Conrad Black looks at the “Occupy Wall Street” movement:
The Wall Street protesters denounce government bail-outs, the political and economic short-shrifting of students and young workers, the high cost of post-secondary education, various forms of discrimination, U.S. foreign policy, union-busting, outsourcing, the oil industry, media misinformation and (more generally) capitalism and globalization.
Of course, this is a pretty hackneyed scatter-gun indictment by people who haven’t really thought it through, but their anger and frustration are largely justified nonetheless: In the past decade, many prominent financial houses joined in the process of issuing consolidated debt obligations (CDOs), consisting of unfathomable patchworks of mortgages on packages of residential real estate, unsupported by any real base of invested equity in the underlying assets by their ostensible owners, and covered by diaphanous fig-leaves of default insurance. These instruments were made deceptively presentable by certifications from the main rating agencies that they were investment-grade, as if issued by serous entities and secured by unquestionable assets.
[. . .]
As for the Wall Street protesters, their largely justified complaints can’t be addressed by the wild methods they suggest. (A proposed list of demands posted at OccupyWallSt.org includes “free college education,” “bring the fossil fuel economy to an end” and “Immediate across the board debt forgiveness for all.”) The prestige of the U.S. financial leadership, the country’s political class and its economic academics and financial media have all collapsed at once and together, like a soufflé. Except for the military and the pure sciences, the country’s elites have been utterly discredited, and no one believes anything they say. Even if they wanted to, they could not impose on Americans the sort of radical anti-capitalist reforms the protestors urge.