Richard (RJ) Eskow
Our Future / Op-Ed
Published: Monday 26 September 2011
“It was an experiment: Had Mayor Bloomberg and the forces of ‘security’ hidden the demonstrators so effectively that they couldn't be found, even if you went there specifically to look for them?”

Wages of Fear: Lockdowns And The IMF on Occupied Wall Street

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I walked around lower Manhattan for a long time last Friday. looking for the #OccupyWallStreet protests. It was an experiment: Had Mayor Bloomberg and the forces of “security” hidden the demonstrators so effectively that they couldn’t be found, even if you went there specifically to look for them?

Yes.

But Wall Street was “occupied” anyway. Tourists, locals, and Stock Exchange employees were herded by police and barricades into tiny funnels of foot traffic. They shuffled down Wall Street and New Street and Broad Street as slowly as prisoners bound by ankle chains.

Wall Street is occupied ... by fear - of the public and of its anger.

Cattle call

If we were herded like cattle, there was a certain rough poetry to that. Wall Street has never needed less from ordinary people to generate its wealth, which is why corporate profits are so high during a period of massive unemployment and a decaying middle class.

But it still needs us a little. Our labors and debts are still the raw material that Wall Street slices, layers, bundles, and sells for its financial instruments.

Our household finances are to Wall Street derivatives what cows are to hamburgers.

Twist of Fear

The market had conducted one of its usual plunges the day before, after the Federal Reserve announced a miniscule program called “Operation Twist” that will do little for our broken and bleeding economy. The market may not be all-knowing. But it knows when a program is too weak to change our current picture of ongoing economic misery for millions, or to hold off the increasing probability of another severe economic shock.

That’s why we saw a sharp downturn after John Boehner and Barack Obama agreed on their austerity program a few months ago. The market knew that wouldn’t stop the ongoing pain of a stagnating economy and massive unemployment.

Wall Street is occupied ... by doubt.

Addicted

But the heads of our largest banks can’t stop paying their servant-class of Washington politicians to kill any programs that might rekindle the economy. They know what’s needed, but they can’t stop themselves from keeping their own taxes as low as possible for as long as possible. That forces them to fight government spending when it’s most urgently needed.

And it drives them to fight against the regulations that could prevent them from creating another disaster. (Have you heard of ETFs yet? You will. Remember, there was a time when you hadn’t heard of credit default swaps, either.)

They won’t lend money to people to buy homes or start businesses, because these new and complex financial instruments are so much more lucrative. Banking isn’t lucrative enough to interest bankers anymore. It’s not clever enough. From William Blake:

“... the water wheel that raises water into cisterns (was) broken & burned with fire ...

and in their stead, intricate wheels were invented, wheels without wheels,

to perplex youth in their outgoings ...”

You know why otherwise smart hedge fund managers say crazy things, why they call themselves “a persecuted minority” or react to the suggestion that they pay the same tax rates as a firefighter by comparing it to the invasion of Poland?

Because they’re addicts. Junkies, even the smart ones, say crazy things to get their next fix. Especially the smart ones.

Wall Street is occupied by ... addiction.

A rights-free zone

The fear could be seen in the barricades across Wall Street. And the greed could be seen in a bargain-hungry market that came roaring back that day, hoping to find gems among Thursday’s ruins.

But where were the demonstrators? They want to create an American Tahrir Square, but when it comes to public demonstrations Michael Bloomberg isn’t as democratically inclined as Hosni Mubarak. He proved that during the 2004 Republican convention, when his police force engaged in massive violations of civil liberties.

Mass arrests of demonstrators and “innocent bystanders” alike (aren’t they all innocent until proven guilty?), spying on nonprofit groups, illegal detentions ... Mayor Bloomberg’s antidemocratic skills were honed before #OccupyWallStreet came along.

“People have a right to protest,” said the Mayor, “and if they want to protest, we’ll be happy to make sure they have locations to do it.” The city found a location -- well away from Wall Street and the Stock Exchange. That’s straight out of the George W. Bush playbook, where “free speech zones” were set up --where the demonstrators couldn’t be seen.

Think about it: We cherish the rights of Tea Party demonstrators so much that they’re allowed to bring guns into a Presidential rally. But these demonstrators, whose critique of Wall Street speaks for a vast majority of the public, must be herded away from our titans of finance and their delicate senses.

Here’s something Mr. Bloomberg should know: We already have a “free speech zone.” It’s called “the United States of America.”

The politicians don’t know, but the IMF understands ...

Along comes the International Monetary Fund, the IMF. For decades the IMF has been seen, usually correctly, as the enforcer of the developed nations’ banking interests in Third World countries. I’ve seen it in action myself, in dozens of nations.

The IMF may be many things, but it is not addicted - and it’s not fearful. It can see what Wall Street bankers can’t see, and it can say what Wall Street bankers can’t say: The austerity economics which it promoted for so long has gone too far. Austerity is no longer just abusing the populations that give finance its raw materials. It’s destroying them. it’s not thinning the herd anymore. It’s slaughtering it.

When Christine Lagarde became the IMF’s President there was widespread fear that she would end the somewhat more progressive policies of her accused predecessor, Dominique Strauss-Kahn. But she’s intelligent and articulate and unable to avoid stating the clear and obvious, even if she needed to cloud it in indirect language.

Here’s what she told a meeting of the G20, the IMF, and the World Bank while I was among the pedestrians being herded like cattle down Wall Street: “Very quickly the United States must reduce its fiscal deficit, particularly for the medium and the long term. It must deal urgently with unemployment and it must relieve pressure on overly indebted households.” (Reuters)

The People’s IMF

Several weeks ago she was considerably more specific. She said that “future consolidation” (deficit reduction) first required “policies that support growth and jobs today ... growth is necessary for fiscal credibility.” She added, “Who will believe that commitments to cut spending can survive a lengthy stagnation with prolonged high unemployment and social dissatisfaction?”

In other words, we need jobs now, or we might have British-style riots and social unrest later. Lagarde went on to suggest “more aggressive principal reduction programs for homeowners, stronger intervention by the government housing finance agencies, or steps to help homeowners take advantage of the low interest rate environment.” (via Matt Yglesias)

Christine Lagarde isn’t a radical populist. She’s saying we must be rescued for the sake of the entire financial system. That’s the same reason they helped Wall Street. But they won’t do it for us.

Ironic, isn’t it? The leader of this often-undemocratic institution is calling for policies that are widely popular among Democrats, Republicans, and independents, but which are considered “unrealistic” by the leaders and opinion makers in our “democratic” system.

Something’s broken.

Looking for Liberty

Meanwhile, back in lower Manhattan, I was trying to find a place I’d never heard of in all my years of working there: Zuccotti Park. That was where the demonstrators had been penned in by police, where they weren’t visible to offend the delicate sensibilities of Wall Street’s most effective predators.

Some quick Googling told me why I’d never heard of it. It was called “Liberty Plaza Park” when I worked here, but private investors rebuilt it after 9/11 under the leadership of executive Robert Zuccotti.

The name “liberty” had been replaced by the name of an investor. Perfect.

Wheels in Motion

The #OccupyWallStreet demonstrators are expressing the frustrations of the majority, hoping to channel them into Arab Spring-style change. That’s the work of our time. It’s the same work we’ll be discussing at next week’s Take Back the American Dream conference.

The work is urgent and the time is now. Unemployment is still high. Income inequality is higher in this country than it is in Egypt. For those lucky enough to have a job, wages are stagnated and opportunities for advancement are few. Those wheels of William Blake’s continue to spin, binding the youth of the country to

“grind & polish brass and iron, hour after hour, laborious task, kept ignorant of its use; that they might spend the days of wisdom

in sorrowful drudgery to obtain a scanty pittance of bread”

As for Mayor Bloomberg, and the men of women of Wall Street, and those who pass by without seeing the demonstrators a few blocks away, they’re destined to

“view a small portion & think that All,

and call it Demonstration, blind to all the simple rules of life.”

And to stay that way, unaware of the changes happening all around them. They’ll find out someday, hopefully before it’s too late.



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ABOUT Richard (RJ) Eskow

Richard (RJ) Eskow is a well-known blogger and writer, a former Wall Street executive, an experienced consultant, and a former musician. He has experience in health insurance and economics, occupational health, benefits, risk management, finance, and information technology.

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32 comments on "Wages of Fear: Lockdowns And The IMF on Occupied Wall Street"

mexzbklf

Aunt Tom

September 28, 2011 11:12pm

Why don't they just put Big Brother on the ballot so all the sheeple will have someone to vote for?

Aurolyn Luykx

September 27, 2011 7:37pm

TROLL -- DO NOT FEED

Annebonnie

September 27, 2011 5:49am

Kevin-I know the Take Back the American Dream Conference is an expensive deal etc. etc. but hey, it is all good. People are doing something at last. Van Jones is a wonderful guy - he was treated very badly but he is fighting back and let's face it, the protests are outstanding but so is this conference to bring back a plan to organize and do what needs to be done. Those that can attend, more power to them - it really DOES take a certain amount of money to get a movement started to don't knock the conference - there will be millions in Washington in October for BOTH events. If I were not so old and blind and could afford it I would be there myself. Thank God for our youth - one young woman who is there protesting right now said she is doing this for her grandparents because they are too old to protest - I am grateful to these young people - all of them. I am a child of the 60's - not exactly a boomer but still relatively young in 60's and the Vietnam protestors did much to stop that dreadful war. You are right, expensive hotel etc. but they are doing what is right too and I say God Bless every one of them that are going to Washington for any of these events. Peace.

Joe le Terroriste

September 26, 2011 11:23pm

wait, we should execute the crooks but the protesters (protesting the theft of their pensions) should be shot in the face?you seem really stupid.

Blaw1

September 27, 2011 6:51am

People might listen to you if you learned how to make complete sentences. Weapons are readily available, yet you seem not be massing in the hills. I once thought as you do. The problem of violent revolution is that it is easy to a be revolutionary, but hard to rule if you win. In victory, the revolutionary usually becomes the dictator he sought to depose. The true revolution is inside you, not in hate and violence.

Carroll D Hanks

September 26, 2011 10:04pm

I watched Paul on The Daily Show - how can anyone support this idiot when he says we should let the market place regulate itself! Look at what they have done to us even with some government regulation. Pollution of the air, water, bad meds etc. Just imagine what they could do with no government regulation. That's what Paul said he is for.

doctorsparkles

September 27, 2011 1:28am

Well, I could say the same thing... Look at what they have done to us even with some government corruption regulation... Governments keep regulating more and things keep getting worse. Therefore, more government = things getting worse.

Please note difference between free market and capitalism: video.foxbusiness.com/v/1178817730001/karl-marxs-warning

Government is what needs regulation. The Constitution is a great start. I applaud Ron Paul for consistently reminding America of that fact. When government is kept in check, it better protects individuals and their property (environment) from both other persons AND government.

It is arguable that many federal regulations are specifically drafted and/or lobbied to protect the worst of the worst. Consider the FDA. On one hand, they give people a false sense of security to believe big pharma meds are safe and effective, yet how many people die directly from big pharma meds? Meanwhile they prohibit natural medicines despite scientific validation as to safety and efficacy. How many have died directly from cannabis? None. Why do they do this? Because big pharma is in bed with big government. (That's what they call economic fascism.)

The federal reserve generates countless fiat dollars without backing (other than violent force), prohibits competing currency. This alone has caused the dollar to inflate so much since the advent of the FED that a 1911 $20 gold piece sells for close to 100x that now. That's not a free market. That's a state sanctioned racket. Thank Ron Paul for getting some of the other republican candidates to even acknowledge the value of auditing the federal reserve. Why hasn't Obama decried the fed's role in the economic downturn? (Hint: What is the relationship between those who own the FED and Obama?)

Ron Paul vs. Big Brother 2012

Blaw1

September 27, 2011 6:45am

Doctor Sparkles:

In this Country the people are the government. Corportions and Banks are Big Brother. Mr. Paul is a puppet of the the elite rich and has no regard for the average citizen. You need to read some history and put the Christain Manifesto on the shelf. It is difficult to debate whats wrong with our nation when you so obviously have little knowlegde of the history of it.

felix_da_catz

September 28, 2011 7:10pm

Wow. Are you telling me that the people of this country have created this monster that we currently call the government? Do you really think 99% of politicians are "the people"?

How can you say Ron Paul is the puppet of the elite rich? You are grasping at straws and being totally ignorant. You think just because he is running under the GOP that he is one and the same. When the ONLY CONSTITUTION LOVING DEMOCRAT supports Ron Paul you should wake up and listen. This country was founded on the abuses of history. If you remember your history books at all every part of the bill of rights was put in there to protect citizens from their government. If you honestly want to do away with that document then why are you here? The UK has plenty of welfare. They are glad to make sure that everyone is equally poor over there. Don't want to work? No problem. Have at it.

It is not the governments responsibility to support the average person. Everyone in this country has the same potential. They can learn and do whatever they want to do in life. It is not my fault that you did not go to school. It is not my fault that you got arrested. Ron Paul is the only one who wants to return our freedoms to us. The freedom to be successful or the freedom to fail and live a life of misery.

doctorsparkles

September 27, 2011 9:56am

You obviously know nothing of Ron Paul. Look into his consistent record of voting on behalf of WE THE PEOPLE, following the constitution and liberty in general. That is absolutely in regard for the average citizen. He has almost single handedly brought attention to the policies of the Federal Reserve, central/fractional reserve banking that have all but bankrupt the nation. He is consistently non-interventionist regarding foreign wars. He is truly the only peace candidate and gets more donations from active military than Obama and more than all other GOP candidates combined. He is consistently against all the big government agencies that have become so uncoupled with voters that they virtually dictate their own policy. You need to get your facts straight. He is no puppet. In fact, he's one of the only non-puppets.

I disagree with your statement that "In this country the people are the government". We are not a true democracy, but rather a republic. (Check you history books.) The Constitution was expressly written to protect WE THE PEOPLE from the abuses of democracy and centralized federal power. It outlines rules for government to follow. Corporations and Banks AND government are Big Brother = fascism.

and where did I mention Christianity?

Ron Paul vs. Big Brother 2012

D.C.Leslie-Pringle

September 26, 2011 8:39pm

Who let a that blood thirsty Vladimir Drakula into decent company. Seems noble bloodlines are usually always racial fascists.

Lady Ruby

September 26, 2011 7:31pm

You said it better than I have heard it before.

drichey

September 26, 2011 6:34pm

Test

pitch1934

September 26, 2011 5:14pm

I remember the 2000 Republican convention in Phila. when a cell-phone was an instrument of crime.

Mike D

September 26, 2011 3:24pm

I see the cop's in the picture has their hands full... I guess I'm getting old they are so pathetic.

Jay Lindberg

September 26, 2011 2:42pm

A lot of us saw this coming well over 10 years ago.

Here is my pledge of Obedience for the 21st Century. I believe I wrote it in 95.

The Pledge of Obedience for the 21st Century

I pledge blind obedience to the Corporate Flag
and the Ruling Class in America
and to Heir Guberment for which it stands
One institution enforced with repression
injustice and brutality to all but the rich.

This one is honest and you can see its teeth.

Tracy Goode

September 26, 2011 1:41pm

How can the Supreme Court protect Westboro Baptist Church's right to protest at fallen soldiers funerals but freedom of speech doesn't extend to protesting Wall Street? I guess now our government will protect Wall Street but not the sacred right of a soldier's family to bury him in peace? What a effed-up, upside down world we live in.

Lady Ruby

September 26, 2011 7:35pm

You have said it better than I have heard it before.

Vlad-Drakul

September 26, 2011 1:23pm

These scum ( I am sorry to insult scum by the comparison) are traitors to the US and support socialism. This is already treason in itself (as would voting for Osama II again) and now these animals use violence and threats to bully working people on their way to work. These are NOT patriots but just like Al Quaida chose to fly into the WTC; the Pentagon and the White House to symbolize their desire to kill all America, so these terrorist demonstrators do the same.
They should not be maced but shot in the face and killed. 100 dead commies in a pile on the street will send a message to every hippie vermin that the age of tolerating the intolerable is over. Bring back the troops from Afghanist and send them into the cites to clean up the garbage.
We need to execute 100,000 a week to clear out the prisons (also tax payers money being stolen for nothing) All non misdemenour crimes should recieve the death penalty and with a 99% conviction rate already we don't need to waste money on trials.
If the police know someone is a crook let em eliminate the crooks directly instead of wasting time and money on show trials and plea bargains. OF course some inncocents will die but far more people die for car accidents and far more lives wil be saved as crime simply dissapears along with the criminals.
It would also be fairer as this way even middle class and the wealthy crooks will end up dead. True equality and justice NOW!

Joe le Terroriste

September 26, 2011 11:24pm

wait, so the crooks should be executed but the protesters (protesting the theft of their pensions) should be shot in the face?

you seem really, really stupid.

dickie

September 26, 2011 10:12pm

rush is looking for a sub while he's in the mens room jerking off - i think if you continue with a coupel more hits of lithium you might be able to pull it off or pull him off ..........

Lady Ruby

September 26, 2011 7:39pm

Who let you out of the mental ward? Find that person and fire him! I hope the FBI has you on its watch list because you are a true danger to all the rest of us.

jcgrim

September 26, 2011 2:26pm

Vlad,
Are you a real person or a persona?

Riconui

September 26, 2011 2:09pm

Gee! Vlad... Thanks for your thoughtful suggestions. While I recognize that you get some endorphin rush reading articles on this site, I think a little reading of history is in order. The ideas you've thoughtfully presented here have been tried, to varying degrees, in one form or another in several OTHER nations throughout history, which is precisely the reason they were rejected by the founders of this nation. It would be hard to catalog all of the violations of the various BILL of RIGHTS you are suggesting violating in order to restore the kind of order YOU would like to see or the elimination of the kind of people that seem to offend your delicate sensibilities, but lets just say; if THAT'S the way you feel about it, you may find that Saudi Arabia is a country more to your liking, (although I hear that Arabic can be a very tricky language to master). Uzbekistan also has a system that resembles the kind of direct justice you advocate, but I understand it gets very cold there sometimes and again, the language thing.... I hope these suggestions have been helpful and again, thank you for your thoughtful suggestions.

iamjema

September 26, 2011 1:52pm

VLAD-DRAKUL, Either this is a joke or you are one very sick human being, and as such I feel very sorry for your family

dudeguy@place.com

September 26, 2011 1:02pm

.

purplepaix

September 26, 2011 12:50pm

I am reposting on WAMMToday. Good article! Making the connections between Wall Street and Occupy Wall Street and the economy.P.S. October 6 in DC. Be there!

Tristan Paulus

September 26, 2011 12:47pm

This was a great article that I will share all over social media! This is a perfect example of government hypocrisy and corruption.

moineau

September 26, 2011 12:22pm

here's to dc in october... i can't wait to see it. here's a great interview with chris hedges today on wall street. he'll be in dc with most everybody else. xoxooxhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-SKw2j3XOY0

Kevin Zeese

September 26, 2011 11:44am

The Take Back the American Dream Conference -- that is no Tahrir Sq. The DC Occupation will be much larger than the Hilton Hotel conference, visit http://october2011.org. That is where the action is, not the $279 (special rate!) Hilton Hotel.

doctorsparkles

September 26, 2011 9:41am

Don't you just love the emerging new world order?

Ron Paul vs. Big Brother 2012