Why Occupying Wall St. Should Be Only Phase One
In light of Bank of America's CEO Brian Moynihan being "incensed" at mere verbal criticism of his bank stealing homes that don't belong to it, Wall Street has nothing to complain about. In light of the peaceful, genteel but largely symbolic occupation of Wall Street, they could have fared much worse. They could have gotten a taste of what Iraq and Afghanistan have received from American and coalition forces during their respective occupations. Imagine how incensed these coddled, jiggling plutocrats would've been at the wholesale slaughter of their own and their families and neighbors in the Adirondacks, the Hamptons and Martha's Vineyard, their palatial mansions turned into smoking rubble amidst a carnage consisting of human body parts and nine irons.
No, all things considered, they're getting off quite easily thus far. There are, however, several important distinctions between the "occupation" of Wall Street and our occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan: Wall Street is guilty of very real crimes against humanity including countless acts of terrorism, including laundering money for Mexican drug cartels.
Big Finance muckraker Greg Palast, however, has uncovered the real reason behind Goldman Sachs withdrawing their $5000 to commemorate a small community bank's 25th anniversary and the implications behind this story are much, much more chilling. This is how Palast breaks it down:
In 2008, the US Treasury handed Goldman Sachs a check for $10bn from the Troubled Asset Recovery Program (Tarp), the bailout funds given to desperate commercial banks. A few eyebrows were raised: Goldman was not desperate, and it certainly was not a commercial bank. Yet – abracadabra! – Secretary of the Treasury Henry Paulson transformed investment bank Goldman into a commercial bank overnight. (Paulson's prior post was chairman of Goldman Sachs. Just saying.)
But there was a catch: Goldman would have to return a chunk of the public's billions in the form of loans for low-income customers and members of its "community", as required by the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) of 1977. Problem: Goldman has, it seems, no low-income customers, nor a "community". Goldman was directed to find poor people and a community and hand over some cash.
That's right. Hank Paulson, ex Goldman CEO, after his "former" employer experienced a very rare and mild loss in that quarter, decided to engage in a little semantics to give Goldman $10 billion it neither needed nor even wanted. Despite the fact that Goldman Sachs was and still is an investment firm with no real bank accounts to offer and no branches, Paulson was bound and determined to force down the bottomless throats of one of the most successful Wall Street firms in American history $10 billion to "level the playing field." (To give you an idea of how desperately they needed the money, Goldman paid back their slice of the TARP bailout, with interest, in the least amount of time.)
But, as Palast says, with the rechristening came new mandated guidelines, namely that Goldman Sachs and any other bailed out bank had to give something back to the community under the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) of 1977 (Thank you, President Carter). The problem was, Goldman Sachs not only didn't have any account holders, they didn't have any poor customers so they had to go slumming.
That's when they set their sights on the Lower East Side Peoples Credit Union. The $5000 they'd recently yanked back on a string like the high finance pranksters that they are was not a generous donation to reward a small people-owned bank for their community service but the smallest possible token gesture toward discharging an onerous federally-mandated obligation.
Then the shit hit the fan when Blankfein's boys discovered to their corporate mortification that their five large was going to be used to fete Occupy Wall Street, their unsworn enemy that they'd otherwise officially ignored. They threatened Lower East Side Peoples bank with a lawsuit if they didn't hand back the $5000. Peoples refused so Goldman simply took back the money, anyway, and demanded their names be taken off any literature and invitations for the November 3rd event (Jamie Dimon's dimwits at Citigroup followed suit).
Goldman Sach's legal obligation to the community is something in the neighborhood of ten figures yet despite their pretenses of philanthropy, they've been doling out the money in dribs and drabs. Now they're using these tiny sums of money in order to wrest political control of the Wall Street debate back to their side. Potentially, this could have a very chilling effect on community activism in the future. If you need to have it summed up for you, here it is:
Goldman Sachs and other banks are using your taxpayer dollars to make and keep control of political speech. Again, this is not their money, but ours and they're using it against us. So how do we wrest back control of that debate? Well, as Occupy Wall Street suggests, you can start by removing your money from the big Wall Street banks and putting them in credit unions and small community banks.
To combat a run on the big Wall Street banks, there's a national movement where if you try to close out your account, you'll be falsely imprisoned and arrested on the spot. Yes, Occupy Wall Street's best way to literally physically occupy Wall Street is simply to try to take out their money.
The thing one has to most love about Lower East Side Peoples Credit Union and those like them is that they're not merely encouraging low income residents to take their business to them: They want their community-based financial template to become the new norm that replaces the sociopathic, world-eating banks on Wall Street. It's a subdued albeit vitally important revolution that Wall Street is scared shitless will actually succeed: A paradigm shift in which banking will not be solely dedicated to printing money on the fly but one in which the community's needs will be paramount, including reasonable student and home loans that empower those who wish to elevate their status in life.
There are hundreds of billions at stake here and people like Jamie Dimon and Lloyd Blankfein are all too well aware of that.
So the occupation should only be the beginning. When we occupied Iraq, Paul Bremer and the Coalition Provisional Authority essentially destroyed the Iraqi economy by making Iraq far less competitive in the global marketplace by fiddle fucking with tariffs, throwing people out of work by the hundreds of thousands and essentially co-opting their biggest export: Oil. We crippled the Iraqi economy in order to enrich defense contractors, petroleum giants and, yes, Wall Street banks.
This particular paradigm shift would be immensely more humane, geared not to impoverishing the common working man but empowering him, in making higher education and quality housing more accessible and affordable and making less usurious loans that the big banks refuse to make with their TARP blood money.
And an empowered proletariat with actual options is the last thing that Wall Street wants.