Correction: In an earlier version, Davram Stiefler and Jason Selvig were referred to as bankers in a second reference. They are comedians who call themselves investment bankers. We apologize for the error.
In a news conference yesterday, President Obama told the protesters of Occupy Wall Street he understood their concerns about the nation's financial system, but also defended those who worked in the financial sector, saying their work was necessary for the economy to grow.
It was the first time the focus had been shifted from the “We are the 99 percent” of people who have been protesting over corporate greed on Wall Street, among other issues, to the “one percent” of people they’re protesting.
As the “Occupy” movement continues to spread across the nation, the bankers who work on and around Wall Street have begun to speak up. Some have responded by telling protesters they aren’t so different from them, or started their own counter-protests. Others have said they just don’t care.
Exception Magazine reports that last night, self-identified Wall Street workers were seen wandering through Zuccotti Park during the General Assembly meeting to challenge attendees on why they had come to protest.
The two called out protesters for rallying against corporations while consuming products like designer clothes and iPads. They pointed out that most of the protesters clearly could afford to eat. And they echoed Mayor Michael Bloomberg's argument that some bankers are struggling to make ends meet, too.
New York Federal Reserve's board of directors Kathryn Wylde agreed with the two alleged bankers, Public Radio International reports, saying recently that if the protesters actually “talked to the people working inside the banks and on Wall Street ... they would find they have far more in common with them than what divides them.”
The two bankers Exception Magazine spotted may actually be two actor-comedians who have started a counter-protest/prank called “Occupy Occupy Wall Street.”
Davram Stiefler and Jason Selvig told the Post they started their movement to represent the 1% because “we worked hard to get where we are, and these people seem like they are trying to take it away.”
Their advice to the protesters was to stop the “woe is me mentality,” and “instead of holding a sign, go to business school.”
While it’s pretty clear that the comedians are making fun of the protesters, Stiefler and Selvig insist the “protest is very serious to us.” Watch footage of their counter-protests/prank:
Others among the wealthy have sought to explain the “one percent’s” side of the story. On Reddit, a social news Web site, a self-identified founder of a tech company wrote Friday, “I am a multi-millionaire and member of the 1 percent ... Do I think Wall Street is to blame? Yes and no ... they cater to what people want. Unfortunately, that’s usually low quality, fast results ... The real problem is politicians, who should regulate banking.”
The Reddit user also defended the rich who had worked hard for their money instead of inherited.
“Most guys have worked very hard to get where they are at and because of their success, often attribute it solely to their own merit,” the user wrote. “If you believe this, it’s hard to accept someone taking away a large chunk of your cash, because it’s punishment for success.”
But there are also those on Wall Street who just don’t care. Skip to 45 seconds into this YouTube video to find footage of people sipping champagne as they watch the protests from a balcony:
Part of the problem is that many companies with which the protesters are upset, such as Morgan Stanley, are not actually located on Wall Street. The demonstrations don’t interfere with their work.
Volatility in the stock markets over the past several months hasn’t helped, as bankers say they have bigger problems to worry about.
And Yahoo Finance points out that there is also a fundamental disconnect between the bankers and protesters. In part, that’s because most of the protesters are not Wall Street’s customers, or even their customers’ customers, but it’s also because many bankers feel their work is holding up the global financial industry, not hurting the poor.
As a result, the site writes, the “large majority of Wall Streeters will walk by the protesters and shake their heads at the crowds’ misunderstanding of what they do.”