Why We Fight – by Matt Taibbi

This is what really happensIf you’re marching at Occupy sites in lower Manhattan or Joliet, Illinois or Outremont, Quebec or Rapid City, South Dakota or any of a hundred other places across the continent, you surely came with your own reasons. But if you’re reading this and still asking what Wall Street ever did to you, try this:

You were robbed. In the biggest heist in the history of robberies.

It doesn’t matter that you’re young or old, Republican or Democrat — if you’re an American and own a home, collect a pension, pay taxes or have a savings account, you’ve almost certainly spent the last three years getting fleeced.

The national news media has passed off the crash of 2008 and the bailouts that followed as a logical response to a fluky historical accident — a “thousand-year flood” economic mishap that just happens every now and then.

And if you watched chin-stroking TV docudramas like “Too Big to Fail,” what you learned is that at crunch-time our banking and regulatory leaders buckled down and made tough decisions that rescued us all from the abyss.

That is all lies. It is not what happened. What did happen was a mass heist, carried out in four steps:

The theft started when banks created a vast Himalayan mountain range of debt, lending trillions of dollars to unscrupulous lenders like Countrywide and New Century with the aim of creating huge volumes of home loans. As recently as 20 years ago, banks didn’t make risky loans because they worried about collecting on them. But in this case, banks never intended to hold on to the loans; the loans were designed to be sold off as soon as the ink was dry.

Next, banks bought back all of those junk-rated home loans from the Countrywides of the world so they could be pooled and chopped up and resold to suckers in Europe, the Middle East, China and here at home as AAA-rated investments. This is not unlike buying a truckload of oregano, dividing the shipment into ten-thousand Ziploc bags, then touring rock concerts around the world and selling it off as high-grade weed.

Because the banks themselves knew how dicey the loans were, the smartest of them then went out on the market and placed massive bets against those loans.

Finally, when the deadly home loans blew up, creating a global tsunami of losses in which centuries-old companies worth billions vanished in seconds (and even their chief bookie, AIG, collapsed), the banks turned to dishwashers, janitors, firemen, teachers — they turned to us, the taxpayers — to pay off their bets.

Many of the banks’ best customers for these fraudulent oregano-loans were institutional investors like state pension funds; when the mortgages collapsed, retirement funds for state workers and unions all across America plummeted. Which is why retired schoolteachers from Los Angeles to Minneapolis might have woken up in September of 2008 to find their life savings had lost 40% in value.

Wall Street bankers nailed everyone they could find with those deadly mortgages. Every time they struck a deal with a Chinese wealth fund or a Mississippi carpenters’ union to unload their exploding product, they scurried back and forth with delight, high-fiving each other in those skyscraper offices you might now be looking up at from your perch in Liberty Square.

But Wall Street doesn’t shoulder the blame alone. Instead of forcing our criminal financiers to pay victims back, our government — through two equally corrupted presidential administrations, one Democrat, one Republican — doubled down on the theft by forcing the same retired schoolteachers to reach into their pockets a second time, spending tax money to pay off the bets the bankers made against those investments they had sold them.

This level of highly orchestrated, institutional crime is unrivaled in American history. Following the Savings and Loan Crisis in the 1980s our government referred more than 1,100 cases for prosecution; today, after a massive industry-wide mortgage scam, not one Wall Street executive has seen the inside of a prison.

After the crash, the banks were given access to billions in bailouts and zero-percent loans from the federal reserve with the implicit understanding that after we rescued them, they would kick-start the economy and put people back to work. But the banks’ very first move was to restore their own exorbitant salaries.

How to evaluate a bankerIn 2009, barely a year after taxpayers rescued them from imploding, bailout babies like Goldman Sachs ($16.2 billion in 2009 compensation) and Morgan Stanley ($10.7 billion) were doling out record compensation pools  — a trend that has continued to this day, as Wall Street’s annual revenues soared past $417 billion last year, with compensation at $135 billion, both all-time highs.

Three years into this “recovery,” few jobs have been created and a quarter of a million families are still losing their homes every three months. The bailouts did not help us. Instead, they helped the people who put us out of our homes and on to the streets.

There are a thousand reasons to occupy Wall Street — unending war, a failing health care system, the need for jobs and a living wage, gross wealth inequality. But if you need just one reason to join this movement, it is this:

You were robbed, and your government helped finish the job.

This article was published in the fifth print issue of The Occupied Wall Street Journal on November 18, 2011.

Yes, We Can!

Something big is happening and despite the lack of coverage by mainstream media (at the request of their corporate overlords), a new message with tremendous moral authority is spreading. It is an idea whose time has come.

Citizen media is the reason and as you see, it has lots of support.  This is footage from Jan. 17, 2012 in Washington DC and it shows citizen protesters exercising their First Amendment rights to redress their grievances against a corrupt and out-of-control government. The civil disobedience depicted  is non-violent and is correctly targeted at the scene of the crime – Congress and the White House.

The revolution may not be televised, but is is being documented and more importantly, IT IS HAPPENING!

Occupy the Courts – Kansas City Jan. 20, 2012

On January 20, 2012, I had the privilege of protesting outside our Federal Court House with my fellow Kansas Citians, the 2nd year anniversary of the Supreme Court’s disastrous Citizens United ruling .

Although it was an arctic 1 degree Fahrenheit and windy, we came together in solidarity with over 110 other cities to demonstrate to the corporatacracy and their crony stooges on the Supreme Court bench that we have not simply “gone away” because of the winter cold.

“We are very much in their face; on the streets, at kitchen tables across the country, in local newspapers, on community radio and the Internet – we’re having the conversation that matters.”

Despite what is being reported (or not) in the mainstream media, this movement toward sanity is gaining strength.  And unlike what the media has reported, it is not homeless people, unemployed students, full-on crazies or damn-dirty-hippies that attend these events. Quite the opposite is true.

I’ve attended several of these events and am amazed at how many passionate, well-informed and critically thinking people there are out there.  These aren’t professional think-tank goons; they’re alert, intelligent, everyday citizens. They come from every conceivable background, represent every age group, come from many different cultural backgrounds, economic and educational strata and in general, demonstrate that there is very broad support for what we’re doing.

Then I come home and turn on the television and see exactly the opposite; stupid people (disguised as news reporters and political commentators) spewing even dumber propaganda into the heads of the mass uninformed.  It’s so sad.

Below are a few photos from our recent event.  You may notice that none of them are homeless communists waiting to grab your guns and turn you gay.  They’re regular people who understand that NOW is the time to take our government back while we still can.

And now, I proudly present some of the brave Americans that stood with me in the arctic cold to make our case: