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Wall Street Vs. Everybody PDF Print E-mail
Commentary/Politics - Guest Commentaries
Written by Linh Dinh   
Thursday, 29 September 2011 07:37

(Editor’s note: A related commentary, “#OccupyWallStreet Is More Than a Hashtag. It’s Revolution in Formation,” can be found here.)

An Occupy Wall Street protester in front of three police officers. Photo by Linh Dinh.

Wall Street got drunk […] It got drunk and now it’s got a hangover.” – George W. Bush

As usual, Bush got it wrong. Wall Street soberly and cynically got the rest of us drunk on dreams of home ownership, a robust stock portfolio, and a cozy retirement. This slurry bacchanal was fueled by the housing bubble and, when that exploded in our faces, bailouts saved Wall Street from any hangover, so it’s us who will suffer through a torturous, decades-long headache of a ruined economy.

But who are us, exactly? Us are the poor and the middle class, unions, retirement funds, and governments at all levels – federal, state, and city. Us are 99 percent, according to the mostly young protesters at Liberty Park in New York City. (Dubbed “Occupy Wall Street,” this encampment in the financial district began on September 17 and, until videos of police brutality hit the Web, had gone largely unreported in the mainstream media.)

Nearly everyone got ripped off, including the cops guarding these protesters. As a protest sign sweetly and innocently demands: “Say Sorry! To All of Us!”

After more than a week of protest, more than a hundred people have already been arrested. Several have been roughed up, with cops being caught on still and video cameras pepper-spraying or yanking the hair of young women, or slamming people to the ground. Sadly, these cops are fighting against their own interest. Bankrupted by Wall Street, cities all over America are laying off policemen left and right. Why defend the crooks of Wall Street, cops, when they have directly caused many of your colleagues to be thrown onto the streets? When you yourself may end up on a park bench in the near future?

The conflict between cops and protesters can be partly attributed to a clash of styles, to the eternal jocks-vs.-freaks dichotomy, but dear policemen, these young people are actually on your side. In spite of their colorful or eccentric clothing, odd haircuts, tattoos, or piercings, they are fighting for you, too. To their credit, the protesters have made overtures to these cops by offering them coffee and water, but the cops, keen to maintain separation, have declined.

During the massive protest at Tiananmen Square, there was initially much fraternization between protesters and soldiers. They conversed, established common cause, and did not wish to harm each other, so the government had to truck in troops from distant provinces, many of them not even Han Chinese, to commit the massacre. Also, in that famous photo of the protester who stopped a line of tanks, recall the restraint of that tank driver. Though trained and brought in to kill, this soldier couldn’t do it, at least in that instance.

With these Wall Street skirmishes, and many more battles to come, one has to hope for that solidarity and fraternization. Though the belligerent will always gravitate toward jobs that allow them access to weapons, incorrigible psychotics are relatively few, for even in a gung-ho uniform, most men aren’t overeager to inflict pains on another. In fact, before the Vietnam War, most soldiers did not even fire their rifles during battles, though improved reflexive trainings have “corrected” this natural reluctance to kill. United we must stand – Americans, clean-cut cops, and tattooed protesters alike – against that destroyer of America, Wall Street.

Last week, there was a New York City protest against cuts to the public schools. It took place at Tweed Courthouse, only half a mile from the Occupy Wall Street rally, but unlike the anti-Wall Street activists, these protesters were mostly above 35 years old, with many of them black or Hispanic. It would have been wonderful had these public-school teachers marched over to the Wall Street protest, for it is precisely Wall Street that has bankrupted their state and city, putting their jobs in jeopardy. Dear teachers, do join these brave young protesters, because Wall Street is also your enemy. Dearest everybody, Wall Street is the vampire who’s draining blood from all of our bodies.

Linh Dinh is a poet, fiction writer, and photographer. His blog is State of the Union (

Comments (2)Add Comment
Wall Street is Everybody
written by Ken Kozol, October 08, 2011
Linh Dinh, what are really saying?
You rambling and fact-less blog assumes that “wall street” (no definition provided) is guilty as charged in the court of street opinion. You seem to relish the actual protests much more than the reasons. The fact is the so-called wall street protestors have no solutions, no purpose, only general venting of frustration with the lack of jobs and prosperity in the USA. I would direct their wrath to the Obama, Reid, Pelosi stooges, as the complete mismanagement of the crisis of 2008 is causing the problems today.

Who are the guilty parties anyway? You kindly absolve all those police and teachers working for the government with wages that far exceed anything available to the common Joe in the real world. The Bureau of Labor statistics and USA Today recently concluded that public workers are paid 20% more for the same work as private employees. That doesn’t include the lavish health benefits (no deductibles, no contributions) and early retirements. USA Today reported that the average benefits for public employees is $40,785 versus $9,882 for private. Don’t get me wrong. These people negotiated and obtained these wages and benefits “fair and square” using unionization, strikes and massive inside political influence. I personally don’t begrudge anybody their pay or what they can legally gain through risk and smarts. That is freedom in America.

However, I assume that you begrudge people that work on “wall street” for their smarts and risk taking? By not identifying who or what you are against, you simply create bogey men out of all bankers, lawyers, accountants, and all people working in finance. These people too are your neighbors and the coach at the local soccer team. How about American corporations? Are you against outfits like John Deere, Alcoa, and ADM? Should they be crushed under the boot of street protests and Obama regulation? How about the thousands of people that work for American corporations like Goldman Sachs, or BofA? Are they guilty of robbing your proletariat? What is the protestors’ next plan? Burn baby burn? Start killing innocent accountants and bank tellers like the protestors did in Greece? This, Mr. Dinh, is where such class warfare leads you. Just like any other demonization campaigns (like the Klan, anti-Semitism, or Homophobes) it always ends with violence and no progress.

The financial crash was not solely caused by irrational or greedy risk-takers at Lehman Brothers. It was built brick by brick by real estate speculators, home buyers, unions, pension funds managers, and investors of every sort looking to make a buck and not worrying about how the schemes worked. It was fueled by Federal and State governments distorting markets through mandates, bond sales, regulations, tax incentives, and unspoken assurances that the Fed will back it all up. We are a greedy lot. And yes, America has woken up to the fact that money, after all, doesn’t grow on trees or in Madoff’s ponzi schemes. Isn’t that what the wall street protestors are angry about anyway? Not having money?

Maybe we should start worrying about how we can get back to work and creating real value and wealth. The Obama administration surely has no clue in this debate. For three years, business, the only mechanism that can create lasting jobs, has been under relentless attack. It seems Obama thinks that corporations print their own money and don’t need to turn a profit or produce results. But judging by his past experience in politics it is not surprising, since that is exactly what his government does.

The current partisan campaign by the Obama leftists to single out big business and “millionaires” as the root of all evil proves kinship to the wall street angry. Class warfare and Chicago politics is all he knows. For a president that campaigned on inclusion, he and his minions have offered a very narrow and partisan view of Amerika. A view that any disagreement with his radical socialist / populist agenda is viewed as treason.
How dare we blame wall street for what they actually did! LOL
written by Thomas Cross, October 08, 2011
Here are the facts the right is claiming doesn't exist, and apparently every state in the U.S. claiming to be broke, cutting services, and firing people right after wall street crashed the economy and cried for a bailout in 08 was a figment of our imaginations. Stop lying people, the sham is over.
– Bank profits are highest since before the recession…: According to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., bank profits in the first quarter of this year were “the best for the industry since the $36.8 billion earned in the second quarter of 2007.” JP Morgan Chase is currently pulling in record profits.

– …even as the banks plan thousands of layoffs: Banks, including Bank of America, Barclays, Goldman Sachs, and Credit Suisse, are planning to lay off tens of thousands of workers.

– Banks make nearly one-third of total corporate profits: The financial sector accounts for about 30 percent of total corporate profits, which is actually down from before the financial crisis, when they made closer to 40 percent.

– Since 2008, the biggest banks have gotten bigger: Due to the failure of small competitors and mergers facilitated during the 2008 crisis, the nation’s biggest banks — including Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase, and Wells Fargo — are now bigger than they were pre-recession. Pre-crisis, the four biggest banks held 32 percent of total deposits; now they hold nearly 40 percent.

– The four biggest banks issue 50 percent of mortgages and 66 percent of credit cards: Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase, Wells Fargo and Citigroup issue one out of every two mortgages and nearly two out of every three credit cards in America.

– The 10 biggest banks hold 60 percent of bank assets: In the 1980s, the 10 biggest banks controlled 22 percent of total bank assets. Today, they control 60 percent.

– The six biggest banks hold assets equal to 63 percent of the country’s GDP: In 1995, the six biggest banks in the country held assets equal to about 17 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product. Now their assets equal 63 percent of GDP.

– The five biggest banks hold 95 percent of derivatives: Nearly the entire market in derivatives — the credit instruments that helped blow up some of the nation’s biggest banks as well as mega-insurer AIG — is dominated by just five firms: JP Morgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, Citibank, and Wells Fargo.

– Banks cost households nearly $20 trillion in wealth: Almost $20 trillion in wealth was destroyed by the Great Recession, and total family wealth is still down “$12.8 trillion (in 2011 dollars) from June 2007 — its last peak.”

– Big banks don’t lend to small businesses: The New Rules Project notes that the country’s 20 biggest banks “devote only 18 percent of their commercial loan portfolios to small business.”

– Big banks paid 5,000 bonuses of at least $1 million in 2008: According to the New York Attorney General’s office, “nine of the financial firms that were among the largest recipients of federal bailout money paid about 5,000 of their traders and bankers bonuses of more than $1 million apiece for 2008.”

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