With friends like Donald Trump and Vikram Pandit, does Occupy Wall Street need enemies?
Both The Donald and the Citigroup (NYSE:C) CEO recently have said that they sympathized with the views of the Occupy Wall Street movement — bizarre statements considering Trump and Pandit are examples of the corporate greed that has infuriated the masses.
Take Trump. There is no greater living symbol of the excesses of capitalism. For Pete’s sake, the man sells his own branded water and the Donald J. Trump Signature collection of apparel! Never mind the ease with which he navigates bankruptcy (his companies or properties have filed for bankruptcy four times). No, Trump decided that he could speak for the common man.
“There is a tremendous fervent and there is something wrong with this country,” Trump said in an interview with Yahoo Finance’s Daily Ticker. “Our country is blowing up in front of our eyes.”
Before people get the idea that Trump has gone all Keith Olbermann, The Donald then added that all those nasty complaints about income inequality and high unemployment would disappear once “the economy gets good again.” And of course, the one-time presidential aspirant does not think the current occupant of the White House is up to the job of turning the economy around.
Pandit, whose company received an eye-popping three federal bailouts, has even more nerve than Trump. He offered to meet with the protestors, telling Fortune, “Their sentiments are completely understandable. … The economic recovery is not what we all want it to be, there are a number of people in our country who can’t achieve what they are capable of achieving and that’s not a good place to be.”
In his mind, greedy banks have nothing to with these problems.
Trump and Pandit are not the only corporate chieftains and other rich folks siding with the denizens of New York’s Zuccotti Park. In fact, there is a blog dedicated to pictures of so-called “1 percenters” who are sympathetic to the plight of the “99 percenters” occupying cities around the country.
Trump’s fellow casino magnate, Steve Wynn, argued that Occupy Wall Street is a reflection of public unease about the deficit, saying on the recent earnings conference call for Wynn Resorts (NASDAQ:WYNN): “What you do have on Wall Street is a reflection, a real reflection in my opinion, of the anxiety, the insecurity and the fear that is endemic in the United States of America.”
Earlier this month, Howard Schultz, the CEO of Starbucks (NASDAQ:SBUX) who is more politically active than most corporate leaders, told The Atlantic that Congress’ lack of a solution could muster “the beginning of anger (and) frustration … that could easily have unintended consequences that could easily lead to unrest in America.”
What’s an even scarier thought is the idea that members of the corporate elite are trying to harness a grassroots anti-corporate movement for their own purposes.
As of this writing, Jonathan Berr did not own a position in any of the aforementioned stocks. Follow him on Twitter at @jdberr.