Has the Arab Spring finally reached US shores? The Occupy Wall Street protests have really struck a nerve this fall, having resonated with thousands of members in communities spanning cities across America. Much like the Tea-Party movement (before it got co-opted into a GOP fund-raising machine) it has attracted ordinary citizens demanding accountability – only this time the angry populus is aiming directly at the source: Wall Street. What will come of these protests? Will any meaningful change emerge?
Will the Occupy Wall Street Inspire Substantial Change?
The betting here is that the answer is a resounding no. While the Arab spring protests erupted in violence and ultimately regime change there doesn’t appear to be a catalyst for action in the United States. The same people taking to the streets in protest today are effectively the same people Wall Street fleeced repeatedly in the last two decades. What makes these people think that Wall Street executives are going to give a d*** about them now? If the banking elite didn’t care about you when you had a job and a little money to invest, does anyone really think they’re going to care now that you don’t?
Occupy Wall Street Can’t Hit ’em Where It Hurts
That’s the bottom line. While it may be uncomfortable and or unsavory to work in the financial districts around the country these days, the bottom line is that executives who were blind to the millions of people they bilked for profits earlier this decade aren’t going to suddenly have the fog lifted from their eyes. Executives focus on profitability and the bottom line, and while protestors may stink up the neighborhood a bit, it remains a profitable neighborhood.
Is There Anything the Occupy Wall Street Protests Can Do to Make an Impact?
Honestly, short of turning violent (which would be a very bad outcome), I see absolutely no way for the Occupy Wall Street protests to accomplish anything substantive. Yes the protests have raised some awareness about the deplorable business methods of the Wall Street investment banks but no, there does not appear to be any chance of seeing any of the architects held accountable for their actions. I’m not even 100% sure a jury of “peers” would be able to identify actionable specific crimes against any particular individuals or firms – above and beyond your standard insider trading arrests.
So what’s an Occupy Wall Street protestor to do? I don’t see any point in following the Arab Spring revolts in picking up arms and attacking (I mean… who exactly would you attack anyway?). I don’t see any meaningful legislation or enforcement actions that could move forward – so that is out. There isn’t any point in slowing down economic activity – as this would tend to hurt small businesses and employees dispropotionately. I suppose in the case of the combined financial services firms (think Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Citibank, etc.) one could conceivably pull their funds out of those banks and open accounts at their local community banks or credit unions – that’d at least be noticeable on the balance sheets of those corporations.
Problem is, although some of these banks weren’t exactly forthright in their mortgage banking dealings, they still represent large employers here. I mean who would bear the brunt of the suffering were Bank of America or Citibank were to fold up shop? Think the executives would be in the soup line? I think you’d see more tellers, restaurant waitstaff, and small maintenance contractors in the unemployment line.
Outcomes I’d Like to See from the Occupy Wall Street Movement
Personally I’d like to see the Federal government take the opportunity to grab up all these otherwise idle bodies throwing themselves into the Occupy Wall Street movement and hand them some tools and garbage bags and give them 30 day temp jobs cleaning the cities they are presently soiling. Pay them a decent wage and cover the costs for the state/city budgets. Not only will this benefit the citizens of New York City and other affected metro areas, it will also print some money and put it to use in a modestly productive way. I guess that’s my jobsnow bill. Send it to President Obama’s economic team, seems to me they could use a few ideas.