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Posts Tagged ‘occupy-wall-street

Conjunction of Conservatives vs Liberals in Public Policy

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Power to the PeopleDavid Frum, conservative public policy writer and contributor to The Daily Beast and CNN, wrote a scathing blog post today on his DB blog excoriating protesters, whether OWS, NATO, or other issue protesters, specifically regarding the planned protests during upcoming G8 and G20 meetings.  It’s not likely Frum will read my response, let alone respond to it since he has chosen not to interact with those who comment on his blog posts, either at TBD or Frum Forum.

Nevertheless, he raises an important issue which is the difference between the conservative mind and the liberal mind on issues relating to public policy, societal structures, and cultural norms. As Jonathan Haidt points out from his psychological research, conservative minds and liberal minds are quite different in how they view the world and change. So, it is with this information in mind that I speak to Frum’s – and other conservatives’ – fears and concerns regarding the changing nature of our public dialogue as well as why change is not a net negative.

I suspect what really angers conservatives is that OWS, NATO, and other protesters refuse to accept the dictates of authority and common order as perceived by the hierarchy of  those structures. There’s nothing wrong with that kind of thinking. After all, generally agreed upon order and a certain amount of submission to authority enables societies to grow and function.  They still do.  Order, stability and culturally agreed upon structures and values are necessary to maintain a functioning society.

However, when those structures become strictures, people – the young in particular – revolt.  Protests are the simplest and least destructive of all revolts. Moreover, protests often bring attention to issues that otherwise go unnoticed and unresolved.  If the protests are loud enough, the media will report it, bringing the issues and problems to the attention of the political and elite classes where public policy is determined as well as the public where opinions can be changed and thus create policy changes.

Reflect upon how the Vietnam War protests, both violent and non-violent, changed the public perception of that War and, thus, the opinion of the political and elite classes. The same clash of conservative vs liberal ideas played out in public and in private then too as young people, those most affected by the war, publicly protested.  Eventually change occurred, even within the staunchly conservative military establishment.

Like it or not, protests of one sort or another have been the case since communal history began.  Without these rebels – those protesters – little in human history would have changed over the course of the last 20,000 years as the status quo is always more comforting…or at the very least knowable. Change is disruptive and unknowable in its final form; thus, it is frightening to the psyche that appreciates structure and the values of existing social norms.

Yet, even our own founders were protesters. Rebels and anarchists defying authority and the stated order to create a change in their circumstances: more freedom to live as they chose regardless of British social structures; more liberty to determine their own destinies without the heavy hand of a distant British Empire; and more representation in governmental affairs that affected them.

Remember these words from the Declaration of Independence: “But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.–Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government.”

Those are not the words of conservative minds, holding fast to the existing order of authority and cultural restraint. They are the words of protest and of rebellion and of rabble-rousers.  Parliament saw the original Tea Party as destroyers of private property; as people acting outside the law; as anarchists. And so they were. Those original Tea Partiers defied Parliamentary authority and were destructive. Yet, today – 200+ years later – we nearly have deified those rebels, those destroyers of private property, those rabble-rousing anarchists who defied the existing order to bring about major political change that affected – and continues to affect – the world over.

As biographers of Teddy Roosevelt write, he chose to demand changes in public policy via restrictions on business practices during the Gilded Age not to destroy capitalism but to save it from the worst of the radical protests. Protests which, bear in mind, had authenticity and broad public support. By understanding the problems and concerns of average working Americans, he protected capitalism from its worst impulses and conserved societal and cultural norms from massive – and potentially destructive – upheaval.

While he’s called a Progressive today – an evil nomenclature among the far right – his policy prescriptions conserved the country from massive revolt and violent revolution that would have destroyed not just private property but capitalism itself. His conservative mind recognized the need for liberal change not only to advance liberty and freedom but to protect conservative values of societal stability and cultural norms.

There’s an old Indian saying about walking a mile in the moccasins of another to understand that person’s life.  For the more serious of the protesters, whether they be OWS or NATO protesters or large scale protesters of other sorts, it might be well, in order to preserve the conservative values, to understand and address the issues of those protesters before destructive rebellion occurs.  In that way, conservative values will be maintained while creating solutions to address the problems and concerns of those who protest.

So, perhaps, evaluation of protesters lies in the eyes of the beholder.

Progress towards more humane values are often wrought through protests of one sort or another. The American Revolution is one sort of protest that advanced humane values of liberty and freedom for all. Another type of mass protest brought Civil Rights and the belief that all humans, regardless of gender, ethnicity, or religion, deserved equal opportunities and freedoms.

Conservatism is not just defending what was, regardless of how inequitable society is, but in creating a society and culture in which all peoples have a voice and their concerns are understood and met in order to maintain a stable society.


TBTF Bank Fraud Continues…But the Decision to Put Profits First Is Nothing New

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Matt Taibbi, of Rolling Stone, published a lengthy article on Bank of America’s failure of ethics regarding credit cards accounts. His reporting cites robo-signing abuses, failure to document customer records, and outright fraud. Yet, BofA continues to be protected by our government as a Too Big to Fail bank.

Bank of AmericaHowever, BofA’s malfeasance…and arrogance towards its customers…is neither new nor only a decade long. BofA has a long history of a management that has made poor decisions and expected their regular customers to financially bail out the bank.

Bank of America’s problems began long before the company moved its headquarters from San Francisco to Charlotte, NC. In the early ‘80s, I went to work for one of BofA’s ad agencies – one of many spread around San Francisco. Not long after, BofA found itself in deep financial trouble as a result of overexposure in the California housing market which was undergoing a price decline and an even larger exposure to So. American loans that were failing. BofA was in a panic as their losses mounted, particularly on the So. American loans.

You’d think they would have had some humility about their losses, but instead management became even more arrogant. They began increasing fees on their regular banking customers while at the same time treating those customers with distain. Customers who complained about errors or unknown fees were regularly treated with derision. The attitude was “we’re better than you so go suck a lemon.”

At the same time, BofA decided it could make more money by catering to the wealthy. No longer did their marketing focus on regular banking customers who needed a checking account or a home mortgage or a credit card at reasonable interest rates or a savings account that gave a decent rate of interest return. Bleeding the poor suckers was fine with management if it shored up the bank’s huge losses.

Instead of maintaining Giannini’s record being a bank for average, hardworking families, BofA refocused their moneymaking strategy on Private Banking to attract wealthy customers. They offered wealthy customers a personal banker who was intimately familiar with the customer’s finances; a haute couture private lounge, complete with designer coffee and wine, so their wealthy customers never had to rub shoulders with the riff-raff; and a culture within the bank to make the wealthy feel superior.

Within a year, BofA saw a mass exodus of their regular banking customers. But don’t take my word for it, look up what Charles Schwab said about BofA’s attitudes towards its customers during this time period.

It didn’t take long – a year or so – for BofA to realize the mistake they made in driving off regular, middle income banking customers. Thousands, if not hundred of thousands, of ordinary middle income customers had deserted BofA. As a result, BofA began to court these customers with a vengeance because they realized the bank could not survive without them.

Within a few years, BofA, in its search for every higher profits, became one of the largest credit card offerers, from an insider’s marketer position, in the marketplace because credit cards became enormously profitable – and became the bank’s largest profit center, outstripping anything other product by huge margins.

After the merger which moved BofA’s headquarters to Charlotte, the arrogance of management did not recede. It became worse as management decided their customers were little more than cash cows which the bank could bleed to their hearts’ content…and they used every trick on the books to do so.

But BofA is not alone in this type of thinking or attitude. Each and every one of the TBTF banks is complicit in the same kind of behavior.

I’m sure A.G. Giannini, were he alive today, would mourn what became of his workers’ bank…and deeply ashamed of his bank’s modern day management that chose to put its’ profit over its customers well being.

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