If you are prepared to define 'all over the world' as 'the rich few countries' then 'all over the world' protesters have gathered at Wall Street and places they perceive as local equivalents (Like Beursplein, Amsterdam; which is a bit silly since the banks and stock markets haven't actually had their offices there for decades) to protest. They are protesting many things, there's no agenda, no list of demands. In general they are just angry at where the world is going and I couldn't agree more; I'm friggin' pissed. But I will not join them. Here's why.
To be honest it's probably not entirely their fault. The fact of the matter is that, at least here in Europe, you just can't organize a protest without at least drawing the fringe radicals. In fact, you can't really organize a protest without working with the fringe radicals. They have the equipment, the people-power and if you don't they are likely to start a smear campaign against you online at best, physically try to disrupt your gathering if they can. And it's tempting. If your initiative is deemed worthy, there's a world of resources available to you; I've been offered entire mobile radio studio's, a mobile concert stage, use of a professional printing press... all at no cost.
All I said was I could use more light at my desk.
A friend called as I was writing this, she'd gone to look. I quote; "It was total bullshit. It was the socialists against the communists, conspiracy theorists...". Now my friend typically calls when she's playing on her Xbox, while chatting on MSN and texting on her phone. Her attention span is not impressive is all I'm saying. (She's hot, though.) So she wasn't entirely coherent, but you get the drift.
You see, these groups operate like cults. Their members are totally devoted to 'the cause' and this means they have resources (some of these groups even demand a percentage of their members' salaries) and foot soldiers a-plenty. The more established far-left groups own realestate; renting homes to their members, operate like a multinational with a head office and satellites in other cities. They have their own lawyers, usually on stand-by during protests to represent arrested members, their own radio stations (although there has been a crackdown on the illicit use of the frequencies recently) and safe-houses.
These people are working for a higher cause. Whatever it is you are protesting; they don't really care. They are in it for the disruption they hope to cause to the system, and to win souls.
Knowing their modus operandi they probably drove up in a few buses and started handing out placards with simple slogans and their logo on it. Then they mingled and unfurled their red flags, and if you look at the footage now you could easily believe they are the majority.
It's a tactic and they use it well.
Another tactic they use is what they call 'Entryism'. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Entryism)It boils down to radicals joining less radical organizations, either to undermine them or to steer them towards a more radical path. Judging from the faces I see on TV, this has been very successful of late.
How do I know all this? I was once member of one of these radical groups. We made no secret of our intentions, or our tactics.
In any case, even if I were willing to provide these groups with a forum and to be one of their foot-soldiers by association, I wouldn't feel safe out there. You don't leave these organizations. It just doesn't happen. You may 'retire' or 'take a break' and be considered a 'sleeper' but you don't switch allegiances, especially not the way I did; high profile, by joining the Libertarian party. (Not a thing I did lightly, by the way.) I'm considered a traitor to the cause and last time I was near one of these protests I was singled out, beaten, and had to flee behind police lines to escape worse.
So there's that.
But mainly, I think they are dangerous cultists and I don't want to further their cause, not even sideways.
Yes, the banks played dirty. Yes, the banks take our cash. Bailouts are wrong. But they are not the root cause of the problems; like a lot of crime is a product of poverty, white-collar crime is a product of politics.
The governments that rule us are deeply, deeply, intertwined with the financial system. For one because governments have billions upon billions parked with said banks. Not bailing them out simply would have been far more costly.
Governments deal with each other through banks. Dirty, secret deals, yes. But also the mundane daily stuff. You go to Japan, you spend cash. Your cash probably started out as Dollars or Euro's. You need your cash to be Yens. At some point your paper gets traded for other paper. The original paper needs to make its way back home. Virtually, or in a real sense. At any given point in time, billions upon billions of moneys are held by banks in transit between governments. Not always friendly governments, either. Some of these governments are downright rude.
I'm ignoring you.
A lot of diplomacy goes through the banks as well. Countries may not have an embassy in another country, but banks have offices. I can guarantee you that whatever happens on the world stage, from a dirty weapons deal to a deposed tyrant all makes invisible ripples in the international money rivers.
And before you conclude from this that the banks are therefore some invisible conspiracy for shady political dealings; ask yourself how your local charity gets your donation to the people in need abroad. On a fishing-trawler? I think not. Sorry.
Governments also loan each other money. In fact, you are loaning governments money. Your simple savings account, to qualify as a 'safe' investment, has to invest your savings in 'safe' investments. Traditionally one of those are loans to governments.
I'll try to keep this simple because I could fill an entire article with just this stuff and I still wouldn't have fully explained the complexities of this.
The fact of the matter is that letting banks fall could well have meant letting entire governments fall. And what happens then? Well, traditionally it's war, famine and loss of trade, meaning loss of jobs at home.
Say Greece goes down, as it's actually quite likely to do. Greece sits on a powder-keg of local radicals, a big neighbor (Turkey) who wants big chunks of it for itself, and surrounded by volatile countries who, frankly, shouldn't be allowed to have a BB-gun but strangely have more weapons than a NRA board meeting.
If Greece falls, and isn't caught somehow, it might destabilize an entire region and unstable regions tend not to do much trade with stable regions. And trust me, if no international trade happens, no jobs happen around your neighborhood.
Banks are facilitators in this game, in much the same way that the oil industry is and, well, pretty much any other industry. Fruit makes up for more international trade than oil. Don't believe me?Spot quiz; how much of the oil consumed in the US actually comes from the middle-east?
According to my translator, these banners say "No war for fruit!".
11 percent. That much. And in fact, the US can easily do without it.
Canada provides more oil to the US than all other countries combined, and lets be honest; that's hardly international trade. (Sorry Cannucks, but having a funny accent and a queen still doesn't make you much more than the US' weird neighbor kid.)
So why is the middle-east so important to the US then? Money. Or, actually, gold. Or the lack thereof.
Once upon a time the US had a thing called the 'gold standard'. It meant that for every dollar printed, there was an equivalent amount of gold in a vault somewhere. Roosevelt shot this system down, Nixon finished it off. This meant banks could print more money, which worked out great for a while. But it also means that there is no more objective way to determine the dollar's value.
This is where oil stepped in. In the international marketplace barrels of oil de-facto tell traders how much those dollars are worth, which is important since -as I just explained- dollars tend to travel. The OPEC, a group of oil-producing countries, many of them of the middle-eastern persuasion and therefore not entirely on the best of terms with the west as it is, sets the price of barrels of oil.
This is fine for as long as they need dollars to be worth something. You know, because it works both ways. But... 11 percent. The US isn't their biggest customer or anything. The EU is. And now the EU has this nice and stable currency called the Euro. (OK, the Greece thing might put a snag in that scheme, but still.) Noises are made every once in a while to switch to the Euro and mysteriously the US bombs an OPEC member, or some dictator the OPEC kinda dislikes ...
My point? Instead of targeting the banks as if they caused all this, they should target their own governments, and not necessarily the big bad capitalist parts either, but the nice and pinko parts, since it's their Keynesian monetary policies that got us in this weird strangle-hold in the first place.
And yes, the banks are playing dirty. But you don't shoot the drummer, you shoot the gunner.
Honestly, I couldn't care less about some hotshots getting big bonuses. It makes sense. I can relate. My job is built on reputation. I have threatened to, and on one occasion did, leave employers because their choices would affect my reputation 'in the field' adversely to a point that I feared I would become unemployable. It is the same for these heads of business. They make mad cash, but it can all dry up in an instant if they become tainted with failure. Still, banks need competent people to run them. Even more; they need people with the right reputation and network to run them.
Deals are made thus; teams of lawyers and negotiators work tirelessly for months, years sometimes, fleshing out all kinds of details. Then the big boys step in and often seal the deal with a few phone calls or E-mails. Take the Apple/Samsung spat that's going on right now. Ever wonder why these companies are fighting so dirty while Samsung produces nearly half the components in Apple products? It's tactics. It's a game. The lawyers and judges are being played like puppets while I can assure you that the late Jobs and his Samsung counterpart were working out the real resolution like chess-players at a big dirty board. Samsung gets a better deal on semiconductors here, Apple renegotiates some contracts... using the court case as just another form of leverage.
Your buddy-network is your real capital, and if you have the smell of failure around you your big shot buddies won't want to be seen with you. These big bonuses aren't important to these people for the cash. They make billions as it is. The bonus is their way of showing their buddies that yes; they are piloting a sinking ship, but they know that. It's their way of making sure people know that they aren't a failure but instead were hired for much moolah to fix matters.
After all; if you can't take care of yourself, how is your next employer going to believe you can negotiate good deals for them?
A big bonus just feels wrong when thousands have just lost their job. I get that. But it's a red flag to your bull. It draws attention to an easy to grasp symbol of what's wrong with the system. Here's this guy cashing in while I'm eating beans from the can. No fair!
Notice how, oddly, the bullfighter is not actually behind the red flag.
I'm very tempted to agree, even. I mean; if you're a billionaire and you've let your bank go under, take the friggin' hit and retire after you've steered it to calmer waters. (And some did.)
But from a dispassionate viewpoint it is understandable. The people giving the bonus, at least, have little choice. It's easy to say 'I'll do the job for half that'. Let's face it, you've heard that said in the pub, right? But the fact of the matter is, you nor your buddy at the local watering hole buddy-up with presidents or heads of industry. Plant your buddy at the head of a bank and he could be a very competent person for the job. Why not. But the other captains of industry would simply not deal with him.
Now, if you are a bank and you are floundering; do you hire your buddy, or spend the extra cash and get someone who has the POTUS' home number?
Darnit Jim, just connect on LinkedIn ok? I don't have time right now.
And it's not as if these bonuses amount to much in the big scheme of things. Oh, the numbers sound big, true. But they are chump-change to banks and large businesses. Withholding all bonuses wouldn't save a single job. It's not a trade. If your job went 'poof' it's not because they couldn't pay your salary anymore. It's because they couldn't pay your salary, keep on the building you worked in, the taxes they paid on all that, and so on and so on, for ten years to come.
Say my department went 'poof'. That would mean one floor less to pay rent over. Quite a few salaries less to pay. But most importantly; a few million a year less to spend which my team and I, and my colleagues in the other rooms, spend on doing what we do. And by a few, I mean, QUITE a few. Like one bonus a few. And these companies were laying off thousands. I'm not saying it's right, or fair. I'm saying it's not as simple as lay off peons so you have cash for a bonus.
These protests were organized through Facebook, a capitalist poster-child multinational if ever there was one. To use Facebook you generally need a computer or mobile device, strangely not products known to be produced ethically by local mom and pop businesses who hug puppies on their lunch breaks.
They use GPS to bypass roadblocks, while protesting the industrial-military complex. They use the internet (kinda a thing you need to use Facebook), both maintained by such exponents of the 'industrial-military complex' as NASA, for one.
But mostly; they can afford to be out there. Someone feeds and clothes them, while they protest. I'll step out on a limb here and assert that most of them have student grants, jobs or some form of welfare. If they aren't living at home, that is. In any case; they aren't the ones hit by the depression in any real way or they would not be there in their tents but struggling to make ends meet like the REAL 99%.
This in turn means that they, themselves, are the people who demanded from the government that they get handouts in some form or another. Governments aren't loaning money from banks to spend on strippers and cocaine.
The one and main reason governments are out of pocket is because directly or indirectly they buy votes by promising stuff to people. Farmers get mad cash in many different ways. Welfare costs money. Not a whole lot compared to the cost of a nice quiet war abroad, but those wars are also fought to directly or indirectly protect the trade and international relations that maintain your jobs and standard of living.
They are the ones who cultivated this culture of entitlement that caused us all to live on credit. Governments live on credit to be able to give their constituency what it demands. People live on credit because they feel entitled to more wealth than they actually generate.
This may sound harsh, but it is the simple fact of the matter; we are up the river we are up, without the paddle we don't have because all of us (well, not me, but I don't want to sound holier-than-thou) maxed out three credit cards and bought houses we couldn't really afford, banking on our governments to keep the economy stable and expanding.
Governments did this by entering into a crazy pyramid scheme and it went 'poof' on them. You can blame the banks, you can blame politicians, there's more than enough blame to go around, but without junkies, no dealer.
Take a wild guess who wants the economy to pick up the hardest? Me? I may be a humble middle-manager and I would very much like to make a bit more and pay a little less in taxes since over two thirds of what I earn goes to the government in some form or another but I'm also good at what I do and I know I'm employable. I may not drive a Merc S any day soon, but I'll eat.
You? You may think so, but realistically, even 10% unemployment means that the odds of you being employed are very much in your favor, especially if you aren't too arrogant to accept a small step back for a while.
Politicians? They are fat cats to the man. Vote them out and they'll make their millions stretch, I'm sure.
Wall Street traders, that's who. Their incomes depend on the stock market rising. If the Dow Jones falls, it's their actual money that evaporates.
But serves them right, right? After all, they are just gambling with our jobs, right?
Wrong. Without them you wouldn't HAVE jobs.
Lets take an easy to grasp example; suppose your job is loading ships. Ships bring goods to people who need them such as steel to build houses and fruit to make smoothies for yuppies. Entire industries depend on you doing your job right, from the builder to the server at the local diner; you keep them in a job. Cool, huh?
But someone built that ship. The cost of building a ship is enormous, too big for any company to cough up on their own. So, a company wanting to put a new ship in the water sells shares of this new enterprise. Those shares are in essence deeds to a tiny part of that ship. By buying shares you are in effect becoming the employer of those CEO's who are derided for their bonuses.
Those buying these shares, of course, hope that the ship makes them a little profit, but there is no guarantee. If the thing does a flip-flop in open waters and angry yuppies line the shore waiting for their papayas then they get nothing.
Don't think I'm exaggerating here. I used to work for a publisher of financial information and one of our largest advertisers brokered shares in ships.
In return for letting this shipping company take a certain risk with their money, investors want some compensation in the form of dividends or simply a rising value of their share which they can then sell at a profit.
And that's what goes on at Wall Street; the buying and selling of these tiny parts of businesses.
So that's how pretty directly these evil, evil, people make sure you can haz a jobs.
But it goes further than that. You see; many things you probably take for granted depend on these stocks rising in value. Like your pension. Ever wonder how, if you put in a few hundred every month (or less) pension funds can still give you 75% (based on my situation) of your old pay for an undetermined amount of years after you got your fake gold watch? Simple; they invest your money and hope it grows, they hope all those ships come in.
One of the things the protesters are riled about out there, at least here in the Netherlands, is that the age at which you can retire has been raised. Because there simply isn't enough money to pay all those pensions for all those years anymore. Because the stock-markets kinda aren't booming right now.
So, in fact, they are shouting abuse at stock market traders for doing the things they demand of them they do; make money.
But still, they are heartless people, gambling with your jobs, right? Well, when the recession first set in I've seen grown men cry because they lost their homes, their jobs, everything. They weren't builders, nurses or web-designers. They were stock traders.
Pretty evil of them.
And you know who also depend on the stock markets? Local businesses. Mom & Pop stores. You see; there are no pensions for private entrepreneurs. The vast majority of people buying and selling these shares are in fact private individuals, through the traders on Wall Street, trying to secure a pension of sorts.
Can't they just save up? Well, you do the math; to have 75% of what you earned in the 40 or so years that you worked for, say, another twenty or thirty years afterward (here's hoping, anyway. You could also just not exercise and eat many gushy cheezburgers, of course. Smoking helps, too.) you'd have to put away a pretty sizable chunk of your pay now. Consider, also, that due to inflation, money in a regular savings account actually becomes less over the years, not more.
My pension is partly tied up in shares directly because I was a private entrepreneur for a large chunk of my career. I needed to be to build the reputation that makes me employable now. I part 'own' some of those banks you think are so evil.
Sorry about that. If it helps; I think you were a GREAT janitor and I wouldn't have fired you.
Tax the 1%? The numbers aren't that hard to grasp. Even if the fabled 'one percent' donated all their money it wouldn't make a dent.
Sure, billionaires evade taxes. Evade doesn't mean fraud. Earn more than most and you can be assured of that yearly audit. Companies are audited pretty much as a matter of course. They evade taxes by using loop-holes often put in place explicitly to make the tax system fairer. That regular people don't use these loopholes is because, in many instances, they don't know or put in the effort. Many of these loopholes are even openly advertised by the tax guys every year.
They aren't squirreling away cash so you can't have it. They are simply filling out their forms correctly. And yes, then there are the tax havens. Guess what; you could use those too, in many cases. A friend of mine builds a profitable business out of helping folks like you and me evade taxes, totally legally, even with the blessing of the tax folks.
And please hold your tongue if you have EVER bought tax-free at the airport.
I have family in France and for my job and hobbies I regularly travel to Germany and Belgium. You can be sure that I shop till I drop in Luxembourg or on the plane. And so should/would you.
Sure, corporations move to lower tax countries. I mean, even Bono does it. And if that means your job goes to Ireland and you can't come, that sucks.
But your job was where it was, I'm fairly sure, because at the time said company got a tax break from your local politicians.
Bush gave some LSD-trip weird tax breaks to his buddies. Sure. And as a Libertarian I don't believe in taxing anyone at all.
But the fact is that corporations exist to make money. That's why they need you to work for them. They aren't a charity and neither are you, I'm guessing. And said money goes towards paying salaries.
The protesters want jobs on the one hand, and to extort more money from the job-providers on the other hand.
This brings me to the one thing I totally agree with; better schooling. They want that too. I'm guessing from their grasp of economics and basic math, they need it.
Chandelier: Przemek Baginski
Soldier: Dave Dyet
Protesters: Michael Zacharzewski
Bullfighter: Lars Brito
Obama: White House stock
Coffee: Szuzanna Kilian
Ireland: Loes Habraken.