Guest Post: A New Civil Rights Movement is Afoot for the Middle Class

By John Bougearel, Director of Futures and Equity Research at Structural Logic.

The core of America is the middle class. And Harvard Law Professor and chair of the Congressional Oversight Panel COP ( the COP is to oversee TARP, the Troubled Assets Relief Program) Elizabeth Warren tells us that the core of America is being carved up, hollowed out. In her words, “I Believe Middle Class is Under Terrific Assault…Middle class became the turkey at the Thanksgiving dinner” of the financial elite. Elizabeth Warren is more than just right.

Call it for what it is. It has more names than Satan. Call it plundering. Call it pillaging. Call it extortion, Call it fraud. Call it racketeering. Call it the financial raping of the middle class. Call it criminal. Consider the following. Middle class never consented to this financial rape. They vehemently protested it when the gov’t first proposed a $700 bailout of the financial system called TARP in Septermber 2008. Yet what did Congress and our government do? They went ahead and did it anyway. This boils down to one thing, taxation without representation. Our votes do not matter anymore.

This is happening because the US government is allowing it to happen. It is one thing for the government to raise the social safety nets for the poor, elderly and such. It is entirely another to raise the social safety nets for the financial elitists at taxpayer expense. But that is exactly what the government has done in the past year. They have rescued a financial system at the expense of everyone else. Mythical constructs and messages that financial companies are Too Big to Fail, systemic risk is too great, No More Lehman Brothers have been created by the powers that be. And it is in the name of No More Lehman Brothers and Too Big to Fail that Middle Class America is being carved up and hollowed out.

Appearing in Michael Moore’s “Capitalism: A Love Story, Michael Moore asks Elizabeth Warren (regarding the $700 billion dollar taxpayer funded bailout of the financial elite) “Where’s are money? And Warren takes a deep breath, looks briefly over her left shoulder (as if she might find it there), and exhales “I don’t know.”

Washington Post’s Lois Romano asked Elizabeth Warren, “Why don’t you know?”

WARREN: We don’t know where the $700 billion dollars is because the system was initially designed to make sure that we didn’t know. When Secretary Paulson first put this money out into the banks, he didn’t ask for ‘what are you going to do with it.’ He didn’t put any restrictions on it. He didn’t put any tabs on where it was going to go. In other words, he didn’t ask…

US Secretary of the Treasury Hank Paulson did not ask the banks what they were going to do with our taxpayer money. The US treasury, given Congressional blessing, simply gave the banksters hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars with no questions asked. This is wholesale taxation without representation.

So Romano asks Warren, “Are we, as an [economy] are we better off systemically now? Have we put things in place to prevent this from happening?” Warren replies “This really has me worried.” And it should have Warren worried because our Humpty Dumpty financial system had a great fall, and Humpty was put together again by all the King’s horses (read the US Treasury and Congress) and all the King’s men (read Uncle Sam’s taxpayers), Yet, Humpty Dumpty is still the same old fragile egg he was when he sat on a wall right before he had his great fall.

WARREN: A year ago the big concern was systemic risk and how to deal with ‘too big to fail’ firms…the big are bigger, we wiped out a lot of small folks and there’s more concentration” in the banking system.

And it is not just the Humpty Dumpty financial system that is so fragile.

WARREN: The way I see it is that the financial system itself is quite fragile, and that the underlying economy, the real economy, jobs, housing, household wealth, is still in a very perilous state.

So Lois Romano asks Warren, “Are we going to look back in two or three years at this TARP expenditure and say well, it worked.”

WARREN: “What is so astonishing about the first expenditures under TARP was that taxpayer dollars were put into financial institutions that were still, um, left all of their shareholders intact, that were still paying dividends, that paid their creditors 100 cents on the dollar. We put taxpayer money in without saying ‘you’ve got to use up everyone else’s money first.’ And once that’s the case, I don’t know how you ever put the genie back in the bottle. I don’t know how you ever persuade either a large corporation or the wider marketplace that if you can just get big enough and tie yourself to enough other important people, institutions, that if something goes wrong, the taxpayer will be behind you

That’s a game-changer. That is a whole different approach than any we’ve ever used before.

ROMANO: What more can we be doing to protect the middle class, to protect what Michael Moore refers to as the American Dream?

WARREN: “You know, the answer is we’re in trouble on so many fronts. In the 1950s and the 1960s, coming out of World War II, we said as a government and as a people, ‘what can we do to support the middle class?’ That’s what, FHA was to help people get into homes, right? VA, uh, G.I. loans on education. We looked at policies by whether they strengthened and support the middle class. Somewhere that began to change in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and the middle class instead became like a resource to be pulled from. They became the turkey at the Thanksgiving dinner. Who could carve off a piece, who could get this little piece, who could make a profit from this piece and that piece or squeeze down on the wages? And, the middle class has gotten shakier and shakier, hollowed out.

The consequences of that are far more than economic. The middle class is what makes us who we are. It affects the poor. A strong and vital middle class is a middle class that can offer a helping hand to the poor. A strong and vital middle class is a middle class that has room, is creating new jobs to, basically to suck the poor up out of poverty and into middle class positions. The middle class is what gives us political stability. It’s what gives us an America that’s all bought in to the whole process. That what we do is not just about a handful of folks at the top who profit from it. We all profit from it. And that’s why we work, and that’s why we vote, and that’s why we accept the outcome of elections, and, that’s why we’re safe to walk our streets, because we have a middle class for which this ultimately works, this country.

And every time we hollow that out. Every time we take away a little piece of that. We run the risk that some of what we understood as America, some of what we know as America, begins to die.
That’s what scares me.

Aaron Task interviewed Elizabeth Warren at The Economist’s Oct 15-16 “Buttonwood Gathering“ In that interview, Warren says,

The big banks always get what they want. They have all the money, all the lobbyists. And boy is that true on this one. There’s just not a lobby on the other side.

This is a moment when all around the country people are saying we’ve had it about up to here with these large financial institutions that want to write the rule then take our money. I find it astonishing that they have the nerve to show up and say, ‘I’m a big financial institution. I took your money. And now I’m going to lobby against anything that might offer some protection to ordinary families in this marketplace.

“This might be the time that the rules change.

The Buttonwood Gathering event took place over the weekend following Q3 earnings announcements from the big banks. Because of the taxpayer bailout of these big banks, some of them, namely JPM and GS are now enjoying record profits and will enjoy record bonuses this season. The irony is overwhelming that this is happening in 2009. Because of the failure of the financial system, more than 7 million middle class jobs have been lost, and the US economy is confronting double digit unemployment for the first time since 1982. Without taxpayer dollars, these record profits and record bonuses in 2009 would not even be possible for the big banks. Hell, without taxpayer dollars zombifying them with congressional and White House sanctioning, they’d have gone the way of the dinosaurs, the way of the buggy whips. That is the way history should have gone. But no, that is counterfactual now. There is something very wrong in America, the very way it is being run by government, and run over by the big banks. It is high time for middle class America to push back, precisely because our elected officials have not only failed to do so, but have legislated all of this to make it happen. Our government has become an active agent in the gutting of the middle class.
Commenting on Wall Street’ record 2009 bonuses Elizabeth Warren says she is

Wordless, Speechless. I do not understand how financial institutions could think they could take taxpayer money and turn around and act like it’s business as usual…I don’t understand how they can’t see that the world has changed in a fundamental way – it’s not business as usual.

While these critical interviews with Elizabeth Warren have been taking place in recent days, Naked Capitalism’s Yves Smith has been picking up threads of some push-back and and within Wall Street itself and amongst professionals on the periphery of WS, regarding the abuses of the financial elite awarding themselves record bonuses while the rest of the country goes to hell in a handbasket. From Yves,

There is a group of varying sizes, depending on the topic, that e-mails among itself, mainly professional investors, analysts, economists (I’m usually on the periphery but sometimes chime in). I never saw such an angry, active, and large thread about the Goldman BS fest today. Now if people who have not suffered much, and are presumably benefiting from the market recovery are furious, it isn’t hard to imagine that what looks like complacency in the heartlands may simply be contained rage looking for an outlet.

But per the social psychology research, this “you are in a minority, you are wrong” message DOES dissuade a lot of people. It is remarkably poisonous. And it discourages people from taking concrete action. I was surprised that some people bothered to comment on a post I put up yesterday, calling on people in the Chicago area to attend some peaceful demonstrations against the banking industry during the American Bankers Association national meeting, October 25 through 27. Some people weighed in, saying (basically) “don’t bother”.

I suppose it makes a difference whether one is old enough to remember the 1960s. Because people in large numbers got out and protested, two sets of changes that seemed impossible came about: civil rights for blacks and an end to the US involvement in Vietnam (if you read the histories, the military and intelligence experts were on the whole persuaded it was an unwinnable war, but it was seen as too costly to US prestige for America to withdraw).

And even if the effort you make narrowly is not successful (does any one person’s effort have much impact?) it breeds apathy and cynicism to suggest that doing nothing is the best course of action. If nothing else, it is better for one’s psyche to do what one can, however small, to make a difference.

Now America does not have a tradition of taking to the streets; demonstrations and rallies historically are working class affairs. But the middle class is on a path of downward mobility while the elites continue to take the cream. The widening gap might waken some impulses that have been dormant in the American psyche.

I happened to grow up in the sixties, on Sheridan Avenue in Chicago, and watched the protests march right past our homes. We stood on the street corner as kids and watched. We were too young to understand fully what was going on, but these were civil rights protests led by Martin Luther King. From Wikipedia:

The Chicago Freedom Movement, the most ambitious civil rights campaign in the North, lasted from mid-1965 to early 1967. It represented the alliance of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and the Coordinating Council of Community Organizations (CCCO). In 1965, SCLC, led by Martin Luther King, Jr., was looking for a site to prove that nonviolent direct action could bring about social change outside of the South. Since 1962, the CCCO, a coalition of local civil rights and community groups, had responded to rising anger over racial inequality, especially in the public schools, in the city of Chicago to build the most sustained local civil rights movement in the North. The activism of the CCCO pulled SCLC to Chicago as did the work of Bernard LaFayette and James Bevel, two veterans of the southern civil rights movement, on the city’s west side.

In the early summer of 1966, it focused its attention on housing discrimination. By late July it was staging regular marches into all-white neighborhoods on the city’s southwest and northwest sides. The hostile response of white residents and the determination of civil rights activists to continue to crusade for open housing alarmed City Hall and attracted the attention of the national press. In mid-August, high-level negotiations began between city leaders, movement activists, and representatives of the Chicago Real Estate Board. On August 26, after the Chicago Freedom Movement had declared that it would march into Cicero , site of a fierce race riot in 1951, an agreement, consisting of positive steps to open up housing opportunities in metropolitan Chicago , was reached.

The Summit Agreement was the culmination of months of organizing and direct action. It did not, however, satisfy all activists, some of whom, in early September 1966, marched on Cicero . Furthermore, after the open-housing marches, the Chicago Freedom Movement lost its focus and momentum. By early 1967, Martin Luther King and SCLC had decided to train their energies on other targets, thus marking the end of this striking campaign.

The Chicago Freedom Movement helped train a spotlight on housing discrimination and thus shaped national debate that led to the federal Fair Housing Act of 1968. And a number of new organizations-such as the Kenwood-Oakland Community Organization, Operation Breadbasket (later Rainbow/PUSH Coalition), and the Leadership Council for Metropolitan Open Communities)-continued to fight against racial injustice.

Yves post on the anger within the financial industry this week sparked a lot of comment from her readership.

K Ackermann says:
“The public is not powerless. It is just unwilling. There is a huge difference, and I hope people like yourself start taking up the meme.”

K’s comment is interesting because he or she acknowledges in one sentence that the middle class is not powerless, just unwilling, and then in the next sentence hopes that someone else will take up the “meme.” First off this is not a “meme.” This is a cause, and clearly Ackermann is unwilling to partake in the cause.

Another commenter supports old-fashioned activism but fears “activism now is like shouting into the storm.” This is a good analogy of futility. But guess what, did MLK consider his cause futile, did not he have a raging storm against which he had to make his voice heard? Do we not have the same responsibility as middle class Americans to make our voices heard above the raging storm? Do we not have a Dylan Thomas onus of responsibility to not go gently into the night and rage against the dying of the light (read middle class America)?

Francois T says ”Why no mass protests? It’ll come; but only when the threats to survival become much more immediate, like barely any food on the table for entire tranches of citizens.

And even then; look at Mexico. The amount of poverty down there is pretty staggering by our own standards. See any mass protests?


Ironically, I believe only a dedicated group of powerful renegades* could change something, like financing and make legit a 3rd party.

Now, THAT would be some change.

*I’m willing to bet my last n’gwee that there are quite a few very wealthy/powerful Americans that looks at the actual socio-economic landscape with a bewildered “WTF is going on here?” amazement mixed with deep disquiet. Whether they’re willing to do anything about it is another matter, but the first step to action is to become conscious of your surroundings.

Daniel de Paris wrote,

As a reader of Tocqueville and a complete parochial Frenchy, I believe that the effective American way – politically speaking – is local and grass-root.

There is practically no political action possible at Washington-level except for external affairs. Wars started in Washington can and have to be stopped in Washington.

The chances of the US are at grass-root level. Grass-root movements à la sixties to stop these crazy military budgets and grass-roots justice action for financial crime.

Skippy chimed in on Yves comments to juxtapose the difference between protest and pseudo-protest, , and to juxtapose the non-violent protest advocated by MLK vs the violent protest advocated by Malcolm X in the 1960s.

“As you know, the non-violent protests MLK organized were starkly different from the riots celebrated and encouraged by Malcolm X. And there was also a huge difference in effectiveness. MLK’s civil rights movement changed the face of America, whereas the riots left in their wake bitterness and destruction and no concrete improvement. As MLK wrote in Where do we go from here: Chaos or Community: “If a method is not effective, no matter how much steam it releases, it is an expression of weakness, not of strength.”

On pseudo-protests Skippy quotes from Richard Bernstein’s Dictatorship of Virtue

The fact is that assaulting the establishment, declaiming against the racism and sexism of society, reiterating the approved phrases about oppression and exclusion, promising to uncover previously neglected worlds, these require not a jot of courage these days. These are the sanctioned activities of the counterestablishment, the gestures and idioms that gain approval and lead to good opportunities, to jobs, to prizes, to book contracts, to prominence in American life… There is no risk in smashing the icons. There are millions of dollars in foundation grants available for people who claim they are doing so.

Skippy continues:

“All of this government and private largess lavished on protesters and protest groups remained somewhat of a quandary for me until I moved to Mexico, where political theater has evolved into a most highly refined art form. Here the plutocrats fund the unions, the protesters, the press and the putative opposition party. You name it, they pay for it all. So I began to put two and two together about how that might work in the US as well.

But on the US scene, perhaps it was Hannah Arendt who was quickest to grasp what was going on:

No doubt, “violence pays,” but the trouble it pays indiscriminately, for “soul courses” and instruction in Swahili as well as for real reforms. And since the tactics of violence and disruption make sense only for short-term goals, it is even more likely, as was recently the case in the United States, that the established power will yield to nonsensical and obviously damaging demands—such as admitting students without the necessary qualifications and instructing them in non-existent subjects—if only such “reforms” can be made with comparative ease, than that violence will be effective with respect to the relatively long-term objective of structural change.

–Hannah Arendt, Crises of the Republic

We were all quick to pick up on the fact that the tea partiers and healthcare protesters were not protesters but pseudo-protesters. According to James Q. Wilson, writing in Political Organizations, pseudo-protest concerns itself not so much with concrete objectives as it does with venting frustrations and moral outrage. Pseudo-protest has as its goal the articulation of a broader cause, vision of the world, or ideology; whereas protest seeks more palpable rewards such as jobs, decent living wages, the end of segregation or the right to vote.

Protest is a moral act and an extremely effective agent of change. Pseudo-protest is therapy for persons with a chip on their shoulders or a job for the growing ranks of professional protesters. It is impotent or even an impediment to change.”

Skippy makes an important distinction, up until now, most of the protest with regard to the abuses heaped upon the middle class by Wall Street and the US government has mostly been of the “therapeutic-pseudo” kind. But real protest is, as Skippy says and MLK (and Ghandi and others) have proved, a moral act and an extremely effective agent of change. The 1960s was a civil rights movement for blacks and it worked for effective lasting change. A new civil rights movement is afoot today, but today its a civil rights movement for the middle class.

If we are to take up a civil rights movement for the middle class Richard Kline points out that we must dispel the illusions, deception, and lies from MSM and that one of “the function[s] of a citizen is first, to understand that the official view is certain to be a spun-sugar bouffant of lies, and then second, to gather information which tests its accuracy. This is not, actually, that hard to do, because real information about the world and its venal, sad, hilarious ways lies everywhere by the roadside for the taking. —But even that is too much of an effort for homo Americanus. The fact that most Americans get their ‘news’ from television, a substantiall fact-free action video, tells the story in words few enough to fit on a postcard. “La-La Land, wish you were here. XOXOXO, the Family.” *hmmphh*

Craazyman noted that the middle class crisis and issues that we are confronting today is very difficult to get our arms around, and so it leads to resignation amongst the middle class.

“The primary problem, I think, is a lack of a clear and convincing alternative economic approach to the one we now have.

The issues of central banking, credit, regulation and capital ratios are so esoteric and so remote that few Americans can really build a world view around them. Not out of lack of intelligence but simply because it’s a completely foreign language.

In Vietnam the body bags and grainy video from the jungle were so emotionally brutal that they had the force needed for change. Waterhosing the children of Alabama, the ugly angry mobs of hatefilled faces, they shocked anyone of good conscience. And the ideological foundation of the American political system was the rocket fuel for social equality.

But when it comes to money and wealth, there’s a strong historical sense that “our system” — loosely defined as government-supported and managed free market free trade capitalism — has proven itself better than all the alternatives. This is quite subjective in the particulars and details, but the big picture — compared to communist Russia, China, the third world, Africa and even the slightly sclerotic “old Europe” or the sort of strange and rough post-communist Europe. None compete in the popular mind as an attractive alternative.

“If a few executives in New York make millions pulling the levers of our way of life, then, well, it’s a shame and they’re a bunch of assholes, but at the end of the day, what can we do about it?” This, I think, is sort of a distillation of the communal mind’s point of view at a subliminal level.

There is nothing in this crisis to grab on to — intellectually and ideologically — for most people. Just a stewing frustrated rage that something isn’t right with the big picture. And so we have a bewildering range of targets for rage including too much government, too little government, taxes too low, taxes too high, not enough bank lending, too much bank lending.

There’s no center, no point of communal traction that could be sloganeered into a reference point to rally around.

And so people acquiesce to a state of affairs that they know is messed up, but they don’t know quite why or what to do about it– other than tune out the morons on TV and try to survive the night in the jungle. And they don’t want to risk a wholesale upheaval that might make things worse.

It’s truly a policy wonk’s crisis. A crisis that requires some real statesmen and women who have political power, to step up and steer. Sadly, they seem few and far between.”

Picking up on Craazyman’s thread, Downsouth said,

“Ah, the sewing of hoplessness and disillusionment so thte people turn to defeatism or nihilism: It’s a method of social control as old as the hills, the ruling classes having deployed some of their finest thinkers to its engenderment and perpetuation.

It is a testament to the intelligence and thoroughness of the ruling elite that the ancient tactics of social control, long used in religion, have now been extended to the world of “science,” infusing the academe with pseudo-scientific dogmas such as the “finding” that nothing possibly can be done to correct the problem of free-riding in society.

“Rage is by no means an automatic reaction to misery and suffering as such;” Arendt observes in Crises of the Republic, “no one reacts with rage to an incurable disease or to an earthquake or, for that matter, to social conditions that seem to be unchangeable.”

Arendt thus gives us the reason why, first through religion and then later through “science,” the ruling elite hoped to persuade us that the city of this world is a “compact of injustice,” that “society is consigned to the devil” and that the social problem is “insoluble on any ethical basis”.

To reiterate what Yves said in her post

“I suppose it makes a difference whether one is old enough to remember the 1960s. Because people in large numbers got out and protested, two sets of changes that seemed impossible came about: civil rights for blacks and an end to the US involvement in Vietnam…”

Cullpepper wrote: Ho, ho, ho, Look out Yves, you just became the new face of the neo-populist movement.” I would not go so far as to say Yves is the face of the populist movement. There many faces on the populist movement to effect change. Elizabeth Warren is a far more visible persona and champion of the middle class. In fact, Warren has written two books on why the middle class never had it so bad!

And then there is the documentarist Michael Moore and journalists Lois Romano, Aaron Task, and so many countless others. Many folks are simply beginning to act in concert and at the same time. The catalyst for a middle class civil rights movement has arrived.

To that end, economists William Black and Dean Baker are hosting a demonstration in Chicago to remonstrate against Wall Street on Oct 25-27 in Chicago at the American Bankers Association annual meeting.

The sessions are organized by a coalition of community, consumer and labor organizations and are called “Showdown in Chicago“.

A number of commentators are planning a series of related posts and hopefully op-ed and news articles around this time. I will be attending, too and I look forward to seeing everyone there who can attend.

The Forgotten Man

This is the time to stand up for ourselves and be heard. Who are we? We are the Forgotten Man that Yale professor and sociologist William Graham Sumner wrote about at the end of the nineteenth century:
“The type and formula of most schemes of philanthropy or humanitarianism is this: A and B put their heads together to decide what C shall be made to do for D. The radical vice of all these schemes, from a sociological point of view, is that C is not allowed a voice in the matter, and his position, character, and interests, as well as the ultimate effects on society through C’s interests, are entirely overlooked. I call C the Forgotten Man.”

“As soon as A observes something which seems to him to be wrong, from which X is suffering, A talks it over with B, and A and B then propose to get a law passed to remedy the evil and help X. Their law always proposes to determine what C shall do for X, or in the better case, what A, B, and C shall do for X…. [W]hat I want to do is to look up C…. He is the man who never is thought of.”

“He works, he votes, generally he prays–but he always pays. . . .”

In closing, I leave you with a quote from Michael Moore’s documentary to ponder:

“There has got to be some kind of rebellion between the people who have nothing and the people who have got it all.” Think about that and come on out this weekend!

Go to The Showdown website subtitled, “The American People vs Wall Street Banks.” , it is very cool. Clipped from their website:

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  1. Tim

    Street protests were only the tool for the Civil Rights movement to place pressure on centers of power. But it wasn’t just the fact that people marched, that applied the pressure. Birmingham and Montgomery are good examples here.

  2. Jesse

    This is interesting to me, because I was there. As a student I took the summer off and spent it in Chicago with Operation Breadbasket, and also joined in the protests at the time.

    I don’t have a feel for what is going on in the campuses now anymore in the US. I am sure a great deal of it was sparked by the idealism of the time, the post Kennedy disillusioment and trauma that wracked the nation, the momentum of the Civil Rights movemet, and of course the draft for a highly unpopular war.

    I hope Washington and the Corporations do not keep pushing this, but I fear that they will. Some would like a confrontation, which justifies a reaction and a further infringement and assault on the Constitution.

    There are already rumblings about the need to be watchful for ‘domestic terrorism.’

    Bring on the November 2010 elections, and perhaps a summer of peaceful demonstrations, and hopefully genuine change will come. I have no desire to see the riots and mass demonstartions again, no matter how worthwhile their objective might have been.

  3. IF

    I like the first third of this article, but then it gets really confusing. Too many mirrors reflecting off each other.

    1. attempter

      If so, perhaps that’s fitting, since at the moment precisely What Is To Be Done? is unclear.

      But the first critical step is for a committed core of people to agree on action in principle, that this fraudulent “center” cannot hold and must not hold.

      The best thing about such a panorama is how it counteracts the intention of the MSM (mentioned in the post) to convince any budding activist that he is in fact alone and disenfranchised. The goal of the corporate media is to keep the people atomized.

      So the goal of alternative media must be to generate the sense of vast unity, community, good will, resolution, and fusion, and then help take that sense and organize it into reality.

      1. Toby

        “So the goal of alternative media must be to generate the sense of vast unity, community, good will, resolution, and fusion, and then help take that sense and organize it into reality.”

        Globally, in my opinion. This is a global problem, not a middle class US problem. The US middle class represents about 1-2% of global population (I think) — there are more sociopaths out there! This crisis is NOT about that tiny a percentage of the world’s peoples.

        We operate a system which distributes planetary resources in a profoundly inefficient and unbalanced way, and which also seems incapable of taking the single most important element of all this into account: the environment. I’m not talking about global climate change per se (I don’t know enough about it) but about the ecosystem generally, and the way (e.g. built-in obsolscence) its resources are so unevenly distributed, and our terrible attitude to waste. On these points “free” market economics scores very poorly indeed.

        The radical alternative would be a resource-based economy, which can ONLY be implemented globally. This would be a multi-generational transition, and from where I sit would only have a slim chance of success, but the idea, by my lights, is strong enough to at least begin testing it. Persisting in applying those solutions and methodologies which created the very problems we’re trying to fix, is insanity. New ways of thinking about, and seeing the problem must be established as a matter of urgency.

        1. Don Marti

          The US middle class does _own_ a huge percentage of the world’s wealth. Problem is that we’ve just signed control of it over to mutual fund managers, through 401(k) programs. If we figured out how to get our own property away from the kleptocrats and manage it ourselves, we’d keep more of our retirements savings and have more local jobs. (Unless your local job is at a BMW dealership in Westchester County, NY, in which case, sorry.)

  4. catkiller

    these people are hard-wired to do what they do.

    from their perspective, they own the empire, and are renting you space.

    are you really prepared to take on the banks?

    are you ready to take your money out?

    if so, set a date, and take it out in binary increments every month, $1k, then 2K, etc.

    a rally is a good start, but, ultimately, you have to take that gun out of their hand.

    the informed money has already started the run.

  5. Peter T

    It is still unclear to me what should be demanded concretely to limit the evil that the banks are doing. With diffuse opposition to banks in general (which I do not share), the protest might end like the regular protest against the G7 or G20 – regular demonstrations with small effect.

    One problem is the diffuse definition of middle class: everybody seem to want to be part of it, but what is it exactly and where does middle class end?

    1. bob

      …and some prefer cucumbers better pickled.

      Worry about getting their attention first. Defining the rules of engagement only strengthens their positions, they don’t dare let you know what they are fighting for and how they are going to accomplish it.

  6. Skippy

    The Quotes were provided by DownSouth, you’ll need to amend that.

    SKippy…the only credit I wish laid at my feet, would be that my children gave back more than they used in their lifetimes.

  7. Patrick Neid

    I love it when the wannabe elites label people, whom they did not organize, “pseudo protesters”. The only push back against the machinations of the politicians/bankers is coming from the derided tea baggers.

    Everyone else is wasting ink pretending they have a clue while mocking the folks, who for whatever reasons, have gotten off their asses and stepped outside. But get a bunch of socialist community organizers together in Chicago and now you have an official “protest”. LOL. Trust me, the middle class wants nothing to do with these folks.

    1. bd

      Agree completely.

      It’s only a protest if the “liberals” say it is? All other protests are simply “orchestrated”? What exactly would you call this call to action? Spontaneous?

      I despise the blatant theft that continues unabated as much as anyone. But why is there such animosity towards the “tea parties”? I would venture to say that the tea party protesters have caught more flack from the progressives than their beloved Obama and the democratically controlled congress. Remind me again who is calling the shots here? Wall Street and the tea parties?

      I am no conservative. As I stated in the comments section of Ives original post regarding the protests, I protested several times in the lead up to the Iraq Invasion and after we attacked. However, the minute you begin to disparage citizens you believe might be “conservatives” for their protests and then look to Michael Moore to help carry the torch, you immediately turnoff the other 50% of potential allies in your cause (i.e. independents, conservatives, non-socialist liberals). We are all enraged at this point. Why all the pot shots and the idolizing of polarizing individuals to support your cause? They only serve to divide rather than unite.

    2. DownSouth

      Patrick and bd,

      Your comments are misinformed and misguided on so many levels that I hardly know where to begin.

      The issues are more complicated than your Manichean left-right, conservative-liberal worldview can accommodate. If you had been following the discussions here on NC for the past few months, you would be aware of that. The criticism of the liberal-left on this blog has been fierce, so your comments are not based on any factual reality.

      The “tea baggers” were indeed pseudo-protesters, for a number of reasons. I won’t go into the full litany of those reasons, other than to provide the two following videos from the recent G-20 in Pittsburgh:

      These videos depict the way protesters who don’t have the imprimatur of the plutocracy are treated. They certainly got “off their asses and stepped outside,” and did they ever pay a price for it. Please note the way they were treated vs. the way your hallowed “tea baggers” were treated.

      1. Patrick Neid

        These videos are pretty weak. The students were not protesting a thing. They were out having a good time and the police told hem to leave. They did not and the rest is pretty standard. Everyone is trying to recreate the 60’s. LOL.

  8. DownSouth

    Joining the chorus is Neil Barofsky.

    The cost of the TARP program, he contends, goes far beyond the monetary cost:

    One is the hard cost of borrowing money to fund the rescues of banks and other companies. The others are, according to Barofsky, less tangible but no less important: The danger that comes with rewarding companies that took excessive risk, and the loss of the government’s credibility with taxpayers.

    “You can’t just think of this program in terms of dollars and cents,” Barofsky told CNNMoney. “We try to bring attention to these other costs, which have the potential to dwarf the monetary loss in dollars.”

    1. DownSouth

      Make sure to not miss the video of CNN’s live interview with Barofsky.

      Barofsky pulls no punches, and one gets a true sense of the magnitude of the arrogance and perfidy exuded by the Obama administration.

  9. NS

    Excellent analysis. The complexity of the problems makes it difficult to wage effective protests. Like with terrorists who are without a country, so too are the financial terrorists who hijacked the government and made everyone, all aspects of living; except their families, commodities for profit.

    We are all held hostage, as hostages our MSM sees us in the same light. Independent journalism died long ago as gigantic corporate/financial and by extension-government hijacked it too. Nothing, no part of our lives is untouched by the most massive robbery in the history of man. This is a sickness which justifies any means to turn a profit, including starvation of masses off our shores through opaque commodity plays as just one very small example.

    Divide and conquer in our living rooms, we are led to believe we are solitary in our beliefs, our situations, our abilities. Using 30 second spots to prove the population is as deaf, dumb and blind as our politicians. It is a pathological contempt of those who provided endless profits, endless liquidity for Wall Street via 401Ks as the only means to save and keep the value of earned dollars.

    This not so, once an apolitical venue is created for the disenfranchised that includes what was the middle class, what is a larger and larger base of those in poverty or skating on its edge despite decades of production, education, etc. the game will change. This is the unrecognized and potential giant unpredictable hazard.

  10. DownSouth

    I cannot help but believe that, if Martin Luther King were alive today, he would be one of President Obama’s leading critics.

    There is a dire need today for a liberalism which is truly liberal. What we are witnessing today in so many northern communities is a sort of quasi liberalism which is based on the principle of looking sympathetically at all sides. It is a liberalism so bent on seeing all sides that it fails to become committed to either side. It is a liberalism that is so objectively analytical that it is not subjectively committed. It is a liberalism which is neither hot or cold, but lukewarm.

    These words come from King’s speech “Give us the ballot—we will transform the South.” Is not the “quasi liberalism” King speaks of not a perfect match for the brand of liberalism practiced by Obama?

    King was quick to distinguish those of Obama’s ilk from the “closed-minded reactionaries” who “gain prominence and power by the dissemination of false ideas, and by deliberately appealing to the deepest hate responses within the human mind.”

    But King’s theology required him to judge those who “cooperated with evil” no less harshly than those who were evil. “It may be that our generation will have to repent not only for the diabolical actions and vitriolic words of the children of darkness,” he wrote in “The Current Crisis in Race Relations”, “but also for the crippling fears and tragic apathy of the children of light.”

    As King went on to conclude in his “Give us the ballot” speech:

    I cannot close without stressing the urgent need for strong, courageous and intelligent leadership from the Negro community. We need leadership that is calm and yet positive. This is no day for the rabble-rouser, whether Negro or white. We must realize that we are grappling with such a complex problem there is no place for misguided emotionalism. We must work passionately and unrelentingly for the goal of freedom, but we must be sure that our hands are clean in the struggle. We must never struggle with falsehood, hate or malice. Let us never become bitter.

    King also issued a call for leadership in his speech “Facing the challenge of a new age:”

    Another thing that we must do in speeding up the coming of the new age is to develop intelligent, courageous and dedicated leadership. This is one of the pressing needs of the hour. In this period of transition and growing social change, there is a dire need for leaders who are calm and yet positive, leaders who avoid the extremes of “hot-headedness” and “Uncle Tomism.” The urgency of the hour calls for leaders of wise judgment and sound integrity—leaders not in love with money, but in love with justice; leaders not in love with publicity, but in love with humanity; leaders who can subject their particular egos to the greatness of the cause. To paraphrase Holland’s words:

    God give us leaders!
    A time like this demands strong minds, great hearts,
    True faith and ready hands;
    Leaders whom the lust for office does not kill;
    Leaders whom the spoils of life cannot buy;
    Leaders who possess opinions and a will;
    Leaders who can stand before a demagogue
    And damn his treacherous flatteries without winking!
    Tall leaders, sun crowned, who live above the fog
    In public duty and private thinking.

    And in “The burning truth in the South,” King imbued the Civil Rights Movement with the spirit of the American Revolution:

    It would be futile to deplore, as many do, the tensions accompanying the social changes. Tension and conflict are not alien nor abnormal to growth but are the natural results of the process of changes. A revolution is occurring in both the social order and the human mind. One hundred eighty-four years ago a bold group of men signed the Declaration of Independence. If their struggle had been lost they had signed their own death warrant. Nevertheless, though explicitly regretting that King George had forced them to this extreme by a long “train of abuses,” they resolutely acted and a great new society was born. The Negro students, their parents and their allies are acting today in that imperishable tradition.

    1. s.tristero

      “I cannot help but believe that, if Martin Luther King were alive today, he would be one of President Obama’s leading critics.”

      as a person who has read much of MLK’s writings and listened to almost every one of his recorded speeches, i absolutely wholeheartedly agree.

      if this burgeoning movement really wishes for deep fundamental change without the escalation into violence, it would be wise for every single person involved to read the passages that you have provided.

      let them sink in, and then read them again. and then speak them aloud for everyone to hear. it’s hard to label people preaching the words of Dr. King as ‘domestic terrorists’.

      thank you very much for sharing.

  11. Maggie

    They just never stop…

    Note: Americans are living in a real life Gosford Park, an upstairs, downstairs economy where most of us will spend our lives “in service”.

    What is going to be the seminal work that makes this fact transparent to us?

    At any rate, from bloomberg this morning:

    Oct. 21 (Bloomberg) — A Goldman Sachs International adviser defended compensation in the finance industry as his company plans a near-record year for pay, saying the spending will help boost the economy.

    “We have to tolerate the inequality as a way to achieve greater prosperity and opportunity for all,” Brian Griffiths, who was a special adviser to former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, said yesterday at a panel discussion hosted by St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. The panel’s discussion topic was, “What is the price of morality in the marketplace?”

  12. cswake

    “It is one thing for the government to raise the social safety nets for the poor, elderly and such. It is entirely another to raise the social safety nets for the financial elitists at taxpayer expense.”

    The principal is the same – Government bureaucrats pandering to a minority to fulfill their self-serving interest at taxpayer expense. The initial act of sacrificing the principal guaranteed the outcome.

  13. zephyrum

    In any group it takes a relatively small minority, for certain behaviors, to steer everyone else. 10% of bar patrons in a fight is a full-blown riot.

    We’ve had more than a sufficient number of greedy people to steer us into our current financial morass, and our government and corporate leadership has acted to accelerate the decline. Now we need an equal number acting in remedy and some leadership to fall in line. This may take time to assemble, but the trends are certainly making the necessary number of people available through unemployment.

    (And @Maggie, that’s appalling, but just as Orwell predicted.)

  14. Mike Lieber

    The national government in the U.S.A. is broken. Protests, tea parties, letters to the editor, etc. aimed at the political elite will fail, because they have neither the will nor the means to repair it.

    There is one — and only one — solution available to us: a constitutional convention. If we do not soon acknowledge that the problems afflicting our government are systemic and require reforms at the most fundamental, structural level of our political system, everything we cherish about our country will soon dissolve in the cesspool of corrosive sludge that is currently eating away at the foundations of our society.

    The Founding Fathers recognized the eventuality that we now find ourselves confronted with, which is why they vested ultimate power, or “sovereignty,” in the people. Their framework was brilliant, but they knew that any government, no matter how well conceived, was vulnerable to the imperfections of the human condition. They also recognized that no constitution could be perpetual, which is why in Article V, they provided the mechanisms for changing it – one of which is a convention. This safety valve has never been used, but the time has now come for us to exercise our sovereignty to preserve for ourselves and our posterity the many blessings purchased for us with their blood sacrifice.

    We have been conditioned to revere our constitution, and rightly so, I believe, but our collective worship of a document written 222 years ago must end if we are to salvage the republic it created.

    We cannot accomplish this without the participation of the masses of the public who, for numerous reasons, are not actively engaged in our political system. My novel, “Ops Populi: Inception” was written with them in mind: To engage them through what I hope is an entertaining story in the cause of their country. Other writers and artists are trying to take the message beyond the relatively small segment of our society that is attentive to political affairs, most of whom know all too well that our country is in serious jeopardy. If we succeed, perhaps we will be able to resolve the crucial problems that plague us in a peaceful fashion, for the alternative will, I’m afraid, be a very unhappy ending for the “Great Experiment.”

    1. catkiller

      ding, ding, ding.

      we have a winner.


      yes. we need a new constitution for the new economy, but first we need full disclosure of the errors in the old economy. everyone needs to understand that capital must chase talent, or capital becomes inert. This will allow all individuals to directly participate in the process.

      the pipelines to the new economy will be too small for sometime to handle middlmen, or women, and we need to move a lot of volume.

  15. Jack

    I find it interesting that there is no mention of the “Tea Parties” in either your original article or any of the comments. While the Tea Parties may lack the focus of specific practices of the “financial industry,” one significant frustration expressed at the gatherings is the bailouts of the financials. The theme of taxation without representation that is interwoven throughout your article is, again, a common theme for these folks.
    Clearly, many of the paticipants in these rallies (the majority of whom are not right-wing extremists but rather the same middle class folks to whom you refer) lack the sophistication and knowledge to understand the past and current abuses in the financial system, but they certainly share the same frustrations that you express.
    Just as the protests of the 60’s gained momentum and acheived results when they became more mainstream, I think it is possible that we boomers could be convinced to become directly involved again. It will probably never happen, but I believe that if people such as Yves and many of the readers of her blog were to join forces with the Tea Party folks and provide some focus and inside knowledge, we would have a true opportunity to make these efforts more successful.

  16. TimOfEngland

    To several commenters here. There is a lot of uneasiness in the UK as well, our small country has also spent 1 Trillion GBP on the banking crisis. We (the taxpayers) own between 46% and 76% of two them. One of these now represents the accounts, mortgages, Loans and Credit Cards of nearly 30% of the account-holding population.

    These banks have made very unpopular moves recently, for example when base rate has dropped by 4% Credit card rates have increased by 4% – 8%. Not clever. They are currently about to take that trip down Bonus Lane and it will be unpopular.

    In my view there is only one protest or organised action that can have any effect on the behaviour of the banks involved and persuade our Government(s) to legislate for fair treatment and fair contracts.

    @Toby – This is a Global Problem – I agree, and it needs a global protest. The Internet is our only readily available Global Connector – so that is how it must be organised.

    What to organise?

    We need to organise what SHOULD have happened last year:

    The re-organisation of the banks to fairer and smaller institutions (Small enough to fail).
    The bankruptcy of the institutions that are not (after trillions of investment) solvent.
    An absolute limit to credit card and Loan interest rates relative to base rates.

    First you need enough supporters for the following to be so big that the legal systems can’t cope with it ( an unenforceable law ceases to be a law at all).

    Then layout the following agenda:

    Publish a timetable for withdrawal by the people from the current banking system and more importantly the people’s OBLIGATIONS to it.

    It might run something like:

    Jan ’10 – Every supporter withdraws 1000$/£. and stores it in cash EVERY week (there’s no interest to speak of anyway)

    If nothing is done or achieved:

    Feb ’10 – Every supporter notifies their bank of cancellation every Direct Debit or Standing Order to every credit card company.

    Nothing happens?

    Mar ’10 Ditto for banks loans
    then Mortgages

    You would need quite a few million supporters or we would all get taken out individually.

    The banks can’t last long if we ALL refuse to play the game. The banking system brought on a crisis by their unwillingness to pay and unwillingness to trust each other – then (almost it seems) walked away from their debts and obligations. We just do the same thing, walk away and induce another crisis.

    As catkiller said – we need to take the gun out of their hands.

    In the UK just targeting the two biggest (almost Government owned) banks would (after some chaos and struggle) do it I’m pretty sure.

    In the UK the bank with 30% of our accounts is spectacularly vulnerable, because because it is weak and just because it has so many accounts.

    Someone needs to organise the people’s side of this game of monopoly. Question is who?

  17. Kelli K

    I like the thinking outside the box aspect to your idea but IMO it is way too radical to start calling for a constitutional convention. Radical scares the masses and discredits those who call for change. Hence radical is the wrong approach.

    Also, it is far from clear that we, as a people, have used the levers that are available to us. We readers of Naked C, zero hedge, CR, Mish, etc are the intellectual cream of the masses–we aren’t the elite with a stake in the status quo. We are well-educated, generally well paid, but still “wage slaves” without real power. We should be leading the people, but we carp amongst ourselves instead.

    What is needed are simple ideas that can be conveyed to the angry but confused masses. Michael Moore has the idea, but his obnoxious ways have turned off have the population to him. He is a flawed messenger with a good message. So we who do not share his socialist ideas stand with him this time. We march in Chicago with his beloved unions (who most of us actually believe are responsible for a lot of the problems in this country) because they can still organize and are effective and, just this once, they are right philosophically as well.

    So, what do we do? We focus all eyes and ears on Elizabeth Warren because she is the only person in DC right now telling the truth and because she is so likeable. Strengthen HER hand, shut up HER enemies with our show of populist, righteous anger.

    The rallying cry: SAVE THE MIDDLE CLASS. Here we want the broadest definition of middle class possible, the classic Marxian bourgeoisie: those who lack direct access to the means of production (by which we mean big capital and big government).

    How to save the middle class: time for OUR bailout. What does it look like? JUBILEE. We are crushed by debt, the debt burden must be lifted. It was lifted at the top but not for any of us (ANY of us–there have been NO principal reductions, no debt relief except through bankruptcy and ad hoc forgiveness).

    Second rallying cry: NO more bonuses for bailed out banks. Goldman have a good quarter? Got a lot of extra cash lying around? Good. Lend it out to businesses and individuals. You get free money from the FED because you are a “bank” so act like one. All banks must loan money. Get congress to write a law. You don’t lend, you lose access to the freebie window. What’s so hard?

    Third rallying cry: We want a NEW PECORA Commission. Someone with real power and real knowledge gets to parade the WS and DC powerbrokers through a courtroom telling EVERYONE what they did and how it screwed the country. Hundreds go to jail. New laws emerge, rather than a cobbled together rehash of Glass Steagal.

    Sorry to go on so long. Anyone else want to pick up the ball?

  18. Dan Duncan

    What a muddled mess of a post.

    Naked Cap has always been one big echo chamber…and now we have a guest post…about a prior post…with comment quotes from the prior post???

    Too damn funny. funny. funny.

    And the best best part is that we have The Community at Naked Capitalism aligning itself with the US Middle Class…

    Seriously, this has to be a joke.

    Pick any random topic from NC’s topic Board to the right and read the post through the comments…

    Naked Capitalism has nothing but contempt for the rest of the US Middle Class…read any post and chances are you’ll find some reference to “over fed, under educated, mall shopping, SUV driving, uber consuming, debt laden, sit-com watching lump of humanity in a declining empire.”

    As Patrick Neid pointed out at 6:44 about Tea Bag Parties–according to the Naked Cap Community, these protests don’t represent the Middle Class…they are simply partisan demonstrations. And for good measure, they’re racist too!

    The fact is, unless one defines Middle Class as consisting of college-educated, urban sophisticates who drive hybrids, this Naked Cap Community has nothing to do with the rest of the Middle Class. In fact, many of the NC posters are still working off their frustrations with the rest of the Middle Class because it was the rest of the Middle Class that brought us The George Bush Redux.

    Yes, I know there will be many riveting testimonials from NC readers about their middle class income and sensibilities. While doing so, you can also tell me that NC is not a place where Middle Class Elites go to rail about the rest of the “dumb” US middle class that just doesn’t “get it”. Yeah, OK.

    Now, if this post was about the European Middle Class…well then we’d be onto something…

    We’d have Naked Cappers, galvanizing into a bloc of like-minded individuals representing the sensibilities of Western Europe to go protest…

    In Chicago.

    [Incidentally, I would argue that much of what I’ve written should be an exhibit for why our country is perilously close a death spiral. I know that the wild-eyed radical on this blog who goes by “I on the Ball Patriot” sees things with much more clarity than I do and rises above the petty bullshit; especially with this conclusion to his posts: Deception is the strongest political force on the planet.

    What once constituted “The US Middle Class” is nothing but fractured halves of a Left-Middle/Right-Middle Divide. The Middle Class…whatever we once were…will continue to be systematically exploited as long as we allow the media and politicians to control the narrative that it’s the Tea Bag Protesters or Health Care Reform Advocates who are the source of all our problems.

    Gimme a break.

    Please, then, allow me to break form, step outside reflexive-programming that results from allowing others to push my buttons and with all sincerity state: Best of luck with the protest. We need more of them…be them Tea Bag Protests OR Coalition of Community Protests.]

    1. giggity

      You nailed it.

      I’m in the south. I see and deal with a lot of the “right-wing” middle class. They don’t always understand the issues in the way those of us on NC/Mish/ZH, etc. do. But they do see the injustice, and many of them have just been born, bred, and raised to hold up this false left/right paradigm, and blindly accept the arbitrary dividing issues spouted by MSM dividers like Limbaugh or Beck.

      On the flip side, I’ve spent plenty of time in “liberal” urban areas, and all too often, it’s more of the same, just on the “other side” of the rainbow… Same MSM memes and dividing non-issues, to pit the left middle-class against the right.

      In the end, most of these folks don’t know what they’re talking about, and constantly present small-potatoes issues as the most important stuff. They are too busy arguing over gay marriage, abortions, racism, vegetarianism, creationism, and other left/right divisions than keeping their eyes on the ball–MIC, mass environmental extermination, mass social engineering deception, and mass looting of the wealth of the poor and middle-class. They don’t see their invisible bonds and that they are all linked together in a chain gang, overseen by lifetime politicians, militarists, false priests, and bankers.

      The first step is to realize you’re being lied to every day, in every way, on the TV and the mainstream rags you read. It’s one thing to “consume” this “content” in a fashion to understand the enemy, but it’s another to passively consume because it somehow allows you to be informed and get your daily dose of worthwhile “news.”

      Feh. Balloon boy for 24 hours straight, with round tables of pundits discussing a non-issue for days on end. All the while, the city burns. That’s news?

  19. rd

    I started executing a personal action of my own last November. I voted against incumbents or the candidate with the biggest campaign chest where there was no incumbent on every national and state line.

    I live in NYS, so at the moment all of the state and federal politicians are effectively bought, or at least resnted, by well-financed special interest groups ranging from finance to labor regardless of whether they are Republican or Democrat.

    I think the best way for a politician to be forced to change is for them to realize that their actions matter and just having a big campaign chest won’t save their next re-election. However, to do that the citizenry has to be aware that their individual vote will actually play a role and that they are being screwed by the status quo.

    The local politiicans here tend to be closer to the population with better linkage to local issues. Last election theere were some surprising elections where long-term pols were tossed out of office and replaced by relative nobodies. Hopefully we can do that at the state and federal level.

  20. Markel

    This is simply what a society in decline looks like–a vicious, self-reinforcing circle in which corrective action is impossible. If we had what we need to stop the outrages, like effective social institutions, a middle class aware of its own interests, positive social mores, and a stronger sense of ethics at every stratum, we wouldn’t be in decline in the first place.

    Most of the old tools of dissent no longer work. The media doesn’t even cover most protests; in fact, the first sign that the teabaggers were sponsored by the plutocracy was the simple fact that they actually got air time.

    There is still one weapon, a doomsday weapon, that the middle class holds in its arsenal, but it will never, ever use it: Refusing to participate. A general strike. You can’t fire on a crowd that isn’t gathered. You can’t spin away the economic impact with a lobbyist spokesman on Fox. CEOs would be throwing themselves from the windows.

    However, while such things happen regularly in other countries, the idea of it occurring here is laughable. You can just hear the mincing office workers furiously backstabbing their coworkers for not showing up, snapping at each other to be the first to squat for the alpha boss like bitches in heat.

  21. i

    >“…The public is not powerless. It is just unwilling.”

    No. The public is paralyzed by fear, tranquilized and anesthetized by easily available and legal antidepressants, tranquilizers and alcohol, and hypnotized by television which is controlled by the wealthy.

    While it’s true that the people in Mexico, North Korea, Haiti, et. al. are not revolting, they will once the oligarchs can no longer provide cheap food, fuel, drugs and television. They can’t magic away the consequences of oil shortages to come. It will probably take that to finally get people to realize that the world can no longer afford the very wealthy.

  22. L'Emmerdeur

    I love how Americans flaunt their vaunted democracy, and then when their elected representatives mess things up, they default to “it’s not our fault, it’s the government”.

    You voted for the congressmen who take lobbyist payoffs. Some of these scoundrels have been in their seats for DECADES. When you elect and re-elect them to power, their actions ARE YOUR ACTIONS. Ignorance is not bliss, ignorance is complicity.

    So when these villains steal from you, lie to you, and hand over your wealth to their cronies, and you don’t start forming firing squads in response… well, then you are getting exactly what you deserve.

  23. Mike Lieber


    Yes, Elizabeth Warren is telling the truth, and I, too, admire her. Alas, she has no power to change anything. You say that what I propose is radical, yet it is precisely what the Framers of our republic envisioned and provided for in an explicit recognition of the tendency for government to run amok. It is delusional to believe that systemic flaws can be corrected by any other means than addressing them at their source. Wallpaper may temporarily hide the underlying rot, but when the structure collapses it will then be too late for repair.

    No, what was truly radical was the boldness of the colonists who committed treason and took up arms against the world’s most powerful empire, willing to sacrifice their all for the ideals of freedom, justice, and equality for all. What we must do is indeed difficult, but certainly not radical.

    1. s.tristero

      mike, it might help your cause if you can simply and clearly explain to all of us what is needed to call a constitutional convention.

      if for nothing else, many of us can put it in our memory banks just in case…it’s good to know all the options available, yes?

  24. Lighthouse

    Mass demonstrations are relics of an earlier era. It was the process of organizing the demonstrations that built the movements. Call a protest, every one that shows up is a potential member of a new movement. Get together afterwards with a small number of attendees, organize another protest, bigger crowd turns out, wash, rinse, repeat.

    It took years for the movements to grow.

    It is very wrong to think that there were a few protests and then civil rights were passed or the Vietnam war ended. Very Wrong. A focused legal strategy for passing Civil rights was initiated after WWII. Brown vs Topeka was 1954. The big TV protests came later, using the momentum of the court wins to push politicians to enforce the laws. And that was a movement that had been inexistent for over 100 years, since before the end of slavery.

    Vietnam protests went on for years as did the war. It is not clear that the protests helped that much. Sometimes polls showed support for the war actually increased after big protests. Burning American flags can have that effect on the American public.

    Today we have a much more efficient mechanism for organizing protest, the internet. And with that mechanism we can launch very specific attacks on targets.

    It simple people, you want to protest the big banks? Pull you money out of them. Even a small number could kick off a run and the banks will not be able to take it.

    There is no reason to wait around till someone organizes a protest so you can waste a Saturday carrying a sign. The banks dont give a damn how you spend your Saturdays as long as you keep your money with them.

    Close. Your. Bank. Accounts. Move the money to a savings and loan. Make sure you tell the bank why you did this. This is real action with real consequences that you can take TODAY.


    1. bd

      Agreed. The only way to really get their attention is to

      “Close. Your. Bank. Accounts”, pay off your debts (credit cards, car payments, etc) if you can, walk away from all the debts that you can’t pay off, if you’ve lost your job and can’t afford to feed the family then stop paying your debts and declare BK, take the credit hit (who cares at this point, since it’ll take years for the banks to start lending again anyway, and, if NC, ZH, CR, et al. are correct, we’ll be taking another economic plunge anyway soon enough).

      Last year I would never have made any of the comments in the paragraph above. Way back then, I felt people should be responsible for their actions, honor their contracts, pay what they owed. After this past year of “change” I have, in fact, changed…my opinion. Our govt has sold us, our children, and our grandchildren, out to the banksters. Time to end it. Debt Jubilee. Let the cards fall where they may.

  25. deepsouthdoug

    In terms of rage against the banksters turning into a movement, Steinbeck said it best. He called the people ‘The Armies of Bitternes’ in the Grapes of Wrath.

    “…someday – the armies of bitterness will all be going the same way. And they’ll all walk together, and there’ll be a dead terror from it.”

  26. Jim in MN

    The whole spectrum of nonviolent action was brilliantly cataloged in 1973 by Gene Sharp in “The Politics of Nonviolent Action”. The table of contents gives us (you?) all the tools we need.

    The table of contents is reproduced here:

    Just remember: the revolution has to be more fun than the status quo if you want anyone to show up.

    Maybe the Chicago protests can get Cirque du Soleil or giant Simpsons puppets. Or U2….use your imaginations.

    1. s.tristero

      Jim, agreed in principle, but disagree with you on specifics.

      a true revolution evolution will not be sponsored by U2 sponsored by Apple sponsored by Blackberry sponsored by Google sponsored by Twitter sponsored by MSNBC sponsored by FOX….you get the idea.

      you want entertainment? go to the thrift store, pick the most colorful clothes you can find, buy some makeup and do a clown street theater version of Atlas Shrugged for the crowd.

      quit accepting your role as spectator/consumer and start PARTICIPATING.

      (and leave no trace)

      1. JTFaraday

        Well now, hold on a minute. I’m inclined to disparage the whole puppet show thing myself, but it does strike me that a political movement with a sense of humour could have some legs that a political movement without a sense of humour might not.

        We’ve already conceded that a lot of young people became involved in politics due to things like “The Daily Show.” YouTube is a veritable cornucopia of political artistic production of a sort. Frequently not all that sophisticated, much skewering of partisan personalities, there are the conspiracy videos, but some of this stuff can be informative.

        No doubt there are a lot of ostensibly “more serious” out of work artists out there who are probably missing an opportunity to document and participate in what *should be* (should have been?) a big historical moment. To miss this strikes me as a sign of a decline in culture.

        So, I’m going to hold off on my natural inclination to scoff.

        1. s.tristero

          don’t like clowns much myself either, but it was the only thing i could think of at the time. guess i just had U2 in my head.

          thanks for clarifying the point to be made.
          no need to scoff brother.
          one man’s clown is another man’s curse.

  27. Chocko

    What heroic courage do you expect from chino-clad functionaries whose sole goal in life is to avoid conflict? A couple of mysterious retributive firings, a truncheon in a couple of formerly perfect sets of teeth, and it’s all over.

    1. giggity

      Exactly. I look around at the people I work with in my cubicle farm, and I know one, out of hundreds, that might decide to sacrifice it all. But probably not.

      Hell, when you’re stuck in this abomination, it’s hard to get out, especially when you have so much personally at stake, and no one else is willing to sacrifice what they have.

      I’ve got very little debt, except for my modest home and some student loans. But I also have a relatively peaceful and productive life. I see all the injustices, and I speak up, and take political action when I can, but time and time again, it hurts me socially, or just blows up in my face.

      And that sucks.

      But I still chug along, rocking the boat when I can, trying to make a difference in a few peoples’ minds. And it’s worked, one at a time, more become aware. But it’s a slow process, and not nearly in line with the epicness of mass demonstrations.

      It’s hard to be brave, when they’ve made it so easy to stay silent, unfortunately.

      1. tompain

        at least you can tell yourself that you are more noble and smarter than all those dumb sheep. At least we have you, giggity, to speak out against injustice. Giggity the brave, we salute you.

  28. JTFaraday

    “There is nothing in this crisis to grab on to — intellectually and ideologically — for most people. Just a stewing frustrated rage that something isn’t right with the big picture.”

    I very much disagree with this.

    At the heart of “the financial crisis” itself are bad loans and mis-marked AAA rated securities. Mortgage and securities fraud is something that the vast, vast majority of Americans can understand. The question is, how many of them have actually been exposed to an explanation that is both comprehensive and “translated” into more everyday language?

    They also basically understand other economic forces, as related to globalization of the labor force, for example. They seem to “understand” this far better than the political establishment and academic institutions. You can’t swing a dead cat without encountering people who have intimate inside details. But, they have “their stories” they don’t necessarily have larger frameworks. Nor would they.

    It’s also true that most educated observers of US society, economics, and politics have not been equipped to understand the financial sector and how relates to the the larger economy– but that doesn’t mean they *can’t* learn, provided they have to will to do so, and I concede not all do. We have to start making it harder for such people to be taken seriously.

    It should be the role of a political party of some sort to make some of these connections for citizens. THAT’S the piece that we definitely don’t have, in the US.

    During the 2008 presidential election, the Democratic Party primary was little more than a competition between identity based groups from the *last* social movement. Given that the most relevent matters in 2008 were clearly larger structural economic issues, I found this deeply frustrating–almost like dealing with members of a mind control cult.

    But this internecine battle really wasn’t what most *voters* wanted. Voters were somewhere else entirely.

    1. JTFaraday

      It’s also pretty clear that when finance sector employees are running the Treasury, and that most of them come from the same investment bank, and when politicians and government officials have revolving door networks, and when a sitting President is off fundraising at $30,000 a plate in the middle of a financial crisis, that you have a irredeemably corrupted government:

      “Mr. Obama will fly to New York on Tuesday for a lavish Democratic Party fund-raising dinner at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel for about 200 big donors. Each donor is paying the legal maximum of $30,400 and is allowed to take a date.”

      Just because we have evolved a system of organized bribery, doesn’t mean we have to permit it to continue.

      This may rather overwhelming, the dire need to fundamentally reform the entire government, but it is nothing if not clear.

  29. chad

    I think the middle class can get their heads around income tax as a protest mechanism. A movement started to get everyone to file for an extension and then file late would be a serious demonstration of power and organization.

    You’re not asking the middle class to do anything illegal and it is a simple process that anyone can do from their home. It’s a protest that can spread through the internet and blogs easily and produces a real measurable effect (number of late filings and the sum).

    The objective of the protest would be to send a message to Washington that the American people do, in fact, still pay the bills and therefore, the power still rests with the people.

  30. mittelwerk

    so what, exactly, was the upshot of the civil-rights movement? is there a less politically or econmically viable ethnic group in the US today than blacks? the election of barack obama — a post-ethnic liberal — is almost the tomsbtone on the civil-rights movement…. btw, he may be the LAST black president, in any case.

    and as lighthouse said above, the “end” of the vietnam war had to do with military defeat pure and simple, little to do with the socially desiriable middle-class protest culture.

    the problem with the US is always that people want political results without risk or courage. the denigration of the tea partiers is bullshit. at least they’re out there — and i see absolutely nothing wrong with broad-based rage at the moment. the emphasis on civility, in the face of open kleptocracy by an integrated elite, is repulsive. violence is and will be the only way to move forward. the future of american resistance is domestic terrorism, and this will only happen when liberal behavioral modes — the pathos of reasoned discussion and nonviolent protest — recede in the face of collapse, that is, gross decline in the living standard.

    it’s not that liberal will change, but that they will die out.

    1. s.tristero

      the French Revolution was won with violence and who did it give them?
      the Russian Revolution was won with violence and where did it get them?
      the American Revolution was won with violence and where did it get us?

  31. Seal

    “As the supply of money (of claims) increases relative to the supply of tangible assets in the economy, prices must eventually rise. Thus the earnings saved by the productive members of the society lose value in terms of goods. When the economy’s books are finally balanced, one finds that this loss in value represents the goods purchased by the government for welfare or other purposes with the money proceeds of the government bonds financed by bank credit expansion.” Gold and Economic Freedom
    by Alan Greenspan – [written in 1966]

  32. LeeAnne

    Destruction of the financial sovereignty of the American people is well underway. Consolidation of capital in the finance sector is being reinforced by consolidation of political power. Its like watching a nazi cult take over the country. Another Goldman Sachs appointment -this time a 29-year-old to head the SEC. Is that conceivably for securities law enforcement?

    Notice how Representative Grayson in his congressional questioning of Bernanke emphasizes giving taxpayer money to ‘foreign’ entitities. I’ve transcribed the testimony for a close look below. I think its important to see Bernanke’s BIG LIE in context; I think Grayson worked admirably; very hard and skillfully to get that information out.

    Representative Grayson at Congressional hearing –questioning FED chairman Bernanke on swaps with foreign central banks:

    Grayson: One of the entries under Assets is Central Bank Liquidity Swaps which shows an increase at the end of 2007 from $23 Billion to $553 Billion and change at the end of 2008. What’s that?

    Bernanke: Those are swaps that were done with foreign central banks. Many um foreign banks are short dollars, so they come into our markets looking for dollars and drive up interest rates and create volatility in our markets. What we’ve done is -with a number of major central banks like European Central Bank for example -we swap our currency dollars for their currency Euros. They take the dollars, lend it out to the banks in their jurisdiction. That helps bring down interest rates in the global market for dollars. And meanwhile we’re not lending to those banks; we’re lending to the central bank. The central bank is responsible for repaying us.

    Grayson: So, who got the money?

    Bernanke: To -financial institutions in Europe and other countries.

    Grayson: Which ones?

    Bernanke: I don’t know.

    Grayson: Half a trillion dollars and you don’t know who got the money?

    Bernanke: ah -the loan went to the -the loans go to the central banks and they -they then (arm wave) put them out to their um -to their institutions to try to bring down short term interest rates in dollar markets throughout the world.

    Grayson: Well, let’s start with which central banks got the money.

    Bernanke: There are 14 of them which are listed um in our – (lifting open document he’s leaning on toward the camera) I’m sure they’re listed in here somewhere.

    Grayson: awright –so who actually made that decision to hand out a trillion dollars that way -half a trillion dollars? Who made that decision?

    Bernanke: The Federal Open Market Committee.

    Grayson: ok. And was it done at one time or in a series of meetings?

    Bernanke: a series of meetings.

    Grayson: and under what legal authority?

    Bernanke: We have a long standing legal authority to do swaps with other central banks –its not an emergency authority of any kind.

    Grayson: Any thing specific about it?

    Bernanke: turning to back from consultation:
    My counsel says section 14 of the Federal Reserve Act.

    Grayson: awright –we actually looked at one of the arrangements and one of the arrangements is $9 Billion for New Zealand. That works out to $3,000 for every single person who lives in New Zealand. Seriously wouldn’t it be better to extend that kind of credit to Americans rather than to New Zealanders?

    Bernanke: It’s not costing Americans anything; we’re getting interest back and it comes back –its not at the cost of any American credit –we are extending credit to Americans.

    Grayson: Well, couldn’t -wouldn’t it necessarily affect the credit markets if you extend half a trillion dollars in credit to anybody?

    Bernanke: We are lending to all US financial institutions in exactly the same way.

    Grayson: Well, look at the next page. The very next page has the US dollar nominal exchange rate which shows a 20% increase in the US dollar nominal exchange rate at exactly the same time that you were handing out a half a trillion dollars to foreigners. Do you think that’s a coincidence?

    Bernanke: Yes.

    Grayson: (ha ha ha) awright. well, the Constitution says ‘no money shall be drawn from the Treasury but in consequence of appropriations made by law.’ Do you think –

    Bernanke: It’s not drawn from the Treasury.

    Grayson: Well, let’s talk about that. Do you think its consistent with the spirit of that provision of the Constitution for a group like the FOMC to hand out a half a trillion dollars to –foreigners? –without any action by this Congress?

    Bernanke: Congress approved it in the Federal Reserve Act.

    Grayson: When was that?

    Bernanke: Quite a long time ago. I don’t know the exact date.

    Barney Frank: The Act was in 1914, I believe.

    Bernanke: I don’t know if the provision was in 1914 or not, but the Federal Reserve Act was in 1913.

    Grayson: awright -And at that time the entire GNP of this country was well under half a trillion dollars-wasn’t it?

    Bernanke: I don’t know.

    Grayson: Is it safe to say that nobody in 1913 contemplated that your small little group of people would hand out foreigners?

    Bernanke: This particular authority’s been used numerous times over the years.

    Grayson: well -actually, according to the chart on page 28 virtually the entire amount that’s reflected in your current balance sheet went out starting in the last quarter or 2007, and before that going back to the beginning of this chart the amount of lending was zero 0 to foreigners.

    Bernanke: It was zero before the crises. Yeh. This was part of the process working with other central banks to –again –to try to get dollar money markets working normally in the global economy.

    *The 14 central banks referred to are:
    European Central Bank and the Swiss National Bank, the Reserve Bank of Australia, the Banco Central do Brasil, the Bank of Canada, Denmarks National bank, the Bank of England, the European Central Bank, the Bank of Japan, the Bank of Korea, the Banco de Mexico, the Reserve Bank of New Zealand, Norges Bank, the Monetary Authority of Singapore, Sveriges Riksbank.

    LeeAnne: Apologies for this comment on another post by mistake

  33. LeeAnne


    Grayson: Well, let’s talk about that. Do you think its consistent with the spirit of that provision of the Constitution for a group like the FOMC to hand out a half a trillion dollars to –foreigners? –without any action by this Congress?

  34. Richard

    I find the claims that the tea-party protesters were launched by the “plutocrats” laughable. As for the claim that the media coverage proves it, that’s really a howler!

    Considering the size of the march it recieved less coverage than many other rallies. The million man march, the million mom march and even the ANSWER rally were all covered start to finish on C-SPAN and were convered incessently on CNN, NBC, ABC et. al. Only FOX covered the Tea Party as real and important. The other networks spent time calling the protesters names, mischaracterizing the event, and being snide.

    The protesters for their part are protesting the elites. Many of the signs pointedly called out the networks and news organizations. (“Can you hear us now?”)

    It’s sad that the same people looking for a middle class uprising, such as the author, are unwilling to see the one brewing in front of their faces because of ideological blinders and cultural prejudices.

    Guess what: if the middle class does revolt in larger numbers it’s not going to be to support gay marraige, or the rights of transvestites, or to support UN environmental mandates.

    Lighthouse is correct: successful protests in the civil rights era took decades. The ground is being laid now for an uprising from the middle. Hopefully a few more of you can step outside the room full of mirrors you inhabit and see it before it is here.

    1. Anonymous Jones

      “Laughable” seems a little extreme to me. Although I can see why no one should reflexively just ignore the Tea Party protests because of the association with Fox News, it is not entirely irrational to be leery of the Tea Party protests as a true “middle class” movement. It is inherent in the name Tea Party that the protesters have at least some anti-tax leanings, and there seems to be a long history in this country of the elite fooling the middle class by fomenting their rage with anti-tax messages and then only cutting the wealthy’s taxes to any material extent.

      For instance, I am confused as to why any middle class person should vote for a politician who expends effort trying to completely repeal the estate tax. Yes, maybe the voter is terribly sad for the unfair taxes placed upon the inheritance of wealth (in excess of the huge exemption amounts), but honestly, this seems ridiculous with all the other priorities and unfair abuses on which politicians could focus their time.

      I will try not to be unfairly prejudicial against any one individual at the Tea Party protests, but at the same time, I will continue to have my doubts that as a group they will not be duped by the elites once again and trade $1 in tax savings for $1000 less in government services, leaving us a world with even more wealth disparity, even more political power concentrated in the few, and and even more problems of relative consumption, crime and decay. If the Tea Party protests are the real middle class movement, then I fear we’ve already lost.

      [Of course, I’m an elite so I’m probably just saying all this because I’m trying to fool you. My liberal desire for checks on power and a healthy, targeted amount of wealth redistribution (through taxation and utilitarian collective spending) from myself and my friends in the top 1% is a secret Trojan Horse meant to introduce socialism that will further subjugate you and the rest of the middle class and somehow leave me more wealthy on a relative basis. You really shouldn’t dismiss this possibility.]

      Finally, with all due respect, google “straw man argument” and then reconsider the line about transvestites.

  35. Jim

    Some of the comments above have begun to grapple with the issue of the “left/right” divide in the middle class as being an important barrier to the building of a cohesive movemnt against the gov./finance oligarchy.

    The quotations which Down South and others have presented from Martin Luther King begin to get at this issue in a positive way. It was always clear from King’s spiritual language that an experiential reality for him was that there were transcendent forces in his life which were superior to self.

    This perspective united people politically. It also provided the necessary internal discipline for non-violence. It said to people, sometimes implicitly, sometimes more explicitly, that our goal is to change the social structure but we are going to do it in such a way that will try to minimize the inevitable cruelty of the conflict–because in some way we are all sinners.

    “A revolution is coming in both the social order and the human mind.” One without the other will not work and if both are operable we may be able to overcome the “left/right” middle class divide.

    1. JTFaraday

      I get what you’re saying, but I think it will be hard to build any kind of mass movement that crosses the “partisan” divide by coming through almost anything at all involving the 1960s, as those movements do seem to have had much to do with the cultural pre-occupations of both Parties, as well as their capacity–nay, eagerness!– to build whole election campaigns around them, thereby enabling them to avoid all of the issues that have prompted us to have this very conversation.

      As a result, all too many people today think that politics consists in nothing more than bashing demographic stick figures that barely exist in reality, but with which people identify nevertheless.

      Which is why–as it’s come up on this site more than once–I don’t bash the teabaggers. I believe people participating in that exceed their organizers. Why would I want to alienate them? And as far as taxes are concerned–h*** no, I’m not a fool. I don’t want to pay them right now either!

  36. EAnderson

    I took the first step towards closing my BOA business and personal accounts today by opening accounts at a small local savings bank within biking distance of my house. Starve the beast!

    1. bd

      I am going to close my accounts that I have with one of the majors this week. I just paid off a credit card balance last week. Fortunately, I didn’t buy a home within the last 10 years, so no p&i, taxes and insurance on that. I’m paying everything in cash or debit card.

      1. catkiller


        ding, ding, ding.

        more winners.

        now if they can just convert non-performing assets from the old economy into performing assets in the new economy.

  37. bobn

    It’s really a mish-mash. Michael Moore interviewing Elisabeth Warren may produce good results, but in “Bowling for Columbine”, Moore produces lies repeatedly about guns and gunowners.

    And Dean Baker is the kind of idiot who writes as though he believes the Social Security Trust Fund contains real assets – not just IOUs of the government, to the governement, the government put there in place of the money they instead spent.

  38. W. M. Hevr

    We do not need a Constitutional convention, radical or otherwise. However, we need to re-read the one we have and abide by it!
    Our Judges should stop the interpretation of our Constitution and enforce what is so plainly writen!

    Thank you.

  39. Frank Wilson

    Obama The Betrayer. Slayer of Constitutional Rights. Oppressor of the Oppressed.
    Forced Payments for anything is EXTORTION plain and simple.
    Health/ Auto/ Now forced payments to exercise the 2/cd amendment rights. What does the I.R.S. have to do with gun ownership? What’s next, Where we go to church or work.
    It is time for the Citizens the United States of America to take back the control of the United States. It’s time to give the United States an Enema from the white house down to the local council person.To do this you must take control of what gives the U.S. it’s power.YOUR MONEY. Simplify your life. Don’t spend more than you can pay cash for, close your credit cards, bank accounts, pay CASH for everything possible.If you cant pay cash for it, it is very likely you don’t need it.

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