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Poll: Protesters Wrong to Blame Wall St For Woes

SuperUser Account posted on October 12, 2011

By Danielle Sottosanti October 12, 2011

Protesters’ anger with Wall Street is unwarranted, say a plurality of Ignites poll respondents.

Roughly 43%, or 318 respondents, say they disagree with the protesters, making that the most popular opinion in an Ignites survey published Tuesday.

Yet a significant number of participating Ignites readers do believe the protesters’ anger is valid: 32%, or 239 respondents, say they agree with and support the protesters, ranking that poll option second. Meanwhile, 22%, or 164 respondents, say they are sympathetic to the protesters’ arguments but think their tactics are wrong.

More than a dozen readers aired their opinions via online comments, weighing in both for and against the protests.

Several commenters say that the protesters are targeting the wrong group, and instead should be rallying against an ineffective government in Washington, D.C., that has saddled industry with too many regulatory burdens.

“What the protesters don’t seem to understand is the bailouts all started from mandates from Washington to provide loans to people that should not have qualified to begin with,” writes one reader. “Now big companies have cash and are sitting tight waiting to find out what regulations are going to cost them. If they want to protest let’s all get together in DC to fight them.”

Another commenter says Americans are fulfilling their civic duty by protesting.

“Better to have peaceful protests now and get politicians to start making changes than to wait till it’s explosive. For those who don’t agree, then explain how they should feel knowing that their tax dollars went to bail out Wall Street and we’re having record profits [and] bonuses, but 25 million people are unemployed and all the political talk is about pointing fingers back at the poor telling them they are the problem and they are just too lazy to work,” says the anonymous online commenter.

These sentiments were voiced as the protests spread to other cities across the nation and globe, drawing support from billionaire hedge fund manager George Soros and Jim Chanos, founder of hedge fund Kynikos Associates, as reported in Bloomberg and Ignites’s sister publication FundFire.

Financial services industry insiders seem to agree that the protests are one component of a much larger issue, but disagree on the nature of that issue and who is to blame.

 “It has always been my belief that one sign we are finally starting to get our fiscal house in order in this country is massive protests in the street,” says Rick Ferri, founder of the investment firm Portfolio Solutions. Debt has been driving the economy for the past 30 years, and now that the nation and individuals have to cut spending, “people don’t like to give up anything and they’re protesting,” he explains.

But “it’s everyone’s fault,” he says. “What happened in the housing industry and in the mortgage industry is as much the people who are marching’s fault as the people inside the building,” he says, referring to the protesters who gathered Monday outside the Mortgage Bankers Association’s annual convention in Chicago.

“It’s not Wall Street that’s causing the problem,” says Rick Rummage, president of The Rummage Group, a career consultancy and executive search firm. “It’s the Congress over the years that has pushed the financial institutions … to come up with new loan programs for people who didn’t qualify under normal underwriting guidelines.”

“Everything that Wall Street did during this whole crisis was capitalism. Everything that these protestors are wearing, the shoes on their feet, the cell phones in their pockets, the watches on their wrists, the apartments they go home to and everything in it … are all there because of capitalism and Wall Street,” Rummage says.

The Wall Street protests and political protests globally are symptoms of the same problem — a combination of the tough economy and the income gap, says Jacob Navon, partner at consultancy and executive search firm Westwood Partners. However, protesters who place 100% of the blame on Wall Street executives are misguided and ignore individual accountability, as people willingly agreed to mortgages they could not afford, he says.

Furthermore, it would be more effective for the protesters to utilize other features of the democratic process, such as calling their elected officials to voice their opinions, according to Navon.

As of 3 p.m. Tuesday, 741 Ignites readers had participated in the survey.

The poll is an unscientific sampling of Ignites subscribers. Participants voted only once and were self-selected. Ignites’s audience consists of money managers, service providers and financial advisors.