Remember how in the first Wall Street movie Michael Douglas, while riding in a limo with Charlie Sheen, describes to him what it means to be rich. “I’m not talking about $400K working Wall Street stiff flying first class and being comfortable. I’m talking about being rich enough not to waste time” and then points a finger at a bum and a man in a suit on the sidewalk and says something like: there’s no difference between the two. I agree. There’s no difference between the current day protesters and most of the suits who’s commute the protesters are obstructing. Sure, one has a job, a house in New Jersey, health insurance, wife and 3 kids, the other – a sublet with roommates in Williamsburg, no job, no prospects and crushing student loans. What they don’t realize is that socially they are on the same side of the barricades, although the former associates oneself with his bosses rather than with those proletariats on the street. Our Wall Street Working Stiff (WSWS) is right to be upset and unhappy: he wakes up at 5, takes a long commute to work, takes shit from his boss, fends off vultures, pleases clients, worries about bonus and how not to get fired, goes home, takes shit from his wife, worries about mortgage and kids’ college fund and if he’s lucky he falls asleep without medicine. Day in and day out, year after year. And then to pile up on his already miserable existence he gets painted by all kinds of bums as being the culprit. That’ll make you angry.
You see “Wall Street” as a composite is about 99% guys like WSWS. They are the accountants, the compliance officers, the programmers, the analysts, the back office, the middle office and most of them wear suits to work. But the majority of them never had the imagination and the aptitude to come up with the stuff that brought this economy down. Those who did are long gone with nice packages. There are some still left but they don’t walk past the crowds downtown. They have limos waiting in the garage. But for the protesters every guy in a suit is a villain. They can’t tell a difference. I can. Only wannabes wear pinstripe suits and carry a briefcase. Whenever I see a guy like this I smell stiffness, platitudes and fear. The real rainmakers wear shirts with rolled-up sleeves and cheap shoes. And the “Wall Street” has long moved to midtown. Only the Fed and the Goldman is downtown now.
Now that I have defended, to the best of my abilities, Wall Street Working Stiffs I should say I support the protesters for finally channeling the anger of many to the right place. The “Wall Street” as an idea is still there and any attempts by politicians to rein it in so far have failed. Dodd-Frank, already toothless enough at the inception in order to be passed, has been made into a joke with amendments that favor the wrong guys. The bad guys will never go to jail as it’s almost impossible to indict them. Who? On what grounds? Creating mortgage-backed securities, while abominable, wasn’t illegal, selling them to “qualified” customers wasn’t either. Knowingly misleading the clients is such a weak case and everybody knows Goldman was doing it and yet Lloyd Blankfein still has his job.
The only thing clear now is that we’re all in this together. WSWS and hippie protesters are the 99%. Each group’s existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to the other, is a natural result of flawed policies. Both played by the rules and both feel, rightly, shortchanged. But instead of blaming each other they should turn their gaze and anger upwards. The kids occupying Wall Street seem to understand it. The WSWS – not yet.