Occupy Boston and the Wall Street/Washington mess – by Marjorie Arons-Barron

The entry below is being cross posted from Marjorie Arons-Barron’s own blog. You can find it here.

A family medical crisis that keeps you from even reading the newspapers not only interrupts blog writing. It also gives you a distance from breaking events that provides perspective on what’s important and what’s not. For example, the obsession with the Red Sox collapse and the details of Theo’s new contract with the Chicago Cubs matter not a whit. Nor even does whether Mitt Romney invaded Rick Perry’s space by putting his hand on Perry’s shoulder in a face-down in the last GOP debate.

In emerging from the family medical situation, I am struck by the endurance of Occupy Boston. As a veteran of the anti-Vietnam War movement, I find it kind of reassuring that people today care enough to participate in this protest, even though the goals are still quite diffuse. Like its sister movements around the globe, it’s unclear what the ultimate outcome will be. But the cri de coeur is quite understandable when you read that 17.1% of Americans under 25 are out of work. Numbers in Europe are worse – 46.2% in Spain . Without systemic change, their future is likely to be a lot bleaker than that of their parents. As The Economist points out this week, it’s time to “tackle the causes, not the symptoms.”

There has been some talk (including from the highly respected Boston Municipal Research Bureau’s Sam Tyler) that the protesters should help defray the costs of police protection. But why should they do so any more than the Tea Partiers, SEIU, or fans gathering for local sports heroes victory parades ?

Occupy Boston is a demonstration of First Amendment rights and is a testament to the strength of our democracy. As long as a few bad apples, don’t despoil the protest, I find it moving. Wouldn’t it be a public relations coup of the first order if some of the one percent, society’s most privileged, were to contribute voluntarily to the costs? Can you imagine Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan donating $100K out of his own pocket to Boston for the public services incurred responding to those protesting the excesses of some of the financial institutions crushing the other 99 percent? His Boston office is half a block from tent city, at 100 Federal Street. Has he stopped by Occupy Boston? Others could follow. This gesture should be in addition to, not in place of, taking the high road in restructuring expeditiously a significant number bad housing loans in its portfolio and opening the spigot to provide business loans to deserving businesses.

We need a healthy banking system, probably one more like that envisioned by former Fed Chairman Paul Volcker, the one that existed prior to the Clinton Administration’s signing of legislation ending the Glass-Steagall law and effectively deregulating banks. But, if you have any doubt about how Wall Street controls Washington (especially under Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner), check out Ron Suskind’s new book Confidence Men.

Suskind details the early years of the Obama Administration and how the President , who thrilled us as a candidate and may still be preferable to any of his opponents, has been an ineffective leader, even an ineffective manager. In the quiet of the Oval Office, what does the President – in the wake of his squandering earlier opportunities to do systemic financial sector reform – really feel about Occupy Boston, Occupy Wall Street and other protests?

We know Obama’s campaign will try to turn the protests to a campaign advantage. But the solutions to the problems lie in going after both Washington and Wall Street. And fixing things will require more than clever ads and bumper sticker slogans.

Please let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.

2 Responses to Occupy Boston and the Wall Street/Washington mess – by Marjorie Arons-Barron

  1. Joe S says:

    We have far too much disparity in wealth, not only in this country, but around the globe. Sticking to the US, it seems that the maldistribution of wealth is ruining the economy, as those that have cannot spend sufficiently to keep the economy going, and those that don’t are unable to spend.

    This situation is similar to that of the 1920s as the country approached its Great Depression after significant expenditures from WW I. At that time the top marginal tax rate was 25%, lower than today’s 35%, but that 35% is full of loopholes that make the effective tax rate much lower for the highest of incomes. (Note, that after WW II the top marginal rate in the 1950s was over 90%!) So we have repeated the failures of the 1920s, going to war but unwilling to make the sacrifices associated with that commitment. How did we expect the economy to react?

    The best solution is to eliminate unproductive tax loopholes, and maybe institute higher rates at much higher incomes (the millionaires tax?). That would serve as a deterrent to the continued escalation of salaries and bonuses at the top of the scale, and may spread some of the money around to the people who actually work for it.

  2. Publius says:

    I agree that the Occupy people should not be charged for exercising their First Amendment rights. I do believe the sorts teams do contribute to defray the costs of their celebrations.

    The banks should not be contributing to defray the costs as a public relations stunt. First, it would not be appreciated by the public. Second, it would be used the protesters as a sign of guilt. Third, why should the bank subsidize an illegal protest(no permit) because the city refuses to enforce the law. Fourth, if it is a right to protest why should the object of the protest have to pay any more than the protesters.

    I would consider restructuring the mortgages with a lower interest rate and extended period to pay but the principal has to remain the same. We must remember that a contract was signed. It al must also not be forgotten that the recipients of the monies being paid on the mortgages are not only financial institutions but also their investors who are retirees or small time investors . By restructuring these loans you are hurting the the same middle class people that you are claiming to protect by reducing their mortgages.