Actor, investor, entrepreneur and author Wayne Rogers says the Occupy Wall Street crowd may have good reason to be upset over our seemingly perpetual economic crisis but they're demonstrating against the wrong people.
"It isn't the financial people who caused the mess," says Rogers. "It's the Congress who did it."
But the banking fat cats have raked in billions, becoming the poster boys for the greed of the 1% of Americans in control of 40% of the country's wealth! Isn't it these bankers and their "let them eat cake" attitude that's fueling the ire of the masses? Maybe, but blaming a banker for being greedy is like blaming a dog for barking; it's simply the nature of the beast.
In Rogers estimation, the protesters "don't fully understand" the cause and effect that got us here. It was the repeal of part of 1933's Glass-Steagall Act in 1999 that gave banks and their executives the opportunity to capture huge profits by aggregating activities. Among other unintended consequences of the death of Glass-Steagall was the virtual monopoly of the banking system as evidenced by four banks controlling 54% of all assets.
To get to the people at the root of the financial dysfunction it's necessary to "follow the money," to borrow a term from the Watergate era. The overpaid bank execs want keep their jobs by maximizing profits. To do so they hire lobbyists to push for bank-friendly laws. The lobbyists remind members of Congress that the people controlling 40% of the nation's wealth are in the best position to give the campaign contributions that buy the ads in which the candidates often claim are looking out for disenfranchised 99%. The most bank-friendly members of congress are then rewarded with jobs either advising or sitting on the board of the financial institutions who started this process in the first place.
Corporations aren't going to stop maximizing profits and as Rogers observes, Congress isn't going to willingly give up power. The difference is that politicians can be voted out of Washington and practically speaking, corporate chiefs can't. Attacking Wall Street makes for better photo ops but fighting the real power is what facilitates actual change.
Right, left, libertarian, or somewhere in between, the way to create real change is to demand it from the people over whom Americans have some control. Rather than protesting people too insulated by wealth to care what anyone says about them, Rogers suggests focusing on the source: "Put two million people on the Washington Mall; then Congress will listen."
Does the Occupy Wall Street movement need to take a new direction? Let us know in the comment section below.
- Wayne Rogers