There is an unfocused financial rage in the United States.

It was born in the late 1990s on an unholy trinity of accounting swindles, the dotcom collapse and analyst scandals. It grew on a housing boom and bust that created 5 million (and counting) foreclosures, leaving more than a quarter of bank financed homes worth less than their mortgages. It matured on a growing wealth disparity that eviscerated the middle class, and brought back the plutocracy of the 1920s. It reached its peak with the bailout of reckless bankers, who were rewarded for their irresponsibility with the greatest wealth transfer in human history.

And now, it seems to be finding a new voice with the movement known as Occupy Wall Street (OWS).

Like the Tea Party, OWS began as a loose collection of people who knew they were getting a raw economic deal — but were unsure as to precisely why. They both started with a surge of grassroots politics. Both tapped into the national zeitgeist, feeding on an unfocused economic angst. When the Tea Party first burst onto the national stage, I had high hopes they might address some of the persistent economic problems our two-party political system was ignoring. But the Tea Party tilted to the  right, shifting from the economic to the partisan. Obamacare and taxes – neither of which were responsible for a laundry list of economic woes facing the nation – became their focus.

That move created a vacuum. Since then, we have been waiting for a group of angry Americans to fill the void. It did not look like OWS was going to be the ones to do so. Especially with the way the Media was either ignoring them, or portraying them as a group of slacker hippies, fringe dwellers and kooks.

Credit the Daily Show with changing all that. Jon Stewart’s team surfaced a video of a senior NYPD officer pepper-spraying some young girls for no apparent reason. NYC may not be Libya, but that clip of abusive police behavior – and the young women collapsing in obvious agony – ramped up the mainstream coverage. What Rick Santelli’s infamous rant on CNBC did for the Tea Party, the NYPD pepper spray video did for the Wall Street protesters.

Now, the founders of OWS must consider what to do next. They surely do not want to let the momentum and energy dissipate. They see the Tea Party as hugely influential, but highly partisan, and up until now the Tea Party has been far less willing to criticize corporate interests than OWS.

The founders of OWS are aware of how the Tea Party was Jiu Jitsued by the existing GOP political establishment. OWS want to avoid a similar fate. Such an end could occur of the leaders of, a partisan Democratic group, gets their way. They have bulled their way into the media, pretending to speak for OWS. (The media are suckers for a simple narrative, and provides that).

Hence, OWS needs to demonstrate a few things: A clear leadership. A consistent message. But most importantly of all, some specific policy objectives.

To become as focused and influential as the Tea Party, what Occupy Wall Street needs a simple set of goals. Not a top 10 list — that’s too unwieldy, and too unfocused. Instead, a simple 3 part agenda, that responds to some very basic problems regardless of political party. It must address the key issues, have a specific legislative agenda, and finally, effect lasting change. By keeping it focused on the foibles of Wall Street, and on issues that actually matter, it can become a rallying cry for an angry nation.

I suggest the following three as achievable goals that will have a lasting impact:

1. No more bailouts: Bring back real capitalism
2. End TBTF banks
3. Get Wall Street Money out of legislative process

Let’s look at each of these in turn:

1. No more bailouts/Bring Back Real Capitalism!
The United States was once a capitalist system. Companies lived and died on their own successes. “Corporate Welfare” – the term coined by Wisconsin senator William Proxmire – came into being in 1971 with the bailout of Lockheed Aircraft. Thus began a run of corporatism and bailouts of connected companies, not capitalism. Some firms, less than successful in a competitive marketplace, chose instead to suckle at the teat of the public trough. Innovation, execution and hard work were replaced with lobbying, crony capitalism and bailouts of failure. Of course, all paid for by taxpayers.

“Socialism for bankers, wrenching capitalism for the working stiff” is not a slogan you are likely to see on a bumper sticker anytime soon. But that’s wht the US had morphed into.

America needs to end this system of spoils. There should be no more bailouts, no more crony capitalism, no more government determined winners and losers. We simply cannot live in a society of privatized gains and socialized losses.

2. End Too Big To Fail /Restore Competition
As George Shultz once said, “”If they’re too big to fail, make them smaller.”

The current economic approach of “Too Big to Fail” is itself a failure. It reduces economic competition, concentrates risk, and raises costs for consumers.

I agree with University of Missouri–Kansas City (UMKC) professor of Economics and Law William Black, who notes that the TBTF moniker is misleading. We should start calling these firms by the more accurate phrase “Systemically Dangerous Institutions” (SDIs). TBTF makes it sound like the size is the problem – in reality, the systemically, regardless of size, is what we should be focused on. SDI is an accurate phrase, and appropriately pejorative.

The TBTF size has brought a different set of problems: The bailouts have made the top 10 SDI an even bigger, less competitive oligarchy. We need to bring back competition by limiting the size of these firms. We can do that by capping their deposits, in terms of total percentage or a specific dollar amounts. There are many ways to accomplish this, including an FDIC caps on deposit insurance. And if the OWS people were smart, they would bring in former FDIC chair Sheila Bair (now private citizen) into the discussion.

3. Take Congress back from Wall Street
Whatever changes come, they will only be temporary if the current system of spoils is allowed to continue.

The Supreme Court has ruled repeatedly on campaign finance reform, finding against voters and in favor of corporate interests. The only way to take the government back is a Constitutional Amendment.

The United States has become a “corporatocracy.” Campaign finance and lobbying money has so utterly corrupted Congress that we might as well put elected officials up for bid on eBay – that is how corrupted the system has become. We have even seen the State Attorneys Generals become targets of aggressive lobbying, most recently in Florida. We must become a democracy again, where one man one vote matters. To do that, Wall Street money must be taken out of the process.

The only way to accomplish that goal and have it withstand Supreme Court review is a Constitutional Amendment, mandating public financing of Congressional elections and criminalizing the purchases of politicians. We need to marginalize lobbyists, and make voters the most important people in the nation (again).

A national campaign to get that amendment on every ballot in every state should be the objective.


You will note that these three goals are issues that both the Left and the Right — Libertarians and Liberals — should be able to agree upon. These are all doable measurable goals, that can have a real impact on legislation, the economy and taxes.

But amending the Constitution to eliminate dirty money from politics is an essential task. Failing to do that means backsliding from whatever gains are made. Whatever is accomplished will be temporary without campaign finance reform . . .

Category: Bailouts, Politics, Psychology, Wages & Income

Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance, unfamiliarity with empirical data and lack of respect for scientific knowledge. Be sure to create straw men and argue against things I have neither said nor implied. If you could repeat previously discredited memes or steer the conversation into irrelevant, off topic discussions, it would be appreciated. Lastly, kindly forgo all civility in your discourse . . . you are, after all, anonymous.

88 Responses to “Occupy Wall Street Must Occupy Congress, AG offices

  1. Note: This was supposed to be my WaPo column, but a scheduling snafu led to its being bumped

  2. philipat says:

    Agreed all. Plus,

    1. Public funding of elections. It’s a new cost BUT cheaper to society in the long run.
    2. Term liinits for ALL elected politicians.
    3. NO earmarks and a Presidential line item veto on all bills.
    4. Constitutional amendments to address all of the above, all of Barry’s items AND a balanced budget. As necessary.

  3. bcecil says:

    Hey kids there are some plans… big ones

    Occupy Wall Street’s Plans For A National Convention WILL Change The Face Of America Read more

  4. InterestedObserver says:

    @ philipat – I’d keep it at 3, add on just dilutes the message.

    I would move #3 to the front since money drives just about everything else in politics. Money clearly drives messaging access and without that, you really don’t even get to even compete for the votes when the stage gets sufficiently large – which now seems large city and above size-wise.


  5. ToNYC says:

    GetMoneyOut …by any means necessary. When the honor and the responsibility of acting as a representative of ones neighbors becomes a job to invest in, there is a social fraud.

  6. KentGeek says:

    I have some major misgivings with public campaign finance (while in no way denying the problem you want to solve). Won’t this just further entrench the control of the two “major” parties over our system? How can a third party or independent ever hope to get financed if those already in power control the only legal source of campaign funds?

  7. keithpiccirillo says:

    Citizenry has a very large table with too many plates to choose from in an ala carte world.
    OWS should be wary of being sold out/pacified, above goals obfuscated, and media report to masses the promise of future inappropriate target goals.

  8. solanic says:

    Barry – how can we squeeze in “the rule of law” ???

    One of the major failures has also been the SEC, DOJ, etc etc not enthusiastically investigating banksters for fraud, plus, the fact IF any one happens to be found guilty – they are not sent to Matt Taibbi’s “fuck me in the ass jail”.

    As you well know, if the 99% really believe the 1% is above the rule of law, society will undoubtedly lean toward breaking down even faster.

  9. BusSchDean says:

    BR: Absolutely agree

    Term limits? It depends on the length of the term. If too short people will use their political position to favor their friends to secure their next job (e.g., the governorship in Kentucky). A change in campaign financing might tilt favor away from the incumbent.

    Critical Process Issues:
    1) Accounting Rules that make finances transparent. FASB has clearly failed. All investors, the tax man, consumers, and society deserve accurate and transparent accounting of all publicly held companies — nothing off the books or hidden. Accurate information and valuation (as close as possible — and consistent) is key.

    2) Limit transfer pricing. Hiding profits from the tax man employs many, many accountants and lawyers. We need to limit the opportunities in this career path.

  10. krice2001 says:

    Well, Barry, when you’re on, you’re ON. And this is spot on. All of it.

    “The Supreme Court has ruled repeatedly on campaign finance reform, finding against voters and in favor of corporate interests. The only way to take the government back is a Constitutional Amendment.”

    It is critical to get this loose money out of our political system. But how? And with this current system, what could possibly overwhelm the lobbying money to allow this to happen? Could the Occupy Wall Street “movement” actually reach a point to have that kind of influence or power? What would have to happen for them to attain that level of influence?

    It is frustrating that there are so many of us in agreement with the kinds of changes that are necessary for both moral reasons and for the economic and political health of the country, yet we seem to have little influence and few options.

  11. HarleyDenis says:

    Excellent article, and your points match exactly what I was thinking last night as I read about the various demonstrations that are ongoing. Philipat adds several good suggestions but I fear they would dilute your top three. Your top three has a nice focus and if achieved, it would make a big difference.

    Regarding bailouts, I found the bailout of GM to be particularly egregious since the deal essentially handed over the company to the union. This transfer of wealth, while no different than the bank and AIG bailouts in terms of gouging the taxpayer, essentially benefited a small group of citizens to court their future votes in elections. The democrats have a long affair with the unions and this taxpayer funded “bailout” was nothing more than a bribe for future votes. The ultimate goal of the OWS movement, if it is to have any real long lasting effect is to eliminate Government’s use of public funds to benefit organized groups such as labor unions, lobbyists, and specific businesses at the expense of others, and to eliminate the practice of businesses donating money to elect their desired officials. True Democracy depends on the concept of one vote per one man with no undue influence created by powers outside the political machine itself. Once big money is allowed to buy candidates, the voter has little real choice because all the candidates are bought and paid for. A Constitutional Amendment requiring all elections to be publicly financed and criminalizing any acceptance of campaign money beyond a small personal donation would go a long way towards restoring the public’s political power.

    I can think of many other important issues, but the top three you listed would be a great start and would give the OWSers some focus and clout.

  12. CardiffGeordie says:

    I absolutely agree with everything you’ve written there. Spot on.

    But crony-capitalism and “corporate welfare” were around LONG before 1971. Mark Twain was writing about rampant corruption, crooked land speculation, and politicians being bought and sold back in 1873. Go read “The Gilded Age” (probably his best work, in my opinion), then ask yourself if anything has really changed in the past 100 years.

    The rot has been eating away at society for a long long time, and unfortunately I don’t think it will be easy to get rid of.

  13. Andre says:

    Dylan Rattigan’s drive for a constitutional amendment is good and I signed on for it, but I don’t think it goes far enough. Money should be taken out of all elections in this country. The electoral process and money should be forever and completely disjoined. The danger of letting the two work hand in hand must be forever enshrined in the US constitution. Great rally cry: GetMoneyOut

  14. Liminal Hack says:

    Disagree with the bit about ‘bring back real capitalism’. I think that’s your wish list BR, not that of the protesters. There is no case for identifying the anti-bailout position with capitalism. Even the socialists in OWS are against bailouts. Hell, most everyone is against bailouts.

    There is no place for -isms in a genuine non partisan movement. In any case, capitalism is in the eye of the beholder and the OWS itself is to diverse to agree on what capitalism is and isn’t, let along the rest of America.

    Back when America last felt good about itself, in the period 1950 to 1970, it wasn’t operating any form of real capitalism – in fact it was engaging in the state directed imposition of negative real rates to pay for WWII, and in deliberate repression of the banking system. It was also engaged in a decidedly non-capitalist imperial mission – no nation generating such a large amount of demand from the military-industrial complex as the USA did during the cold war could reasonably be termed a real capitalist state.

    People need to engage in debate about the future (and past) without dropping down the rat hole of emotive terminology like ‘real capitalism’.

    Anyway, real capitalism is doomed demographically in the long run. When “real capitalists” provide a scheme for running an economy with a massive overhang of elderly, a shortage of labour and falling populations round the world then it might be possible to take them a bit seriously.

  15. Henry says:

    In general, your three objectives are laudable, but they seem far closer to the agenda of the Tea Party as opposed to the leftists, hippies, artists and losers hanging out at Liberty Plaza (See my blog Excilrose for some ordinary images or go down to Zuccotti Park to see the group).

    One also has to consider what the alternative is to the financial sector controlling congress. The level of education in many fields here is extraordinarily low (as compared to Germany). Surely engineers and academics could have more influence, but it is more likely that individual “oligarchs” or the drug industry or the health care industry, retailers and other dubious professions would actually have greater influence as a result.

    Would that be better?

    That is the problem with Occupy Wall Street: What is the alternative???

  16. ilsm says:

    wall st owns congress, why go after the symptoms when the head is in the open?

  17. Jim67545 says:

    The reason OWS seems so unfocused is that there are sooooo many things malfunctioning that it is difficult to get agreement on where to start.

    On campaign funding, expecting the legislative, or apparently the judicial branches to move on this is a pipe dream. Maybe an amendment to the Constitution arising from the State level but there are legislative and judicial branches there too.

    In the short run we can expose the contributions. To the extent that awareness of the contributions hurts reelection chances, they become less desireable to the candidate. In the long run, I would suggest a third party (sort of like a trust account) hold all campaign contributions and withhold from the candidate who the contributors are. It could also impose limits, if limits are imposed.

    Also, a third party holding the funds would enable them to be returned to the donor if the candidate either underused the funds or resigned from their legislative position. The current situation where the candidate keeps unused funds is a golden parachute for incumbents.

  18. Fritz1234 says:

    Barry, Every policy post you have written in the last 5 years seems to be the articulation of the manifesto that OWS is lacking and seeking. Can we put you up to be the OWS head of communications? Heck, head of OWS? Your arguments and perscriptions are always clear and well-researched. You would be hugely creduble to the movement.

  19. dead hobo says:

    BR suggested:

    Hence, OWS needs to demonstrate a few things: A clear leadership. A consistent message. But most importantly of all, some specific policy objectives.

    At this very early stage of OWS existence, identifying a clear leadership and defining a specific message would be a mistake. It would create the foothold for a divide and conquer strategy and allow clever communicators to diminish and successfully ridicule the participants. Leaders can be corrupted, even populist ones, and sometimes they don’t even know they have been corrupted. Narrowing the scope of the protest at this early stage would be analogous to painting a sitting target bigger than the sides of 100 barns on the movement.

    The genius of the OWS movement is its diffusion. Its amoeba like size and geometric growth has got people’s attention and created the seeds of fear in some. At this early stage, the group can be destroyed easily. Wall Street, it’s flunkies, and the media have started the attack by patronizing the ‘child like understanding’ of the protestors. By keeping the OWS target undefined and from horizon to horizon in scope, the efforts of Wall Street to shut down OWS will fail.

    The best questions in an interview are open ended questions when you are fishing for information and a foothold. The best protest is an open ended one because it forces all others to grope for answers and questions. As soon as leaders appear or issues become defined, the protest will start to dissipate.

  20. JohnathanStein says:

    Constitutional Amendment — Barry, this has gotta be #1. If OWS only agreed on one thing, what would you pick?

    Why not make it simpler? Fund politics out of the Federal Budget, and take out ALL donated money.

    If it really takes $1 Billion to elect one President every 4 years, $50-$100 Million each for 100 Senators every 6 years and $10-$25 Million each for 435 Representatives every 2 years, that’s adds up and averages to $5 billion PER YEAR. (Yeah, I did it in Excel.)

    Didn’t the Pentagon misplaced more than that in Iraq one year? In shrink-wrapped CASH! (Seriously — google it.)

  21. mark says:

    Wow BR – stick to economy and finance. You know nothing about protest and political change. Shocking how way off you are.

    1. Tea Baggers were astroturf from day 1.
    2. Lack of leadership and a “manifesto” is a strength not a weakness. Shows that it is genuine and not manipulated by party hacks like tea baggers. Comments about MoveOn are right on. Keeping politicians and hacks away is important.
    3. @ilsm – exactly the point. Wall St. (i.e., finance industry) is the power and the disease. Congress is an effect, a symptom. It will eventually move to DC but keeping focus on the real power center is very important right now.

  22. Julia Chestnut says:

    I think that the three work well and encapsulate what needs to be said for the most part.

    I also agree that Moveon would be a huge disaster. The dialogue over whether to work within or without the political structure of a party is a useful one – but MoveOn are establishment dems. As one commenter elsewhere put it, the modern Democratic party is where progressive movements go to die.

    If I were doing a slogan it would be “Power to the people – the real people.”

  23. plantseeds says:

    It seems to me that the focus of OWS is misguided. Don’t hate the player hate game. Ok….you can hate them but “Wall Street” whatever that is, is the sexy villain however lawmakers and their laws are the enablers.

  24. ToNYC says:

    Elementary school reform would require that during time HOLDING public power, personal financial transactions be TRANSPARENT in the most respectful manner.

  25. Petey Wheatstraw says:


    You are absolutely correct.

    Criminality cannot go unpunished — especially brazen criminality.

    Prosecution of such crimes should be #1 on the list.

    While I have, in the past, offered to build gibbets for use on these criminals, I am truly no proponent of corporal or capital punishment. However, in light of the severity of the crimes some of these players have committed against our nation and our populace, I do believe that very severe punishment for anyone convicted for crimes that have destabilized our economy for purposes of self-enrichment, or that have created, enabled, or benefitted a class of people who are above the law, or that have allowed extra-constitutional behaviors (and those crimes would include torture, war profiteering, elevation of the corporation above the natural person, crony capitalism, graft, election fraud, securities fraud, and a host of other crimes).

    Any punishment meted out for such criminality should absolutely bankrupt the perpetrator and their families (no, you wife and kids do NOT get to keep your ill-gotten wealth), and hard labor in full view of the public (maybe breaking rocks, under armed guard, in the middle of Wall St., or on the National Mall, directly in front of the Capitol), while being fed a subsistence diet and being made to sleep where you work — on the ground next to your rock pile).

    From here on out, if you make a billion dollars in the US, you had better do so on the up and up — the alternative being too ghastly to make the idea of taking the risk of committing such crimes unthinkable.

  26. ToNYC says:

    I find it useful to remember that We got here through Founding Fathers who weren’t whores. They escaped from religious dogma and royal monopolies that owned everything. The way to be free was not to first be approved and acceptable for a job by a monopolist if you prayed and paid right.
    Set us free with some honest umpires and play ball.

  27. msindc says:

    My impression from the piss poor OWS coverage in the WaPo edition yesterday is your column was intentionally omitted;
    Money and Congress: Always was a problem, votes either bought or sold, congressional positions used to enrich themselves, money and power will always distort the best intentions of most people. Read Madison who accepted this inevitability and then set about a method to channel human nature to do the most good given man’s natural inclinations to grab as much power.
    As Jackson famously said: “Let the Supreme Court enforce their decision.” Of course they can’t, but somehow nowadays Americans think its holy writ. Did Americans ( North of the mason dixie line at least ) enforce the Dred Scott decision? I don’t think so.

    Now is when Ralph Nader should be called in to direct the OWS process as he was the lone voice who foresaw and spoke out on the coming corporate influence in 2000 election.

    @ Liminal Hack; banks were told to STFU because Americans has sacrificed enough between 11 years of depression and 4 years of war and it was time for the general population to reap the benefits. But then we had a President with a set of balls.

  28. Uchicagoman says:


    You were right…

    Obama should have tackled our Flawed Financial System first,

    before wasting so much time with ObamoRomneyCare.

  29. whskyjack says:

    I go with the amendment to the constitution as an easy rallying cry. Remember with a constitutional amendment KISS is an over riding princple. Keep it simple.


    1 only real people have rights under the constitution, corporations are creations of the state and may be regulated by the state.

    2 All rules and regulations for federal elections shall be decided by congressional legislation. Including time and dates, methods and rules for funding and participation.

  30. Patrick Neid says:

    Here’s hoping that this “open source” protest morphs in the direction you have outlined. Could you imagine that these three core principles might lead to the burning of the IRS code, the system that enables it all, to be replaced by a fair/flat tax. Talk about turning a corner!

    Regretably I think all this money in politics will fight to the bitter end to prevent any of this happening.

    Here’s the top 100 All-Time Donors 1989-2012. The list may surprise some.

  31. crutcher says:

    I can’t see the American Left ever getting too excited about “real” capitalism as a moral or political pursuit. Perhaps the case can be made, but people with Leftist moral intuitions like myself basically dislike the whole discipline of economics as being too cold, calculating, and lacking in conscience.

    You’re right that this should be an issue that crosses Right-Left boundaries, so the real question is why we don’t see bi-partisan activism. I don’t know, but I would ask Johnathan Haidt.

  32. GeorgeBurnsWasRight says:

    The biggest practical problem is that an amendment requires a two-thirds vote of both houses of Congress, followed by approval of three-fourths of the states. It’s a pretty high hurdle, that I doubt is possible on this issue in the foreseeable future. Notice that on the issue of “protecting” marriage, a movement that succeeded in amending the constitutions of numerous states at the peak of its popularity, there was never a serious attempt to amend the US Constitution.

  33. BusSchDean says:

    A constitutional amenment might also crystalize the issues by a discussion that dismisses much of the ignorance of our own history. The T-baggers clearly do reflect some anger and frustration but its leaders demonstrated not just ignorance of history and economics but a blantant disregard for factual history.

    The anger we should keep; the ignorance has to go.

  34. [...] What Occupy Wall Street SHOULD be asking for.  (Big Picture) [...]

  35. Petey Wheatstraw says:

    Along with amending the Constitution, maybe we should begin clearing away all of the extra-Constitutional laws already on the books. It also wouldn’t hurt to have amendments that clarify existing amendments — removing the need to have the SCOTUS “interpret” the intent of the document, except in the rarest of circumstances.

  36. NoKidding says:

    “No more bailouts: Bring back real capitalism”

    Based on signs I’ve seen, I believe the OWS participants would overwhelmingly reject this plank in your platform.

  37. Renting in Mass says:

    Good stuff Barry. Keep it up. I think there’s a lot of value in someone with your insight and audience crafting a coherent message around the generalized anger that is OWS. I hope this gets into WAPO eventually.

  38. wunsacon says:


    No matter what, please do NOT give money to the current duopoly. Save your money for a third party. (Or just burn your money.)

  39. NoKidding says:

    philipat: ” 2. Term liinits for ALL elected politicians”

    Yes! thank you philipat, I wish we could. I’d settle for 20 year limits and letting the current dinosaurs be grandfather claused to buy their agreement. Just give me something to stop 30- and 50- year Senatorial careers.

  40. Expat says:

    While I agree with what you say, I don’t see any way it’s going to happen. Many Americans are indeed angry but they are channeled by Wall Street, the political parties, their local cultural identity, and their religions into blaming the usual scapegoats. Few Americans are willing to admit the system is rotten to the core since that is too painful a pill to swallow. Consequently, I don’t see any sort of peaceful, radical changes taking place. As for revolution, we are too fat and lazy for that…for now.

    Can this movement grow and affect change? Yes, but I fear that it will simply be hijacked by the Tea Party, Move On, or one of the mainstream parties. Then the confused and angry founders of Occupy will be pushed aside since they don’t have defined agendas and convenient soundbites.

    Most people don’t read these kinds of blogs or understand the issues we discuss here (well, sometimes I don’t either but that doesn’t stop me from commenting anyway). They live outside of LA and NY and believe in guns, Jesus, and George W Bush. They LOVE Fox News and believe what it tells them. They believe America is good and just. That it is is the land of opportunity.

    We need to go deep into our culture and extirpate the cancer. Raze ninety percent of all law schools. Outlaw political parties. Ship lobbyists to Kandahar. Break up all national media. Increase funding for public education by 500%.

  41. theexpertisin says:

    The Flea Party is simply a tool of Obama’s gin up the base movement for his 2012 election. The participants are useful idiots.

    If we are serious about equalizing the capitalism playing field, we should start with the White House crony capitalism and Fountain of Largesse within our political class.

    If one hasn’t detected an anti-Jewish facet of these protests, one is ignoring video facts.

  42. BusSchDean says:

    Expat: you start by saying “I don’t see any way its going to happen” and end with “Raze ninety percent of all law schools….Break up national media…” All of which has no chance.

    Our Founding Fathers created three branches of government to provide separation of powers. In two hundred years we have seen the thinking become one — to promote the interests of large corporations to the detriment to free markets and voters. What a shame.

  43. Finster says:

    Barry, I suggest you also focus on the scourge of derivatives: STOP DERIVATIVES.

    An example is the PrimeX disaster that is brewing.

    Synthetic vehicles create only risk. They finance nothing. They add no value to the economy. They permit one party to profit from another and if that party is SDI then you socialize the loss.

    STOP DERIVATIVES! STOP ZERO SUM RISK TAKING in the banking sector. AIG was ground zero of the TBTF bailout. AIG was where America was robbed to enrich GS, SocGen and Deutsche Bank. Derivatives create the SDI problem. They are the systemic risk and help obfuscate it. Risk is not born by those most able to do so, but by those least able to assess it.

  44. ElConquistador says:

    The GOP always pushed the “paycheck protection act” to prevent union lobbying without express consent of members – I thought there should be a “dividend protection act” to prevent corporate lobbying expense without similar consent of stockholders. If nothing else, it would at least put the graft out in the open.

  45. Expat says:

    busSchDean: Yes, I don’t see any of that happening.

  46. Invictus says:

    “I again recommend a law prohibiting all corporations from contributing to the campaign expenses of any party. Such a bill has already past one House of Congress. Let individuals contribute as they desire; but let us prohibit in effective fashion all corporations from making contributions for any political purpose, directly or indirectly.”
    -Teddy Roosevelt, 1906

  47. [...] Occupy Wall Street Must Occupy Congress, AG offices (TBP) [...]

  48. ukarlewitz says:

    I agree with all but why single out Wall St money in Congress and not just say corp money in general. Oil money probably just as bad. I realize OWS is standing outside of the banks but their focus is beyond the financial sector.

  49. Who could imagine, just 4 weeks ago, the impact that OWS would have on both the national and global dialogue? We’d be wise to pay attention to another movement that’s gathering pace and that has the potential to do direct damage to the big U.S. banks:

  50. DeDude says:

    I agree if they get into solutions and specifics at all it should be with proposals that can harvest the anger on both sides of the political spectrum. You have to put a wedge in between the right and the corporations to get real traction. I would not be surprised if there are quite a few tea partiers that are getting ready to jump ship because they are getting tired of the corporate servicing.

  51. NoKidding says:

    “Barry, I suggest you also focus on the scourge of derivatives: STOP DERIVATIVES.”

    Finster, I think thats how Barry makes his living.


    BR: I make my living evaluating the landscape, managing risk and deploying assets

  52. russwinter says:

    I love you, Barry, you are one the more lucid out there. But you seem to have missed the fact that the OSW message is basically what you cited. I was at a OSW protest on little Kauai Saturday with a 150 turnout, and the signage and conversation was largely on your message. People get it.

  53. echotoall says:

    You highlight intricacies that need to change, and a frustration from an individual already a part of the ‘establishment’. And regardless of whether you view yourself as part of the establishment, the protesters view you this way.

    The core of their frustration is that they are disenfranchised from the system. Hence the “we are the 99%” slogan.

    View yourself as a disenfranchised youth, and you will come up with a list of other things that need to change. Can anyone on this blog even have such an honest view of such a thing? (I doubt it.)

  54. novus says:

    I visited OWS again yesterday. I’ve read countless posts and comments on this blog an others. While there are many demands for change around the fringes (things like fracking), the “core” ethos seems to be the same. Take money out of politics. Reduce the role of finance. Rebalance the roles of labor and capital. You’ve articulated these items well (now and over the years).

    However I think there are too many things even just in this core ethos to “demand.” I think that if OWS comes out with demands it should dig a layer downward into more fundamental territory, such as this:

    Demand one thing each from the President, the House, and the Senate:

    - House: vote to expand its size, to bring representation levels back in line. This can actually be done with a simple majority vote. See

    - Senate: vote to amend its rules to end the filibuster and other minority-protecting procedures that have become so abused in recent years.

    - President Obama: push for a constitutional amendment that redefines the role of money in politics. He should also lead by example and give back his war chest of funds.

  55. DrSandman says:

    Hmmm… sounds like the Tea Party agenda unfiltered by the MSM. Amazing how fashion changes.

  56. ashpelham2 says:

    Still of the opinion that this OWS movement is little more than the GDI’s from your college days finding a more vocal, and slightly more organized, means to congregate. This group has always been against SOMETHING, ie, the establishment. But where is the funding going to come from for these people?

    I’m all for the idea of money being separate from politics, but we are talking about a fundamental change to our democracy. A rebirth of the Republic, if you will. This COULD be the kind of historical change that creates a new nation. But so far, I just don’t see the leadership within the group to make this work.

    FYI: who is the real leader of this movement? Obviously there’s no elected official that’s willing to stick her/his neck out yet. Without a head, a leader, how far can this movement really go?

  57. plantseeds says:

    So NBC Nightly News on Friday evening lead with their version of OSW and then followed that with how Herman Cain won’t be able too keep up with Mitt or Perry in the long run because he has only been able to raise around 2 mil compared to the others’ 7-8 mil and none of which compares to POTUS who has raised 40 mil so far this year and still has 60 from last time around….and these stories were somehow unrelated.

  58. HarleyHoward says:

    Barry, as usual, you make many good points. All but one are true Tea Party principles. We must get back our constitutional republic limited government. We must get back to the free market Wealth of Nations. We the People must regain our government, and country, as envisioned by the Founding Fathers.

    A couple of problems with your point 3 and the various comments that follow. Who decides who gets the funding? The Entrenched Elites who have created this mess? Who will continue to decide what regulations to enforce, the Entrenched Elites that created this mess? The crony capitalists? Obama? Who is getting the greatest contributions from Wall Street and the Banks? Obama and the Entrenched Political Elites!

    We the People (the Tea Party and the OWS) must vote out all the Entrenched Elites (both Republican and Democrat) and then reform this system or revolt against it. Common Sense from the Heartland –

  59. Chief Tomahawk says:

    Present course and speed, next summer ought to be awesome.

    Anyone up for a party at Stonehenge next summer solstice?

  60. Unsympathetic says:

    Harley Howard:

    The Tea Party is 100% Republican. You are the problem, not the solution. If I want to know what the voice of the Founding Fathers was, I will find out the position of the Tea Party – and then believe the opposite.

    1) Why did the Tea Party vote 100% for the bills presented as “free trade” when in fact they are job-losing for Americans? Ross Perot was right about NAFTA, by the way.
    2) Why does the Tea Party not support wage- and environmental- parity tariffs on Chinese goods? The current Chinese import tariff on all US goods is 25% and the US tariff is 2% from China. That is NOT free – free is equal.

    The Tea Party is mainstream Republican views, nothing more.

  61. houghton says:

    we need election reform. 1st law, in any election the winner must have 51% of the votes. nobody can argue with 1%. 2nd law, the ballot should read – a) mr.jones b) mr. smith c) none of above. now we can have elections where even i can vote.

  62. Transor Z says:

    The stanza that gets left out of elementary school concerts:

    In the squares of the city – In the shadow of the steeple
    Near the relief office – I see my people
    And some are grumblin’ and some are wonderin’
    If this land’s still made for you and me.

    -Woody Guthrie

  63. Long term says:

    “This was supposed to be my WaPo column, but a scheduling snafu led to its being bumped” –BR

    what a powerful offhand sentence; then to have the blog audience in place. new media is great.

    OWS 1.0 is a good start. It has illustrated angst on a level that has registered with the status quo holders. Now, if the movement is capable, OWS 2.0 will find a demagogue that can accomplish BR’s intellectual aims but cloak them in language that rebels with and without educations can understand.

  64. jj2me says:

    I hesitate to disagree with anything you say, as my econ and market knowledge is way inferior. But here goes…

    Once you focus OWS to something, the powers that be will know how to answer and placate:

    “We did most of your column A, almost all of column B, the Dems wouldn’t let us do this part of column C, and the Repubs wouldn’t let us do that part. Now go home.”

    Better to let the foment just foment. That’s scarier to politicians.

  65. Many good points, but I’d suggest that the root cause is simply government that is “too large” – that incents a corporatocracy. Make government smaller, and companies are less incented to try & use it to their benefit – because a smaller government (kept within it’s proper bounds) CAN’T be as effective for those seeking rent.


  66. “We must become a democracy again, where one man one vote matters. To do that, Wall Street money must be taken out of the process.”

    Getting money out of the process would be great and I fully support ramping up efforts in that area but… it’s been a decades long battle and it’s slow going. and constitutional amendments don’t come cheap. That’s no reason to stop fighting but it may be a good reason to wage a battle on multiple fronts.

    One forgotten front: Increase the power of the people. If the people’s power increases, and even if everything else stays the same, we’ll realize a relative improvement in the economy of influence. So… let’s give the people new tools to exert influence. One forgotten option: Internet voting. Put a voting booth in everyones pocket and re-imagine the lead up to the Iraq war or the Financial/TARP Crisis. What does a real-time will of the people do to the process of democratic deliberation?

    Internet voting isn’t easy – it’s technically difficult to ensure security, accuracy and transparency but it may well be worth it. So getting money out of politics is critically important, but it may not be the only pressure point we should be pushing on…

  67. John L Hobson says:

    Return representative government. Demand that the chairmanship of Goldman Sachs be an elected position

  68. Transor Z Says:
    October 17th, 2011 at 1:26 pm

    The stanza that gets left out of elementary school concerts:

    In the squares of the city – In the shadow of the steeple
    Near the relief office – I see my people
    And some are grumblin’ and some are wonderin’
    If this land’s still made for you and me.

    -Woody Guthrie


    nice Point.

    any semblance of a ‘Free Market’ (in this Country(the U.S.o of A.)) was torn up, by the Roots, after ’29..

    this..”Once you focus OWS to something, the powers that be will know how to answer and placate:

    “We did most of your column A, almost all of column B, the Dems wouldn’t let us do this part of column C, and the Repubs wouldn’t let us do that part. Now go home.”

    Better to let the foment just foment. That’s scarier to politicians…”
    is a good Point..

  69. ywsimw says:

    Great, great post !

  70. Roger Bigod says:

    Joseph Kennedy is supposed to have said during the Depression that he would give up half his wealth if it would guarantee that he could keep the other half. Mr. Kennedy was not a nice man, and he didn’t have a lot of sympathy for the downtrodden. Substantial reform will probably require a similar level of fear for the PTB.

    One of the few good things about Kennedy was that he made an excellent inaugural Chairman of the SEC. Perhaps the only way to redeem it would be to appoint Mr. Madoff. He could telecommute.

    OWS doesn’t seem to be opposed to capitalism or inequality of wealth. The anger seems to reflect an intuition that the game has been rigged and that our economic arrangements are deeply corrupt. Keeping the focus on the bank bailouts and the rotten AG deal sounds like good marketing. Honesty in marketing: a revolutionary idea.

  71. ToNYC says:

    “Finster Says:
    October 17th, 2011 at 10:41 am

    Barry, I suggest you also focus on the scourge of derivatives: STOP DERIVATIVES.

    Synthetic vehicles create only risk. They finance nothing. They add no value to the economy. They permit one party to profit from another and if that party is SDI then you socialize the loss.”


    A put on shares one owns is absolutely is a derivative of the price and is essential to managing asset risk in the equity space. A CME clearing house keeps the promises from spec to holder glued tight through margin proportional to vol.
    STOP DERIVATIVES works well however in hijacking by conflation and the media will gladly play that to Hell.

  72. Bill Wilson says:

    This was a good list of political reforms from a year ago.

    I like the items on this list because they are understandable and enforceable.

  73. Finster says:

    ToNYC, I understand legitimate uses well and I do value options. These things came about a long time ago.

    What I’m taking about is the derivative cancer of synthetic product, synthetic CDO’s, CDS (read up on the CVA hedging at JPM) which embody SDI (to borrow BR’s name of TBTF). They are connected via these products and the nimblest and most ruthless manage to game the zero sum game to claim profits, while the losses get socialized. Ban the tail-wags the dog business in paper commodities.

    CDS are insurance contracts. It’s harder to write insurance on a $2000 car or a house than to insure JPM bonds against default. Regulate CDS as insurance: insurable interest, moral hazard, solvency and liquidity supervision for the insuring party. Regulate it as the damn insurance industry it is.

    Tightly regulate derivatives. The financial industry is the only one that can spew out product without liability, accountability or warranty. You couldn’t manufacture a doorstop in a regular enterprise to those standards.

  74. awilensky says:

    Also, close the revolving door – if you worked in a Salaried Exec or leg branch that dealt with budgets or purchasing, you may not work in the fin or mil sector for……………..5, five, years.

    Burn the Capital. Do not pay you credit cards and loans. Default America 2012.

  75. pope_mollusk_vi says:

    Here in Boston the GA has spent a lot of time ratifying a lot of rather pointless manifestos and statements of Solidarity with (whomever). It’s turned a lot of people off. Vague is better for now.

    Personally, I see the Occupy movement as an exercise in getting our Voice back. We are not ready to sing, and hence I think it’s too early for statements of purpose, no matter how well constructed and thought out. We intuitively know the song we’re marching too, but we’re not quite ready for the lyrics.

    I hope folks like Barry, who have a platform, can be content to support us while we get used to the feeling of watching a movement spring up from all around us; while we revel in a camaraderie that seemed impossible in such a divided Nation. We will need your expertise soon enough.

  76. scapescu says:

    Excellent !!! But Barry, you sound so Austrian !

  77. mote says:

    I am fascinated that the Occupy Wall Street movement is drawing so many conditional imprimaturs. Voices that express support yet immediately advise the movement as to what it really needs to do. Another variation of approval is imprinting, where we see what we wish to see in an event:

    “can you look out the window
    without your shadow getting in the way.”

    —Sarah McLachlan, “Building A Mystery”

    99% is a stated percept based upon the reciprocal of a multi-decade statistic that is indicative of the majority concentration of wealth. Jefferson began with self-evident truths, this movement begins with a two digit truth, which is quite stunning for its economy of thought.

  78. [...] Occupy Wall Street should Occupy Congress (at least intellectually). [...]

  79. gordo365 says:

    BR – your rude pundant link pretty much sums up what needs to be done.

    the message [to elected leaders] can be: Do the obvious shit that you know has to be done.

    All but the most deluded believers in the bullshit chimera of voodoo economics (as we called it back in the day) know that taxes must go up. They know that the government must spend more on infrastructure and education here. They know that health insurance must be nationalized. They know that the wars must end. They know that criminals must be prosecuted. They know that Wall Street needs to be regulated. They know it and either won’t do it because it’ll cut into corporate profits or they can’t do it because it’s being blocked by the maniacs.

    These are not revolutionary concepts. It’s not a call for the overthrow of the Congress or the President. It’s not a call for all the bullshit constitutional amendments that the Tea Party has tossed into the trash heap of rhetorical history. It’s a call to abide by the notion that we are a group of united states, not a bunch of demographics awaiting exploitation.

  80. techperson says:

    #2 is just a special case of #1. If there were no more bailouts, there would be no such thing as a TBTF bank, and people would pay attention to couterparty risk.

    #3 is, of course, vital. Maybe contributions can be limited to individuals, $2500 or so per. The problem is the back-door organizers who deliver thousands of individuals, and if one can’t figure a way around that, we are left with Federal financing and the question of how third-party candidates get taken care of.

    So now we need a new #2, and I think your “Cool your heels for seven years” from a good idea.

    Could OWS be a new Independent Party occupying the center? Push the Democrats to the economic left, where they want to go anyway, and push the Republicans to the social right, where they want to go anyway. Leave the center for those who like capitalism, level playing fields, and less government interference in their private lives.

  81. GRock says:

    I agree with much of what you say and especially your 3 main points. But your character representation of the TEA Party is way way off base. It would appear respectfully that you may get your concept of the TEA Party comes from a certain female presidential candidate’s media talking points. I can assure you that this citizen’s activism movement is much deeper than you suggest or may have a concept of. That being said we are 100% in agreement with your 3 main points. One concept we are for is to reduce the size of the US government back to the traditional 18% of GDP range from the 25% that it has exploded to. If you reduce the size of government you reduce the potential influence of business on the political process. Solyndra is a prime example. No bailouts banks or otherwise (GM). We should have let them go under and let the FDIC do their thing on them, split them up and spin them back out into the private sector. On Wall Street’s influence I would agree with that also. One way to do that would be to repeal the 17Th amendment that made the senator’s popularly elected instead of appointed by the state houses. Can you imagine Wall Street trying to lobby 50 state houses? This would be a much more difficult task of lobbying and would put Congress on a better fiscal path since most (but not all) State houses are much more fiscally managed. That would make all lobbying much more difficult.
    Just saying …………. One idea and we are much deeper thinkers than you give us credit for.

  82. Greg0658 says:

    techperson – not sure what thread or what poster but I saw IT in here > a fav of mine for decades > use the now internet to vote on issues directly > yes we would lose republic status and turn democratic > yes we would still have issues ie: dumb public shoots self > but it would be an education in the process > and a FIX

  83. [...] Ritholtz offered some great advice today, along with his support for OWS: To become as focused and influential as [...]

  84. lester628 says:


    You are wrong in your statement:

    The Supreme Court has ruled repeatedly on campaign finance reform, finding against voters and in favor of corporate interests. The only way to take the government back is a Constitutional Amendment”

    Article III Section 2 second paragraph states ” In all the other cases before mentioned, the supreme Court shall have APPELLATE jurisdiction, both as to lasw and fact, with SUCH EXCEPTIONS, and under SUCH REGULATIONS as the Congress shall make.

    Congress can pass laws which exempt the law from judicial review. They have never done this, but the Founding Fathers placed this “balance of power” restriction in the Constitution. Congress merely has to use it in those cases of obvious judicial malpractice. We can not go changing the Constitution on every whim to block evil men. First, it takes too long and second, it would make the Constitution nothing more than a bunch of meaningless regulations. Classic example is Prohibition in the XVIII amendment and the repeal in the XXI amendment.

  85. [...] Here’s and example of the clearest goals that I can support, per Barry Ritzholt: [...]

  86. [...] vs. democrats. Here too there is hope, however slim, the twain shall come together, as Barry Ritholtz opines [...]