The Growing View of Wall Street As Financial Mafia

By Pam Martens: September 21, 2012

If you place the words “Wall Street mafia” in the Google search engine without the quotes, it produces 11.3 million links. That’s not good for America. Throughout most of our Nation’s history, Wall Street has been synonymous with the U.S. financial markets.

But at long last, the simmering subconscious view that Wall Street may have slipped past the demarcation line of mere corruption into the nether world of organized crime is gaining public notice.  That’s a positive sign.  Until we can fully comprehend what we’re dealing with, Congress will continue to tinker around the edges of financial reform while the core continues to rot.

On June 22 of this year, Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone magazine and Yves Smith of the financial blog, Naked Capitalism, performed a critical public service by advancing the concept of Wall Street mafia from the nebulous unsaid to bold statements on public television.  Appearing on the Bill Moyers program, the conversation went like this:

MATT TAIBBI: People refuse to look at these banks and think of them as organized crime organizations. They — in their eyes, organized crime is always either the Italian mafia or the Irish mafia. This isn’t what it looks like. But that is who they are. And I think that they’re treated with a kind of deference and respect, because traditionally that’s not who they were. They were these icons of finance who helped build this country.

But that’s not who they are anymore. And I think, it’s hard for people to wrap their heads around that and treat them the way they should be treated.

YVES SMITH: Well, I think people don’t want to think that there’s something wrong with leaders. And CEOs are leaders of the business community. If you really believe that CEOs of businesses that are really fundamental to the economy are corrupt, you have to think of a very serious restructuring of the business and financial system.

And even if people kind of intellectually might be willing to contemplate that, they don’t really want to go to what the implications are. So it’s much easier for them to block out that thought. 

It was also reassuring that in the statements and chants during the September 15 – 17 Occupy Wall Street protests, there were numerous references to the “financial mafia.”

The abolitionist, Frederick Douglass, is attributed with the statement: “Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is in an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob, and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe.” 

The patience and peacefulness of the Occupy protesters in the face of an organized financial conspiracy to defraud the wealth from the masses into the pockets of the 1 percent, is a temporary phenomenon.  That peaceful protests have endured in the face of a brutal police crackdown should not be taken for granted.  The moment that the collective subconscious of the American people determines that peaceful protest is a failed exercise in wishful thinking, “neither persons nor property will be safe.”

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