Occupy Wall Street Response to Cheating, Not Winning

Occupy Wall Street is not motivated by envy of the rich or even animus towards banks.

Rolling Stone‘s Matt Taibbi argues in “OWS’s Beef: Wall Street Isn’t Winning – It’s Cheating” that Occupy Wall Street is not motivated by envy of the rich or even animus towards banks.

Think about it: there have always been rich and poor people in America, so if this is about jealousy, why the protests now? The idea that masses of people suddenly discovered a deep-seated animus/envy toward the rich – after keeping it strategically hidden for decades – is crazy.

Where was all that class hatred in the Reagan years, when openly dumping on the poor became fashionable? Where was it in the last two decades, when unions disappeared and CEO pay relative to median incomes started to triple and quadruple?

The answer is, it was never there. If anything, just the opposite has been true. Americans for the most part love the rich, even the obnoxious rich. And in recent years, the harder things got, the more we’ve obsessed over the wealth dream. As unemployment skyrocketed, people tuned in in droves to gawk at Evrémonde-heiresses like Paris Hilton, or watch bullies like Donald Trump fire people on TV.

Moreover, the worse the economy got, the more being a millionaire or a billionaire somehow became a qualification for high office, as people flocked to voting booths to support politicians with names like Bloomberg and Rockefeller and Corzine, names that to voters symbolized success and expertise at a time when few people seemed to have answers. At last count, there were 245 millionaires in congress, including 66 in the Senate.

And we hate the rich? Come on. Success is the national religion, and almost everyone is a believer. Americans love winners. But that’s just the problem. These guys on Wall Street are not winning – they’re cheating. And as much as we love the self-made success story, we hate the cheater that much more.

Taibbi argues that it’s about more than a handful of well-publicized criminal acts or even the almost universally despised bailouts. Some examples culled from a very long exposition:

Or the banks borrow billions at zero and lend mortgages to us at four percent, or credit cards at twenty or twenty-five percent. This is essentially an official government license to be rich, handed out at the expense of prudent ordinary citizens, who now no longer receive much interest on their CDs or other saved income. It is virtually impossible to not make money in banking when you have unlimited access to free money, especially when the government keeps buying its own cash back from you at market rates.

[…]

If you or I miss a $7 payment on a Gap card or, heaven forbid, a mortgage payment, you can forget about the great computer in the sky ever overlooking your mistake. But serial financial fuckups like Citigroup and Bank of America overextended themselves by the hundreds of billions and pumped trillions of dollars of deadly leverage into the system — and got rewarded with things like the Temporary Liquidity Guarantee Program, an FDIC plan that allowed irresponsible banks to borrow against the government’s credit rating.

[…]

Time after time, when big banks screw up and make irresponsible bets that blow up in their faces, they’ve scored bailouts. It doesn’t matter whether it was the Mexican currency bailout of 1994 (when the state bailed out speculators who gambled on the peso) or the IMF/World Bank bailout of Russia in 1998 (a bailout of speculators in the “emerging markets”) or the Long-Term Capital Management Bailout of the same year (in which the rescue of investors in a harebrained hedge-fund trading scheme was deemed a matter of international urgency by the Federal Reserve), Wall Street has long grown accustomed to getting bailed out for its mistakes.

[…]

Bankers on Wall Street pay lower tax rates than most car mechanics. When Warren Buffet released his tax information, we learned that with taxable income of $39 million, he paid $6.9 million in taxes last year, a tax rate of about 17.4%. Most of Buffet’s income, it seems, was taxed as either “carried interest” (i.e. hedge-fund income) or long-term capital gains, both of which carry 15% tax rates, half of what many of the Zucotti park protesters will pay.

[…]

One thing we can still be proud of is that America hasn’t yet managed to achieve the highest incarceration rate in history — that honor still goes to the Soviets in the Stalin/Gulag era. But we do still have about 2.3 million people in jail in America. Virtually all 2.3 million of those prisoners come from “the 99%.” Here is the number of bankers who have gone to jail for crimes related to the financial crisis: 0.

Some of this is silly. The Mexican and Russian currency bailouts weren’t sops to rich investors, they were genuine–and largely successful–efforts to prevent the collapse of very important economies and forestall horrendous political and social fallout that would otherwise have ensued. And the business about incarceration is just odd: we don’t put people in jail for doing things that are infuriating but legal. I’ve also spared you several paragraphs about how the police work for the big banks.

Overall, though, the grievances listed here strike me as legitimate. There are indeed ways in which the game is rigged and, while some of it was largely unintentional (the carried interest loophole probably falls into this category) most of it is a result sheer rent-seeking by a class that has enormous ability to influence policymakers because of how we finance our elections.

Interestingly, though, Tiabbi doesn’t answer his own question–one I’ve asked before, too: “Why the protests now?”

The Tea Party movement kicked off almost immediately after the Obama bailouts. Coming on top of the already controversial (if bipartisan) Bush TARP bailout, it was apparently the last straw. But it’s not at all clear what new bit of information came to light a few weeks ago to spark this protest, which seemingly turned overnight from a few hundred folks camping out in a park into a global phenomenon. The bailouts were more than two years ago. Banks have long had a license to make money–and Tiabbi claims OWS isn’t really mad at banks, anyway. Bernie Madoff is in jail. The Warren Buffett op-ed? It got quite a bit of play, including a big boost from President Obama. But I’m not sure why one would occupy Wall Street if the goal was a change in the carried interest rule and/or a higher top marginal rate. That’s a DC issue.

I get the anger and even share much of it. But what was the proverbial last straw here?

FILED UNDER: General,
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. reid says:

    The Tea Party movement kicked off almost immediately after the Obama bailouts.

    I think you meant to write inauguration, not bailouts?

  2. anjin-san says:

    But it’s not at all clear what new bit of information came to light a few weeks ago to spark this protes

    Oh, I think it’s pretty clear.

  3. James Joyner says:

    @reid: Obama took office 20 January, signed ARRA 17 February, the Santorelli rant was 19 February, and the first of the Tea Party rallies was 4 March.

  4. Andre Kenji says:

    There is a important point missing here: bailouts to banks are as unpopular as they are necessary. That´s part of the problem with the Euro Debt Crisis:any bank bailout is political poison.

    But I think that in these cases the banks should be reestructured and resold to pay for the costs. There should be somekind of punishment.

  5. reid says:

    @James Joyner: Oh, I meant it symbolically and with tongue partially in cheek. And you knew it was coming!

  6. @Andre Kenji:

    Bailout’s aren’t necessary. Even if you agree something needs to be done to increase the amount of captial available to banks, that can be done by setting up a new bank rather than recapitalizing the old ones. If the real goal is to prevent an economic crisis, the new bank can do that without rewarding the people who mad they bad decisions at the old bank.

    Just giving billions of dollars to banks that are failing as a result of their own scheming isn’t about protecting the economy, it’s about protecting the bankers.

  7. Andre Kenji says:

    Most Tea Party Demonstrations were pretty small until the summer of 2009.

  8. Michael says:

    Sometimes it isn’t a “last straw” that sets things off, but rather a “spark” that ignites the proverbial powder keg. What set off the Tunisian protests, and from there the rest of the Arab spring, was a single person doing a single thing, that everybody else could sympathize with and rally around. Those first few hundred OWS were the spark. The question becomes, then, what is the powder keg?

  9. Andre Kenji says:

    “Even if you agree something needs to be done to increase the amount of captial available to banks”

    The problem is not the amount of capital. The problem is to guarentee the deposits. That why many countries lost more than 10% of the GDP when they refused to bailout banks.

  10. SKI says:

    The proverbial straw? IMO, massive prolonged unemployment + the coverage of the Arab Spring reminding/teaching frustrated people of the power of mass protest.

  11. Rob in CT says:

    @Andre Kenji:

    Totally agree.

    I think the bailouts were a necessary evil. My gripe is that the seem to have come out the other side w/o any real changes (other than the supposedly awful Frank-Dodd bill, which I hear is either a pathetically weak non-reform or horrible job-killing regulatory overreach).

    As for the rest, the idea is that the game is rigged.

    I don’t think there is a single trigger here James. I have some suggestions for the things that have come together here:

    1) The crash itself and the resulting unemployment. That sucked, and made lots of us mad;
    2) Persistent high unemployment, while corporate profits have rebounded well.
    3) Unwillingness and/or inability of the government to fix it, while it indulges in things like the debt ceiling cluster-eff.

    That’s pretty much it, I suspect. The months tick by, 9% of the workforce is unemployed (and more are underemployed) and the elite don’t much seem to care. Until people show up in the streets. Then they at least make noises about caring.

  12. WR says:

    I’d say it was a combination of the Republican’s desire to destroy the economy for short-term political gain as exemplified by the debt ceiling disaster and Washington’s single-minded focus on the ludicrously unimportant issue of the deficit when people had been out of work for years.

    Look around you, James. All across the world, economies are in terrible trouble, thanks to the malfeasance of the banks and their partners in government. All across the world, these same governments decide to fix the problem by letting the bankers cash in while the poor and middle class are forced to suffer under “austerity” programs. All across the world, these moves are met by demonstrations of rage by the people — demonstrations that you and Doug look down on as hooliganism and rent seeking.

    All around the world the needs of the vast majority of citizens are ignored while those who caused the problems are allowed to get richer and richer, and no one in government seems to give a damn.

    And you wonder why there are protests?

  13. JKB says:

    Well, let’s see, it’s coming time to show their love to Obama again but he jumped in bed with Wall Street as soon as he got what he wanted last time. They can’t bring themselves to throw the bum out because they love him so and he promises not to hit them anymore, so they are going after the whore who’s been messing with their man. Maybe we need to call in Jerry Springer to mediate?

    Or, they sense the turn and see this as their last best hope to destroy capitalism, except for all that capitalism that is sending them food, etc. On the upside, we really are seeing the ugly underbelly of the Left and increasingly the Democratic party. Anti-capitalism, ant-American, anti-Semitic, they are against a lot but for taking other people’s money.

    If they really are about the bad actors on Wall Street being bailed out, they should be going after the decision makers who bailed them out. That means Occupy the White House and Congress and throw the bums out. Not camp out in a park then dutifully vote for Obama, the Democrats or even the Republicans who voted to bail out Wall Street without even a harsh word to the failed Ivy-league wizards who caused the mess.

  14. mantis says:

    Obama took office 20 January, signed ARRA 17 February, the Santorelli rant was 19 February, and the first of the Tea Party rallies was 4 March.

    And you seem to forget what the Santelli rant was about. He was mad because some people would get help to avoid foreclosure on their homes through the Homeowners Affordability and Stability Plan. That was announced on February 18, and Santelli’s gripe was that some folks might not be thrown out of their homes, calling them “losers.”

    That’s the genesis of the Tea Party; the idea that the government would help people stay in their homes. The Tea Party didn’t care about the banks that caused the problems, and they still don’t. The Tea Party is the antithesis of OWS, who are fighting for those people under threat of losing their homes, not calling them losers and complaining about taxes going up when they weren’t.

    The reason OWS happened now is people are fed up with the economy that still hasn’t really recovered, and the fact that our system, despite almost being destroyed by rich bankers who don’t give a god damn about the country, is so rigged towards making the rich richer while making the rest of us all poorer. You want to know what the last straw was? Don’t bother. There was no last straw. There was a rallying cry, and not from some jackass hedge-fund TV personality, but from the people getting screwed every day.

  15. @Andre Kenji:

    The problem is to guarentee the deposits.

    Again, if the concern is guaranteeing the deposits, you can give the money to the FDIC and achieve the exact same effect without rewarding the banks. Again, the only reason to give money directly to the banks is to save the very people responsible for the crisis from the consequences of their actions.

  16. @Rob in CT:

    other than the supposedly awful Frank-Dodd bill, which I hear is either a pathetically weak non-reform or horrible job-killing regulatory overreach

    Given the manner in which politicians tend to substitute activity for achievment, it’s quite possible the bill is both: it creates a lot of expensive busywork for companies without actually doing anything to solve the problem.

  17. Rob in CT says:

    That jibes with my recollection of the Santelli thing: he was pissed off that somebody who took out a mortgage they couldn’t afford (for whatever reason) might get help. You know, moral hazard and all that.

    Bank bailouts? I rather doubt Santelli minded that.

  18. Rob in CT says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    A fair point, and one I am inclined to believe.

  19. @mantis:

    He was mad because some people would get help to avoid foreclosure on their homes through the Homeowners Affordability and Stability Plan.

    I’m mad about that too. If part of the loan is written down, that loss has to be transferred to some other party. The homeowners are essenitally looking for the same deal as the banks: the right to make decision where they keep all the profit if things go well, but someone else has to pick up the loss when they don’t. Just because I’m responsible and don’t buy homes I can’t possibly afford or get involved in crazy leveraged derivative screens doesn’t mean I should be on the hook for people who do.

  20. Rob in CT says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    I feel you on that. There is a real moral hazard problem in play with any bailout.

    If you have an alternative solution that has no moral hazard, I for one am all ears.

  21. Nikki says:

    @JKB: If government is the target on which the OWS protest should be focused, then why the show of force from the police? The protesters aren’t violent and this is still a somewhat free country. Sure they may be creating a nuisance for those who live and work in the area, so I would understand needing a few police to maintain order, but several cities have reacted with violence against the protesters. If OWS has picked the wrong target, why the need for violence? Why the need for the media (and James and Doug here) to paint the protesters as outside the mainstream? As others have pointed out, the Iraq war protests got NO coverage and they faded from view. The media and police presence give the lie to the wrong target being chosen. The protests have forced attention on the wealth inequality throughout the world. If the problem was not Wall Street and its accomplices, the movement couldn’t have achieved the success it already has–changing the conversation from austerity to jobs and wealth inequality.

  22. george says:

    Not so sure the bailouts were necessary; the same effect could have been obtained by simply sharing the trillion dollars equally among the US population, and allow their spending to decide the best “solution” to the crises. If nothing else, that would have avoided rewarding bankers for making horrible mistakes … rewarding people for losing huge sums of money is the death knell of capitalism, but that is what in effect the bailouts did.

    And I think its that realisation which sparked both the Tea Party and OWS – there is a (financial) aristocracy which is rewarded no matter how bone headed their decisions, and their reward comes out of the pockets of the very people they screwed over. Hard not to get angry about that, unless of course you’re one of the ones who was so rewarded.

  23. mantis says:

    The homeowners are essenitally looking for the same deal as the banks: the right to make decision where they keep all the profit if things go well, but someone else has to pick up the loss when they don’t.

    No, the homeowners were looking to not lose their homes after the actions of banks created the housing crash. And your implication that this was some sort of scam perpetrated by hundreds of thousands of individual homeowners is absurd.

    Just because I’m responsible and don’t buy homes I can’t possibly afford or get involved in crazy leveraged derivative screens doesn’t mean I should be on the hook for people who do.

    Your assumption that everyone facing foreclosure is in trouble because they were irresponsible is insulting to thousands, if not millions, of responsible homeowners screwed by the crash. You also ignore the deceptive practices of mortgage brokers who systematically lied to their clients about what they were getting into.

    Let’s also keep in mind that the Homeowners Affordability and Stability Plan was a $75 billion program, while TARP was $700 billion, and it was the practices of the banks bailed out by TARP that made the HASP necessary in the first place. Pick your villains more wisely.

  24. @Rob in CT:

    Well, in the bank’s case it’s relatively easy. Instead of using the money to save the bank, use the money to save the depositors and counterparties while letting the bank go under. That way the people responsible (management and shareholders) suffer the results of their poor decisions, but there’s no ripple effect.

    My personal feeling is the TARP money should have been divided into 50 buckets, one for each state weighted by population, and used to set up 50 banks ready to step in for the existing banks and run under FDIC receivership. Once the immediate crisis was past, they could have been privated via the normal process for freeing a bank from FDIC control.

  25. @mantis:

    No, the homeowners were looking to not lose their homes after the actions of banks created the housing crash. And your implication that this was some sort of scam perpetrated by hundreds of thousands of individual homeowners is absurd.

    Not a scam, but foolish irresponsibility. They bought homes they new they could not afford the payments on, expecting that prices would continue rising to the point they could refinance on terms they could afford.

    And as for the “losing their home” thing, you’re creating a false dilemma between forcing me to pay for their home and them being homeless. There are far worse things than having to move to an apartment.

  26. ponce says:

    we don’t put people in jail for doing things that are infuriating but legal.

    I think the point is these activities would be illegal if the Wall Street types didn’t own so many politicians.

  27. mantis says:

    They bought homes they new they could not afford the payments on, expecting that prices would continue rising to the point they could refinance on terms they could afford.

    You continue to falsely imply this is the situation of all homeowners facing foreclosure. It is not.

    And as for the “losing their home” thing, you’re creating a false dilemma between forcing me to pay for their home and them being homeless.

    You may be surprised to learn that you are not personally being asked to pay for anyone’s home. You are not the United States of America, all by yourself. There are more than 300 million of us.

  28. MBunge says:

    @mantis: “Santelli’s gripe was that some folks might not be thrown out of their homes, calling them “losers.””

    One thing that’s slithered into the American love of success is the Randian conceit of the rich seeing themselves as ubermenchen – they’re better than normal people because they’re rich and it is being rich itself which proves that superiority.

    Mike

  29. PD Shaw says:

    @mantis: Santelli was complaining about targeted mortgage relief — that the government was going to tax people who played by the rules, bought modest houses, lived within their means, in order to bail out people who bought McMansions and used their houses as a piggybank.

    Whether or not you agree that is a fair description of the problem, that is the political problem. Most of the mortgage debt leading into the bubble was in the top quintile of income. How to unwind that bubble without potlical backlast from helping banks and the upper class?

  30. mantis says:

    James, you want to know why? This is why:

    The top 1 percent of earners more than doubled their share of the nation’s income over the last three decades, the Congressional Budget Office said Tuesday

    ¶ The share of after-tax household income for the top 1 percent of the population more than doubled, climbing to 17 percent in 2007 from nearly 8 percent in 1979.

    ¶ The most affluent fifth of the population received 53 percent of after-tax household income in 2007, up from 43 percent in 1979. In other words, the after-tax income of the most affluent fifth exceeded the income of the other four-fifths of the population.

    ¶ People in the lowest fifth of the population received about 5 percent of after-tax household income in 2007, down from 7 percent in 1979.

    ¶ People in the middle three-fifths of the population saw their shares of after-tax income decline by 2 to 3 percentage points from 1979 to 2007.

    Getting the picture? People are fed up with a system that has for decades pushed more and more of the wealth up. You know, the losers. All 300 million of them.

  31. James Joyner says:

    @mantis: 2007 was four years ago. The protests started, what, 2 months ago?

  32. mantis says:

    @PD Shaw:

    Santelli was complaining about targeted mortgage relief – that the government was going to tax people who played by the rules, bought modest houses, lived within their means, in order to bail out people who bought McMansions and used their houses as a piggybank.

    Your own link proves my point.

    Since assistance will be targeted by a set of rules, some of those who receive aid will be those whom, upon closer examination, most would deem “undeserving.” This program helps those with a high loan-to-value ratio, which can occur either because the house’s value has declined, or because the homeowner took out or refinanced into a particularly big mortgage. While we may have sympathy for those in the first category, the homeowner who at the peak of a regional housing bubble withdrew equity from his mortgage to buy a big boat and was then hit by a housing price decline evokes far less sympathy.

    They weren’t all irresponsible (or duped by dishonest mortgage brokers), and those that were never should have gotten loans in the first place, but the banks figured out a way to make loads of cash off of them while destroying the economy, and then letting the government clean it up.

    Whether or not you agree that is a fair description of the problem, that is the political problem.

    It’s a fair description of some of the problem. Not all of it. Not by a long shot. To focus on those people is to ignore the real cause.

    How to unwind that bubble without potlical backlast from helping banks and the upper class?

    I suppose we could have made the economy worse while the banks still profited, as people like Santelli wanted. There’s a political winner!

  33. MBunge says:

    @James Joyner: “The protests started, what, 2 months ago?”

    Was Rosa Parks the first black person who ever objected to moving to the back of the bus? I’m not sure I understand the focus on some sort of inciting incident for OWS.

    Mike

  34. mantis says:

    @James Joyner:

    2007 was four years ago. The protests started, what, 2 months ago?

    So you pick the end date of a report just released as your argument? Odd.

    I’ll try to explain again. There was no single event, but decades of systematic redistribution of wealth to the top. People are fed up, and there was a rallying cry by the OWS protesters to which many are sympathetic. It’s an organic uprising of voices from people who understand the game is rigged against them, and has been for a long time. Get it?

  35. MBunge says:

    And this may be a bit off topic but we should remember that the real estate crisis and the financial crisis were related but not the same. The real estate crisis was about people seeking and banks issuing bad loans. The financial crisis was caused by the banks monetizing those bad loans into even worse mortgage-backed securities.

    Mike

  36. mantis says:

    The real estate crisis was about people seeking and banks issuing bad loans. The financial crisis was caused by the banks monetizing those bad loans into even worse mortgage-backed securities.

    Yes, but they are connected. The banks issued loans they knew were crap because they could wrap them up and sell them as something they could pretend was better than a pile of crap. Once they figured out how profitable the “toxic assets” could be, they started handing out mortgages to anyone, for anything, knowing full well a large majority of them would end in default. They knew there would be several years of huge bonuses before it became apparent that it was all a house of cards, and they decided the profit was well worth destroying the economy for.

    This American Life did a great job explaining how this all came to pass in The Giant Pool of Money.

  37. ponce says:

    I get the anger and even share much of it. But what was the proverbial last straw here?

    “We basically floated the idea in mid July into our [email list] and it was spontaneously taken up by all the people of the world,” said Adbusters senior editor Micah White on Monday, the tenth day of the protest. “It just kind of snowballed from there.”

    Adbusters suggested Sept. 17 as a starting date to coincide with America’s Constitution Day, and the idea quickly spread online with help from the hacker group Anonymous. As with the recent citizen uprisings in Europe and the Middle East, social media played a vital role in spreading awareness of the “leaderless resistance movement,” particularly on Twitter.

    http://www.vancourier.com/Adbusters+sparks+Wall+Street+protest/5466332/story.html

  38. michael reynolds says:

    One trigger for me was the Wisconsin anti-union coup. It became painfully clear that not only were the top 1% determined to take still more, more, more, but that they were determined to crush working men and woman and deprive them of even the slightest bit of power. Not enough to have 90% of political power, they wanted 100%. The Right is pushing for outright serfdom.

    Another was of course the infamous Supreme Court decision that made corporations into people, and allowed those “people” to pump untraceable millions into politics.

    Too much. The Right overreached, and now they’re feeling the push-back. I hope we push them back good and hard.

  39. James Joyner says:

    @michael reynolds: Interestingly, anti-union sentiment has been strong in the South as long as I can remember. And it’s not coming from the 1%. I don’t know if it’s reflexive individualism or something else.

  40. jan says:

    @JKB:

    If they really care about the bad actors on Wall Street being bailed out, they should be going after the decision makers who bailed them out.

    Logic, though, is rarely the last concept standing in these debates. From the initiation of an event, let’s say bailing Wall Street bankers out, to where we are today, there are so many hair-pin curves, that connecting the dots (backwards) becomes a dizzying task. This often results in misplacing the blame, in which case people go after someone else’s hide, especially if it is politically expedient to do so.

  41. michael reynolds says:

    @James Joyner:
    In the South, yes, but not normally in Wisconsin.

    But I don’t think it’s hard to guess where southern anti-unionism came from. It’s the same game that’s been played since slave times. Rich whites used race to divide and control the poor white underclass, even as they used slaves to impoverish those poor whites. The southern white underclass has been trained for at least two centuries to identify their interests with those of the rich. The toadying instinct is a part of their make-up now, reflexive, as is their suspicion of anyone who can be identified as “the other.” The process is helped by the fact that the south remains more rural than the northeast, midwest or west coast.

  42. sam says:

    @James Joyner:

    Interestingly, anti-union sentiment has been strong in the South as long as I can remember. And it’s not coming from the 1%. I don’t know if it’s reflexive individualism or something else.

    I’ll go for something else. After all, this was the historical culture that enabled the slave-owning aristocracy to convince dirt-poor whites that slavery was in their interests.

  43. Terrye says:

    I think they are brats who are angry that they did not get enough free stuff..speaking of cheating..what about all the people who borrowed that money and don’t they should have to pay it back? Mortgages, school loans, credit card debt…Wall Street and the banks are certainly not perfect, but they were not the only ones trying to get something for nothing. That is for sure.

  44. Fog says:

    “Interestingly, anti-union sentiment has been strong in the South as long as I can remember. And it’s not coming from the 1%. I don’t know if it’s reflexive individualism or something else.”

    That’s an interesting question. Southern workers are not so anti-union that they will refuse a 40 hour week, or refuse workman’s comp if they get hurt, or any other perk derived from union men getting their heads busted at some point in the past. I think I’d call that “something else.”

  45. Drew says:

    “The reason OWS happened now is people are fed up with the economy that still hasn’t really recovered, and the fact that our system, despite almost being destroyed by rich bankers who don’t give a god damn about the country, is so rigged towards making the rich richer while making the rest of us all poorer. You want to know what the last straw was? Don’t bother. There was no last straw. There was a rallying cry, and not from some jackass hedge-fund TV personality, but from the people getting screwed every day.”

    LOL And your unique and material contributions to society are?

  46. David M says:

    The timing of OWS makes more sense than the timing of the tea parties. Supposedly the economy has been recovering since the summer of 2009, but the nature of the recovery made these protests inevitable. Watching the slow job growth while business and financial profits recovered very quickly and it’s obvious the game is rigged.

  47. Drew says:

    “But I don’t think it’s hard to guess where southern anti-unionism came from. It’s the same game that’s been played since slave times. Rich whites used race to divide and control the poor white underclass, even as they used slaves to impoverish those poor whites.”

    Any other tales from the Paleozoic era you want to share?

  48. DRE says:

    @JKB:
    If they really are about the bad actors on Wall Street being bailed out, they should be going after the decision makers who bailed them out.

    If you want to eliminate a corrupt operation, it is generally advisable to focus on those who finance, direct, and benefit from the operation, as well as the mechanisms which enable the operation. It does no good to focus on the employees. As long as the bosses and their institutional power exist, they will always be able to find employees.

  49. michael reynolds says:

    @Drew:
    Are you a slavery-denier now? This isn’t controversial, dude, it’s straight-up established history.

  50. PD Shaw says:

    In Illinois, the sentitment is very anti-public union. The Democrats in charge can’t break their deals with the public unions fast enough to keep themselves in power after 2012.

    People don’t like their taxes raised to pay government benefits and salaries they don’t enjoy.

  51. Tlaloc says:

    If a bank is “too big to fail” then it’s too big not to be cut up by the government. It’s just that simple. You do not allow any single private actor to have a stranglehold on your national economy.

  52. george says:

    If a bank is “too big to fail” then it’s too big not to be cut up by the government. It’s just that simple. You do not allow any single private actor to have a stranglehold on your national economy.

    I agree. If its really too important to society to allow it to fail, then like the military and justice departments it should be part of the government. If its private enterprise, then it has to be allowed to fail – that’s the only way private enterprise works properly. Bailing out private corporations leads to organizations with all the inefficiency of government, but none of the responsibilities or accountability … a horrible combination.

  53. sam says:

    @Terrye:

    Wall Street and the banks are certainly not perfect, but they were not the only ones trying to get something for nothing. That is for sure.

    Equally sure is that they did get something for nothing. Or, more accurately, they got something for their nothing and your something.

  54. ponce says:

    If its really too important to society to allow it to fail, then like the military and justice departments it should be part of the government.

    I think we had all agreed to this back when the bailouts were happening.

    But for some reason, I can’t imagine what, all the politicians done forgot about it!

  55. Ben Wolf says:

    @Drew:

    LOL And your unique and material contributions to society are?

    Banks do not and cannot contribute “materially” to society. Every bank transaction is endogenous to the sector, meaning no wealth is created through them. If banks aren’t acting as effective facilitators between lenders and borrowers, then their contribution nets out to zero. And that assumes they aren’t actively damaging society by turning themselves into debt factories and misallocating capital. Which they have.

  56. jan says:

    I get the anger and even share much of it. But what was the proverbial last straw here?

    Sometimes the proverbial last straw has less to do with some defined event lighting the fuse of protest, than simply following the money supporting and perhaps even egging a movement onward. According to this article the now defunct ACORN has morphed into NYCC (New York Communities for Change), and is actively behind financially supporting the OWS protest, even going as far as collecting door-to-door donations, on behalf of other groups, which is then funneled directly into the movement’s coffers. If there is even a kernel of truth to this, I can more fully understand why Obama has been so quick to endorse OWS, being that he has had so many previous ties to ACORN prior to his WH residency.

    However, the OWS movement, IMO, is starting to fray at the edges. There is
    this CBS news story detailing how the protest’s waste and noise are testing neighbor’s patience (again, something the teas didn’t do during their short rallies). And then there is the aspect that a news story only has so much staying power on the front pages before it gets to be boring, even for those who appear to support some of OWS’s grievances. How long will OWS be able to attract more people, or even maintain it’s current street occupation membership, if the lights continue to dim, making their demonstrations fade into the woodwork of daily life?

  57. Ben Wolf says:

    @jan:

    According to this article the now defunct ACORN has morphed into NYCC (New York Communities for Change), and is actively behind financially supporting the OWS protest, even going as far as collecting door-to-door donations, on behalf of other groups, which is then funneled directly into the movement’s coffers.

    And what evidence does good ole’ trustworthy Fox News present us with to confirm this claim?

    Sources said . . .

    Yep, that’s right. Fox is citing anonymous sources, which means they might as well be citing the Cookie Monster. In fact “Sources said . . .” leads off five separate paragraphs in the article.

    You need to think for yourself Jan, rather than letting an ideologue with an axe to grind do it for you.

  58. Rob in CT says:

    Dude. Jan *is* an ideologue with an axe to grind.

    Pretty much all she does here is cut & paste from right-wing opinion pieces.

  59. ponce says:

    You need to think for yourself Jan, rather than letting an ideologue with an axe to grind do it for you.

    It think you’re missing the point, Ben.

    Being a Fox News drone lets Jan feel like she’s part of something important!

    It’s the same method that churches use to con lonely people into knocking on doors(or walking into jungles) for them.

    It’s Mary Kay without the pink Cadillacs.

  60. Ben Wolf says:

    @Rob in CT: I have a tendency to think people want to be honest. It usually leaves me looking like a fool.

  61. @mantis:

    You continue to falsely imply this is the situation of all homeowners facing foreclosure. It is not.

    It’s not the situation of all, but it is the situation of many, and your “free writedowns for everybody!” preference does nothing to distinguish the two classes.

  62. Scott F. says:

    James –

    Overall, though, the grievances listed here strike me as legitimate. There are indeed ways in which the game is rigged and, while some of it was largely unintentional (the carried interest loophole probably falls into this category) most of it is a result sheer rent-seeking by a class that has enormous ability to influence policymakers because of how we finance our elections.

    I’d be interested in getting your perspective on what the good people of the right might ever do about these legitimate grievances. The recent OTB post on Cantor’s “income inequality speech” focused more on the politics of baling out on the appearance and avoided the lack of substance (especially the lack of any reference to income inequality) in the published speech.

  63. mantis says:

    It’s not the situation of all, but it is the situation of many, and your “free writedowns for everybody!” preference does nothing to distinguish the two classes.

    It’s not mine, bucko. I stated no preference. I just argued against your oversimplification and implication that anyone facing foreclosure is so because they are careless grifters. Lots of good folks who played by the rules and paid their bills on time got screwed. How do you help them without also helping some bad actors? If you have a solution, let’s hear it.

  64. James Joyner says:

    @Scott F.: Well, that was the controversy in the Cantor case.

    I don’t see a coherent response to any of this on the left or the right. Most Democrats want to raise taxes on high earners. But that doesn’t really address any of the problems, in that it treats those who make a lot of money legitimately no differently from those who do so through a rigged game. There’s some support among Republicans for eliminating “corporate welfare,” but it never gets too far.

    But that’s been my frustration with both OWS and the Tea Party: It’s too much venting and too little policy.

  65. john personna says:

    @James Joyner:

    Um. I think you made the bailout/stimulus error. ARRA was not a bailout bill.

  66. WR says:

    @Ben Wolf: “You need to think for yourself Jan, rather than letting an ideologue with an axe to grind do it for you. ”

    Of course, that’s assuming that Jan is not herself an ideologue with an axe to grind.

  67. Liberty60 says:

    @jan:
    Last night, my local Occupy group, Occupy Orange County- Irvine, spoke in front of the Irvine City Council, and the City Council unanimously voted to allow them to peaceably camp out and occupy the City Hall lawn
    http://www.occupy-oc.org/tears-stream-as-city-council-unanimously-agrees-occupy-tents-are-a-form-of-speech/

    There is video posting soon of the 75 speakers who were present, which you might find interesting; it is a mix of young college activists, but also senior citizens, middle aged white collar folks like myself, and everyone in between.

    This is all happening in red Orange County CA, Reagan Country.

    By the way, I have been regularly wandering the tent city looking for bare breasted women, free dope, and ACORN money- so far I have been disappointed at every turn.

    But I will keep searching, and report back.

  68. Scott F. says:

    @James Joyner:

    The Democrats are just as bought as the Republicans, only with less enthusiasm.

    But, the Left has a lot of suggestions and they aren’t all about taxes. Break up the too-big-to-fail banks, campaign finance reform, etc.

    The current lack of policy suggestions is what I like about OWS at the moment. It is enough to raise awareness and grow as a movement.

  69. jan says:

    @Ben Wolf:

    Ben, in my post in which this FOX report was taken I added the following caveat:

    If there is even a kernel of truth to this…

    Most news stories, whether from left, right, or middle sources, it’s best to take with a grain of salt. However, FOX doesn’t raise my hackles like it does to most of you on this blog. While they definitely have a more conservative POV, I don’t think they are anywhere near the right wing hack news organization that the socially progressive left depicts them to be. However, they do research back room democratic connections, cronyism, and consequential political convolutions more than liberal reporters do, don’t fawn over the president, and will often highlight negative administration stories that are only found in the back pages of more liberal publications. But, that doesn’t make their selection of news stories bogus, illegitimate, or even unworthy, just because liberal news organizations choose to treat these same stories differently by downplaying them or completely sloughing them off, altogether.

    Also, if you will note two other links were posted from CBS and Reuters, other than the FOX one. I’m just not going to play OTB’s game of picking and choosing PC links. News is news. If something is incorrect than dispute it. But, simply deriding the source as a means to entirely discredit a news report seems like a herd mentality way to critically think through what is true or not out there in the world of politics.

  70. qtip says:

    @jan:

    News is news. If something is incorrect than dispute it. But, simply deriding the source as a means to entirely discredit a news report seems like a herd mentality way to critically think through what is true or not out there in the world of politics.

    Jan, I think the main point was that Fox did not have *named sources*. I.e. that they did not make their case in a credible way.

    Personally, I think this story might be true but the Fox report hasn’t proven it. It wouldn’t surprise me if it was true, nor would it really bother me much since OWS attracts a large variety of supporters.

  71. Dazedandconfused says:

    @James

    “Too much venting and too little policy” is exactly right.

    Crowds are notoriously un-wonkish. My gut tells me the OWS protesters are saying “The system, whatever it is, isn’t working for us.”

    The kids these days can’t find a decent job and there’s trillions shuffling back and forth in a casino, where it makes just a few people wealthy beyond the dreams of 99.999999% of the people who have ever walked the earth.

    This system doesn’t work. That’s about as coherent as the message needs to be, really.

  72. anjin-san says:

    I don’t think they are anywhere near the right wing hack news organization that the socially progressive left depicts them to be.

    I highlighted the key portion of this statement 🙂

  73. john personna says:

    The problem with “solutions” is that we need lots of little policy tweaks, lots of places. No one can campaign on that list. On the other hand, a movement like OWS or the Tea Party can move the discussion on all that.

    Even if OWS fades, but the idea remains that (a) the middle class faces decline, and (b) the wealthy are profiteering, then the next spending and tax bills will be shaped by that.

    Right now attorneys general are working through fraud settlements with banks over mortgage backed securities. Both sides agree the banks did wrong. The negation is on the punishment. IMO OWS doesn’t need to have a concrete proposal about that, but they should get more people focused on that. And similar.

  74. john personna says:

    Shorter:

    If you think there is “a” policy solution to this mess, you don’t understand the problem.

    If you know there isn’t “a” solution, but you want OWS to provide one anyway … nuthin’ I can do for you.

  75. Nikki says:

    Both ABC and NBC do spots on income inequality in America. Now, if they ever focus on the wealth inequality (raise those capital gains taxes!), we’ll be on to something.

  76. john personna says:

    @Nikki:

    A capital gains tax is not a wealth tax.

    Luxury taxes might do it, and we might actually be heading to a political environment where luxury taxes work.

  77. Mikey says:

    I submit that both the Tea Party and OWS have their genesis in the same general principle: they feel someone has cheated and been rewarded for it, while those who did not cheat have been punished and made to pay.

    The Santelli rant that started the Tea Party was based on his feeling that people cheated their way into mortgages they couldn’t really afford and when those mortgages blew up, those who had behaved sensibly and honestly were forced to pay.

    OWS takes the same position, but replaces “irresponsible home buyers” with “The 1%,” who have cheated their way into million-dollar bonuses and left the rest of us footing the bill (either through our tax dollars funding bailouts or through high unemployment) when the whole mess came crashing down.

    But, then, I’m one of those crazy guys who thinks the Tea Party and OWS have a whole lot more in common than either would likely admit…