Universal Translator

Sunday, November 13, 2011

OWS Perspectives: Matt Taibbi

Matt Taibbi has a new piece up over at Rolling Stone explaining his own evolving understanding of the Occupy Wall Street Movement titled "How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the OWS Protests."  It's quite good, and you should link over to click it out.

This passage, in particular, struck me as fairly on-the-money:
. . . .  I originally was very uncomfortable with the way the protesters were focusing on the NYPD as symbols of the system. After all, I thought, these are just working-class guys from the Bronx and Staten Island who have never seen the inside of a Wall Street investment firm, much less had anything to do with the corruption of our financial system.
But I was wrong. The police in their own way are symbols of the problem. All over the country, thousands of armed cops have been deployed to stand around and surveil and even assault the polite crowds of Occupy protesters. This deployment of law-enforcement resources already dwarfs the amount of money and manpower that the government "committed" to fighting crime and corruption during the financial crisis. One OWS protester steps in the wrong place, and she immediately has police roping her off like wayward cattle. But in the skyscrapers above the protests, anything goes. 
This is a profound statement about who law enforcement works for in this country. What happened on Wall Street over the past decade was an unparalleled crime wave. Yet at most, maybe 1,500 federal agents were policing that beat – and that little group of financial cops barely made any cases at all. Yet when thousands of ordinary people hit the streets with the express purpose of obeying the law and demonstrating their patriotism through peaceful protest, the police response is immediate and massive. There have already been hundreds of arrests, which is hundreds more than we ever saw during the years when Wall Street bankers were stealing billions of dollars from retirees and mutual-fund holders and carpenters unions through the mass sales of fraudulent mortgage-backed securities. 
It's not that the cops outside the protests are doing wrong, per se, by patrolling the parks and sidewalks. It's that they should be somewhere else. They should be heading up into those skyscrapers and going through the file cabinets to figure out who stole what, and from whom. They should be helping people get their money back. Instead, they're out on the street, helping the Blankfeins of the world avoid having to answer to the people they ripped off.
I think that -- on the level of pure symbolism if nothing else -- this gets to the heart of what so many people now feel about the American political/socio-economic system.

Paul Krugman is fond of describing the federal government as "an insurance company with an army."  For a lot of Americans -- and not just those actively protesting -- our "free market capitalist system" increasingly looks like nothing more than a loan company backed by an army of button men.

When such organizations do business in bars and restaurants, we call them "the Mob."  When they do business in boardrooms and the halls of Congress, we call them "Wall Street."

No comments:

Post a Comment