The one per cent and their cheerleaders are trying to rewrite history by denying that fraud by Wall Street companies was the direct cause of the financial meltdown of 2008. Now the message being put out is that criticism of Wall Street billionaires is just jealousy, and the laziness of the 99 per cent is the cause of the troubles. I have seen this disingenuous nonsense in right wing opinion columns and on Facebook, and I find it disgusting. The facts are clear, trying to blame the victims of their machinations for their crimes is just adding insult to injury.
Lest we forget, the sorry tale of Wall Street greed and duplicity went something like this. Financial companies in the US deliberately sold mortgages to people who obviously would not be able to keep up the payments. They then bundled these “sub-prime” mortgages with other credit defaults and sold them to unsuspecting clients as investments. The famous rating agency Standard and Poor gave this financial trash, which was very deliberately designed to fail, a triple A rating. Without telling their investors any of this, which is where the fraud comes in, financial corporations then took out insurance on these doomed investments to the tune of billions of dollars.
When the crash came, hedge fund managers made phenomenal profits, one individual making $3.7 billion in one year. This earned him the praise and adulation of financial columnists, who apparently do not consider it matters that this whole exercise put millions of people out of work and/or out of their homes. And though you or I would appear in court if we stole a few items from a store, not one perpetrator of the biggest swindle in history has been charged with anything. On the contrary, the corporations were bailed out by taxpayer money and no significant changes were subsequently made to the laws that made possible a lot of the wreckage done to the economy. Out-of-court settlements are being made in which the corporations do not have to admit guilt and get off with minimal fines. These fines will be paid by their share-holders — that’s some of the people they ripped off in the first place.
This is what inspired Occupy Wall Street. More generally, the protest is about the legal system being thoroughly rigged to favour the ultra-rich at the expense of the other 99 per cent of us. It is no answer that we all have the opportunity to be rich if we want, because rich people are not the only people who count. We all deserve equal fairness, dignity and respect, but the current system is not interested in this. Thousands die and suffer because of wars and financial trickery that enriches the already uber-rich, and governments and the corporations work hand in hand to carry this out. It has to change, and the Occupy movement is currently our biggest hope that it will.