The Avenue

Gagflex: Wall Street, A Good Place to Occupy

We have a right to be angry. The premise of the American Dream is that anyone can prosper and succeed. But the path to prosperity is fading with the shrinking middle class, and the people who have prospered the most have used their success to burn the bridges behind them. We have a right to be angry that we purchased homes under the guise of stability while the big banks were selling off adjustable rate mortgages like candy. We have a right to be angry that deregulation has allowed banks to bloat to the point that they become too big to fail. And we have a right to be angry because it’s consistently the middle class and poor that take the biggest hit when the bubbles burst.

Wall Street seems like an appropriate place to vent some of that anger. And it isn’t just anger directed towards rich people or banks. This is a protest about the entire rigged system that was created by our government, both Democrats and Republicans. This has nothing to do with the left and the right. While “greed is good” is a classic Republican sentiment, Democrats are as much if not more responsible for this mess. Bill Clinton is the one who finally put pen to paper and crushed the Glass-Steagall Act that had been in place since the Great Depression to keep commercial banks from underwriting securities. According to economist Robert Reich, it was the death of the Glass-Steagall Act that led to the housing bubble. While the teeth of the act had been removed when it was reinterpreted during the Reagan administration, it was the merger of Travelers Group insurance company and Citicorp that ultimately killed the act.

The merger was illegal and Citicorp would have had to detach itself from Travelers if Congress didn’t change the law within two years. So they took their boatload of money to Washington and lobbied the Republican Congress and Bill Clinton to have the law overturned. After signing the bill to kill Glass-Steagall, Clinton gave one of the pens used in the signing to Citigroup chairman, Sandy Weill. Clinton’s Secretary of Treasury Robert Rubin (previously of Goldman Sachs) was awarded a job as director of Citigroup. During his tenure, Rubin made about $128 million for helping to run Citigroup into the ground, but lucky for them they were too big to fail and our billions of our tax dollars were used to bail them out.

Our government doesn’t get that these interwoven relationships with big business do not equate to good social and economic policies. Just because you run a billion dollar corporation doesn’t mean that you know what’s best regarding the economy. Politicians are not generally economic geniuses and they rely heavily on economic advisers, so they tend to get hypnotized by corporate CEOs and let their opinions dictate policy. And people are saying that the Wall Street protestors don’t have a point.

The average person or business typically pays for the mistakes they’ve made, but the average person or business doesn’t have a lobbyist or a foot in the door with the president to help turn their idiocy into an interest-free goldmine at our expense. If this isn’t enough to make you angry, then just sit back and enjoy the exploitation.

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