Members of the Occupy Wall Street movement are resting and regrouping after their major show of support on Thursday. Tens of thousands rallied in NYC (the NYPD estimated 32,500) including union-organized contingents of workers and students. OWS members are reported to be seeking an indoor space before the end of the year, so protesters have a place to sleep away from Zuccotti Park and be able to continue their campaign, whose impact has already been huge. Occupy Wall Street succeeded where government failed in indicting Wall Street for creating the recession and the continued economic and political precariousness faced by the 99 Percent.
One sign of this success is the seriousness with which the ruling elite views Occupy’s influence. After the dismemberment of the Zuccotti Park/Liberty Square encampment, hedge fund and private equity executives are considering a campaign to punish politicians who run against Wall Street. Already they are pouring money into Massachusetts senator Scott Brown’s reelection campaign, likely to be against corporate critic Elizabeth Warren. Brown was elected at the high point of the Tea Party’s influence, and he is unlikely to get the same support in 2012.
MSNBC reported that a lobbying firm with close ties to the financial industry and the Republican party leadership has circulated a memo proposing that they get paid “$850,000 to conduct ‘opposition research’ on Occupy Wall Street.” The aim of this research is “to construct ‘negative narratives’ about the protests and allied politicians. … According to the memo, if Democrats embrace OWS, ‘This would mean more than just short-term political discomfort for Wall Street. … It has the potential to have very long-lasting political, policy and financial impacts on the companies in the center of the bullseye.’ … Wall Street companies ‘likely will not be the best spokespeople for their own cause,’ according to the memo. ‘A big challenge is to demonstrate that these companies still have political strength and that making them a political target will carry a severe political cost’.”
This last statement confirms that the plutocrats and their ideologists get the message the media claimed OWS didn’t have. OWS has brought into sharp focus not just the unequal distribution of wealth, but the way that immense wealth at the top of society enables an oligarchy to exercise political power and direct it against the majority, the 99 percent. “Our political system should serve all of us — not just the very rich and powerful. Right now Wall Street owns Washington,” said OWS participant Beka Economopoulos. “We are the 99% and we are here to reclaim our democracy.”
A much more dangerous exercise of power is signified by the pronouncement of banking-sector economists that credit rating agencies will lower the U.S. rating (i.e. increasing interest payments on government bonds by billions) if the congressional supercommittee fails to come to an agreement by Tuesday. By definition, that means cuts in entitlements, since the Republicans are committed to never raising taxes. Put simply, the financial class will blackmail the government and punish the rest of us by sucking yet more money out of the economy if Social Security is not cut.
The Guardian reports that “Morgan Stanley analyst Christine Tan predicted earlier this month that there was now a one-in-three possibility of another downgrade. ‘If the supercommittee fails to reach a $1.2tn deficit reduction deal, if such a deal relies more upon accounting changes than real deficit reduction, or if congressional action lessens the impact of the $1.2tn automatic trigger, we believe this could potentially provide S&P with a pretext to downgrade the US further from AA+ to AA,’ wrote Tan in a note to investors.”
This threat represents the financial industry flexing its muscles against the government in order to pressure Democrats to cave to Republican ideological inflexibility. The Obama administration’s reluctance to prosecute anyone for the financial meltdown, the result of systemic illegal practices by the banks, handed the banking oligarchy more political power.
However, the Nevada Attorney General, Catherine Cortez Masto, has initiated a prosecution against companies involved in mortgage fraud. Matt Stoller blogs in Naked Capitalism that Masto “handed down 606 counts of felony or gross misdemeanor indictments on robo-signing against two employees of big bank subcontractor Lender Processing Services. It’s pretty clear from the indictment that these are mid-level employees, one level up supervisors of fraud rather than top CEOs. And yet, even if this were as far as it goes, it would still be a big deal. These would be the only charges served involving the housing crisis and its link with the structurally corrupt securitization chain so far. …
“The indictments handed down, and the ones to come, show that corrupting our property laws and the basis of our economy is a crime. … The felony indictments from the Nevada AG’s office are the first sign that the law enforcement community can take financial crimes seriously, that blowing up the economy through financial mismanagement can carry costs.”
Since the Obama administration has refused to prosecute anyone responsible for the financial crisis, it remains for the Occupy movement to follow the lead of the Nevada AG with a denunciation and people’s court prosecution of Goldman Sachs and the top players in the financial industry. As Cornel West pointed out: “To think that New York City spent all of that taxpayer money on policing the protesters and arresting people, while right there on Wall Street are all these financial criminals and no one has been charged. The oligarchs get away with everything. The hypocrisy is just too much to take. The shift towards truth and justice is what the movement is all about.”
Bringing the banking and finance plutocrats to justice and holding our own government accountable for their corruption is the beginning of truth about the recession. They need to be reminded that, as Lincoln declared at Gettysburg, government is of the people, by the people, for the people, not a power to be hijacked by credit rating agencies and banks. Occupy Moody’s! Occupy Standard & Poors! Enforce legal control of bankers!