Monday, October 31, 2011

Let Them Eat Cake

[E]ven as the [OWS] protest was spreading in mid-October to hundreds of cities, executives at Bank of America announced three moves: one, to goose up their own extravagant pay, they're socking financially-stressed debit card users with a new $5 a month fee. Second, they're dumping 30,000 of the bank's workerbees onto America's already-swollen unemployment rolls – goodbye and good luck finding another job. Third, two top executives who're departing the bank are being handed golden parachutes totaling $11 million.

In the midst of this, Steve Bartlett opened his mouth. A former congress critter who's now Wall Street's top Washington lobbyist, he is a perfect symbol of the infuriating corrupt coziness between financial elites and lawmakers. Yet, Bartlett blithely says that "We [don't] see ourselves as the target [of the protests]. After all, he explains, Wall Street "has to be well capitalized and well financed for the economy to recover."

Golly, Steve, what part of the public's multitrillion-dollar bailout of the Street's elite did you not see? We the People see every glaring dime of it. And we also see that rather than helping our economy recover, you're now lobbying in Congress to kill Wall Street reforms so banksters can grab even more at our expense.

  Jim Hightower

And so who does Mr. Bartlett think is the target?

“I think they’re protesting about the economy.”


Publicly, bankers say they understand the anger at Wall Street — but believe they are misunderstood by the protesters camped on their doorstep.

But when they speak privately, it is often a different story.

“Most people view it as a ragtag group looking for sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll,” said one top hedge fund manager.

“It’s not a middle-class uprising,” adds another veteran bank executive. “It’s fringe groups. It’s people who have the time to do this.”


Without a coherent message, the crowds will ultimately thin out, Wall Street types insist — especially when the weather turns colder. They see the protesters as an entertaining sideshow, little more than flash mobs of slackers, seeking to lock arms with Kanye West or get a whiff of the antiestablishment politics that defined their parents’ generation.


A few even feel personally attacked, and say the Occupy Wall Street protesters who have been in Zuccotti Park for weeks are just bitter about their own economic fate and looking for an easy target. If anything, they say, people should show some gratitude.


[A longtime money manager said] that he was disappointed that members of Congress from New York, especially Senator Charles E. Schumer and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, had not come out swinging for an industry that donates heavily to their campaigns. “They need to understand who their constituency is,” he said.


How direct.

“When I tell people I went down to research the protests, they’re shocked, they literally laugh,” said Michael Mayo, a veteran bank analyst at Crédit Agricole Securities. “It’s just not a location they frequent.”

Heaven forbid.

But they’re not all too clueless to live.

Citigroup’s chief executive, Vikram S. Pandit, even said he would be happy to talk with the protesters any time they wanted to drop by.


“I would also corroborate that trust has been broken between financial institutions and the citizens of the U.S., and that it’s Wall Street’s job to reach out to Main Street and rebuild that trust,” Mr. Pandit said. The protesters should hold Citi and others “accountable for practicing responsible finance,” he said, “and keep asking us about how we’re doing.”

Mr. Pandit would like to keep his head.

It’s risky business, though. To a mob, all you banksters look alike.

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

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