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The Wall Street Spring

© Lalo Alcaraz

What took us so long?



  1. PatriotSGT wrote:

    What I really think? I don’t understand the why people are mad at Wall St. I think their anger is misdirected. As a whole, has Wall Street “ie. the New York stock exchange” done anything illegal? Now some firms that reside in the neighborhood could have abused some moral or ethical norms, but what laws did they break? Why arn’t the people mad at DOJ, POTUS, or Congress? If they broke laws and are getting away with it, then Holder should be fired. If Holder was told by POTUS not to prosecute, then POTUS should be impeached. If Congress doesn’t have laws on the books to reign in the behavior, then be mad at them and replace them, all of them. All these protesters should be in DC.
    IK, you know as a corporate head your loyalties lie to your customers, investors and employees, not the government. If your selling a product, whether it be a widget or paper that owns a widget the consumers (ie. protesters for one) can choose to buy or not buy said widgets. As the head of the widget company your job is to make money and that implies making a widget people want at a price they feel is fair so you can make a profit.
    Now look at Buffet, Mr. I should be taxed more. Problem is he doesn’t have wages from ordinary income, so raising his tax rate won’t make him pay one more dime in taxes, so of course he’s for it. His earnings come from capital gains. He also owes about 1 billion in back taxes and continues fighting with a legion of lawyers to avoid “paying his fair share”. Hypocrisy at its finest.
    For those interested in how corporations avoid paying US taxes and why, here is a fairly easy to understand link thats about Google, but spells it out for all Corps:

    In essence they are following the law and we are a nation of laws.
    The protesters are mad at the wrong people.

    Friday, October 14, 2011 at 8:50 am | Permalink
  2. Dan wrote:

    Well, it wasn’t the government that created the derivatives market and then used them to steal pension funds and the life savings of Americans that actually have to work for a living. It isn’t government officials that pay millions of dollars (but they took the money) to make sure the market was deregulated, and it wasn’t the present administration that did the deregulating, that started a 30 years ago. Unfortunately, Wall Street is able to hold the nation hostage, and with the Citizens decision, the richest among us (CEOs) can now buy an election using company funds that belong to all the stock holders, even if those stock holders have different political views.

    Friday, October 14, 2011 at 10:02 am | Permalink
  3. PatriotSGT wrote:

    Dan, it is however Government that regulates all securities transactions. It was government that bailed big firms out and it was the present administration that filed ZERO charges or complaints against the alleged criminals. It is the legislature and administration who gladly takes those big corporate donations as well.
    Again, we are blaming the wrong people.

    Friday, October 14, 2011 at 10:58 am | Permalink
  4. Duckman wrote:

    Took so long because americans are lazy with the attention span of a goldfish

    Friday, October 14, 2011 at 11:32 am | Permalink
  5. PatriotSGT wrote:

    Here’s an update to back up my point:

    Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner suggested Friday that a new round of “dramatic enforcement actions” against Wall Street wrongdoing is coming.

    “Stay tuned for that,” Geithner said.

    Apparantly, the “occupiers” have finally caused the government to get off its A$$ and do something.

    Friday, October 14, 2011 at 11:44 am | Permalink
  6. Falkelord wrote:

    @Patriotsgt The anger is being directed not at the government because they are not the root of the problem. The problem with the downfall of the economy lies within the misleading ways the wall street bankers conducted their businesses. Since the government is already in the pocket of the banks that received the bailouts (“Hey man, we pay you all this campaign money, so tit for tat”), these people are instead going for the throat.

    They’re protesting these bankers who conducted business practices they KNEW were shady and could result in a loss (too big to fail), conducted them anyway, and when they lost, instead of sucking it up like a big boy like all real companies do in a TRUE FREE MARKET ECONOMY (that’s what America is, right?) i.e. Bush Capitalism, they came crying home to get saved. But instead of using those funds to save their employees and bottom line, they pocketed these wild profits and bonuses while laying off record numbers. So instead of that bailout money going to continue paying workers, they instead would rather continue their lifestyles while those people could no longer be paid.

    These people are brilliant and shouldn’t be made fun of. They see the real problem lies not within the government’s laws, the structure, the system, and entire big picture. They see the problem are these “people” (read: corporations) are the problem. Government is not the problem, it is the solution. And the people are the government.

    Don’t forget, the squeaky wheel gets the grease. These people are getting to big to ignore, and something is going to happen. And I can’t wait to see what happens.

    Friday, October 14, 2011 at 12:20 pm | Permalink
  7. Iron Knee wrote:

    PatriotSgt, you answer your own point. First of all, who says that the OWS protests are angry at Wall Street only? They are angry that we aren’t doing something about the excessive greed of the banks. And if indeed the wall street protests are prompting action against the worst excesses of the banks, then they are just what we needed. I think the main point is that for many of the protestors, they don’t see any difference between the government and wall street.

    You should watch the documentary “Inside Job” and then tell me that the banks didn’t break any laws. Hah!

    In defense of Warren Buffett, he often says that capital gains should be taxed more. And saying that tax rates on the rich should be higher but then taking advantage of those low tax rates on your own wealth is NOT hypocrisy. Business is competitive.

    And Buffett does not owe any money in back taxes. His company Berkshire Hathaway filed and paid its taxes, but the IRS disputed some of the numbers and proposed some adjustments. They are still negotiating on what are the right numbers.

    Friday, October 14, 2011 at 12:25 pm | Permalink
  8. PatriotSGT wrote:

    IK – You also back up my point when you say “then tell me that the banks didn’t break any laws”. If they broke laws, why no indictments? Answer is politicians are in their pocket. They contributed their way out of legal trouble and the current administration has only done enough to minimally appease. If there had been an all out assault on the greedy for laws they broke, then people would have more confidence.
    On the excessive greed, yeah I buy that, but is it against the law? If I choose not to give back through charitable contributions its not breaking the law. Parking my assets off shore is not against the law. Filing a false claim on my tax return is breaking the law and again government is in charge of writing those laws.
    Wow – are you protecting the greedy Buffet and his BH company.
    Here’s some links since you obviously don’t have the whole picture. How can you be against other Corps sheltering billions from taxation and be for Buffet doing the same thing… friend of the POTUS status gets favored treatment I suppose. If Buffet wants to pay more there has been nothing stopping him from writing a check. Instead he fights it tooth and nail. It is Hypocrisy just not favorable to the political consequences, thats all.

    If you hadn’t been such a advocate against the big greedy corps and people in the past but now want to defend Buffet, perhaps I’d give you some props on the issue.

    Friday, October 14, 2011 at 1:09 pm | Permalink
  9. PatriotSGT wrote:

    Falkelord- “They see the real problem lies not within the government’s laws, the structure, the system, and entire big picture. They see the problem are these “people” (read: corporations) are the problem.”

    As IK says, it’s not bad to use the existing laws, written and enforced, by government to make money. If the Government says you can do it, then its OK. Right? Stop criticizing Berkshire Hathaway or IK will get mad at you. He’ll say something like “then taking advantage of those low tax rates on your own wealth is NOT hypocrisy. Business is competitive.”

    Can’t have it both ways gentlemen. It can’t be OK for some because they like the POTUS and bad for others who don’t. Thats politics, not policy and its why we have such a problem in government. Too much of one and not enough of the other.

    Friday, October 14, 2011 at 1:15 pm | Permalink
  10. Michael wrote:

    I haven’t had time to read all the posts here, but I wanted to toss in a link that might be of interest: Matt Taibbi’s excellent article regarding the powerless SEC. The SEC is underfunded (can’t pay enough to hire good investigators) and those at the top typically have a revolving door with the industry they are supposed to regulate.

    On the one hand, sure, I’m angry with Congress and the President for not doing more. But seriously, can they really? Any politician that takes a bold stance, like preventing a former regulator from entering that industry for 5 years, would lose. Badly. Those at the heads of the Wall St. firms have so much money that they would inundate the airwaves during that person’s next election. Just look what happened to one of the few senators who actually had done work to try to regulate some of these industries. His name is Russ Feingold.

    Friday, October 14, 2011 at 1:38 pm | Permalink
  11. Anonymous wrote:

    Michael – I agree, and perhaps these demonstrations will give congress and others the backbone to do something. Perhaps if these folks started posting ads with how much money elected officials get from Wall St, and that in turn resulted in fewer votes they might realize the error of their ways and legislate and vote for whats right.

    Friday, October 14, 2011 at 3:52 pm | Permalink
  12. Don wrote:

    PSgt, Let me be the first, then, to say I’m pretty pissed at the whole friggen mess. The banks are going to gore the people every chance they get until someone puts an end to it. The gubmint is seriously understaffed and, more so, outgunned by the big banks. Gubmint should be cracking down on those they are paid to oversee, but, and I’m making an educated guess here, are always going to be one step behind the gorers because they (the gorers) consistently come up with new ways to gore others and keep their million/billion dollar bonuses (I do have a solution for this, by the way -> split up the banking/investment/insurance business as it used to be). Congress? ‘Publicans are in the back pockets of thems with money (read big banks, military/industrial powerhouses) and have sold their souls to that group and the Democrats are far enough into their front pockets that they’re pretty much ineffective.

    I’m pretty sure you can find folks representing all these views camping out in New York and Denver and San Francisco and Seattle. Wall Street is the front man for giant businesses, giant banks, the insurance industry, and the creators of mock money-making instruments – not just the stock trading institutions.

    So, am I mad at DOJ? Damn straight. Mad at the SEC? You bet. Ticked off at Congress? Without a doubt. But to my mind, the folks really controlling what is going on in this country are represented by this front man, Wall Street. They’re the greedy, selfish bastards that are caught up in the Ayn Rand school of illogic and inhumanity who will do whatever is necessary to maintain their positions of control. Small and medium businesses worry about their customers. Big businesses, for the most part, don’t. They just worry about those that might restrict them from doing whatever they want to do to increase their wealth and power.

    Warren Buffet? An old billionaire who may be experiencing his Pulitzer or Carnegie moment and looking for a way to give back to the rest of us some of his “hard-earned” booty? Actually, I think he’s more than that, but it’s an easy out.

    Weird thing to me? That the Teaists aren’t camping on Wall Street, too. Many of the sparks that have generated OSW and early Teaism angst share very similar genes. Both are very much about “the man” stepping on the little guy. Only real difference is that the Teaists think it’s gubmint’s fault and the OSWers pretty much think its the 1%’s fault. Lot of common ground between the two until you look at what the early Teaists have become; a tool of the very rich making them now part of the problem, no longer part of the solution.

    Friday, October 14, 2011 at 4:15 pm | Permalink
  13. Arthanyel wrote:

    OWS is not just focused on Wall Street. They want economic justice, which means ending the plutocracy (government of the wealthy, by the wealthy, and for the wealthy) and returning to democracy (government of the people, by the people, and for the people). Over the last 30 years the 99% have had their wages and wealth stagnate or drop, while the top 1% have increased their wealth by more than 80%. The 1% have been gambling with the money of the 99%, and rigging the system so that if they win they keep the profits but if they lose they stick the 99% with the bill.

    OWS is not saying we shouldn’t have capitalism – they are saying we SHOULD have capitalism, not a plutocracy. That government should regulate the wealthy so that they are not allowed to take risks with other people’s money and avoid the penalties when they lose it. And the people that destroyed 20% of the nation’s wealth and got away scot free should be prosecuted.

    Friday, October 14, 2011 at 4:22 pm | Permalink
  14. Falkelord wrote:

    Patriotsgt, the problem stopping Buffet from donating larger chunks of his income is that it isn’t going to do a damn thing. The reason he’s fighting it tooth and nail is so that EVERYONE will be forced to pay the same thing.

    You can’t lie on a bed of nails that only has one nail. But if you lay out 500 nails, your weight is more evenly supported. It’s the same principle here; nothing is stopping him from paying more, but he wants his 1040 to demand it from him (and everyone like him) so that it’s not just one man “donating” more money to the government. More money to the pot. Would you rather have an extra million or a few extra billion?

    There is a very fine line between accident and fraud.

    Fraud is the intentional misleading for (personal) gain.

    Accident means that it seemed like a good idea and it wasn’t, and you had no knowledge one way or the other.

    Warren Buffet shouldn’t have to be the only person to stand up and thank America for making him so rich. He knows it and so does everyone else. He’s just the first to start calling everyone’s bluff though.

    Here’s a take-home exercise. This is the legal definition of “fraud”, which requires 9 criteria to prove its case. Let’s examine them, shall we?

    1. a representation of an existing fact;
    Mortgages are valuable and they’re worth lots of money. The more you can get, the more money you’re going to make.

    2. its materiality;
    See above, housing prices began to rise in price and banks took big advantage of large credit markets. This is fact. Lots of people wanted houses and were willing to pay anything to get one. But sometimes poorer folks couldn’t qualify for loans. But that’s ok, because all banks are in a win-win: if they lend to the poor, they get paid and if they don’t get paid, they get a house which is worth SO MUCH MONEY BECAUSE THE PRICE JUST KEEPS GOING UP AND UP AND THERE’S ALWAYS GOING TO BE SOME OTHER SUCKER TO SELL THE HOUSE TO!

    3. its falsity;
    In reality, while these banks were lending to people without checking for repayment ability, among other things (sub-prime mortgages), the price of houses began to peak and this would also be evident to anyone that knows eventually, there will be no demand for those defaulted houses after those that can pay for them already own them. Additionally, the fact that they knew that if the sub-prime holders didn’t repay their loans, they got a house shows the banks KNEW there were people who would default. So tell someone they can get something they can never and will never be able to afford because either way, you get paid or you get a house. Cool. Story. Bro. Try this again in real life and you’ll be arrested so quick, Bernie Madoff would laugh.

    4. the speaker’s knowledge of its falsity;

    Oh how weird, look at that. The founder, chairman, and CEO of a company that got bought out as it was failing by Bank of America notes that “the 100% loan-to-value mortgage is the MOST TOXIC” thing he has ever encountered. IN 2006. 2 whole years before. And yet the company kept doing it. Have you ever seen someone so stupid to look in the barrel of a gun when he’s told it’s a telescope?

    5. the speaker’s intent that it shall be acted upon by the plaintiff;

    6. plaintiff’s ignorance of its falsity;
    These people were not told they were being used for money. They didn’t even know what a sub-prime mortgage was. Or what it meant. Or how risky it was. It’s true that they may not have had the money to keep paying for these mortgages when they took the loan terms (and it could be argued that they shouldn’t have even done it anyway) but intentionally lying to poorer people with the promise of a home of their own in order to make money? That’s low. But they did it anyway.

    7. plaintiff’s reliance on the truth of the representation;
    See above, these poor folk were assured that they could have a house of their own AND they could afford it! Why wouldn’t you take a deal like that, especially if you don’t have such great credit (and are thus statistically more likely to believe this claim)?

    8. plaintiff’s right to rely upon it;
    See above, “it’s too good to be true!”, “the house of my dreams!”, “this bank gave me my house!”

    9. and consequent damages suffered by plaintiff.

    What the banks did was fraud. Fraud fraud fraud fraud. What Bernie Madoff did was two-fold: One part was legal and the other was not. He took money from folks under the impression that it would be invested. That’s legal, you can do that. What he did instead with the money is not legal. The banks created sub-prime mortgages. That’s legal, because there’s no law against it either. But what they did with the money intentionally knowing that the assets were doomed to fail shows both a lack of foresight and a lack of understanding of even the most basic principles of their own industry.

    Friday, October 14, 2011 at 4:43 pm | Permalink
  15. Iron Knee wrote:

    PatriotSgt, I was not arguing over whether the current problems are the fault of Wall Street or the government, I was just saying that the distinction is a red herring designed to distract people from the real problem. I don’t care if the problem is with the rich and powerful on Wall Street or with their wholly owned politicians. I just want the problem fixed.

    Saying “you are mad at the wrong person” implies that the person who is mad is wrong and thus is a thinly veiled attempt to defuse the anger. And yet we are seeing that the anger expressed by the OWS crowd does help solve the problem. So stop worrying about whose fault it is, and get with the program!

    And the two links you provided in comment #8 are pitiful. Even the headline gives it away “Warren Buffet May Owe A Billion Dollars In Back Taxes”. Not “does owe”, but “may owe”. I agree with Falkelord — this is just a slime against Buffett designed to distract you from the real issue.

    Friday, October 14, 2011 at 5:14 pm | Permalink
  16. Michael wrote:

    It seems that we’re all in agreement that there’s fault with both the government and Wall Street. So who should we be mad at? Let’s look at an analogy using a different crime.

    Consider a celebrity accused of murder. Let’s call him JO Smipson. While there is significant evidence that he did it and everybody is sure he did it, he walked scot free. So should we be more angry at him for committing murder or the government (police, DA, etc.) for failing to convict him? Is failure to serve justice really worse than committing a crime?

    (For the record, I don’t really care if OJ did it or not, but it makes a nice example…)

    Friday, October 14, 2011 at 8:07 pm | Permalink
  17. effisland wrote:

    Falkelord, Michael, Patriotsg, IK all great points and provocative thinking. I especially like the definition of fraud, and the OJ analogy topped it all off. Just because whatever got us into this mess was not deemed an indictable offence doesn’t make it right. I believe the president said something to the effect of ‘it might not have been illegal but it was not moral’.

    Beyond the confusion about the OWS phenomenon, their stated purpose and who is responsible for what, consider this:

    – government and corporations are working together in a back scratching orgy. Consider that lobbying for campaigns during the 2008 election reached an all-time high of more than $ 1 billion government

    This to me is just one of the many sources of evidence that simply illustrates that the democratic system the fucked, clear and simple. Really, it’s not necessary to get into more links. This says it all.

    For the people who say that our democracy means we can elect people to fix the problem are living with their heads in the sand. No, truly the government is part of the problem – regardless of their party politics. It’s rigged, pure and simple. And the chance of anyone fit enough to fix it having the money to compete at the financial level required to play the game means they will already have checked their morals at the door – sorry, and regardless of what he promised and the cachet of points built up during the campaign, Obama is included as ‘one of them’ – compromised.

    If the only thing that comes out of these demonstrations in the short term is some elucidation of the democratic and corporate systems then we will have made a lot more progress than any other movement in the last 50 years.

    Friday, October 14, 2011 at 10:50 pm | Permalink
  18. ebdoug wrote:

    SNOWBALL: To defend Warren Buffett. Buffett was not interested in money itself, it was the making of money that interested him. Pulling the lever of the machine and seeing it hit the jackpot. Not “what am I going to do with this money, buy a Rolls, etc”) His thrill is in making the money. He wants the rich to pay their fair share. Over 46% of the people who had incomes over 250K voted for Obama, knowing that their taxes were going up to help right the country. 41% over 250K voted for McCain. I who get dividends want to pay more taxes. I who pay capital gains want to pay more taxes to right the country. This is the country my family came to in the early 1600s.

    When we hear that 60% of the assets of this country are in the banks, what do we glean from this? Sixty percent of the wealth of this country is not in circulation. Tied up by the rich for the rich. We have to have wealth redistribution. We have to Robin Hood, take from the rich to put in circulation. We have to raise the tax rate on the CEO so taxes take more of his money to put in circulation. I’ve been singing the same redistribution song since 2002 when Bush lowered the taxes on Capital gains and dividends.

    I’ve really been screaming(many times on this site) when I did my 2008 tax return, finding I had a 20K income and had no tax obligation, while my client who has to work had her 12K income and was a Federal Income tax payer. Mine was from dividends and capital gains. Hers, she had to work for. (now that I’m retired I do her return for free)

    When people defend the rich, remember there are many rich who have never worked,just spend time watch their portfolio. The inherited money.

    Remember Buffett after amassing his wealth, then gave it to his now deceased wife Suzie to redistribute among the less fortunate. He gave it to his two sisters to do the same. He has the ability of amassing wealth, then puts it back into circulation. Anyone of us has equal opportunity to amass wealth. It is the conscious responsibility to redistribute it. His only extravagance is his corporate jet company. Read SNOWBALL

    Saturday, October 15, 2011 at 9:05 am | Permalink
  19. Falkelord wrote:

    @Don by the way, from what I’m hearing, a lot of teasists are distancing themselves from this protest (for good reason, I hope they don’t muddle this movement into something worse). But the odd occurrence is that not only are liberal protesters showing their face, but libertarians, populists, and conservatives are showing their face (albeit the last in fewer numbers). It shows to me that this sentiment is nationwide and not just restricted to an ideological corner such as the ones the tea baggers occupy. Just adding my 2cents. 😀

    Saturday, October 15, 2011 at 2:51 pm | Permalink
  20. PatriotSgt wrote:

    Alcon- I am mad at the financial crisis along with the complete irresponsibilty and greed that exists. I don’t believe the banks should have been bailed out, not one dime. I don’t think GM should have been bailed out. Good business models survive, bad ones die, it happens all the time. G’mint is trying to pick winners and they’re not in that business. G’mint tacitly if not completely cuased the housing crisis. They began in the nineties to lower the bar for mortgages so “everyone” could own a home. Never gonna happen. If anyone thinks they didn’t, why are the lending rules so much tighter now?
    Buffet’s not a bad guy, but I don’t buy the he’s waiting to pay more tax until the G’mint forces him to stuff. What ever happened to “lead by exammple”. If he did that then no one could question his motives or integrity or sincerity. It’s the old saying, actions speak loder then words. If we use the analogy that he’s waiting for G’mint to force hom to pay, then the same could be said of Wall St. Their waiting for the G’mint to force them into compliance or regulate them into compliance and therefore they are not at fault. (how’s that for a sour taste)
    I’ve been watching the movement evolve and they are beginning to more clearly define their message. As long as the weirdo’s or anarchists don’t highjack the message I believe some good change may result.

    Monday, October 17, 2011 at 8:32 am | Permalink
  21. Iron Knee wrote:

    PatriotSgt, I just want to say that while I may disagree with you some of the time, I respect your opinions and enjoy you as a contributor to this website. If nothing else, you help keep me honest and don’t let me get away with sloppy thinking.

    Monday, October 17, 2011 at 9:14 am | Permalink
  22. Arthanyel wrote:

    PSgt – why should Buffet or any other rich person voluntarily carry the dead weight of the Koch brothers? (And boy, that is a lot of dead weight). For taxation to be “fair” it has to be applied equally to each impacted group, and that’s all Buffet is asking for – even handedness, and to stop borrowing money from China to give rich people a tax deduction.

    Monday, October 17, 2011 at 1:20 pm | Permalink