Occupy Wall Street: Who are targets of 'millionaires march'?

Occupy Wall Street protesters Tuesday marched on the residences of some of the power brokers who they say are responsible, at least in part, for the nation's economic ills.

Lucas Jackson/REUTERS
Members of the Occupy Wall St movement hold signs aloft while demonstrating during a march through the upper east side of New York Tuesday. The Occupy Wall Street movement took protests to the New York homes of super-wealthy executives as rallies against economic inequality were planned this week for over 50 U.S. college campuses and in several cities around the world.

The Occupy Wall Street movement got personal Tuesday as protesters marched on the residences of some of the richest and most powerful residents of New York City.

Banker Jamie Dimon. Billionaire political donor David Koch. Fox News magnate Rupert Murdoch.

Those were some of people targeted in a so-called "millionaires march." The Occupy Wall Street supporters have pitched their three-week-old protest as movement by "the 99 percent." This march puts a face on the "1 percent" whose powerful influence over government and financial institutions, they say, is responsible, at least in part, for the nation's economic ills.

Where protesters in the 1960s had "the Man" to fight against, the "1 percent" may be today's equivalent code word for an establishment elite -- and those who enable or profit from it.

Hundreds of the 99-percenters marched along New York sidewalks Tuesday, pacing two-by-two because they didn't have a permit and were trying not to disrupt ordinary traffic.

Here's a look some of the people they rallied against:

Jamie Dimon of J.P. Morgan. Mr. Dimon is the banker that many Wall Streeters most admire -- the guy who could keep relatively cool even as some other big banks welcomed TARP bailout money (or wished they had access to it). As J.P. Morgan's CEO, his bank was a big one that didn't fail (like Lehman Brothers) or buy a massive pool of bad mortgage loans (as Bank of America did when it acquired the lender Countrywide Financial). He wasn't at the helm of AIG when it collapsed under all those complex "derivatives."

So why is Dimon a target of protesters?

It's not that the other bankers are wildly popular with those encamped at Zuccotti Park near Wall Street. But Dimon is a symbol of the close ties between the elites in Wall Street banks and in Washington. Dimon may have said his firm didn't need a bailout, but federal moves under Presidents Bush and Obama to aid the banking system benefited his firm immensely, many economists say.

The protesters say ordinary people are still stuck with their mortgage debts, student loans, and a dearth of jobs -- while it's business as usual for Dimon and his company.

David Koch of Koch Industries. When the protesters plea for "1 person, 1 vote," they mean that money is playing an out-sized role in US politics. Oil tycoon Koch (pronounced "Coke") is, for them, the ultimate example of how money talks in US politics. Time magazine put Koch (along with his brother Charles Koch) on its roster of 100 most influential people in the world for 2011. "For decades, the brothers have been investing in free-market think tanks, magazines and activist groups to evangelize the [capitalist] economic system that has rewarded them so lavishly," Time said in bestowing the top-100 slot.

The billionaires (in the top 10 on Forbes new "richest Americans" list) have donated to various less-political causes as well. And supporters say there's no law against backing libertarian think tanks. But to critics, their deep involvement in politics (including groups supporting the tea party movement) symbolizes the need for campaign-finance reform.

The investigative journalism website Pro Publica, in a July report, cited Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity as an example nonprofit groups that can raise unlimited funds for political campaigns without disclosing donors – as long as their primary purpose isn’t politics.

Rupert Murdoch of News Corp. The global media baron heads the media company that owns Fox News and the Wall Street Journal, two of America's most prominent bastions of political conservatism. Fans say Fox's self-styled "fair and balanced" coverage has prospered by offering an alternative to liberal traditional networks. But critics on the left say Fox has blatantly promoted a rightward shift in American political discourse.

Where Fox News hosts have lauded the tea party movement, with its low-tax mantra, the Occupy Wall Street crowd generally wants to see higher taxes on the rich and large companies (including News Corp.) to address America's fiscal problems.

Many of the protesters argue that a temporary "millionaires tax" of 2 percent, levied on the rich in New York State, should not be allowed to expire at the end of this year.

Tuesday's march was backed by other community action groups as well as the "Occupy" protesters.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.