Us Against Them
[For information on the Occupy Wall Street movement, click here.]
People like me, who style themselves experts, are hard to rile and slow to boil. We want evidence, personally verifiable, before we go off half cocked.
For the last several months, I have been slowly accumulating evidence of our nation’s complete domination by Wall Street. I wrote a post on that subject back in June, when it first occurred to me that Wall Street’s domination is total.
Not only does Wall Street control our nation’s financial sector, which not too long ago accounted for 41% of all our nation’s business profits, including Apple’s and the oil companies’. Not only does it control Congress, to the point where a senator (Shelby) from one of our nation’s three most backward states reflexively supports Wall Street, ignoring the interests of his own largely poor constituents. Not only does our Supreme Court support Wall Street’s dominance of politics through such decisions as Citizens United. But Wall Street, which controls Manhattan, also controls our nation’s media.
That, for me, was the last point of critical inquiry. Is it true that nothing gets out in the mainstream media that Wall Street dislikes? The evidence now is overwhelming.
Back in June, my analysis was largely theoretical. Wall Street controls and feeds Manhattan, I reasoned. All the mainstream media, including PBS, are headquartered in Manhattan. Every lawyer, accountant, bank, department store, restaurant and bar there owes its living directly or indirectly to Wall Street. And therefore so do the media and their pundits. Cut Wall Street down to size, and the condo or cooperative apartment of every media analyst would plummet in value, as would their exorbitant salaries, which are based on “competition” in Manhattan (where else?).
But that was just theory. Now the evidence is in, including some very personal evidence.
Although a blogger myself, I still tend to get most of my news from the mainstream media. For reasons of quality that I explained recently, Bloomberg.com has replaced the WSJ as my primary financial/investment news source. The others mainstream sources that I read regularly are the New York Times, the Washington Post (primarily for politics) and—far less frequently—the Los Angeles Times and the San Jose Mercury-News.
With these as my sources, I was totally unaware of the Occupy Wall Street movement until this week. So, I think, were the vast majority of Americans, until NYT pundit Paul Krugman deigned to comment on it in his column today.
Here was a movement that has existed for about three weeks (probably much longer, in the planning stage) and has mounted protests coast to coast involving tens of thousands of people. And I knew nothing of it until the past few days. Not a word about it in Bloomberg.com, which greatly surpasses the WSJ in every measure of journalistic quality except coverage.
But that’s not all. For about a year I have been writing comments to online newspapers under various names. The comments have made various points and adduced various evidence. Economic themes predominated.
But lately my comments have struck new themes. It is becoming increasingly evident (1 and 2) that our economy will continue to hobble until we stop bailing out bankers and start helping their innocent depositors, creditors and foreclosed homeowners, just as we did successfully in the 1930s. Right now, we are like medieval “doctors,” bleeding a patient with leeches, rather than feeding the patient to restore her strength and health. And I don’t have to tell you who the leeches are.
Furthermore, we are right now at a critical point in modern history with respect to this precise point. Here in the US, we have decided to cast our lot with bailouts for bankers and austerity for the people. But Europe is still undecided. In the slow process of bringing the EU’s seventeen member states to consensus, there are still powerful forces in Europe that want the bankers who took bad sovereign bonds to accept more of a “haircut.” That’s the primary reason why the “fix” in the EU is taking so long.
Europe’s indecision is the best thing to happen to the global economy since 2008 (though not necessarily for stock markets in the short term). There are people in power in Europe, albeit in a minority, who realize that continuing to feed the banks and starve the people is not a sustainable proposition, let alone a solution to the continuing global economic crisis that the banks themselves created. If Europe goes for our successful 1929-35 solution, rather than Tim Geithner’s “save the plutocrats” fix, the Western world might just be able to turn this thing around. Why knows? We might be next.
But here’s the rub. As the critical decision time in Europe approaches (we’re still in it!), I found it harder and harder to get my comments published. There were strange technical errors that never occurred before. Some comments just didn’t make it on screen for unexplained reasons.
Recently key online commented journals, including Bloomberg.com and the NYT, began to post warnings that they would not explain their comment-moderation decisions. I presume those warnings were responding to more people than just me. Apparently many more people than I wanted to know why their views were not getting published in a supposedly open, public forum.
Based on this circumstantial evidence, I conclude that Wall Street and its minions are simply exercising their power over the media to consolidate their power over finance and the global economy.
It bears repeating that this is a critical time. If Europe follows our abysmal lead, it will take the better part of a decade (if ever) to restore the so-called “Western” economies of the US, the EU and Japan. The West will be irrevocably committed to the wrong solution, one that bails out bankers, starves the people and their governments with “austerity,” and concentrates economic power in the hands of fewer and fewer people who have done nothing but abuse it for three decades.
In that circumstance, China will rise to economic pre-eminence much faster than anyone has yet predicted, not entirely on its own merits, but based largely on the West’s default. Your children will have nowhere to go but the BRIC nations, or Down Under, to find good jobs (outside finance) and a decent economic future, let alone good health care. So there’s a lot at stake here, much more than just the next few years of unemployment numbers.
Make no mistake about it. This is class warfare, us against them. But I think Warren Buffet was wrong when he said his class already has won. (I also think he was wrong to include himself with the bankers. There ought to be room for smart and honest investors in any capitalist economy. But that’s another whole story.)
The plutocrats have gained a lot of ground. But much like terrorists, they have been working largely by stealth and surprise. Until recently, the vast bulk of the world’s middle class had no idea they were under constant, sustained and deliberate attack. Now they are beginning to wake up.
So the battle is not yet fully joined. Occupy Wall Street is just a raw beginning. That movement will grow, and others will follow. People will have to shun the mainstream media—even the best of it—to build those movements and fight back.
This will be long struggle. It may take decades. But does anyone doubt it is a war worth waging? At stake is the future of capitalism, democracy, and the Western Enlightenment now half a millennium old. After five hundred years of struggle, we don’t want to replace the old titled aristocracies with new ones based on inherited wealth and educational and social advantage.
So it’s us against them now. There are hundreds of million of us and only, at most, a few thousand of them. Just like the Arab Spring, the outcome is foreordained, as long as we can get organized.
So let’s get started. You can begin by paying serious attention to Occupy Wall Street, no matter how much the mainstream media try to demonize and ridicule it. And you can start doing that by reading the comments in the NYT of actual participants and direct observers, who describe how badly the mainstream media have twisted public perception of this genuine popular movement.
This is not the Tea Party—an ignorant front group brainwashed by Fox and financed by the Koch Brothers. This is the real thing.
Correction: 9/7/11 5:00 pmI stand corrected. There is at least one person in the mainstream media (besides Paul Krugman, who is just a columnist) who has treated Occupy Wall Street with the serious attention that it deserves. He is Keith Olbermann, formerly of MSNBC and now with Current TV, a cable channel. On Wednesday, he reported the police action (including mounted police) against the movement and read, on camera, the movement’s indictment of all that our plutocrats have wrought.
The indictment is just that: a catalogue of ills wrought by unchecked banks and corporate power. It is well written, articulate, and absolutely accurate. It offers no solutions, but serves as an invitation to join the movement and help devise them.
Occupy Wall Street’s indictment resembles the preamble of our Declaration of Independence, with its list of grievances against King George III. And it paraphrases, in modern language, the following excerpt from our Declaration: “whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of [democratic] ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”
Don’t be fooled by nattering naysayers. These young people are smart, articulate and fully conscious of the long and glorious democratic tradition that they follow, from Magna Carta on. If with our help and God’s they succeed, they may well be among the Founders of something new and better.
[For more video information on the movement, click here.]