There she was, Erin Burnett, in her second outing as a media star on CNN with her hour-long program venturing to the wilds of Wall Street to confront that ragtag assortment of demonstrators voicing their frustration and anger at the plenitude heaped on Wall Street while they and their future were being foreclosed by an old boy network that left most of them and the rest of the nation in the dust bin.
Cute as a button, and dressed the part complete with v-neck blouse and designer sunglasses perched on her head, she was almost indistinguishable from the crowd of demonstrators. She happened upon a young man named Dan ("our hero of the movement" as she put it) who happened to be an out of work computer programmer. One can readily presume Dan, as so many of the others, was at the Wall Street demonstration because of his frustration that so few were able to do so well with the government's largesse, while he and so many of his peers were struggling to even get a job, or anything that would permit them to access a meaningful future.
Ms. Burnett and Dan sat together in the middle of so many other souls (or as Ms. Burnett would describe "a Mixed Bag... with books, bongos and banjos... ) milling about looking like two kindred spirits whiling the time away.
Ms. Burnett wasted little time getting to the heart of the matter, to expose that the demonstrators barely understood what they were protesting. To this end she asked Dan whether he knew that Wall Street paid back all the monies the government advanced to them under the bailout program? And that the government actually made money?"
No, Dan replied, he didn't know that.
So there, Ms. Burnett proved her point, that the demonstrators didn't really know what they were talking about. This motley crew didn't know what it was demonstrating for, nor did they even know the facts. So, by inference one couldn't -- no, one needn't -- take them seriously.
No inference here that these demonstrators were venting their anger at a Wall Street that was bailed out with billions, taking home billions, while many of the demonstrators lost their jobs, their homes and many their futures.
Left unasked and unanswered were questions that went to the heart of the issue, questions that were clearly too freighted for Ms. Burnett's taste and proclivities, such as:
- "And did you know that at the height of the crisis Goldman Sachs was able to muster a $23 billion bonus pool while Main Street was being devastated and millions throughout the land were losing their jobs and their homes? That last year alone Wall Street set aside a record bonus pool of $135 billion this while the rest of the nation was still in deep recession?" Dan, did you know that?
- "And did you know that Bank Holding Companies like Morgan Stanley and JP Morgan Chase were using TARP funds meant to shore up their balance sheets and stimulate the economy to charter VLCC tankers (these are oil tankers over 200,000 Dead Weight Tons -- DWT -- nearly three times the size of the HMS Queen Mary), load them with oil paid for with TARP funds, depositors government insured deposits or virtually costless money secured from the Fed window, only to keep the ships at sea for months to play the oil market? Or how their speculation drove up oil prices resulting in higher gasoline prices for everyone? Or how these hundreds of millions of dollars could have been used to renegotiate many strapped homeowner's mortgages permitting them to keep their homes? Or just extending loans to small business or large to get the economy moving again?" Dan, did you know that?"
- "And did you know that Goldman Sachs was being reimbursed $13 billion -- 100 cents on the dollar -- on its proprietary/speculative positions with AIG in 2008 while homeowners throughout the land were taking massive haircuts on the value of their homes? You didn't know that Dan?"
- "And that Jamie Dimon, JP Morgan Chase's Chairman CEO got a big fat raise of over 50% to the teens of millions of dollars while his bank was foreclosing on and evicting families of servicemen fighting in Afghanistan, thereby contravening laws that were specifically meant to prohibit such heartless bank policies? Dan, got ya again?"
- "Or that the banks were playing the oil market casino helping to push oil prices to the unheard of levels of $147bbl in June 2008, in turn helping to bring about the economic tidal wave that became the housing and financing debacle of September that year? Dan, you didn't know that either? I'm beginning to wonder about you."
- "Or the billions they made and from which enormous bonuses were derived at Wall Street houses by crafting allegedly made-to-fail securities, such as Goldman's infamous' "Abacus" mortgage securities, sold to the unsuspecting, including in some cases municipalities and pension funds and then shorted by the very same firms that created them, costing its customers hundreds of millions of dollars that helped bring about the near collapse of the financial system? No Dan, you didn't know that either. I could go on but I think I am beginning to embarrass you, so I'll stop now."
No, Ms. Burnett did not ask any of these questions leaving the young man being interviewed and those watching to perceive the whole "Occupy Wall Street" demonstration as a naive folk fest not understanding the depth of the issue. Wouldn't it have put a smile on the program's viewers face if Dan had answered:
"But Ms Burnett: You say the TARP funds were paid back, and with interest permitting the government to make back the credit it extended and the cost of funds. That's well and good, but isn't this more like a deck steward tossing a life preserver to an overboard drowning passenger, who after being saved clambers back on board, returning the life preserver to the steward while commanding him to fetch him a Bloody Mary? And you expect the steward to say "thank you" even if the passenger hasn't'?"
No, Ms Burnett, these are not misunderstood issues by the demonstrators, whether young or old, hippie or teacher, ragtag or sophisticated. These are real life issues of national and societal importance, and their impact on our lives is yet to be determined. But you did look cute.