Time for a Wall Street ‘Perp Walk’?

After the savings-and-loan debacle of the 1980s and the Internet bust a decade ago, hundreds of financial culprits were “perp-walked” to jail. But the big bankers who tanked today’s economy have escaped punishment, an omission that Danny Schechter says must change.

By Danny Schechter

Wall Street has become a battleground, defended by a battalion of New York cops and under surveillance around the clock. There’s a war under way after months of protests and assaults by the non-violent warriors of Occupy Wall Street. So, who’s winning?

On the surface, despite major layoffs and economic setbacks, you would have to say that the epicenter of our financial markets is alive, if not well. The exchanges and banks remain open for business, even if their costs for security are up, and their long-term optimism is way down.

New York Stock Exchange

Attempts by occupiers and activists to “shut it down” have so far failed, but they have slowed it down and forced its defenders on the defensive. A sharp critique of this out-of-control capitalism, which was barely heard in the media before the movement began, is now everywhere. The Movement has changed the national conversation.

The gluttons of greed are, at least temporarily, on the defensive. But, is the movement forcing reforms or restraint? Not yet. Europe’s pain so far seems to be America’s gain, as bailouts there drive stock prices here higher.

Also, as we are learning, there is not much that the Federal Reserve won’t do behind the scenes to keep big banks flourishing. We just found out, three years after the fact, that they pumped a whopping $17.7 TRILLION in no interest money into the coffers of financial institutions whose lobbyists and media decry big government intervention and the evils of socialism.

Down, the street, the Occupiers are winning a moral victory just by surviving. Their slogan du jour is now “It’s So Not Over,” even as they lost Zuccotti Park, which was their base and have suffered setbacks across the country by what seems like a coordinated municipal counter-offensive.

Public opinion seems to turn against protesters when there’s violence or conduct considered outrageous, but the New York Times reports, “The Occupy Wall Street protests continue to spread around the country, highlighting grievances some Americans have about banks, income inequality and a sense that the poor and middle class have been disenfranchised.

“A recent New York Times/CBS News poll found that almost half of the public thinks the sentiments at the root of the movement generally reflect the views of most Americans.”

So, on one level, Wall Street is losing whatever positive reputation it still may have enjoyed, even if the Movement challenging it still lacks a specific program. What would winning consist of in this context?

For the financiers and the investors, it’s all about money and they are still making it, even if bonuses go down for a while. They continue to deepen inequality by transferring wealth from the rest of us into their pockets. The 1 percent is hardly hurting the way the 99 percent is hurting.

The lobbyists for the 1 percent and the politicians that follow their lead have managed to thwart any real financial reforms, mild as they were. Risky derivatives remain risky. The industry has succeeded in keeping a shadowy banking system non-transparent, despite the credit-rating agencies marking down the risks and the state Attorney Generals who are beginning to summon up the courage to file lawsuits.

Critics of Occupy Wall Street want the movement to grow up, be more focused and “pragmatic” as in engaging in policy debates defined by others. In a specious denunciation of “The Decadent Left,” Russ Douthat, one of the New York Times’ Op-Ed wags, snipes  that the “movement was dreamed up in part by flakes, and populated in part by fantasists.”

To him, being political means moving from the outside to the inside and losing the very qualities that built the Movement. It means not aligning with unions or building coalitions. It means playing the Game.

In contrast, I believe the Movement has to stay true to itself, while making all of these issues more personal to the American people who are suffering because of Wall Street’s manipulations. The people have to be told who is really responsible for their terrible distress:  the loss of jobs, pensions and homes.

The information is there — but the movement needs to find ways of dramatizing it and communicating it, the more specific and less rhetorical the better. It’s time for an economic justice campaign that names and shames the reprehensible Wall Street elite, a crew that constitutes less that .1 percent of the 1 percent.

We have to demand three I’s and a P:

–Investigate who stole what

–Indict wrongdoers

–Prosecute the guilty

–Incarcerate white-collar criminals

That’s how to send a signal to Wall Street:  Make it personal!

Demand that prosecutors in cities, states and the U.S. Justice Department explain why none of the big banksters responsible for our economic misery have, so far, gone to jail. (More than 1,700 fraudsters were imprisoned after the far less serious S&L crisis.) These CEO’s knew what they were doing and they are getting away with it!

This approach won’t transform the economy but it will make the targets of the campaign more concrete, visible and immediate. It raises demands for economic fairness that most Americans support.

The current system of government agencies agreeing to Wall Street settlements without anyone admitting responsibility has to stop. The cover-ups by politicians and the complicit of media have to stop. We have had bailouts. Now, its time for a “jailout!”

Talk about an issue that so many agree on but yet has been so politicized and so minimized by prosecutors seeking excuses. Yes, the industry has a flotilla of high-priced lawyers who know how to evade and avoid justice. Yes, they have rewritten the laws to make it hard to convict.

But, until now, there has been no one in the streets — with protests or pitchforks – demanding justice. Occupy Wall Street has shown that you can influence the agenda. This issue is a no-brainer. Who will pick it up?

News Dissector Danny Schechter directed the DVD Plunder on financial crimes, (PlundertheCrimeofourtime.com.) His new book OCCUPY, with his many blogs and essays on Occupy Wall Street will be out soon (Newsdissector.com)  Comments to dissector@mediachannel.org

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6 comments on “Time for a Wall Street ‘Perp Walk’?

  1. Brian F. Wood on said:

    This happens, I might again think I’m obligated to obey laws I find inconvenient. I try to emulate my betters, and, apparently, my betters are giving me license to steal.

  2. Loren Hunt on said:

    Nothing could be more obvious, but it seems it will never happen. There are, in fact far fewer prosecutions and SEC investigations under Obama than there was under Bush. It is all very hard to believe. Our government has been completely and entirely bought and sold by this criminal banking enterprise.

  3. Yes, and go after insurance companies too. And start with AIG and indict Joseph Cassano. AIG received massive bailouts and turned around and paid 100 cents on the dollar ($13 billion) to the Goldman Sachs’ “experts” who bet against their own customers when they sold crappy securities rated AAA by the colluding rating agencies that they knew were worthless, they knew it and then expected to be paid by AIG for betting against the crap they sold. If that’s not printing money I don’t know what is. If that’s not fraud what is? And then – this is the worst part – Goldman Sachs had the gall to pay themselves huge bonuses with the “hardworking taxpayer’s” money they received from AIG which came directly from the government because they were too big to fail. Come on!

  4. Let’s not forget our mutinous politicians who want to turn 2012 America into 1934 Fascist Germany. “We the People” should summarily evict these traitors from Washington, and possibly throw them into military prisons.

    Then, just before we slam the cell door shut for an indefinite amount of time without a trial, we say, “You should have been careful about what you asked for, because now you got it!”

    SLAM! CLANG!

  5. Justice for the 99% on said:

    You should research the x-Wachovia banker Charlie Petrizzo of Charlotte NC. Wachovia was absorbed by Fells Fargo and bailed out. But before that they were busted for laundering Mexican Cartel drug money and helping scammers who duped senior citizens out of their SS checks, to the tune of some $200 million. Charlie got out of there before the heat came down and started a dog breeding business, and since he contributes heavily to the repug’s, he got his dogs placed in over 10 prisons for the inmates to train. One of these prisons is Indiana Women’s Prison where he became aware of one of the high-profiler child killers there named Melinda Loveless, who trained his dogs. In 1992 Melinda Loveless and three other teen girls kidnapped, tortured, and burned alive, 12 year old Shanda Sharer. Recently he started a charity with his dogs and went to IWP to interview Melinda. In this video he says Melinda is a good person now and blows smoke up his own ass about his charity, and claims he has never meet Melinda before. But we know different, an inmate said that Melinda had a rich sugar-daddy from out of state who writes her letters, sends gifts, and paid for her attorney when she tried for an early release some 4 years ago. Why would he do this? Because he can and like birds of a feather, psycho’s hang together. Except he is doing it with money he stole from senior citizens and laundered drug money.

  6. Nancy Abler on said:

    I agree with Danny Schecter. The protesters should get on message focusing on and enumerating the specific crimes committed against the American people. Parade around the country thousands of these signs putting the appropriate faces of these criminals on them. This sends a defining message and clarifies what these protests are all about. Obama has stated that the misdeeds committed were not being prosecuted because they were not actually against the law. I don’t agree. My theory is the retaliation against him might be lethal.