By Andrew Fraley
Contrary to popular belief, not all presidential candidates are in support of the $700 billion Wall Street bailout plan. A dedicated and passionate coalition of local community leaders and candidates are leading a fight against what they have termed, “The bailout of casino capitalists.” At the vanguard of this movement is presidential candidate Ralph Nader. On Thursday, October 16, hundreds of protesters and thousands of onlookers and passers-by were in attendance for a rally at the foot of the New York Stock Exchange, in the heart of Wall Street.
“Just the usual gloom and doom,” remarked the street vendor on Wall Street, who has seen the usual ups and downs of the financial district. But on the steps of Federal Hall, in front of the statue of George Washington, protesters thronged the streets as traders and executives nervously looked out of the windows from inside the NYSE. As Titubanda, an activist marching band from Italy, played spirited songs, the Reverend Billy, a performer from the activist group The Church of Stop Shopping, preached of the coming of the
Shopocalypse. “We’re here to fight the fundamentalist religion of the free-market.” Accompanying Reverend Billy were the parodical “billionaires for bailouts.” Dressed in gaudy, stereotypically rich attire, they were a representation of the excesses of wealth, and the villains
of this particular event. “Just give us the money,” read the signs of the billionaires, while the protesters donned their “socialism saves capitalism” signs. The energy in the air was palpable as the first speaker took the stage.
The Rev. Billy played MC to the rally, introducing each of the speakers. Before Nader and his running mate, Matt Gonzalez, came on, there were a couple speakers to pump up the crowd. The first was Carl Mayer, author of the book Shakedown: The Fleecing of the Garden State. The first independent elected in Princeton, Mayer was once called a “populist crusader and maverick lawyer” by The New York Times. Mayer started by pointing out the
inherent hypocrisy happening right now with the financial crisis. He used New York’s multiple stadium plans as a prime example. “Whenever billionaires want a stadium built,” exclaimed Mayer, “they get it—with our tax dollars.” The bailout plan is opposed by the Bush administration’s head of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. It’s never a good sign when the financial heads of the current administration oppose the plan.
“[Recently] top leaders of banks all met to discuss causes of the financial crisis…none would accept blame,” declared Mayer. The major banks refuse to acknowledge the fact that the reason for this debacle lies with the speculative actions of the corporations and traders. Treasury Secretary Paulson didn’t escape Mayer’s harsh criticism either. At the end of his speech, Mayer incited the crowd to chant, “Jail time yes, bail time no. Henry Paulson’s got to go!”
After a continued chant by Reverend Billy, the Reverend Jarrett Maupin, protege of Al Sharpton, hit the stage with his fiery rhetoric. Maupin in almost every way resembles Al Sharpton, and his speech was inspired. “These two nominees [McCain and Obama] have put their full faith in the advisors of Bush,” he exclaimed. The bailout plan, proposed by the Bush administration, has run nearly unopposed by the two major parties. Maupin, as a liberal African American, is making a statement by not supporting Obama. He went on to reiterate that the bailout plan cannot save Americans. Americans should not have faith in the current system. “How can someone with a knife in your back save you?”
Maupin emphasized the need to prosecute the crime being committed on Wall Street. Underneath the statue of Washington, Maupin informed the audience that, in the time of George Washington, these corporate crooks would be tarred and feathered and paraded around the city. Maupin ended his speech, asserting that this wasn’t a radical liberal movement. It affects all Americans. “We know what’s best for Americans because we’re the Americans.”
Matt Gonzalez Does Not Fork Around
Reverend Billy excitedly announced the arrival of the great Matt Gonzalez, Vice Presidential running mate of Ralph Nader. The 43-year-old Texas native has been actively involved in politics in the San Francisco area since 2000. Originally a Democrat, he switched to the Green Party in 2000 in what he described as a
“political or moral epiphany.” Gonzalez walked up to the stage with one purpose in mind; to get
his point across. He was succinct and exact, and did not pull any punches. “There is a narrative about these candidates, by the candidates themselves as well as journalists, that one party is for deregulation and one is against it. This is simply not true.” He unrelentingly went on to describe what got America into this mess.
In 1999 and 2000, Bill Clinton—a Democrat, gasp!—signed into law two bills: the Commodity Futures Modernization Act and the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act. These were the two laws that enabled the current crisis. The GLBA allowed for the consolidation of commercial and investment banks. Undoing the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933, the law was responsible for the large scale mergings of many major bank
s and investment firms, into what is now called financial services. Combined with the CFMA, a law that essentially deregulated derivatives and credit default swaps in the financial industry. The new acts came at the height of “Wall Street and Washington’s love affair with deregulation, an infatuation that was endorsed by
President Clinton at the White House and encouraged by Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan,” reported 60 Minutes. The legislature reversed decades of law, described Gonzalez. This deregulation allowed for a “sustained orgy of excess and reckless behavior” as Richard Fischer, Dallas Federal Reserve chief, put it. Making money out of money, this is the primary cause of the Wall Street recession.
“This notion that Democrats are fighting against it is rubbish,” declared Gonzalez. The bailout, as Gonzalez described, is just a bailout of the two party system. Gonzalez continued to chastise journalists for their perpetuation of the current system, and their refusal to cover independent and third party candidates. “Both candidates want to increase the military budget,” emphasized Gonzalez. The Nader/Gonzalez ticket would cut the bloated, wasteful military budget.
“You don’t fix it [the economic crisis] by buying bad credit.” To the scoffs and jeers of the billionaires for bailouts, Matt Gonzalez did not stutter or mince words. Short and sweet.
Ralph Nader Fires Up NYC
In front of a giant poster reading, “Jail time for Wall Street crime,” and a giant screw whose sign read “Congress and Wall St. turned the screws on Main St. Taxpayers,” the Reverend Billy asked the crowd to give him a “Ralphelluiah.” The crowd excitedly obliged, and the 74-year-young consumer advocate, humanitarian, environmentalist a
nd what many consider the last hope for democracy took the stage that Thursday at the foot of Federal Hall.
“What we’ve seen is the collapse of corporate capitalism on the backs of taxpayers,” exclaimed Nader. These are bailouts for speculating corporations, and not a rescue of the American financial system, according to Nader. The corporations are being allowed to cut workers benefits, pensions and wages to support their continued excesses. He pointed out that, if adjusted for inflation, the minimum wage from 1968 would be over $10.
There are three principles of capitalism that are being destroyed by corporate capitalism, said Nader. The first is control for owners. The corporations are property of the shareholders, and the current situation is the exact opposite. CEO’s are egregiously mismanaging their companies, inciting shareholders to jump ship and sell their stock. The second principle is the potential to fail, which means no bailouts for the companies that cannot sustain themselves. The third is no governmental manipulation or intervention; free market fails when government intervenes. These principles are all being ruined by the bailout plan, and both major parties are allowing it to happen.
“Senator McCain and Senator Obama are corporate puppets,” stated Nader, about his opponents. Concerning the debates, he had a few choice words as well. Calling it petty pandering to the public, the consumer advocate described the debates as a “bipartisan avoidance of addressing concentrated corporate power.” Without acknowledging that problem, it is impossible to effectively deal with a living wage, universal health insurance, pollution or the massive deficit and how to deal with it. “[The debates are] a charade…a disgrace to the intelligence of the voter.”
Apparently, Nader is not alone in this, either. “Nine out of ten Americans think America is in decline; three out of four think there is too much corporate control; six out of ten think the two party system is failing,” said Nader, in defense of accusations of radical liberalism. By these figures, in fact, he is actually more of a centrist. The reason for this is due largely to the coverage (or lack thereof) provided by journalists, who didn’t escape Nader’s criticism either. “Why do you expose all these corporate crimes and then shut up the American people and their representatives who are doing something about it,” asked Nader. That is, incidentally, one of the policy changes the Nader/Gonzalez ticket plans to implement if elected.
By 1735, America had thirteen colonies under King George III. “Today, we have fifty colonies under King George IV,” shouted Nader, to the uproar of the crowd. “Today, same as 1735, it is taxation without representation.” Wall Street has positioned itself against the American people, and Nader stands at the vanguard against them. As he looked directly at the NYSE, Nader closed his speech with an emphatic, “Mr. Niederauer [CEO of the NYSE], tear down this wall, before the American people do it for you!”