“Protest because the 99% can’t afford lobbyists” — These were the words one Occupy SF protester displayed on her sign as she stood in front of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.
Directly behind the woman, tents and sleeping bags displayed where some protesters have been occupying since September 17th to show their disapproval of the current financial system. On Wednesday, hundreds of people gathered to support the occupiers and took to the streets of San Francisco’s Financial District.
People of all ages marched, expressing frustration towards big banks and financial inequality. “They were bailed out, we were sold out,” they chanted, referring to the string of bailouts the U.S. government issued after the recent financial crisis, including $280 billion to Citigroup and $142.2 billion to Bank of America. “Wake up Wall Street,” was another message shouted in the streets. The overall theme was that the current financial system primarily serves one percent and exploits the other 99 percent.
The protesters marched in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street, the movement that began in New York and has sprouted to cities throughout the nation.
While the movement has done a great job picking up speed and momentum thanks to social media, some have criticized that they have no concrete demands. New York Times contributor Nicholas D. Kristof offers some suggestions:
Impose a financial transactions tax. This would be a modest tax on financial trades, modeled on the suggestions of James Tobin, an American economist who won a Nobel Prize. The aim is in part to dampen speculative trading that creates dangerous volatility. Europe is moving toward a financial transactions tax, but the Obama administration is resisting — a reflection of its deference to Wall Street.
Close the “carried interest” and “founders’ stock” loopholes, which may be the most unconscionable tax breaks in America. They allow our wealthiest citizens to pay very low tax rates by pretending that their labor compensation is a capital gain.
Protect big banks from themselves. This means moving ahead with Basel III capital requirements and adopting the Volcker Rule to limit banks’ ability to engage in risky and speculative investments. Another sensible proposal, embraced by President Obama and a number of international experts, is the bank tax. This could be based on an institution’s size and leverage, so that bankers could pay for their cleanups — the finance equivalent of a pollution tax.
Whether or not these specific demands or others will be adopted by the movement has yet to be seen, but the Occupiers are no doubt growing in size and attention, and that may have enough impact to change actions among the “one percent.”