Day two of the Showdown in Chicago, a three-day-long protest against big banks, began a bit dismally for The Nation. An email from American Bankers Association spokesman John Hall informed us that our press credentials had been revoked. The reason? Because we’d arrived early to cover a protest outside the ABA’s annual meeting at the Sheraton Hotel the night before, he told us, ABA officials believed us to be "moles for the protesters."
Alas. That meant I wouldn’t have the chance to hear how there’s a silver lining to every recession — I’m sorry, recovery — through such workshops as "Strategies for Acquiring Troubled Banks" (this is, after all, the first year since 1992 when more than a hundred have failed in a single year) and "NonInterest Income," no doubt rich with tips on how to increase revenue through hiking fees on checking accounts, credit cards, and overdraft protection. Nor could I learn how to roll back socialism in "Unwinding Government Intervention," or sort through the puzzling link between record unemployment and depressed spending in "The Impact of the Recession on Consumer Preferences and Behavior." Worst of all, I’d miss Newt Gingrich’s keynote speech in which, it was promised, he would "strike an optimistic tone."
It turns out Newt didn’t exactly have his finger on the pulse, anyway.
At 10:30 a.m., hundreds of protesters from across the Midwest and the East Coast clambered down from buses in front of the Chicago headquarters of Goldman Sachs, one of the Wall Street firms that profited most from the complex derivatives that crashed the economy, and their mood was a shade darker than Newt’s. "[Goldman] helped create the market for the subprime mortgages in creating mortgage-backed securities," economist Dean Baker, who came to Chicago for the protests, explained to me. "No one is knowingly going to issue a bad mortgage, or a mortgage that they have good reasons to think will go bad, unless they could dump it on someone else." The crowd was peppered with people who’d experienced the blowback of all that packaging and dumping, whether in lost homes, lost jobs, or collapsed pensions.