Occupy Wall Street: 'We're Mad As Hell and We're Not Going to Take It Anymore'
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A few months ago Nassim Taleb, author of The Black Swan, an influential book about the crucial importance of unpredictable, unforeseen events on our financial system, was asked whether the hundreds of thousands taking to the streets in Greece was a Black Swan event. He replied, “No. The real Black Swan event is that people are not rioting against the banks in London and New York.”
They are now. Not rioting perhaps, but vigorously protesting. Occupy Wall Street is moving into its second month. Twenty-thousand strong demonstrated in New York City this week. Similar demonstrations are spreading nationwide.
In the 1976 movie, Network, anchorman Howard Beale tells his viewers,
Things have got to change. But first, you’ve gotta get mad!… You’ve got to say, ‘I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!’ Then we’ll figure out what to do about the depression and the inflation and the oil crisis. But first get up out of your chairs, open the window, stick your head out, and yell, and say it: “I’M AS MAD AS HELL, AND I’M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE!”
We’re mad as hell and we’re not going to take this anymore. That is the message of the sit-ins by U.S. Uncut, the protests against Bank of America, the occupation of Freedom Plaza in Washington, D.C. to protest the war, Occupy Wall Street and the growing numbers of #Occupy demonstrations around the country.
We’re mad at the devastation wrought in the last four years by the toxic combination of unrestrained greed and concentrated wealth. Twelve to 15 million families have received foreclosure notices. Seven to 10 million more are unemployed. Median household income has fallen to its lowest level in more than a decade while the poverty rate is at a 17-year high. The number of homeless in New York City rose to an all-time high last year—higher even than during the Great Depression—with a record 113,000 men, women, and children, many of them comprising whole families, retreating night after night to municipal shelters.
We’re mad at Wall Street for taking our money and giving nothing back. This administration has given Wall Street nearly $10 trillion in various programs, from insuring money market accounts to the Fed’s buying of troubled assets to loaning money to banks at near-zero interest rates.
Wall Street has used the bailout to enrich itself. In 2010, it handed out $149 billion in bonuses and compensation, near an all-time high. But it did not pass that largesse down. While bank profits have risen 136 percent since the financial crisis bank lending has fallen by 9 percent.
We’re mad at the 1 percent of the country who make decisions that enrich themselves while impoverishing the rest of us. From 1980 to 2005, more than 80 percent of the increase in personal incomes went to one percent of the population. One percent of Americans now take in more than a quarter of the nation’s income every year. In New York City, home to Wall Street, the top 1 percent took for themselves close to 44 percent of all income in New York during 2007 (the last year for which data is available). According to the Fiscal Policy Institute, the wealth of this 1 percent derived almost entirely from the financial services sector. To qualify for inclusion on the 2011 Forbes list of the richest 400 Americans you need to be worth at least $1 billion. In 2009 those 400 had average incomes of $227 million.
“We are the 99 percent,” is a fitting slogan for the new movements.