Occupy Wall Street’s “Gullible” and “Unsophisticated” Protesters

WALL STREET PLUTOCRATIn an admirable bit of reporting, Nelson Schwartz and Eric Dash of the New York Times did us all a favor by asking bankers, hedge fund and money managers what they think about the Occupy Wall Street protesters.

Said one top hedge fund director who wished to remain anonymous:

“Most people view it as a ragtag group looking for sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll.”

A veteran bank executive added:

“It’s not a middle-class uprising. It’s fringe groups. It’s people who have the time to do this.”

And another longtime money manager opined:

“Who do you think pays the taxes? Financial services are one of the last things we do in this country and do it well. Let’s embrace it. If you want to keep having jobs outsourced, keep attacking financial services. This is just disgruntled people.”

This longtime money manager also shared his “disappointment” with Wall Street’s political water carriers in Washington: “They need to understand who their constituency is,” he said. And yet another financial industry official said about the protests there’s “a lot of sound and fury signifying nothing.” In general, Schwartz and Dash report, nearly all the bankers they talked to dismiss the protesters as “gullible and unsophisticated.”

And then there’s the oligarch, John Paulson, who made a fortune on Fabrice “Fabulous Fab” Tourre’s (Goldman Sachs) peddling junk securities while he bet against them. Paulson states:

“The top 1 percent of New Yorkers pay over 40 percent of all income taxes, proving huge benefits to everyone in our city and state. Paulson & Company and its employees have paid hundreds of millions in New York City and New York State taxes in recent years and have created over 100 high-paying jobs in New York City since its formation.”

wall street okotoberfestWow! A hundred jobs, John! Paulson must be one of those “job creators” who needs to be succored and coddled and generally pleasured for the benefit of all humanity!

And Steve Bartlett, the president of a racket called the “Financial Services Roundtable,” which throws around lobbying cash in Washington on behalf of the biggest banking and insurance conglomerates, says:

“I don’t think we see ourselves as the target. I think they’re protesting about the economy.”

Okay, Steve, convince yourself of that notion — then explain to us why they’re camped out on Wall Street and not Disneyland?

(Schwartz and Dash also note in their article that Bank of America recently paid out $11 million in severance pay to two hotshots, Sallie Krawcheck and Joe Price — even their surnames denote money — while laying off about 30,000 working slobs.)

Judging from Schwartz and Dash’s reportage, the financial oligarchs whose power over the political economy is strangling the United States don’t seem to understand just how lucky they are to be dealing with orderly, mature protesters who believe in the tenets of nonviolence. In any other historical epoch these same oligarchs might find themselves facing the gallows or a firing squad or a “re-education” camp. Those who find themselves on the wrong side of history often end up in precarious positions. Just ask Hosni Mubarak.

It would be funny if it weren’t so damn sad when Erin Burnett set off on her new CNN show, OutFront, to straighten out those protesters by sending a reporter to inform one of the unwashed hacky-sackers that the bankers paid off the TARP (Troubled Asset Relief Program) with interest. But Ms. Burnett left out the fact that the banks had access to a far lower interest rate than the other 99 percent could ever get; and the banking conglomerates are still too big to fail; and they got a cool trillion dollars from the Federal Reserve to gamble with, and the Fed still holds billions in toxic securities.

joseph palermoBurnett might have also acknowledged that the banks have paid out obscene bonuses despite the wreckage they left behind and that they “produce” nothing useful to society; or that they misallocated capital during the housing bubble and created enormous risks; or how they distort our nation’s politics with big campaign donations and narrow lobbying activities (as well as the revolving door between government regulatory agencies and Wall Street firms); and she might inform her viewers about how they dumped the ruinous effects of their greed-based failures onto the wider society in the form of high unemployment and the gutting of the public sector with “austerity” measures that have slashed social services that used to be around to help make life a little bit better for the other 99 percent. But what do ya expect from a former CNBC “money honey”?

I might add that it was the bankers who left behind higher rates of child poverty and increased incidents of child abuse, suicides, and property crimes; and they left in their wake over-crowded classrooms, layoffs of teachers and child protective services workers and the closing of public parks, clinics, and homeless shelters; they’ve severely damaged once great systems of pubic higher education across the country, and they’ve ushered in a concerted assault against public employee pensions and their unions, even those of the “first responders” (police and firefighters) who went from heroes after 9/11 to goats after Wall Street got done with them. It’s like living in a Frank Capra movie gone terribly wrong where his most evil antagonists win out in the end with control of the politicians, the newspapers, and the courts.

Yet the bankers, as quoted above, now want the rest of us to love them?

Not one teacher or police officer, social worker or firefighter should have been fired; not one public park closed; not one public school downsized; not one person working for the public sector canned because of the reckless failure of Wall Street’s high rollers. Yet over 300,000 teachers have been fired in the last few years and another 200,000 public employees.

The financial oligarchs instead of pouring millions into “Super PACs” and lobbying efforts for special favors in Washington should be forced to contribute to a restitution fund (like BP did during the Macondo oil spill) to offset local layoffs of public employees and to reset underwater mortgages with principal reductions to current prices. The Occupy Wall Street people might want to pay a visit to John Paulson’s home (and the homes of other oligarchs) until they pay into a restitution fund.

joseph palermoThere’s something inherently wrong with a political economy where those in power sell the people a bag of goods: Tax cuts for the rich and corporations; deregulation; “free trade” bills; wars and excessive military spending; slashing social programs. We were told these measures were for our own good. They would be helpful to the lives of the 99 percent. But they never work. Prosperity never “trickles down.” And people are finally catching on. The housing bubble went too far. It destroyed too many lives and livelihoods to go unquestioned and unpunished, as Wall Street (and Washington) would like it.

Like the millions of families who have wisely chosen to walk away from terribly underwater mortgages lest they give up their entire life’s earnings to Wall Street, millions of other people across the country and the world, who now have little to lose, are voting with their feet and lungs and bodies in full-throated protest declaring: “We Refuse to Pay for Your Crisis!”

Joseph Palermo
Joseph Palermo’s Blog


  1. Ray Bishop says

    Since you are so opposed to government who do you think will give out the permits and do all the other things you expect to keep order during a civil protest? Would you have Bank of America handle this?

  2. Cindy-Roy says

    I find it inexplicable that those who choose careers as public leaders are expected to find much or most of their reward in the honor of public service, while money is considered the only appropriate reward for those choosing careers as business leaders.

    If it is necessary to offer huge bribes to get some people to take jobs as corporate CEOs, then I for one don’t want such people doing these jobs, and in addition I wonder about the real worth of these jobs.

  3. hwood007 says

    I tend to judge folks by their actions, not by what they say they will do but by what they actually did.

    If I were to visit some recent protest sites, those that had tea party members and those that had occupy groups, I could tell who had been there just by the appearance of the protest site.

    The tea party sites would actually look better and cleaner than when the tea party arrived. Those people have an opinion of self worth and would not want to be judged to be such a person who would trash another person’s property. Even though they protested a cause, everyone they came in contact with would be treated with full respect.

    The occupy folks sites would look worse than when they arrived and would be in need of a detailed clean-up. The individual members of occupy groups do not have the same individual view of self worth as do the tea party groups so they will leave the clean-up to others. This will happen and has already happened all over the world. When they become organized and have some leadership, perhaps then the sites will be cleaner but not as clean as tea party sites. They do not respect others as they protest, so I wonder if they have any respect for themselves.

    This can not be denied as the truth as it has already happened at multiple sites, on several contents, as I have written. Ask them how many voted in the last election.

    • oldsonofthewest says


      If you were to visit, which you haven’t, you would know that you are wrong in your opinions. I have been at occupy sites several times and in more than one city. The people clean up after themselves, care about one another, and show wisdom way beyond what you exhibit when you make comments based on if you had been there when you weren’t.

      It is better not to speak when you don’t have a factual base for what you say unless you label your comments as conjecture, prose, or rumor.

      • Ryder says

        Actually, no, they don’t. Fights, prostitution, clashes with the police, public defecation,… and unless you live in the stone age, you’ve seen the pictures… the garbage and the filth… all photographed and spoke of plainly. Occupy groups rarely take out permits or pay fees to protest, again, in total contrast to the Tea Party that pull the necessary permits, pay fees. and come and go at the appointed hour.

        oldson, you’ve maybe been helping yourself to a little green out there…

    • Cindy-Roy says

      “hwood007” – a moniker perhaps more revealing that the user intended – is comparing apples to oranges, or, more appropriately, Corniches to Camrys. Tea Party “protests” are ephemeral events – as are most progressive demonstrations. The Occupations are encampments intended to last as long as it takes to effect major change.

      I was at Occupy LA yesterday evening. I was impressed with the CLEANLINESS of the grounds: After 15 days, there was virtually no litter on the ground, and both the individual tents and the group areas were remarkably tidy. There are no official groundskeepers – certainly no one being paid – yet the residents and visitors seem to spontaneously pick up after themselves and each other. I even saw someone picking up used tissues and cigarette butts which weren’t his. I challenge any Tea Party group to match this kind of commitment to community.

      More disturbing, and more telling, is this poster’s attempt to spin this fantasy of littering into a general condemnation of the occupiers’ ethics. I can’t help but wonder about his motive for sharing such a threadbare tale, but to post my wonderings would be to commit the same error he or she made.

      • Ryder says

        Cindy-Roy… one can’t “un-do” photographs.

        Either there are images, freely available, of the trash, debris, even flaming vehicles that are part of occupy, or there are not.

        We know OWS is significantly high. We know there have been rapes or attempted rapes. We know there is public deification.

        There is a contrast to be drawn.

        Does 007 go to far? Perhaps. We will see.

  4. Hollis Stewart says

    A thoughtful article but the following paragraph is more telling than it would seem to be: “There’s something inherently wrong with a political economy where those in power sell the people a bag of goods: Tax cuts for the rich and corporations; deregulation; “free trade” bills; wars and excessive military spending; slashing social programs. We were told these measures were for our own good. They would be helpful to the lives of the 99 percent. But they never work.” I would submit that they in fact do work for the rich and powerful — they become more rich and more powerful while the smoke and mirrors of our supposed democracy keeps the 99% of us docile and under control as we dream the American Dream and hope that our boat will come in though it never does. It is not in the interest of capitalism to take care of the working class, the 80 or 90%, and the marginal working classes such as the poor and disabled because they eat up profits and dividends. Now in the old USA, perhaps before Reagan, there was still a mass producing working class working in decent paying jobs building actual goods and probably had a union so that wages were negotiated and a family could live on one good income. But the destruction of PATCO demonstrated that this docile nation would tolerate the destruction of the union system and it has been all downhill since then. In other countries where working people have not succumbed to the myth of the American Dream or its equivalent people fight back because they know they are working class, not some mythical “middle class” that is part of the smoke and mirrors of self deception. Maybe Wisconsin and the OWS is the beginning of a resurrection of we the people as a fighting mad, collective action minded, take no prisoners attitude toward those who steal from us every day in the name of “financial capitalism”.

    • hwood007 says

      Much of this is true, I did not like CEO getting big checks to leave the company, but that was in their contract. You ask, why not make better contracts and then I wonder who would take the job? It is the opposite a win win. The one thing I get from these writings is that it is OK for me to respond to poor actions with poor actions of my own. I think more of myself than to do that.

      • Ray Bishop says

        It is strange to me that responders and those on the right think of the condition of the site of the protest. The other one is to wonder who might take the jobs of the CEO’s who might get a few million less on leaving after making millions in salary, bonuses and options.

        Consider the big picture – What is at stake? Is it right that the executives are making millions each year when people in America go without food, without health care, without education, and without a place to live? Consider the salary of one person who does not get his $20 million bonus -How many people at the bottom might benefit from just a few thousand dollars to get by out of that $20 million.
        How many gardeners and clean up people could be put to work cleaning up a protest site out of the savings from one greedy executive?
        I have no doubt that we have plenty of qualified people in the world who would gladly work for $20 million a year without receiving the golden parachute of another $20 million. Besides if they were doing such a great job why are they leaving? Perhaps they should go on unemployment and receive the benefit of what workers contribute to as government entitlement.

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