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Small Banks, Start a Dialogue with Occupy Wall Street

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When reading about the current state of the economy, one thing seems to hit you square in the kisser. 

The financial powers that be don’t have a clue.

Really, nothing is going according to plan. The Fed forecasts regarding economic growth fall dismally short of projections; the Treasury puts a smiley face on programs to keep people in their homes, only to be swamped by a tsunami of new foreclosures.

Frankly, I’d be more impressed if Ben Bernanke and Tom Geithner formulated economic policy by grabbing a few Chinese coins and consulting the I Ching.

But, in response, you have the Occupy movement. Occupy Wall Street, Occupy Oakland, Occupy London – and most tellingly, Occupy Foreclosures.

I think we’re now entering a new phase; one that will see a crystallization of issue-specific Occupy's.  Foreclosure is already a list-topper, with many protestors organized to occupy seized properties around the country. Expect a bit of creativity in the near future and the possibility that even the mass media will not be immune. How about Occupy The Wall Street Journal? Occupy Fox News? Perhaps even Occupy PBS (always a good target for its sucking up big oil, insurance and bank contributions)?  

There are those among the uber-rich who will remain in a state of denial and stay insulated behind six foot high security walls and a phalanx of guards with dogs. But while they snooze, I predict that Occupy will continue to press politicians for reform; channel the spirits of Messrs. Glass and Steagall, demanding a separation of commercial and investment banking.

Matt Taibbi in the current Rolling Stone proffers some advice to protestors: "Hit bankers where it hurts," from taxes on trades of derivatives to eliminating the carried-interest tax breaks for hedge funds. These are all things that have been floating around for some time, and, needless to say, the megabankers and their lobbyists have fought them tooth and nail. 

But let’s just say for a minute that those of good will in the financial world (ie: readers of American Banker), kick off their shoes, relax, drift off into a world where all of Paul Volcker's regulatory pronouncements are embraced and where economist James Tobin’s suggestions for a currency transaction tax have been implemented. Would that be so bad? Could it be that Taibbi is right in his assertion that all this would "generate enough revenue to pay us back for the bailouts … [and] still have enough to fight the deficits?"

What Occupy has to understand (in my opinion) is that the financial community is not monolithic, composed of a bunch of Wall Street Louis XVI’s, willing only to throw bits of cake to a rabble clamoring for revolution. For every senior Chase or Goldman exec, there are thousands of non-mega-bankers willing to work with communities. (Many of those communities are hosting their own Occupy movements.) I’d submit that this key segment of the banking community organize itself into an Occupy movement of sorts, and begin to agitate for an acceptance of some of the aforementioned reforms. Simultaneously, reach out to the now established Occupy movement; create space for forums to bring opposing sides together to discuss critical issues. 

There might, no doubt, provoke spirited discussion (think New England town meetings); broadcast proceedings via public access, or better, the local PBS station. Start a dialogue because, in the end, the 'big reveal' might reveal that there’s more that binds these apparently opposing sides than separates them. 

Joel Sucher, a filmmaker with Pacific St. Films in Hastings-on-Hudson, N.Y. is working on "Foreclosure Diaries," a documentary about the financial crisis.

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Comments (3)
I've said for years that a lot of problems are created by confusing small business with big business. People think they are supporting business, or business-oriented politicians, when they are really supporting just big business - which wants to eat up and destroy small business. Their interests are Not the same.

The big banks would like nothing better than to destroy every small bank in America, and own them all, with Goldman-Sachs and its scion Tim Geither ruling them. Or, as J.R.R. Tolkien said, "One bank to rule them all, and in the darkness bind them." ;')

As for Glass-Steagall, when it was destroyed ten years ago, by Both parties, I predicted that would create an ongoing mess. It was put there for a reason and worked. But if it works, Washington gets rid of it. They only keep things that don't work, like the DEA.
Posted by James M | Sunday, November 06 2011 at 9:52PM ET
If only those of Occupy Wall Street knew

Just think about what those in Wall Street could be saying for if only they really knew what they were talking about... They could for instance be asking for capital requirements based on job creation ratings, because, if as tax payers we are to be the ultimate pick-uppers of any bank crisis, then we should at least be certain that the purpose of the banks is acceptable to us.

Right now, the only purpose for the banks that the regulators have de-facto defined, by means of allowing ridiculous low capital requirements for banks when lending to what is ex-ante perceived as not risky, and which allows immensely high leverage of bank equity, is for the banks to make huge profits... and that, as purposes come, seems a bit vulgar and dumb, to say the least.

(Dumb because never ever do systemic bank crises occur as a result of excessive exposures to what is perceived as "risky" they only result from excessive exposures to what is ex-ante perceived as "not-risky" and which is in fact the only thing that has the ability to generate huge unpleasant surprises.)

If you allow me here is a video explaining current regulatory madness it in an apolitical red and blue! http://bit.ly/mQIHoi
Posted by Per Kurowski | Monday, November 07 2011 at 6:05PM ET
If Ben Bernanke and Tim Geithner consulted the I Ching, here's what they would find:

"When danger threatens, every peasant becomes a soldier; when the war ends, he goes back to his plow. . . . Only a people economically strong can be important in military power. Such power must therefore be cultivated by improving the economic condition of the people and by humane government."

This was today's reading from the Richard Wilhelm translation of the I Ching. Truth is truth, whether 5,000 years ago, or today.

See the whole reading at http://bookofchanges.org
Posted by Susan L | Monday, November 07 2011 at 9:02PM ET
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