May 12, 2011 – I was taking a nap when suddenly I was roused by a full blown marching band and some unidentified cheering. What the hell is this I thought. Not a stranger to random NYC protests, usually I find them annoying. A bunch of vegans or some other hippie group yelling about a non-issue that they want changed. Yawn. So I walked over to my window and looked outside. This was no flash mob ladies and gentlemen but a full on march. I still couldn’t hear what they were saying (the shouting ironically made it harder to hear them) but I did see signs – “Make Banks Pay.”
Some quick Googeling turned up news results that matched the signs. Teachers and other unions, in opposition to the education cuts taking place state/citywide were marching on Wall Street to somehow hopefully convince the government that banks should pay more to offset the cost of education. With America steadily slipping in polls that rank the quality of our schools against those around the world, their concern is one that should not be overlooked. The proposed solution? Rather than firing teachers and cutting the budget we should – gasp – extract more money from the people privileged with holding our money. Great idea.
While this might have sounded good on paper at the pre-rally meeting, anyone who has lived through the last 3 years can tell you that the likelihood of success was a staggering 0%. America loves its banks. Correction, the American government loves its banks. In fact we love banks so much that we don’t only despise the idea of taking more money from them, we go out of our way to throw money at them. It doesn’t matter what type of bank you are. Commercial banks, investment banks, if you are a bank you are lucky enough to have bought into the most protected, liability free, taxpayer backed business venture ever.
Banking and the financial services industry in this country has become a disgrace to the American people. This is not because of the outrageous bonuses, stupidly high salaries, or other perks delivered to an industry who creates nothing. (O.K. that may be part of it) Rather, what is disgraceful is that we have a government that is willing to stake taxpayer money to buoy an industry that spits in the face of the American people as it repeatedly operates without any sense of responsibility. Forget the concept of too big to fail, you can’t fail! (Unless of course your Lehman Brothers and are so corrupt e.g. Repo 105 that even the government balks at bailing you out.) You want to create a derivative market for sub-prime securities that you developed based on fraudulent loans? No problem. You need to borrow money because you stupidly gave 400mm dollars to name Citi Field when you don’t have the cash? Who cares! Baking takes the term moral hazard to a new level of unbridled, unabashed, arrogance. All when our schools are sagging and could use that money to do some serious good.
While the protest was never going to be a success, the idea the teachers and other unions raised deserves more support. Instead of bending over backwards to help organizations that pillage from the community coffers only to come back time and again asking for more, put the money towards something useful – education. If there is ever a choice between backing a group of people who are still getting paid deferred bonuses from 2007 (thank you Lloyd) and supporting something that will benefit our entire country in the long run, the choice should be simple. I, along with many Americans, would support a higher tax, a levy, or a good old repo run on the banking system. Sure it will never happen, the time has come to make money mill stop. The next time Wall Street hits a speed bump let the banks go under. Save our schools.