Wednesday, June 10, 2009

How Wall Street says "Thank you, Suckers!": By hanging a HUGE American flag on the NYSE

After spending a few days at the 2009 Book Expo in New York City last week, I stuffed 70 pounds free books into my roll-away suitcase, dragged it off to the subway and started to trudge off to JFK airport. Okay, I know. 70 pounds is a lot of books. But I figured that instead of buying everyone back home souvenir T-shirts from Lexington Avenue, I would bring everyone books -- including several children's books for baby Mena, a hot pulp romance called "Mexico Heat" for a gay friend of mine and "The Whole-Food Guide to Strong Bones" for some of my aging female friends, including me.

Did you know that bone-density tests may not tell you whether or not you have osteoporosis? I didn't know that. Apparently EVERYONE fails bone-density tests. And apparently you can have low bone-density and still have strong bones. According to this book, the real test for osteoporosis is whether or not you've broken any bones recently. If it's been ten years or so since you've broken a bone, chances are really good that you don't have osteoporosis.

Anyway, I'm sitting in the subway and reading up on bone density when I see that the Lexington line stops at Wall Street before it connects with the A Train to Queens. Wow! Wall Street! I had been feeling all guilty that I hadn't done much sightseeing in NYC -- and here was my perfect chance! You can't get much more tourist-ish than Wall Street. Not only that but I'm a political junkie and you can't get much more political-ish than Wall Street either, that small chunk of land in Lower Manhattan that pretty much owns America. So I hopped out of the subway -- which is pretty hard to do when you're dragging 70 pounds of books in a suitcase, but New Yorkers are really nice and they carried my luggage up the stairs for me. "What in the world do you have in this thing? Rocks?"

Elevators are almost non-existent in the NYC subway system. It is definitely NOT disability-friendly. But I digress.

What I saw on Wall Street amazed me.

Sight # 1: Some guy was wearing a sandwich-board that proclaimed, "We buy your gold!" And why not? Unlike most of the poor schmucks and pension-fund planners who had -- after being high-pressured and urged on by their brokers -- purchased stocks and bonds in the past few years and then lost their shirts, the folks who had bought gold during this period made a huge profit.

Sight # 2: The New York Stock Exchange itself. What hypocrisy! The entire front of the building was covered by a gigantic American flag, two stories high and half-a-block long. But then, why not? The NYSE has made a true killing in the last decade -- killing the goose that has laid its golden eggs. That would be us, the taxpaying schmucks.

According to economist Mike Whitney, "For $10 trillion, Bernanke could have guaranteed every mortgage in the country, thereby stopping the decline in housing prices, the deluge of foreclosures, and the deep cutbacks in consumer spending. ....Consider the fact that the Fed has provided over $12.8 trillion in loans and other commitments to shore up wobbly financial institutions while the two-year fiscal stimulus for 320 million Americans is a paltry $787 billion. Its goose liver and Cabernet for the bank mandarins and breadcrumbs for the working stiff." And now the stock exchange people have the utter gall to shove a gigantic American flag in our faces, apparently to show their appreciation to us taxpayers for making their champagne-and-caviar lifestyle possible.

Sight # 3: Many brass plaques were inlaid in the sidewalk -- commemorating such American financial heroes as David Ben-Gurion, one of the chief architects of the six decades of turmoil in the Middle East that have allowed our home-grown weapons manufacturers to make record-breaking profits and keep Wall Street happily flooded with taxpayers' money.

And Mohammad Reza has a plaque. He's that Shah of Iran who gave Wall Street such a nudge by providing them with cheap oil and new ways to torture. Was he the one who originally perfected the waterboard? Could be.

Syngman Rhee, that notorious Korean dictator who makes Kim Jong Il look like a pussycat? He has a plaque too. Wall Street made a lot of money off the Korean War.

I'm surprised they didn't have a plaque commemorating Saddam Hussein too. Apparently as much as three trillion dollars was made off the war on Iraq -- not to mention that huge windfall provided by the Gulf War.

Sight # 4: The home offices of Citibank, Bank of America, etc, all clustered around their mothership, the flag-covered NYSE. And while in the area, I also got to see such glamor stores as Hermes -- located right across the street from the stock exchange. How convenient. How come they don't have any Hermes stores in your neighborhood? You pay for these bailouts. Need I say more?

Then I shuffled back down into the subway with the help of yet another nice New Yorker and popped off to JFK airport and home -- where I patriotically fly MY American flag which was given to my father after he fought in World War II; fought for America's sacred right to give up democracy and switch to corporatism.