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Elayne Boosler

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Occupy Wall Street -- and What Charles Schwab Owes Kittens and Puppies

Posted: 10/20/11 03:06 PM ET

I have no complaints about losing money I put in high-risk investments. I did some of that when I had real money; my informed choice, my measured gamble. I'm with you when it comes to not being sorry when greedy investors bet wrong, hoping to prosper from others' misfortunes. But what about when we choose a virtually safe money market fund, for money we know we must save, and that fund is misappropriated by the very people charged to keep our futures safe?

My husband and I put many thousands of dollars into a Charles Schwab "safe" money market fund at a low interest rate. A rate low enough to be sure no high-risk chicanery would ensue, and just enough to make it worth taking out of the mattress. Though no fund is ever completely "safe", funds like this are by law not allowed to gamble with your money in high-risk investments. Yet Schwab did just that. Schwab took the money entrusted to it by people willing to accept very little, to protect their savings, and used it to buy high-risk junk mortgages to enrich itself on the back end. We weren't greedy. Charles Schwab was. One can only imagine where they invested their actual high-risk funds: Unicorn futures? Moon condos? Chicago Cubs World Series Bonds? Mets pitchers?

I run a nationwide, non-profit animal rescue and advocacy organization called Tails of Joy. I have been a rescuer for sixteen years. In this economy, there are fewer donations than ever, and more need than ever as people cannot afford to keep their pets. I have always put my own money into Tails of Joy. For years, every time a dog walked by my husband would say, "There goes our beach house". The well is pretty dry right now. I totally, totally resent the fact that the SEC (is the rest of its name "RET"?) let Charles Schwab plead out to a deal that repaid innocent money market investors about ten cents on the dollar.

Why is that okay? I'm the one who made that money by my own sweat. I'm the one who had to keep a package of Swiss cheese in the snow outside my motel in Macomb Michigan so I'd have something to eat in the middle of nowhere after three shows on a Saturday night. I'm the one who ran like hell to make plane connections in the middle of the night for cheap flights to almost unreachable cities. I never minded flying cheap. I always said to myself, "Taking this flight saves enough money to rescue four dogs, or six cats, or will let me make a difference to the one woman saving chimps in Cameroon". (Did you know chimps are almost extinct due to being hunted for Bush meat? This is what happens in bad economies.)

I love being down at Occupy Wall Street. The sincerity, the youth involvement, the desire for better, is palpable and moving. There is true caring, sharing, and refreshingly naïve hope. Every well-dressed, well to do person commiserated over my Charles Schwab report before moving on. Only the raggedy campers there, with almost nothing, tried to donate to Tails of Joy on the spot.

Here is what is needed for Occupy Wall Street to become a force for change: a clear, and clearly expressed, objective. Or two. In my opinion, the sentiments are correct. It's time to direct a clear course of action. Start with some concise and achievable ideas, get your message simplified, let the good speakers trumpet the message, and you'll have, if not a vaccine, at least an antidote to the Tea Party, which did all that and got somewhere. I'll start:

Accountability and Regulation.

Basically, many banks (including the investment firm of Charles Schwab) essentially robbed the entire contents of our homes: dishes, furniture, electronics, family photos, your grandmother's apron, everything. When caught by the police (the SEC), the thieves were asked to return only a toaster. Ironically, banks used to give us toasters when we opened an account. Now, they give us toasters instead of returning our savings. This is wrong.

All rescuers on nationwide email "rescue tree" lists get about 200 emails a day requesting assistance for specific animals either destined to die in city pounds that day, or needing medical care that their owners can't afford, or needing rescue from puppy mills, fighting rings, sociopaths, abandonment, highways, hoarders, etc. etc. Dogs die tied to trees in snow 24/7 because it's legal in some states. Cats are thrown off roofs. Nothing in rescue shocks any of us any more. Everything in rescue requires money. I have always done as much as possible, something, anything, every single day. Right now, I can do nothing. The joke in all this is, the Charles Schwab company ran a contest a few weeks ago, "Win Ten Thousand Dollars For Your Charity".

I cannot even watch post-season baseball, my passion, because of the endless Charles Schwab commercials during the games, touting their own customer service. I bet those commercials cost a bundle. (By the way, Schwab investment counselors endlessly tried to talk us out of holding onto the gold stocks we independently bought, and instead repeatedly tried to get us to buy into funds they could commission. If we had listened and sold our gold holdings, I'd be writing this piece from the YWCA with a pencil, on a Twinkie wrapper.)

Talk to Chuck? Okay. Hey, Chuck. You did wrong, and you have done hardly enough to make it right, despite your feel-good baseball commercials, and the endless exclamation points at the end of everything your workers Tweet. Here's an idea, let's help some more non-profits. Start with the ones you yourself gutted. Make Tails of Joy whole by simply donating the money you illegally lost for its two officers. We'll give you a tax donation write-off receipt, and we'll name a whole lotta rescued dogs and cats Chuck. You can't buy that kind of advertising.

 

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