Protests have begun at the RNC, even if the convention hasn’t. And the groups engaged in the protests started by targeting an unlikely but also a universal target, one you’ll hear a lot about next week in Charlotte as well – Bank of America.
Some 200 demonstrators gathered in downtown park for an unscheduled protest. After a series of speakers criticized tax cuts for the rich, about half of the group split off and marched across the street to Bank of America plaza.
They carried signs and chanted slogans against the “one percent.” Several demonstrators — armed with crayons and stickers — began pasting and scribbling slogans across the sidewalk and building pillars. One sign read: “You stole our money; we want it back.”
. . .
By the time Leah Rothschild wrote “Protect the People, Not the Banks” a few feet from the front doors, dozens of officers had swarmed in front of the bank using their bikes as shields.
Assistant Tampa Police Chief John Bennett approached and told the women and other protesters to move off the private property. As demonstrators pulled back, the officers pushed forward, maintaining their line.
You can’t really argue with the choice of target here. The capture of government particularly by financial interests is one of the greatest challenges facing the country, the greatest obstacle to a government in tune with its constituents. The Democrats get no pass on this; next week, Barack Obama will literally accept the nomination in Bank of America Stadium (DNC press releases on this amusingly describe it as “Panther Stadium”).
Thomas Kochan: American corporations often say human resources are their most important asset. In our national discourse, everyone talks about jobs. Yet as a society we somehow tolerate persistent high unemployment, 30 years of stagnating wages and growing wage inequality, two decades of declining job satisfaction and loss of pension and retirement benefits, and continuous challenges from the consequences of unemployment on family life. If we really valued work and human resources, we would address these problems with the vigor required to solve them.
HM: What causes this disconnection?
TK: The root cause is that we have become a financially driven economy. The view of shareholder value as corporations’ primary objective has dominated since the 1980s. That motivation—to get short-term shareholder returns—then pushes to lower priority all the other things we used to think about as a social contract: that wages and productivity should go together, that there should be an alignment between the interest of American business and the overall American economy and society. That creates a market failure: it’s not in the interest of an individual firm to address all of the consequences of unemployment and loss of high-quality jobs, but the business community overall depends on high-quality jobs to produce the purchasing power needed to sell their goods and services to the American market. Sixty percent of U.S.-based multinational corporations’ revenue still comes from the U.S. market. We’ve got to solve this market failure.
And once this link between shareholder value and financialization is cemented, the money and power that accrues to those at the top is employed to ensure everything stays that way. This changes the worldview of the business sector and even the establishment political and media elite, who all collectively believe that what is good for Goldman Sachs is good for America. The views of the people get subsumed in favor to the views of Wall Street. And we all know how that story ends.
The Occupy movement has been battered by almost a paramilitary operation dedicated to breaking them up. But there still are a few people in America willing to stand up and speak about the central problem facing the country, and ultimately that points right to the finance sector.