Don’t listen to Occupy Wall Street

Kim Clark Mar 19, 2012

Kai Ryssdal: In case it slipped by unnoticed, this past weekend marked six months since the beginning of Occupy Wall Street. Protesters tried to move into Zuccotti Park in Manhattan on Saturday. I say tried because the NYPD was having none of it. The Occupiers hope to recapture some of the energy — and, to be fair, attention — they had last fall.

Commentator Kim Clark says the protesters can grab headlines with their chants and slogans, but we should really be listening to Wall Street.

Kim Clark: The Occupy Wall Street protesters have gotten lots of attention even though their complaints are vague, and they don’t really offer any concrete solutions.

We should pay more attention to the people who really occupy Wall Street — the people who work there every day directing the flows of billions of dollars. They know exactly what the problems are, and how to fix them.

Now, these 1 percenters are not going to join hands with anarchists and sing “Kumbaya.” The real Wall Streeters are all for income inequality. They think people who are smart and hardworking should get more money.

But many top Wall Streeters say tax laws, prosecution policies and business practices are funneling America’s riches to the influential, not to the deserving. They argue that to free the invisible hand of capitalism to improve all our lives, we need reforms to bring back equality of justice and economic opportunity.

Take for example: Burton Malkiel, author of the investment bible “A Random Walk Down Wall Street.” He told he me he’s really mad that people with regular jobs can pay tax rates of 30 percent or more, while hedge fund managers pay only 15 percent.

And Wall Street’s top mortgage securities analyst, Laurie Goodman, has found that struggling homeowners pay mortgage bond investors higher return when banks trade principal reductions for shares in profits when the home is sold. But most big lenders are refusing to do this because they’d lose fees and have to take some immediate losses.

That’s why Wall Streeters say the real fixes must come from Washington. But they worry that both political parties are so beholden to wealthy donors that they don’t have the spine to protect investors or taxpayers. So maybe the real solution is for taxpayers to Occupy Washington.

Ryssdal: Kim Clark is a senior writer with Money magazine. Write to us.

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