FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Siege of Wall Street

by THOMAS H. NAYLOR

The most compelling take away image from a visit to Zuccotti Park, home of the burgeoning Occupy Wall Street movement, is the almost unbelievable amount of global energy emanating from such a tiny plot of real estate.  How is it possible for the ideas of so few people camped out in a nondescript park in lower Manhattan to spread to hundreds of towns and cities in dozens of countries worldwide giving rise to an international revolt against Wall Street, Corporate America, and the American Empire in just one month?  What has happened there is truly amazing!

What is at stake is nothing less than the fate of two intertwined world class lies – the myth of American exceptionalism and the myth of global capitalism.

“We are the greatest nation in the world,” so say most Americans, “the home of the free and the land of the brave.”  But the message from Liberty Plaza is, “What about the materialism, the greed, the inequality, the unemployment, the poverty, the environmental degradation, the racism, the cronyism, the corruption, the militarism, and the violence?”

The Occupy Wall Street movement is the moral equivalent of the complete and utter denunciation of the myth of American exceptionalism.  The message is loud and clear, “The emperor truly has no clothes.”  It’s all a big lie!

That this message has gone viral on the Internet should come as a surprise to no one.  The only surprise is why it took so long to do so.

Not only is the American dream under attack by OWS but the entire American way of life as well.  America’s image abroad has taken a huge hit.  It was not by chance alone that President Barack Obama recently announced that all U.S. troops will be withdrawn from Iraq by yearend.

Also under siege by the OWS movement is the myth of globalization.  Globalization refers to the integrated international system of mass production, mass marketing, mass distribution, mass consumption, mega financial institutions, and global communications.  Such a network of markets, transnational companies, and information technologies effectively eliminates the need for national political boundaries, since money, capital, goods, services, and people flow freely across national borders.  Political and economic power are transferred from nation-states to transnational megacompanies accountable only to themselves.

Not surprisingly, Wall Street and Corporate America have declared that globalization is good.  Economists justify globalization on the basis of the so called “trickle down effect,” in which the benefits of global trade to the superwealthy are said to eventually trickle down to the poor.

To support globalization and to minimize public scrutiny, government regulation, and the possibility of prosecution Wall Street created a Frankenstein-like monster financial system.  It consists of a complex, ingenious, international network of hedge funds, derivative contracts, credit default swaps, and exchange-traded funds all based on sophisticated mathematical models.  This greed driven maze is supported by a network of interconnected financial institutions linking every country to every other country and everyone to everyone else.  So complex is this unwieldy behemoth that literally no one understands how the separate components fit together. So long as it worked and Wall Street was enjoying unprecedented prosperity, no one complained.  But once the system was broken, neither Wall Street, the Federal Reserve Bank, nor the Treasury knew how to fix it.  As the Federal Government began pumping hundreds of billions of dollars of bailout funds into the system, no one wanted to acknowledge that it was simply too big, too complex, too inflexible, and too conducive to mismanagement and fraud.

Wall Street protestors and their international collaborators have also figured out that the trickle down effect of globalization is a sham – a fantasy given academic legitimacy by University of Chicago economists and vigorously promoted by the last five U.S. presidents starting with Reagan.  The problem with this remarkably oversold, egregious system is that the rich get richer worldwide and the poor get poorer.  It also encourages the dehumanization of labor and Wal-Mart like race-to-the-bottom wages and fringe benefits.

By exposing the fraudulent nature of American exceptionalism and globalization and broadcasting it to the rest of the world, the Occupy Wall Street movement has taken on a life of its own.  Could it become the American equivalent of the Polish Solidarity movement or the Czechoslovak Velvet Revolution?

It is hardly surprising that the protestors have been denied access to Wall Street itself by the New York Police Department.  One can only imagine the international impact of several thousand demonstrators in front of the New York Stock Exchange, the icon of global capitalism.  Such an event has the potential to spawn the moral and political equivalent of the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.  Just as the collapse of the Berlin Wall signaled the end of communism, so too could a group of Wall Street demonstrators completely destabilize global markets sending a chilling effect through the entire international financial system by temporarily blocking the entrance to the New York Stock Exchange.  It would matter not that the Exchange has backup facilities elsewhere.  The symbolism would be truly monumental in scope.

What started with a bunch of scruffy, New York hippies sleeping in an obscure park and ridiculed by most of the media, has evolved into what could become a global game changing force.  OWS is no longer kid’s stuff, and no one understands this better than New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.  The real question is what happens when the White House and the Congress figure this out too?

Thomas H. Naylor is Founder of the Second Vermont Republic and Professor Emeritus of Economics at Duke University; co-author of AffluenzaDownsizing the U.S.A., and The Search for Meaning.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

August 31, 2016
NEVE GORDON - NICOLA PERUGINI
Human Shields as Preemptive Legal Defense for Killing Civilians
Jim Kavanagh
Turkey Invades Syria, America Spins The Bottle
Dave Lindorff
Ukraine and the Dumbed-Down New York Times Columnist
Pepe Escobar
Brazil’s Dilma Rousseff, a Woman of Honor, Confronts Senate of Scoundrels
Jeff Mackler
Playing the Lesser Evil Game to the Hilt
Steve Horn
Dakota Access Pipeline Tribal Liaison Formerly Worked For Agency Issuing Permit
Patrick Cockburn
Has Turkey Overplayed Its Hand in Syria?
John Chuckman
Why Hillary is the Perfect Person to Secure Obama’s Legacy
Manuel E. Yepe
The New Cold War Between the US and China
Stephen Cooper
Ending California’s Machinery of Death
Stacy Keltner - Ashley McFarland
Women, Party Politics, and the Power of the Naked Body
Hiroyuki Hamada - Ikuko Isa
A Letter from Takae, Okinawa
Aidan O'Brien
How Did Syria and the Rest Do in the Olympics?
David Swanson
Arms Dealing Is Subject of Hollywood Comedy
Jesse Jackson
The Politics of Bigotry: Trump and the Black Voter
August 30, 2016
Russell Mokhiber
Matt Funiciello and the Giant Sucking Sound Coming Off Lake Champlain
Mike Whitney
Three Cheers for Kaepernick: Is Sitting During the National Anthem an Acceptable Form of Protest?
Alice Bach
Sorrow and Grace in Palestine
Sam Husseini
Why We Should All Remain Seated: the Anti-Muslim Origins of “The Star-Spangled Banner”
Richard Moser
Transformative Movement Culture and the Inside/Outside Strategy: Do We Want to Win the Argument or Build the Movement?
Nozomi Hayase
Pathology, Incorporated: the Facade of American Democracy
David Swanson
Fredric Jameson’s War Machine
Jan Oberg
How Did the West Survive a Much Stronger Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact?
Linda Gunter
The Racism of the Nagasaki and Hiroshima Bombings
Dmitry Kovalevich
In Ukraine: Independence From the People
Omar Kassem
Turkey Breaks Out in Jarablus as Fear and Loathing Grip Europe
George Wuerthner
A Birthday Gift to the National Parks: the Maine Woods National Monument
Logan Glitterbomb
Indigenous Property Rights and the Dakota Access Pipeline
National Lawyers Guild
Solidarity with Standing Rock Sioux Tribe against Dakota Access Pipeline
Paul Messersmith-Glavin
100 in Anarchist Years
August 29, 2016
Eric Draitser
Hillary and the Clinton Foundation: Exemplars of America’s Political Rot
Patrick Timmons
Dildos on Campus, Gun in the Library: the New York Times and the Texas Gun War
Jack Rasmus
Bernie Sanders ‘OR’ Revolution: a Statement or a Question?
Richard Moser
Strategic Choreography and Inside/Outside Organizers
Nigel Clarke
President Obama’s “Now Watch This Drive” Moment
Robert Fisk
Iraq’s Willing Executioners
Wahid Azal
The Banality of Evil and the Ivory Tower Masterminds of the 1953 Coup d’Etat in Iran
Farzana Versey
Romancing the Activist
Frances Madeson
Meet the Geronimos: Apache Leader’s Descendants Talk About Living With the Legacy
Nauman Sadiq
The War on Terror and the Carter Doctrine
Lawrence Wittner
Does the Democratic Party Have a Progressive Platform–and Does It Matter?
Marjorie Cohn
Death to the Death Penalty in California
Winslow Myers
Asking the Right Questions
Rivera Sun
The Sane Candidate: Which Representatives Will End the Endless Wars?
Linn Washington Jr.
Philadelphia District Attorney Hammered for Hypocrisy
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail