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Top Journo Matt Taibbi Weighs in on 5 Demands to Fix Wall Street
By Staff News & Analysis - October 13, 2011
Matt Taibbi (left) Lists The 5 Things The Occupy Wall Street Protesters Should Demand ... The man who called Goldman Sachs a "great vampire squid" has some advice for Occupy Wall Street. Not that he doesn't think they're doing things well. In fact, he thinks the logic behind the protester's lack of demands is ingenious. But if they were to figure out their specific demands. Here's where he, per his article in Rolling Stone, thinks they should start. – Business Insider
Dominant Social Theme: Break up Wall Street corruption and things will start to get better.
Free-Market Analysis: Famous Rolling Stone writer Matt Taibbi has weighed in on the Occupy Wall Street movement once more with a specific set of five demands that protestors could focus on. Business Insider does a good job of summarizing them. Here they are, verbatim from Business Insider:
1. Break up the monopolies. Taibbi is talking about the 20 or so "too big to fail" companies in our country that could single-handedly take down our economy.
2. Pay for your own bailouts. "A tax of 0.1 percent on all trades of stocks and bonds and a 0.01 percent tax on all trades of derivatives would generate enough revenue to pay us back for the bailouts, and still have plenty left over to fight the deficits the banks claim to be so worried about..."
3. No public money for private lobbying. Pretty self-explanatory.
4. Tax hedge-fund gamblers. Right now, because of the carried-interest tax break, they're only paying about 15%.
5. Change the way bankers get paid. Bonuses shouldn't be paid up-front. They should be contingent upon performance.
Taibbi's prescription has gained attention. DeGraw featured his article on Amped Status and he appeared on the well known "Imus in the Morning" program to speak about them. The "I-Man" suggested he take charge of the movement, but Taibbi declined.
Taibbi is positive about Occupy Wall Street and thinks it can make a difference. He's visited the protestors twice and is impressed, but he also believes they ought to be coming up with specific demands.
So let's take the ones he came up with one at a time – and analyze them from a free-market oriented point of view.
Monopolies. Taibbi wants to break up monopolies and presumably he would use the power of the federal government to do so. In fact, this is reminiscent of Teddy Roosevelt's "trust-busting." Famously, John D. Rockefeller's great company, Standard Oil, was broken up a result.
However, Rockefeller was able to keep some kind of control behind the scenes, so the exercise wasn't ultimately very effective. He also ended up with stakes in each of the companies formed by the break-up, thus considerably expanding his wealth over time. Because of mercantilism – the behind-the-scenes influence of Money Power – trust-busting likely never works out exactly as planned.
Transaction taxes. Tabbi wants to install a tax on financial trading, which is actually a fairly radical idea. This might end up forcing everyone to reveal their trading activities, thus giving the government – actually the behind-the-scenes power elite – access to everybody else's financial activities.
It would surely be an intrusive and anti-freedom activity, targeting large and small shops alike, and probably ending up putting some small shops out of business because of the onerousness of what was demanded. This would ironically further centralize the clout of certain big trading shops, which is presumably NOT what Occupy Wall Street wants to happen.
What is this obsession with taxes? Doesn't the US federal government ALREADY take in enough taxes – some US$3 trillion, much of which goes to overseas wars and to the military industrial complex in general? Is the rest so well distributed? Why not try to fund the private sector instead of the public?
Lobbying. Taibbi doesn't want industry lobbyists paying for the activities with public money. Actually, we're all for this one. Any kind of privatization is probably a good thing. However, we are puzzled by why Taibbi doesn't call for the downsizing of the federal government itself. Take away its power and influence and lobbyists would automatically detach.
Tax hedge fund gamblers. Another tax! Why is Mr. Taibbi so positive that DC would handle these taxes any better than Washington already handles the vast sums that converge on it now? We haven't noticed the infrastructure of the US is notably better since Barack Obama and the Democrats took over.
Bonuses. Finally, Taibbi wants changes in the ways that bankers get paid. This is another suggestion that implies considerable additional intrusion on the private sector. Presumably – logically – Wall Street would have to keep records of who was being paid what and provide them on demand.
Maybe that's OK and fits in with broader goals of Occupy Wall Street. But who's to say this practice wouldn't spread to the rest of the private sector over time? And eventually, wouldn't government establish courts and other forums to debate and regulate the merits of private sector compensation? FDR wanted this sort of power for the government but didn't get it back in the 1930s. Now Taibbi's put it back on the table.
These suggestions in aggregate actually demand a considerable EXPANSION of fedgov power – presumably something that Occupy Wall Street is not entirely in favor of. It's also the kind of populist signature that we've worried about it when it comes to these protests.
From our humble point of view, this is exactly what mercantilist Money Power wants to happen. The protestors are to be engaged on class warfare grounds and the demands are to be moderated by Washington, DC, thus giving additional credibility to the current government as the intermediary between "common folk" and those who are exploiting them.
Let's add this up ... Instead of marching on the New York Federal Reserve, Occupy Wall Street folk yesterday had a "millionaire's march." There were calls for Hank Paulson to face justice for the crimes associated with TARP.
Meanwhile, top counterculture journo Taibbi issued demands that amounted to more federal taxes and more government intrusion; these ideas were featured on Imus's radio program and DeGraw's AmpedStatus website as well.
In another article today we pointed out positives about Occupy Wall Street. But in this summary, we give the edge to increased government power. Recent activities implicitly, if not explicitly, endorsed increased DC taxing power, increased fedgov oversight, the shutting down of small companies that would not be able to withstand the additional costs of such regulation and, finally, the aiming of the current corrupt and brutally incompetent US justice network at "plutocrats."
This last is especially important as it implicitly endorses a system that has jailed up to four million or more people for (in many cases) fanciful offenses, in a quasi-corporatist justice system where they are often put to work in conditions that must inevitably resemble – there is no other word for it – slavery. Not necessarily such a good outcome for Occupy Wall Street from this point of view. Maybe today will be better.