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Ed Driscoll

Corporate Kabuki: Wall Street CEOs Love Occupy Wall Street

October 29th, 2011 - 1:36 am

In the New York Post, Charles Gasparino writes that “politicians, the press — and now CEOs — have generally celebrated Occupy Wall Street as the second coming of the civil-rights movement — no matter how many times its followers have clashed with police in the name of Mao and Che Guevara:”

I can’t remember a single instance in which the chief executive of a major bank or conglomerate has said something nice about the Tea Party’s goals of limited government, lower taxes and free markets — the very things upon which this country was founded.

But such business leaders as GE chief executive Jeffrey Immelt and Blackrock chief Larry Fink have been falling all over themselves trying to say nice things about the OWS protesters, their grievances and rants against capitalism — even while the unwashed mob is nearly rioting not far from their corporate headquarters.

Even worse is the political correctness of the warped media coverage. Reporters covering the Tea Party, no doubt in hopes of delegitimizing its goals, have almost never missed an opportunity to point out that the majority of its followers were older, “angry” white men.

But when was the last time you heard them describe the squatters in Zuccotti Park as young and white?

By any objective measure, that’s what the protesters are — but somehow that’s missing from the coverage.

Also missing is some real, in-depth reporting on the protests. While the media couldn’t wait to find out which conservative kingpins allegedly were behind the Tea Party rallies, they have almost no interest in describing how organized labor is arguably becoming the largest backer of Occupy Wall Street.

New York City’s United Federation of Teachers, for instance, is donating tens of thousands of dollars in office space and food to make life easier for the protesters — but that somehow doesn’t qualify as front-page news.

What does is pretty much a joke. Reporters from such respected business publications as the Financial Times and the Economist are demanding to know from Goldman Sachs, a firm high on Occupy Wall Street’s list of evil-doers, whether its CEO Lloyd Blankfein will join Immelt and Fink in supporting the movement, I am told.

Actually, that’s probably true. The Occupy Wall Street gang probably think of “the one percent” as being like the man on the Monopoly box top, a squat little middle-aged Republican wearing spats, but that’s an image from the 1920s, which was slowly beginning to be obsolete by the time Jim Backus was playing Thurston Howell, III. Today, the average Wall Streeter is far more like John Kerry or Obama’s buddy Warren Buffett than J.R. Ewing or Gordon Gekko — he’s a wealthy liberal Ivy Leaguer, who’s as disappointed in President Obama’s failings as David Brooks is. As Kevin D. Williamson wrote in March of 2009:

When Obama made his case for the stimulus bill — which is larded with corporate welfare — he was flanked by two big-league CEOs: IBM’s Sam Palmisano and Honeywell’s Dave Cote. For many on the anti-war left — the people who elevated Obama over Clinton during the primary — Honeywell is a war profiteer, only a little less detestable than Halliburton. You’d think this would chap the hide of the Democrats’ progressive wing. For the most part, you’d be wrong, though a few on the left, such as Harold Meyerson, have scolded the Democrats for courting capital. Success has a way of pre-empting criticism: Democrats may have kidded Clinton about being the best Republican president since Gerald Ford — Clinton himself raged that he’d been turned into Dwight Eisenhower — but they loved him, even if he is today seen less as the second coming of FDR than as John the Baptist to Obama’s Jesus Christ Superstar. But there’s no denying Clinton’s great political accomplishment in making peace between the Democrats and Big Business — and cutting into Republicans’ credibility on the economy.

Wall Street isn’t politically agnostic, and there’s more to its politics than money. Culture matters, and you won’t find a lot of Pentecostal churches in Greenwich, Conn. Wall Street guys, for the most part, do not have time for social conservatives. “Of course these guys aren’t conservative,” says one longtime bond trader. “Why the [expletive deleted] would they be? We’re talking about guys who live in Manhattan, guys with manicures and eight-figure bank balances. And their wives — their wives aren’t showing up at parents’ day at Brearley with a Sarah Palin button. It’d be like showing up in flip-flops from Wal-Mart. Like showing up in a [rather lengthier expletive deleted] tracksuit.”

This cultural divide is particularly visible in New York City politics. “Ten to 15 years ago, half of the Upper East Side [officeholders] were Republican,” says John Mills, executive vice president of the Lexington Democratic Club. “There’s not one Republican there now. Abortion and gay rights are two of the biggest issues, and there are a lot of Jewish voters here not comfortable with Christian conservatives.”

But even beyond the wealthiest members of Wall Street, there has to be something delicious in the bipolar tension of it all, even if there’s a certain amount of kabuki being played by both sides — in some ways, you’re ultimately on the same team! You identify with the protestors, and have flashbacks to the stories your older brother told you about when he was protesting the Vietnam war, or when you saw the kids protesting the war in Iraq over in Union Square seven or eight years ago (you loathed Bush almost as much as they did), but deep down inside, you feel that much more powerful, knowing that these kids absolutely hate your guts. You know you’ve made the right career choice, and have arrived at your station in life, when you’re sitting in a boardroom on the 22nd floor of the Citibank building, looking down on these poor schnooks who’ve spent $50,000 on a post-structural feminism degree, and who, in their heart of hearts would like nothing more than to tear you to shreds.

They’ve already terrorized the tellers on the ground floor of the building — kids in their early 20s just out of college, or single mothers struggling to make it on $35K a year. Just imagine what they would do to you in your J. Press suit, Paul Stuart tie and Alden shell cordovan captoes.

What sweet orgasmic power you suddenly feel. You know all that stuff about the one percent is just bullshit, but still — better to be up here, than down there.

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