Dear Occupy Wall Street: Will You Stand with Me?
October 7, 2011
By Shah Gilani, Capital Waves Strategist, Money Morning
Dear Occupy Wall Street Demonstrators,
Let me start by saying that I applaud your initiative. Grassroots protests are the essence of democracy. And as we've seen with the Tea Party movement and the Arab Spring, nonviolent protests are a powerful way to effect meaningful change.
Yet even though I'm 100% behind you in spirit, I can't fully support your cause.
Don't get me wrong, I want to join you. But I can't - not yet, anyway.
And the reason why I can't support your ultimate goals is a simple one: I don't know what they are.
So how about this? I'm going to tell you what I stand for. I'm going to tell you what my goals are. And if you agree, then we can stand together. And i f you agree with me, I won't wait another minute before joining you whenever and wherever I'm needed.
So here it goes.
The reason I'm already leaning towards your side is that the fountainhead of your disgust seems to be "Wall Street."
Now, I don't know what Wall Street means to you. But to me, it means all the crony capitalists and market manipulators whose calculators and spreadsheets say the present value of their self-serving greed is worth discounting all of America's future.
That's the Wall Street that I'm committed to fighting - the Wall Street that's littered with greed and corruption.
But to me, the "Wall Street" we're fighting against is not synonymous with capitalists. The enemy we share doesn't include the entrepreneurs and self-starters that have built this country up brick by brick.
So if you think socialism is better than capitalism, you can count me out. If you think that redistributing earned income from hard working Americans to support lazy, self-indulgent, able-bodied crybabies is fair, count me out. If you think that making a lot of money, fairly and honestly, is un-American, count me out. And, if you're thinking about violence or destroying other people's property, count me out.
But if you're mad that Wall Street money has bought our Congress; if you're mad that there's an oligarchy of banker puppeteers pulling the strings of the U.S. Federal Reserve; if you're mad that Wall Street is hell-bent on toying with the stock market and turning the screws on fixed-income investors, parents, and retirees to expand their profit margins; and, if you are mad that "too-big-to-fail" banks can wreck the economy and get bailed out, only to become bigger bullies while tens of millions of Americans lose their homes, jobs, and retirement savings, then I am solidly with you.
And, if you're with me, we agree that we need to tear down Wall Street to rebuild Main Street!
That's where we stand, hopefully united.
Now let me offer up a list - a manifesto, if you will - that you may or may not choose to adopt. But remember, I'm not trying to hijack your movement. I just want to offer some vision and clarity.
So these are the goals I'd like for us all, as fed-up Americans, to undertake:
1.Break up too-big-to-fail banks so they aren't threatening our financial system .
2.Investigate failed banks for fraud, and indict and incarcerate guilty parties.
3.Scale banker bonuses progressively with long-vesting stock options.
4.Legislate pay claw-back provisions and criminal statutes for bad banker behavior.
5.Eliminate volatility-inducing high-frequency-trading and ETF program arbitrage.
6.Make all derivatives exchange traded, highly margined, and transparent.
7.Limit credit default swaps to two times the value of at-risk underlying credits.
8.Mandate exhaustive studies of the potential market impact of newly created financial products.
9.Create simple, effective, light-touch regulations with heavy criminal penalties .
10.Cap Wall Street's political contributions and make them transparent.
11.Audit the Federal Reserve and limit its lending to domestic banking institutions.
12.Give the Consumer Protection Finance Bureau (CPFB) criminal indictment powers, including over the Federal Reserve.
13.Make Wall Street answer to the needs of Main Street, not the other way around.
Please don't get me wrong. It's not that there aren't plenty of other things in the United States that need fixing. I think we'd all agree we need to simplify and "fairify" the tax code, if not throw it out altogether. But, your movement is Occupy Wall Street, so let's stick to that.
There's one last thing. I'm certain that with thousands of supporters you'll find a broad spectrum of ideas and beliefs. That we may be united in belief does not necessarily mean we are all alike .
Take me, for example. In some ways, I am a "Wall Street" guy, and in other ways I am one of the 99% you claim to represent. I want an opportunity to make a good living, honestly and fairly. But, like all of you, like all of America, I am sick and tired of the powerful, moneyed oligarchy that runs America profiteering off the backs of hard working Americans.
That's why we need strong, transparent and fair capital markets and honest, smart leaders. The two aren't incompatible.
So what I'm saying is that I'm ready to join your revolution, if you're ready to accept a Wall Street insider who's determined to restore the system's integrity - not destroy it.
And that's why you're going to hear more from me every week, as I call Wall Street's biggest players onto the carpet. And I can promise you this: Some of the indictments I make are going to shock you.