|Former Mayor Edward I. Koch|
Right in the opening of his commentary, Mayor Koch lays out why he thinks the Occupy Wall Street initiative resonates in the nation and the world:
What this country needs is a Congress and a President who will investigate the corruption that Americans feel is rampant. The Occupy Wall Street crew… has captured support because of the uneasiness of Americans... that our lawmakers at every level of government have been compromised, if not purchased… Corporate America – particularly the banks and Wall Street securities firms – that were responsible for... the Great Recession [are] now richer, bigger and more powerful than ever… while 15 million Americans remain unemployed…He cites Tom Friedman's column in the October 30 issue of the New York Times, on the power of corporations and Wall Street:
Our Congress today is a forum for legalized bribery… [T]he financial services industry… spent $2.3 billion on federal campaign contributions from 1990 to 2010… Why are there 61 members on the House Committee on Financial Services? So many congressmen want to be in a position to sell votes to Wall Street.Mayor Koch was a member of the House Banking Committee, predecessor of the Financial Services Committee, before he was elected Mayor. So he is in a good position to assess what is happening in the Congress. He goes on to cite a specific failure of justice:
Two major Wall Street corporations responsible in part for the Great Recession were fined by the S.E.C. One, Goldman Sachs, paid a fine of $550 million; the other, CitiGroup paid a fine of $285 million [for] taking advantage of clients in the sale of securities which they knew were near worthless. In imposing the civil fines, the S.E.C. did not require the companies to admit guilt.Friedman is referenced again as the source of a quote from Senator Richard Durbin, Democrat from Illinois and number two in the Democratic Senate leadership, describing the financial industry lobby as "still the most powerful lobby on Capitol Hill. And they frankly own the place." Koch's comment: "Many of us think they still do."
Koch links to this national corruption the current police scandal in New York City:
We see the beginning of a police scandal, which I sense will rival that of 1972 when the Knapp Commission investigated the Police Department … [I]n the Borough of the Bronx [there are] charges against 16 cops for ticket fixing. The Daily News of October 30 reported, "Some of the roughly 160 cops whose names surfaced in the ticket fixing scandal will be asked to testify against their fellow officers..." … Robert T. Johnson, the Bronx district attorney, said the ticket fixing scandal had bled between $1 million and $2 million in revenue from the city’s coffers and tainted the police force. What this situation calls out for is a new Knapp Commission to once again examine the integrity and practices of the police officers and their union, the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association.Since the days of the ancient Greeks, some people earn the status of prophet. The way to do this is to first to become a prominent leader (like King Oedipus) and then continue to speak up in retirement. Many ex-leaders try to get heard, but only a few continue to have a voice and influence - as Mayor Koch did in confronting the President on Middle East issues. I think the reason he gets heard is that he tries to be reasonable even when he is passionate about an issue, and that he is above all fearless. I hope he keeps on commenting, for as long as he is able, on what's wrong with the country and the City.