it would have taken years to pay off with the miniscule pay increase that teachers got back then for a master’s degree. I certainly hope that US students pay less than foreign students. Is Wall Street to blame for all of these cost increases? I know a lot of investors. They are just every day people who have a little to invest and sometimes make a little, definitely not what you could call wealth. They should not have to pay any tax on that. They do check out the companies thoroughly and do not invest in crooked, greedy companies. We should encourage investment. If an investor doesn’t like the way a company is run, invest somewhere else (see Phil Town on how to invest in companies with integrity). My bank knows me by name and I can even call the manager on the weekend if I have a big problem (he lives down the street). If the bank starts charging fees, I will either switch banks or go to cash. Let the consumers vote with their billfolds. That is how things change in the real world. If people don’t like the price, product, or especially customer service, they vote with their billfold and take their money somewhere else. I have seen dozens of companies go under because they did not put the customer first. A new company takes their place and does well unless they start messing up. Lessons learned, sometimes.

  20. mike says:

    I definitely understand the frustration. For the past 7-8 years the economy has been in such a state that getting a foot in the door has been next to impossible for an entire generation and there seems to be no end in sight. This same generation watches the government spend vast amounts of money ($10 billion a month) in places like Iraq and Afghanistan with no end in sight and then says we have no money and need to cut spending and raise taxes. I think the frustration is certainly understandable.

  21. Ben Wolf says:

    @Drew: If you ever start making enough money, you won’t have to shop at Wal-Mart and can avoid hearing that sort of thing.

  22. john personna says:

    I struck me James, that you were disappointed that a mature political movement did not jump full-form from the heads of the first protesters.

    Of course, not. And what Yeselson actually describes is that these things evolve in stages.

    This may make it, or not, but it obviously was not over on day one.

  23. Dazedandconfused says:

    The Tea Party wanted less government and wanted lower taxes (but don’t touch their medicare!)

    The one thing that seems to be most common in this crowd is they want jobs. I shudder to compare it to the Jasmine Revolution, but I must. Tunisia ad taxi drivers with PHD’s. The rulers thought education was a panacea, a concept that is being sold here as well. It’s definitely not.

    They what jobs, but that is essentially wanting a different economy. Who is clear about how to go about making that happen? Hardly anybody knows. The nations wealth is pooling in the financial sector, and has for quite some time. Not sure how to go about fixing that myself, but it sure as hell needs to be done.

  24. john personna says:

    Put another way, Yeselson talks about what the group would have to do in the future, and James declares them a failure because the hadn’t done it in the past.

    Pretty amazing requirement for this young movement.

  25. WR says:

    @Racehorse: You went to college? You should definitely get your money back.

  26. Hey Norm says:

    @ James…agreed. I haven’t had a lot of time to think about it. But from what I’ve seen…tomato/tomato.

  27. john personna says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    That’s definitely true. What strikes me about the “Occupy” protests, though, is that they seem to be protesting things that neither Wall Street nor Washington has any real ability to change.

    Oh Washington can definitely change the benefits granted to Wall Street, and change the lobbying rules that complete the feedback loop.

    @jan:

    About the only aspects OWS has with the teas is that they both adore costumes.

    The odd thing is the way they divide their response to the bailouts. Yes, the TP opposed them, but once granted they want them to be home free. You can’t complain about profits made with those special discount windows, and you can’t complain about lobbying paid for the same way.

    Why is Wall Street hosing down the Obama campaign with cash? They have all the cash!

  28. WR says:

    @jan: You know, Jan, when that great, lovely wit Ronald Reagan said in the 60s that hippies “looked like Tarzan, had hair like Jane and smelled like Cheetah,” it was ugly, but at least it was fresh. You’re just recycling stale buzz phrases from almost half a century ago and patting yourself on the back for your great insight.

    Oooh, the protestors don’t dress like Jan — there’s no reason to listen to them.

  29. john personna says:

    (Actually I think there was a time when the TP was against K Street, but I think that might be a shift the Kochs bought and paid for. Now you are all for it right? Because you perceive that the lobbying will be on your side somehow? Dream on, unless you are on the gravy train, that is.)

  30. Hey Norm says:

    Jan thinks the Tea Party euphemisms were much better than the Occupy euphemisms which really only means the Tea Party euphemisms appeal to her ideology and the Occupy euphemisms don’t.
    Which of course assumes she understands the meaning of euphemisms.
    Frankly I’m still kind of turned on by her Emotional Intelligence reference from yesterday.

  31. Drew says:

    ” If you ever start making enough money, you won’t have to shop at Wal-Mart and can avoid hearing that sort of thing.”

    Thank you for those words of wisdom, Sir Benjamin. Truth be told, I’ve got so many holes in me socks, shorts and tee-shirts, and I can’t even afford to go to Wal-Mart to buy some new ones, much less tend to the mortgage or the hogs’n sech out back.

    Wait, I don’t have a mortgage. Oh, well..

  32. Drew says:

    “Oooh, the protestors don’t dress like Jan — there’s no reason to listen to them.”

    “what do we want?” “We don’t know!” “When do we want it?” “Now!!”

    I’m with you, jp, there’s always comedic relief……..

  33. Drew says:

    “Actually I think there was a time when the TP was against K Street, but I think that might be a shift the Kochs bought and paid for.”

    You little centrist, you.

  34. Lit3Bolt says:

    Apparently, you know, like, seeking an alternative to being in student, housing, and medical debt for the rest of your life is, like, totally uncool and not even a coherent message, like, totally. If they’re not, like, I mean, already rich, then, I mean like, DUH, they just failed.

  35. Racehorse says:

    @WR: I have thought about that but the time limit for a refund has run. Too bad.

  36. Ben Wolf says:

    @Drew: I don’t doubt it for a minute. By the way: we prefer the poor listen and not speak, so if you don’t mind . . .

  37. jan says:

    @Drew:

    Wait, I don’t have a mortgage. Oh, well..

    Wry, dry wit ….. All I can say, though, Drew, despite your charm, you better dress right, or else…..

  38. Ron Beasley says:

    What amazes me is that opposition to Wall Street is seen as anti capitalist. The modern Wall Street has nothing to do with capitalism . It’s more like the card tables in Los Vegas or Atlantic City. Ninety Nine percent of the Wall Street transactions create no new capitol it’s just gambling that has no real economic value and it was that same gambling that created the financial crisis. The same sociopaths who created the problem and were bailed out are still getting rich while the vast majority are suffering. Is it really a mystery that people that are paying attention are unhappy?
    We don’t have capitalism we have monopoly crony capitalism. That’s the problem and that’s what is being protested.

  39. anjin-san says:

    The modern Wall Street has nothing to do with capitalism . It’s more like the card tables in Los Vegas or Atlantic City.

    Interesting that you should put it that way. I remember my father telling me many years ago that he did not invest in the stock market because it was a rigged game where the big players raked in all the chips, while occasionally throwing a bone to the suckers to let them think they were in the game.

  40. MarkedMan says:

    Racehorse, are you seriously arguing that in the ’70’s students were respectful and didn’t, say, engage in protests? Really?

  41. jan says:

    @Ron Beasley:

    What amazes me is that opposition to Wall Street is seen as anti capitalist. The modern Wall Street has nothing to do with capitalism .

    This is how you see the OWS movement, Ron, as being against the ‘modern’ Wall Street, which in your opinion has turned into a Los Vegas type of casino in how it gambles away money.

    However, when reading signs and listening to interviews with people participating in OWS, the movement seems to be an amalgamation of grievances all having to do with others having too much money, versus these people being on the short end of the stick.

    Students don’t like the cost of college. People resent the outrageous bonuses that are reported. Everyone seems to view their own version of the ‘rich’ as an oppressor of the oppressed. Union people feel their benefits and pensions are unfairly threatened. It goes on and on, But, the common panacea for their complaints seems to point in one collective direction — how to control the flow of money away from the envisioned ‘rich,’ and funnel it to the not-so-rich. And, this is simply an anti capitalistic pathway, following more of a Marxist/Socialist antidote for curing the ills of a disenchanted, restless populace. You know the phrase, From each according to his abilities to each according to his needs.

  42. anjin-san says:

    When I see how hot and bothered someone like Jan is over the OWS protests, it makes me think they might be on to something…

  43. James Joyner says:

    @john personna: I’m not declaring them a failure. I’m trying to assess a burgeoning movement and wondering what it’s all about and whether it’ll amount to anything. As a rule, I’m quite skeptical of these sort of movements, regardless of their demands or ideology.

  44. superdestroyer says:

    @garretc:

    The question is not about getting a job but about getting a job in Manhattan that will allow these hipsters to afford to live in Manhattan.

    Of course, I do not understand how going back to the tax rates of the 1970’s is going to create more jobs for Hipsters in NYC. Maybe the Hipsters should look at the living conditions of NYC in the 1970’s so see what effects very high taxes can have.

  45. jpe says:

    @ Ron: that nicely encapsulates the OWS: what you wrote looks like English, and has the formal structure of an argument, but it pretty much means nothing. I don’t know how “buying and selling property property in an open market” isn’t capitalism. A reasonable person that wanted to articulate a disjunction between Wall Street and capitalism would argue that Wall Street is the beneficiary of various subsidies, both actual and tacit. Instead, you point to one aspect of it that is unarguably capitalist and gripe about it being anti-capitalist.

    I think the point of these arguments isn’t to make sense – they quite clearly make no sense whatsoever – but to create a texture of language. It’s like Bush’s push for the Iraq War: say “anti-capitalist” and “Wall Street” in the same sentence enough times, and sooner or later people will start to associate the two.

  46. samwide says:

    @jan:

    Wry, dry wit ….. All I can say, though, Drew, despite your charm, you better dress right, or else…..

    Just substitute ‘Drew’ and ‘Jan’ in this.

  47. john personna says:

    @Drew:

    “Actually I think there was a time when the TP was against K Street, but I think that might be a shift the Kochs bought and paid for.”

    You little centrist, you.

    Where was the TP (or their members) on the “money is speech” thing?

    Could they possibly have started with the idea that Goldman deserved a booming VOICE?

  48. john personna says:

    @James Joyner:

    As a rule, I’m quite skeptical of these sort of movements, regardless of their demands or ideology.

    What, opinions belong on the internets? 😉

  49. john personna says:

    @Ron Beasley:

    What amazes me is that opposition to Wall Street is seen as anti capitalist. The modern Wall Street has nothing to do with capitalism.

    There have been some fringe types at the movement, but the slogan is “we are the 99%,” and the 99% sure support a market economy. Possibly one tipped a little differently.

    We live in a post-capitalist, and possibly post-managerial, society.

    The capitalists have been replaced with High Frequency Trading machines. And somehow, the TP has come to serve the machines.

  50. WR says:

    @jan: ” Union people feel their benefits and pensions are unfairly threatened. ”

    Gosh, what could ever have given them such an absurd idea?

  51. samwide says:

    @jpe:

    say “anti-capitalist” and “Wall Street” in the same sentence enough times, and sooner or later people will start to associate the two

    It’s not only dirty, fvcking hippies who are raising the issue. See, Charles Johnson, Libertarian Anticapitalism:

    I have often referred to myself … as a “free market anticapitalist” — because I believe in a really broad and radical version of property rights and market freedom in economic ownership and exchange, but (unlike, say, the Wall Street Journal) I think that the features conventionally associated with American capitalism — large-scale, top-down firms, the predominance of wage labor, corporate domination of economic and social life, the commercialization of social space etc. — are as often as not the products of state intervention, not of market dynamics. And, further, that a genuinely and consistently freed market would tend to undermine the prevalence and significance of these features in everyday life.

    Wall Street is the public face of all that, no?

  52. john personna says:

    @superdestroyer:

    Of course, I do not understand how going back to the tax rates of the 1970′s is going to create more jobs for Hipsters in NYC. Maybe the Hipsters should look at the living conditions of NYC in the 1970′s so see what effects very high taxes can have.

    I don’t see how ANYTHING works with the tax rates of 2010, but it is a fair question what the total package should be, to both reduce unemployment, and support the unemployable.

    I’d say the hedge fund managers now paying 15% tax rate (via carried interest) could do more.

  53. Rob in CT says:

    It remains to be seen whether or not these protests have any lasting impact.

    Like most protestors, they are annoying (that’s rather the point) and incoherent (see also: Tea Party). I pointed out the incoherence of TP demands, so turnabout is fair play. Have fun. The underlying anger, though (which I think has, in part, the same source as the anger of the TPers) is there and for good reasons.

    9% unemployment, vast and increasing wealth disparity, and a clearly uncaring elite that is unwilling and/or unable to address the problems.

    This is, so far, pretty mild stuff. My worry, however, is that given the parallels between the current economic situation and that of the late 20s/early 30s, worse could yet come.

  54. James Joyner says:

    @Rob in CT: The parallels are clear and, yes, there’s a lot of overlap in the source of the frustrations.

    I think that there’s a disconnect between the OWS people and the “uncaring elites” in that the latter reasonably think they got where they are by making good choices and working their asses off and don’t understand why the protestors don’t just buckle down and get to work. The problem is that, in times of major economic depression, that formula doesn’t necessarily pay off.

  55. john personna says:

    @James Joyner:

    I think that there’s a disconnect between the OWS people and the “uncaring elites” in that the latter reasonably think they got where they are by making good choices and working their asses off and don’t understand why the protestors don’t just buckle down and get to work. The problem is that, in times of major economic depression, that formula doesn’t necessarily pay off.

    There was a special discount window set up at the Fed. It was to prop up the then-failing money market funds. If you knew where the window was, you could get a few tens of millions at zero percent interest, loan it out in money markets at 1 or 2%, and earn free money. Get $10M at zero, make 2% or $200K for no work and at no risk. It’s a good job if you can get it. So, people like wives of Goldman Sachs partners, who knew where the window was, founded instant companies, got certified for those funds, and made their free money.

    I bet you every one of them (or at least their husbands) will tell you they did it through hard work and smarts.

  56. john personna says:

    I think I read the above at Zero Hedge some time back, can’t find it now. There is this summary:

    In an effort to track the Fed’s actions, Real Time Economics created an interactive graphic marking the expansion of the central bank’s balance sheet. The chart is updated as often as possible with the latest data released by the Fed.

    In an effort to simplify the composition of the balance sheet, some elements have been consolidated. Portfolios holding assets from the Bear Stearns and AIG rescues have been put into one category, as have facilities aimed at supporting commercial paper and money markets. The direct bank lending group includes term auction credit, as well as loans extended through the discount window and similar programs.

    Central bank liquidity swaps refer to Fed programs with foreign central banks that allow the institutions to lend out foreign currency to their local banks. Repurchase agreements are short-term temporary purchases of securities from banks, which are looking for liquidity and agree to repurchase them on a specified date at a specified price.

    The “dissolve the Fed” part of the protests seemed kind of Ron Paul to me, but if you put in context of special favors to the 1%, it kind of makes sense. Look at the size of “direct bank lending” post-crisis.

  57. anjin-san says:

    the latter reasonably think they got where they are by making good choices and working their asses off

    Like say, Donald Trump?

  58. James Joyner says:

    @anjin-san: Trump obviously had a better head start than most of us. But he’s worked doggedly for decades to turn a successful enterprise into a wildly successful one. Paris Hilton he ain’t.

  59. john personna says:

    @James Joyner:

    There is actually some question how often Trump enjoyed a positive net worth. Basically he was into the banks for so many hundreds of millions that they had to keep backing him. During that time he marketed himself as a success, yes.

    Donald Trump’s Companies Filed for Bankruptcy 4 Times

    It was a new definition of success.

  60. Moosebreath says:

    “But he’s worked doggedly for decades to turn a successful enterprise into a wildly successful one.”

    And frequently, to turn a wildly successful business into one less so. He does market himself well, though.

  61. Eric Florack says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    The biggest problem I see is that there’s just a general sense not just that things are bad right now, but that there’s no real hope of them getting any better. When America was in that condition once before, there was a guy named Ronald Reagan who came along and convinced people to believe in America again. I don’t see anyone in politics now capable of doing that and, unless and until the economy turns around, this pessimism is going to continue to be with us.

    Part of the problem there is nobody has the stones to really work toward the end Regan believed in anymore. Reagan and all others to the right of Mao, have been labeled by the left and by their machine in the press as being the problem. And of course, bigger government is supposed to be the solution. Trouble there is that Obama disproved that falacy by implementing the big government solutions the left has been wetting their pants over for years. So there’s reason for the despondency on the left, at least.

    So along comes money from Soros, and viola’, the Occupy” (Insert town name here) leaps into the fore, with morons who haven’t a clue what they want screaming about how they have to bring down the hedge fund millionaires…… and can you imagine the looks on their faces when they recognize that Soros is a hedge fund billionaire? That is, of course, assuming they ever attain that understanding?

    “We’ve gottta kill all the rich! Yeah, we gotta do what Mr. Soros says…. Ummm… wait a minute…”

    On the right meanwhile, we see nobody actually willing to implement policies of the right…. too many RINO types trying to please everyone instead of doing what will work… getting government out of the way. Our chances of getting such a person and therefore of our country finding a way out of this box, remains slim.

  62. garretc says:

    Wait a minute, if I actually go join in on these protests I can get me a handful of Soros funds? Why haven’t I heard this mentioned by anybody else anywhere?

    I could use some redistribution…

    Yeah @superdestroyer, and I imagine all the protesters in the “Occupy (Insert City Here)” protests are all just pissed about how hard it is for hipsters to live in New York. I know I shed several tears daily for the plight of the endangered Manhattan hipster.

  63. sam says:

    Poor Bithead. His posts are reminding me more and more of some guy in animal skins, with a beard down to here, running out of the forest, wild hair and wild eyes, screaming, “Locusts!!!!!”

  64. anjin-san says:

    But he’s worked doggedly for decades to turn a successful enterprise into a wildly successful one.

    And when his out of control ego leads him to make bad business decisions, he simply turns to the bankruptcy courts and screws his creditors. Nice.

  65. Eric Florack says:

    Wait a minute, if I actually go join in on these protests I can get me a handful of Soros funds? Why haven’t I heard this mentioned by anybody else anywhere?

    Lemme guess… because you get your news from… where again? CNN? Or MSNBC?

  66. Lens says:

    @Eric Florack

    I respectfully disagree with your position. What ‘big government solutions’ were implemented by Obama, in your opinion? The bailout? The stimulus package? There’s general consensus that McCain would have done the same. There was really only one choice in the face of the looming recession.

    What’s arguable is that almost no one estimated the size of the recession. At the time $1.2 trillion was estimated to be the amount needed to cushion the fall, but both Democrats and Republicans feared the 1 trillion dollar figure – so the government authorized $800 billion. The Bush administration initially got the ball rolling on that, and the Obama administration carried it through – indicative of the seriousness of the problem.

    However, at that time, estimated shrinking of the economy: 2.1 to 3.2%
    Actual shrinkage of the economy: A whopping 8%. Hindsight: 20/20

  67. Lens says:

    There really is no argument against the bailout or the stimulus. Economists agree that they worked, but that the effect was limited and the recession too great.

    Dazedandconfused has it right – too much money is pooling in the financial sector. There is a gross imbalance in effort and reward, and has been for a while now. Many of the mega rich are not rich as a result of ‘hard work and smarts’. People making their money in the financial sector in particular.

    Lastly – I(And most Americans) would never grudge Steve Jobs, or his family, their wealth, nor Sergey Brin/Larry Page. They are true icons of the American dream. That is how things are SUPPOSED to work.

    Not shuffling money from here to there and making billions in between, like many a Wall street banker.

  68. Lens says:

    This Republican/Democrat divide is the most deeply hurtful thing to the American nation. It doesn’t matter who’s fault it is, it only matters that it come to an end in any way possible.

    It’s great to see actual discussion here on this site as opposed to the usual pointless vitriol and propaganda. I also agree – the source of problems/frustrations is mostly the same for the TP and OWS. However, the TP was hijacked early on by corporate interests, as evidenced by the large amount of ‘propped up’ Fox news coverge.

    Also, I think garretc was being sarcastic.