Check out this video. It was taken as an Occupy Wall Street demonstration passed 55 Wall Street, a former bank building now converted to luxury apartments and a chi chi restaurant run by Harry Cipriani
As you'll learn from Cipriani's own website:
On one of the world's most famous streets, Cipriani reinvents the power breakfast and business lunch to provide an experience worthy of its location. On a spring afternoon you will enjoy a cocktail on the balcony overlooking Wall Street once the exchange has closed and there are a few moments of respite on Wall Street business person's busy schedule.
These champagne-swilling folks on Cipriani's balcony don't have a clue. Their behavior is so embarrassing to America's greedy right wing that even some members of the right are making excuses. You'll hear, based on the appearance of one or two people in tuxedos, that this was a wedding. It wasn't, unless tux, or business suit, or tie-less were all acceptable dress options. (Was that the case at any wedding you've attended?) You'll hear that these were ordinary working class people out having a relaxing drink after work. Working class $40,000 a year men and women swilling champagne? At Cipriani prices? Gimme a break!
No, these are the well-to-do heirs and heiresses-apparent to Queen Marie Antoinette. As the story goes, when told that the people of Paris were in the streets demanding bread, Marie Anbtoinette mocked, "They have no bread? Then let them eat cake."
I'm fighting hard to avoid imagining a guillotine set up in the square at Wall and Broad, across from the from of the New York Stock Exchange.
Incidentally, I wandered down to the protest encampment at Zucotti Park yesterday, to take it all in for myself. One of the first things I noticed was, despite all the chatter about the protest being an action by "a bunch of hippie kids," there was plenty of gray hair among the demonstrators.
This may (or may not) have begun as a youth movement. Now however, we are seeing more of those of us who are old enough to remember when incomes were distributed a bit more equitably, there were tax brackets into the 70- and 90-percent range, and yet nearly all of America felt prosperous, well fed, well housed, and confident of the future despite high taxes. And why shouldn't we have felt that way? The taxes supported not only a new interstate highway system and other infrastructure, but also a space exploration project that fed work to thousands of contractors and subcontractors, creating millions of jobs.
The lessons from the gray heads among us is simple: when you feed the greed, you do it by sucking the prosperity out of America. Most billionaires would easily survive a national economic meltdown. They'll simply move to Zurich or a ski chalet in Gstaad, and steal from someone else. It's the rest of us who are screwed.
Meanwhile, across Broadway from Zucotti Park, a couple of 20-something pranksters, wearing suits and ties despite yesterday's balmy Sunday weather, were pretending that they were Wall Street billionaires, waving signs that said, "We are the 1 Percent," while loudly announcing that "we like the status quo," and insisting they had a right to keep all of America's wealth.
It was a pretty funny bit that reminded me of what "Billionaires for Bush," once did to poke fun at the previous administration. While Billionaires for Bush still have a website that proclaims the motto, "Small Government, Big Wars," they seem to have simmered down lately. Which made room for the two jokesters who said the name of their movement is "Occupy Occupy Wall Street."
Waving signs that said, "Bankers of the world Unite!" they insist, with mock seriousness, that their aim is to launch a counter-protest movement so that the rich can keep "pretty much all the money in America."
Everybody seemed to get the gag when I was there. One exception was the Washington Post, which took them seriously, reported that the investment bankers were protesting, and then had to print a retraction. Which tells me that some reporter has the sense of humor and insight of a rock.
Meanwhile, the Occupy Wall Street movement is opening a wide fissure in the real status quo. The job of those protesting in the streets is an enormous one – literally to democratically wrest control from the people who have all the power, all the money, and (sadly) who control with bribes described as "campaign contributions" all the Republicans and too many of the Democrats.
And yet I have a gut feeling that in time the Occupy Wall Street movement may succeed.