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Excerpt: "The last three decades have witnessed a carefully calculated heist worthy of Robert Redford and Paul Newman in 'The Sting' - but on a massive scale. It was an inside job, politically engineered by Wall Street and Washington working hand-in-hand, sticky fingers with sticky fingers, to turn the legend of Robin Hood on its head - giving to the rich and taking from everybody else. Don't take our word for it - it's all on the record."

The St. Regis Hotel in Manhattan was the site of a black-tie dinner for Kappa Beta Phi, whose members were told 'what happens at the St. Regis stays at the St. Regis.' (photo: John Marshall Mantel/NYT)
The St. Regis Hotel in Manhattan was the site of a black-tie dinner for Kappa Beta Phi, whose members were told 'what happens at the St. Regis stays at the St. Regis.' (photo: John Marshall Mantel/NYT)



The Party People of Wall Street

By Bill Moyers and Michael Winship, Common Dreams

31 January 12

 

Occupy Wall Street: Take the Bull by the Horns

 

week or so ago, we read in The New York Times about what in the Gilded Age of the Roman Empire was known as a bacchanal - a big blowout at which the imperial swells got together and whooped it up. [The St. Regis Hotel in Manhattan was the site of a black-tie dinner for Kappa Beta Phi, whose members were told "what happens at the St. Regis stays at the St. Regis." (John Marshall Mantel for The New York Times))] The St. Regis Hotel in Manhattan was the site of a black-tie dinner for Kappa Beta Phi, whose members were told "what happens at the St. Regis stays at the St. Regis."

This one occurred here in Manhattan at the annual black-tie dinner and induction ceremony for Kappa Beta Phi. That's the very exclusive Wall Street fraternity of billionaire bankers, and private equity and hedge fund predators. People like Wilbur Ross, the vulture capitalist; Robert Benmosche, the CEO of AIG, the insurance giant that received tens of billions in bailout money; and Alan "Ace" Greenberg, former chairman of Bear Stearns, the failed investment bank bought by JPMorgan Chase.

They got together at the St. Regis Hotel off Fifth Avenue to eat rack of lamb, drink and haze their newest members, who are made to dress in drag, sing and perform skits while braving the insults, wine-soaked napkins and petit fours - those fancy little frosted cakes - hurled at them by the old guard. In other words, a gilt-edged Animal House, food fight and all.

This year, the butt of many a joke were the protesters of Occupy Wall Street. In one of the sketches, the bond specialist James Lebenthal scolded a demonstrator with a face tattoo, "Go home, wash that off your face and get back to work." And in another, a member - dressed like a protester - was told, "You're pathetic, you liberal. You need a bath!"

Pretty hilarious stuff. The whole affair's reminiscent of the wingdings the robber barons used to throw during America's own Gilded Age a century and a half ago, when great wealth amassed at the top, far from the squalor and misery of working stiffs. Guests would arrive in the glittering mansions for costume balls that rivaled Versailles, reinforcing the sense of superiority and the virtue of a ruling class that depended on the toil and sweat of working people.

That's consistent with the attitude expressed by several of these types after Occupy Wall Street sprung up; bankers told the Times on the record that they could understand the anger of the protesters camped on their doorstep; but privately, a hedge manager said, "Most… view [it] as ragtag group looking for sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll."

So sayeth the winners in our winner-take all economy. The very guys who were celebrating at the St. Regis because they were too big to fail. Even when they fell flat on their faces, the government was there to dust them off, bail them out and send them back to fight the class war with nary a harsh word or punishment. Talk about a nanny welfare state.

None of this was by accident. The last three decades have witnessed a carefully calculated heist worthy of Robert Redford and Paul Newman in "The Sting" - but on a massive scale. It was an inside job, politically engineered by Wall Street and Washington working hand-in-hand, sticky fingers with sticky fingers, to turn the legend of Robin Hood on its head - giving to the rich and taking from everybody else. Don't take our word for it - it's all on the record.

The biggest of the big boys was Citigroup, at one time the world's largest financial institution. When the meltdown hit in 2008, the bank cut more than 50,000 jobs and you and other taxpayers shelled out more than $45 billion to save it. And how are Citigroup executives doing? Nicely, thank you. Last year, its CEO, Vikram Pandit, took home $1.75 million in base salary, and was awarded $3.7 million in deferred stock.

According to the Times, "Citigroup is expected to disclose the rest of his pay, cash, be it upfront or deferred, in March. In addition, while not necessarily for work performed in 2011, Mr. Pandit last year was awarded a $16.7 million retention bonus, plus stock options that could add $6.5 million to the package's overall value." Makes you want to cry out, "Retain me! Retain me!"

To be fair, Vikram Pandit was at the World Economic Summit in Davos, Switzerland last week, where he told Bloomberg News, "It's important for the financial system to acknowledge that there's a great deal of anger directed at it… Trust has been broken. Banks have to serve clients, not serve themselves." What's more, he has said that the "sentiments" expressed by Occupy Wall Street demonstrators were "completely understandable."

Journalist Bill Moyers is the host of the new show Moyers & Company, a weekly series of smart talk and new ideas aimed at helping viewers make sense of our tumultuous times through the insight of America’s strongest thinkers.. His previous shows on PBS included NOW with Bill Moyers and Bill Moyers Journal. Over the past three decades he has become an icon of American journalism and is the author of many books, including Bill Moyers Journal: The Conversation Continues, Moyers on Democracy, and Bill Moyers: On Faith & Reason. He was one of the organizers of the Peace Corps, a special assistant for Lyndon B. Johnson, a publisher of Newsday, senior correspondent for CBS News and a producer of many groundbreaking series on public television. He is the winner of more than 30 Emmys, nine Peabodys, three George Polk awards and is the author of three best-selling books.

Michael Winship, senior writing fellow at Demos and president of the Writers Guild of America, East, is senior writer of the new public television series Moyers & Company, premiering in January 2012. Go to www.billmoyers.com

 

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+12 # James Marcus 2012-01-31 09:56
At a certain point, re-iterating the Grand Heist (the 'Entire' Rigged Deal, not just The Bailout), which is important, because everyone needs to see and know this,but then, re-iterating the details does,,,what?
What are We Gonna Do about it, to set matters straight? Beyond retribution, too complicated to consider, how will we 're-invent' our system, back to it's Conceived Principles, or onward?
Know this: Minor changes, shifts, mini-adjustment s, corrections, will be 'compromised' before the ink is dry. Medusa has a thousand heads.
We need to Get-The-Money-O ut of Government, and instill Integrity in It's Place.
But, HOW?
 
 
+7 # wsh 2012-01-31 10:26
To me, James, the financial system worked quite adequately...wh en we had Glass-Steagall intact. That shouldn't be so hard to reinstate.
 
 
+1 # PaineRad 2012-01-31 12:05
As for the substance of the article, I agree with the authors' premise, but I am still looking for the "record" exposé in the article. I don't think Pandit's obscene compensation package quite qualifies as the smoking gun. It shows the wealth going to the top but doesn't show the direct link to the theft at the bottom. Another Citgroup reference to the orietation to the 1% would be the infamous "plutonomy" newsletter. But that is also less than direct in its correlation with wage theft transfers from the many to the few. There is no doubt in my mind that the theft is taking place. This article did not, however, demonstrate the "record" clearly proving it.

A bit of nit picking. I was going to chastize the authors for using the wrong tense of the verb, to spring, when they said "...after Occupy Wall Street sprung up...." But apparently the language has become sufficiently debased that "sprung" is now acceptable as the past tense right along with "sprang".

Thanks a lot, Disney, for debasing the English language with shrunk instead of shrank and all the confusion that followed.
 
 
+7 # Buddha 2012-01-31 14:22
We get the government and economic system that we deserve. We have way too many voters that are as poorly informed (and are as easily misled) as sheep, and this makes it very easy for those who control our system, its avenues of mass media, through their campaign and SuperPAC donations our government, to get voters to vote against their own self-interest without knowing that they are slitting their own throats. The best thefts are ones where the victim isn't even aware they have been stolen from.
 
 
+2 # barbaratodish 2012-02-02 02:45
Regardless of how much money "Banksters" have ,they still are missing out, because they, especially the 1%,have lost their sense of humor! They take their (well, our?) money too seriously, too personally!
It seems like they lost their soul and money substitutes (it is a poor one, BTW) for humor. This may be why only commercial, predictable comics (no surprizes permitted!) are considered "successful" and are vetted,made into celebrities, etc., by MSM (mainstream media). Alternative comics are considered (economic, etc.)terrorists !
 

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