The Occupy Wall Street people are definitely making me feel high on solidarity this morning. The press keeps telling us that the aims of the group are ‘uncertain’ or ‘unrealistic’ – and this is what one would expect from a press that has been supine for the last decade, and still has not lifted a finger to examine the 16 trillion dollars in ‘emergency loans’ that the Fed made available to the banks in the last three years. The GAO report has still not even been mentioned in the NYT, as far as I can tell.
Uncertain and unrealistic are the hallmarks of the great task that lies ahead. The model, here, should be the French revolution, when the whole country made their complaints known in a survey that had quasi-governmental approval. Now we have bloggers instead of peasants and clerks. Here’s one bloggers suggestion:
Defund Wall Street.
In the 70s and 80s, we took the first step towards the domination by the financial sector in this country. We took it via a bi-partisan program to get the populace to invest in the stock market. The government made such investments, by IRA and latter the 401k, attractive by giving them special tax status.
As Jim Mosquera in ‘Escaping Oz’ puts it: “At the last major stock market bottom in 1982, American households were not that interested in owning stocks. The growth of the stock industry was aided by the creation of IRA accounts (1974) and 401(k) plans (1980). IRA accounts came during the stock market bottom of 1974 and 401k plans arrived just before the major stock market bottom of 1982. Stock ownership comprised barely 12 percent of all household financial assets in 1982, where not 2/3 of investors have half their financial assets in mutual funds. Stocks litter IRA and 401k accounts, the most precious of saving vehicles. Fifty-four percent (54%) of households own stock mutual funds and 37% own individual stocks in their IRA accounts.”
Stock mutual funds currently amount to some 5 trillion dollars in assets.
It is time to reverse the flow. This can happen in two easy steps. Step one is to make available government savings vehicles that guarantee a 3 percent return per year, as has been outlined by Teresa Ghilarducci in her book, When I’m sixty four – the plot against pensions… The great experiment in getting the population to invest in its own immiseration has finally reached the logical point of no return. Unfortunately, that logical point is also an existential trap – millions cannot afford to cut off Wall Street. When the trillions went into the banks, the snake oil merchants (the Larry Summers type) would fan out to assure all and sundry that in saving the banks, we were saving ourselves. In reality, ‘banks’ named all the wealthy investor class, for that is the sum total of what our political elite represents. However, it is also true that, as housing values crashed, the mass of middle americans had to hope that their mutual funds survived. Thus, the protest against the grotesque misallocation of government funds was muted. And as the welfare was disguised as “loans” [a disguise that wore perilously thin as the interest on loans went down in many cases to .01 percent], the pretense was maintained that the government wasn’t doing what it was doing: putting out the dole for the wealthiest.
It is necessary to de-fund the whole machinery that makes it impossible for the wage class to actually find a politics that reflects its advantage. And the way to do that is simple. The same government that loaned its 16 trillion could, well, do it again to a much larger spectrum of people – the vast majority of the U.S. population. We could, in effect, liquidate the loans people have – from student loans to credit card debt to mortgages – by a policy using a government modality like the post office (which one had a bank capability) and simply make loans at much lower interest available to all citizens. We could use the interest from those loans to capitalize a government savings program that would be tax free, and phase in taxes on the other savings programs which, besides being designed to sluice money to wall street, have not served their purpose – they have not provided anything like the advantage conferred by the old system of pensions.
Defund Wall Street. Shrink em all, and let God sort em out.