CBOT Protest

CBOT Protest

The words from the guy with the microphone were muffled, but he got the crowd of a couple hundred protesters revved up in the mall area next to the Chicago Board of Trade building on Tuesday afternoon with the chant  “Shame on You.”

Among the pictures of Occupy’s “Most Wanted”  was CME chairman Terry Duffy. Who would’ve thought a kid from Chicago who rose through the ranks at CME would become the face for contempt by the 99 percent?

A 76-year-old grandmother from Chicago spoke to me during the rally and said she just paid her taxes on Tuesday and decided to come downtown to voice her support against what she, and virtually everyone else at the event,  deemed the inequity of the U.S. income tax structure.

“I’m seriously considering not paying my taxes next year,” said the slight, grey haired, blue-eyed woman, who would be better fit for a Norman Rockwell Easter dinner scene than a protest. “There should be a movement where we all decide that we don’t want to pay our taxes and see how many people get put in jail.”

It would be easy to dismiss the protesters in Chicago and the re-birth of the Occupy Wall Streeters in New York this week. Last year’s protests in major metropolitan areas around the world became bogged down in a morass of social causes from taxes, to jobs, to teachers’ unions to saving various animals. Time will tell the impact of this spring’s discontent.

It is easy and convenient to once again discount this group, saying they stand for everything, which amounts to nothing much at all. But that would be a mistake. There is a growing frustration outside the financial markets of people who continue to look at the wealth gap in the US and feel somehow disillusioned.  The US Senate’s inaction on the so-called Buffet Rule this week, only further flames the anger.

Protest Tax Banner

Protest Tax Banner

A group of people held a long banner that just said $2,150,000,000,000. That’s the amount one woman holding the end of the sign said was what the wealthiest 1 percent in the United States did NOT pay in taxes last year. Yes, $2.15 trillion. Whether that is accurate or not, it’s another number that dissatisfied Americans will likely latch onto.

Add in $5 gasoline and watch how politicians begin to tinker with the markets and the tax structure in knee-jerk manner that may ultimately be worse for the economy and those on the street.

Today’s political dialog lacks education, proper discord and openness. It is fueled by a variety of elements that have raised the ire of many in the US.  

Who among the 1 percent will stand up and create a dialog with the 99%?  My best guess is few or none. The easy answer for executives whose faces end up as picket signs is to say “I’m not the problem folks. I work hard, earn a lot of money and contribute to communities in very positive ways, through charities and building a company that continues to add jobs.”

But at some point, one wonders if that is not longer enough.

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