the risk someone will call me a socialist, a sympathizer, or both, I'm
going out on a limb today and predicting the Wall Street Occupation will
end as soon as the rain starts to seriously fall, and the cold winds of
November kick in.
Bloombergville, as I call the encampment in New York City's Zuccotti
Park, is located in a climatically vulnerable position. It's close to
the confluence of the East and Hudson Rivers and surrounded by the
canyons of the financial district buildings. As a former Wall Street
runner -- as the profession was known before the computer age, and
messengers delivered the paperwork for buy-and-sell orders, stock
certificates, transfers, and other detritus of transactions -- I still
remember how painful life was in the wind tunnels of The Street.
The occupation has lasted up to now because of the extra four weeks
of warm weather. And when the elements turn wetter, windier, colder, I
suspect the revolutionaries will be back on the trains, headed to
suburbia and the safety of the old homesteads where they will wait for
the revolution to provide jobsjobsjobs.
Not that there is anything wrong with that, as Jerry Seinfeld would
say. This country was founded by sunshine patriots, who weren't with
Washington at Valley Forge. Nevertheless, that "growing mob" -- as House
majority leader (and Compassionate Conservative) Eric Cantor might have
called the founding idealists -- went on to found the country.
And this smart investor is expecting the Zuccotti Park mob eventually to do a lot of good. But it needs to sharpen its focus.
As I see it, the protest comes down to "everything is bad." The
system is rotten and needs fixing. People are justly angry, and not only
the 99%. Even the rich are not happy: They want more.
This army needs new ideas. The current attack on the establishment is too vague and misdirected.
Close down Wall Street? As Dennis Ainsworth, an economist, told IU,
"There's hardly anyone left on Wall Street. Another 10,000 are about to
be let go, joining the other 20,000 since 2008. These kids are going to
be surrounding an empty barn."
If you really wanted to hurt the stock market, Ainsworth adds, "you'd
have to occupy Mahwah, N.J., where the entire computer backup for Wall
Street is located."
But who would want to occupy Mahwah?
Once they return home, the occupation army high command, sitting around
the living room fires, should rethink the enemy. An idea came to me
while listening to Newt Gingrich in the last GOP debate calling for the
arrest of Barney Frank and Chris Dodd for authoring the Dodd-Frank bill.
If corporations are people, as the Supreme Court and wannabe-President
Romney argue, than I guess corporations can be prosecuted like people in
criminal courts. Instead of going after Barry Bonds and the occasional
inside trader, I suggest the Justice Department take a crack at
prosecuting a bank.
The big banks, in many people's opinions, were the real villains in the
near collapse of the nation's financial system, leading up to 2008. In
effect, they were corporate terrorists, which managed to inflict more
damage on this country than the terrorists we have been pursuing.
I'll leave it to the lawyers to come up with the specifics on the laws
banks have violated before and after 2008. As a layperson, one that
still sticks in my craw is the way the banks took the bailout money --
and stayed. There has to be something illegal about using taxpayer money
to award bonuses to the same executives who were at least partly
responsible for the crisis. Not to mention using the money to buy up
other, smaller banks, ensuring they are now too big to fail, and
amassing capital, which they are not lending to small business to create
"The economy is stalled in mid-air like an airplane with a motor that's
stopped," Ainsworth says. "And we're all waiting to see what's going to
The revolutionary high command should not be vaguely aiming at all the
banks. Put one on trial as the scapebanker, and I suspect you'd be
amazed at what might happen. I'd nominate our friends at Bank of America (NYSE: BAC) and any of the others that are charging fees for using debit cards. But any one will do as a test case.