This week, an insignificant market trader and self-proclaimed financial self-help guru, Alessio Rastani, rocketed to stardom after speaking frankly on the BBC about the collapsing market and his plans to make money from it. We Yes Men heard about it right away, because soon after the broadcast, people started emailing from all over the world to congratulate us on another prank well done. They couldn't imagine that a real trader could possibly speak so candidly about the market, so they assumed Rastani was one of our posturings.
He wasn't. Rastani is small potatoes, but he's a real trader. And he said nothing that would suggest otherwise; he simply described what he does, more honestly than a true insider would, but quite accurately. "Every night I dream of another recession," Rastani said, and explained that it's possible to make huge money from a big crisis even when millions of others lose their life savings, and worse.
Well, duh. Don't we all know that Goldman Sachs bet against the same housing market they were such a big player in, and made $1bn in profit when the sub-prime crisis rendered millions of Americans homeless? John Paulson, the manager whose hedge fund was betting for Goldman, could have honestly said exactly what Rastani said, but of course he knew better – possibly because unlike Rastani, Paulson's firm had a major, immediate and provable impact, and there's no telling how his millions of victims might have reacted. Unlike Rastani, true industry insiders like Paulson, Geithner et al remain silent about the way their system works, couching it all in technical jargon and full-on deceit. They've been doing it for decades, and, since Ronald Reagan's day, with increasing consistency.
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Lately, it hasn't been working so well. Something has been speaking in very plain language to millions of people. The crowds amassing in cities from New York to Athens to Paris are just the tip of the iceberg, just the most visible of all those who have long known, viscerally, that Rastani's point of view is actually mainstream. Those people also know that, armed with truth and awareness, anything is possible.
As Michael Moore pointed out to those occupying Liberty Plaza near Wall Street, in America it's just 400 people who own as much as most of the rest of us put together. And when the rest of us decide we really want to change the rules of the game, and take back this country for all the people, those 400 won't be able to do anything about it.