Most people have absolutely no idea how small and puny Wall Street really is. But in the years leading up to the collapse of the world financial system, Americans heard over and over again how, in the battle between Wall Street and Main Street, Wall Street was kicking Main Street’s ass. And of course all of the reporting was sort of absolutely true. The banks and institutions, represented by Wall Street, continued to suck in billions and billions of dollars from ordinary Americans so that they could then dole out hundreds of millions of dollars in salaries and bonuses to themselves. While Main Streets all across America were pockmarked by vacant storefronts and lives were decimated, Wall Street reported record profits.
And while Wall Street and the banks fattened both their corporate and personal bank accounts, the picture would not have been nearly so rosy had they not extorted trillions of taxpayer dollars and tax breaks, compliments of their willing accomplices in the federal government, which was led from top to bottom by central banker types. Wall Street had in fact been waging a war on the American people for decades, and it was a war that the American people themselves financed. While we bailed out the banks to the tune of untold trillions of dollars, the banks continued a steady and persistent march to throw the taxpayer that bailed them out into the street. In some cases, they don’t even bother with a court order or authority of the court”¦.they would just kick down the door to, ” inspect” or ” winterize””¦ dangerous euphemisms for unreasonable search and seizure. Wall Street gutted the American middle class and workforce, sending not just jobs, but entire regions and industries, offshore. Wall Street stole our most precious assets, the intellectual property of manufacturing and innovation, then sold it to foreign governments. Wall Street sucked the life blood of a proud and great nation dry, like a parasite feeding off a most generous and compliant host. Wall Street infected our nation’s foreign and military policy, sending our nation’s proud and honorable warriors on senseless wars of plunder all across the globe.
Now, if your only picture of Wall Street came from the news, you’d think Wall Street itself was a wide, proud and imposing thoroughfare, but the reality couldn’t be further from the truth. The fact of the matter is Wall Street itself is a short and narrow alley, no more than 40 yards across and a few hundred yards long. And because tall buildings rise up on either side and all around, the street itself is always suffocated by darkness and shadows. Even at high noon, the great disinfecting light of the sun never touches the Street. Wall Street itself is a black hole, a vortex into which the fortunes and the paychecks and the blood, sweat and tears of this nation are sucked.
And did you ever wonder why they call ” Wall Street”, ” Wall Street”? Well, when New York City was first settled sometime around 1600, the colonists erected an earthen wall to protect them from the native Indians who inhabited the northern part of the island. The wall itself is gone, but now more than ever before, this Wall Street is a dividing line between the American people and interests that have grown wild and out of control–interests that are repugnant to the aspirational ideals of our nation. Wall Street itself forms the front line in a dangerous war that has been waged against the American people…a war that most surely places the safety and security of this entire nation in peril.
The epicenter of the war stands precisely at an intersection the middle of the block.
And there is a most extraordinary intersection midway down the Wall Street block. Standing there today, you can see the precise spot where the child called America was conceived. Yes, today, a 12 foot tall statute of George Washington stands on one side of Wall Street on the very spot where America’s first president took his Oath of Office. Washington took the oath right there in front of Federal Hall, a building that still stands today, a building where the Bill of Rights was signed and where Freedom of The Press and The First Amendment were first conceived after a newspaper publisher was tried for spreading vicious truths about his government. Since 1882 Washington’s face has stared stoically ahead, his outstretched right hand pointing dismissively toward the cornerstone of the New York Stock Exchange whose cornerstone sits not more than 20 yards away on the other side of Wall Street.
All day long, every day, tens of thousands of people amble down Wall Street, like ants on a food patrol. Most don’t really pay much attention to the NYSE. No, the main attraction is that statue of George Washington. As I stood there looking up at the statute on a day that will most surely live in infamy, January 1, 2012, the day after President Obama signed into law the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012, I was so disturbed by the fact that no one cared that another key cornerstone of the Constitution, The Bill of Rights had been so badly desecrated. The Bill of Rights and The Constitution were intended to be permanent foundations of this nation, not subject to revocation or revision by any Congress, any President, any people. And yet, in just under a decade’s time both have been so badly shredded and desecrated such that they have no meaning and are essentially non-existent. They most certainly were desecrated by a president who signed the law giving himself, and all other Presidents, the power to violate basic Constitutional protections.
As the protestors in Zuccotti Park, and in Zuccotti Parks all across this nation learn in a most violent fashion, the First Amendment no longer exists. Speak out and you risk feeling the sharp prick of the government’s sword followed by the cold, dull, clang of a prison cell. The public square no longer exists for you to petition your government for your grievances as Father Nathan Monk recently learned in Panama City, Florida. Protections against unreasonable searches in your own home? Gone. Jack booted thugs hired by the banks”¦now effectively adjuncts of the federal government have asserted the right to come crashing through your front door whenever they damn well please, and they are doing it with reckless impunity all across this country. Due Process? A delusional fiction that exists in the mind of law professors and historians who are dangerously out of touch with the realities of the legal system that exists in these most dangerous times. Anyone who still entertains the dangerous delusion of due process should take a walk in the shoes of a litigant who dares to square off against the government or worse, try standing in a courtroom and fighting one of the banks that have infiltrated every fabric and facet of our society.
The most dangerous thing about all of this is nobody cares. No one cares that we have a government that is bought and paid for by the banks and Wall Street. No one cares that government ” leaders” have grown wild-eyed, intoxicated and sick with power. No one cares that they exercise this power by crushing those they are supposed to serve. Oh sure, everyone reading this proclaims, ” I Care!” But what have you done? What have any of us done?
Have you stood up once and shouted aloud? Have you offered one bit of resistance? Have you spent your time or your treasure to defend yourself or your brothers and sisters in arms who stare down the bombs and the bullets with you every single day? Have you sent a dollar in support of any organization that’s fighting your battle for you? Attorneys in particular, especially you big shot corporate or big firm types. When’s the last time you devoted any real time, trouble or effort in defense of liberty? When’s the last time you took a desperately in need client under your protective wing and promised that no harm would come of them as long as you had one breath of life remaining within you?
Today the flame of liberty is just a sputtering spark…and our American experience grows darker and more ominous each and every day.
There’s another just bizarre fact about this extraordinary intersection in American history. In the basement of the building that sits immediately adjacent to the New York Stock Exchange and right next to the Federal House sits a TJ Max”¦a cheap and tawdry discount store. I swear, I’m really not joking. In fact, if you look carefully at the photograph below you can see the Statute of George Washington out in the street”¦.