[COMM-ORG] Protest at Geithner's house and more evidence of growing grassroots movement

Discussion list for COMM-ORG colist at comm-org.wisc.edu
Mon May 21 20:16:59 CDT 2012


From: Peter Dreier <dreier at oxy.edu>


Friends and Colleagues:



The protest movement that began at Zuccotti Park last September, and took a
brief winter break after being evicted from their Occupy sites in December
and January, is back in action, mounting escalating protests to demand that
Wall Street banks and big business invest in homes and jobs for ordinary
Americans.  Tonight (Sunday), more than 1000 activists from National
People's Action and the National Domestic Workers Alliance protested at
Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner's suburban home to demand that he - and
  the
Obama administration - support a financial speculation tax on  banks and
require banks help families with "underwater" mortgages refinance their
loans so they can stay in their homes and avoid foreclosure.  My article
about the protest, "Activists Visit Geithner's Home to Ask 'Which Side Are
You On?'"<http://www.huffingtonpost.com/peter-dreier/activists-visit-ge
ithners_b_1531840.html>was
published on
*Huffington Post* tonight.   Find photos
here<http://www.flickr.com/photos/nationalpeoplesaction/sets/72157629823279
332/>and
a video of the protest
here <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v3Dx-qCbZ_eccw&feature3Dyoutu.be>.



Since last month, a diverse coalition of unions, community organizing
groups, MoveOn, faith-based activists, and others have taken to the
streets, corporate headquarters, and stockholder meetings to demand more
accountability from the 1%.    They've protested at the shareholder
meetings of such companies as Cigna, General Electric, Wells Fargo,
Verizon, Bank of America, Hyatt, Tesoro, Sallie Mae, and Walmart, as I
wrote two weeks ago in my *Nation *article, "Occupy Activists Resurrect May
Day for Americans,"
<http://www.thenation.com/article/167611/activists-breathe-new-life-may-day
>
.**



As part of this escalating protest movement, the National Nurses United
held a 
rally<http://inthesetimes.com/working/entry/13232/nurses_lead_nato_protest_for_robin_hood_tax/>in
Chicago on Friday, a few days ahead of the NATO summit, calling for
the
financial speculation "Robin Hood" tax on Wall Street, as David Moberg
reports in *In These Times*.  Like the protestors at Geithner's house, they
want Congress to enact  a tax of 50 cents on every $100 of trades of
stocks, bonds, dividends and other financial transactions, which are not
currently taxed. The U.S. would join more than a dozen other nations that
already have a financial transaction tax, according to National Nurses
United.  It would exempt those trading less than $100,000 a year,  which
means that the tax would target the very rich. Supporters include Nobel
Laureate economists Paul
Krugman<http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/28/opinion/krugman-things-to-tax.html>,
a *New York Times* columnist, and Joseph
Stiglitz<http://robinhoodtax.org/latest/stiglitz-talks-bank-taxes-world-media>,
the former World Bank chief economist.



Many of these groups have been challenging corporate power and fighting for
consumers, workers, and communities for many years, but the Occupy Wall
Street movement created a new national mood that gave them the
self-confidence to be bolder and think bigger.  The movement has paid off
in many ways.  As Harold Meyerson reported in his article in *American
Prospect*,  "The Man the Banks Feared
Most<http://prospect.org/article/man-banks-fear-most>,"
the Occupy movement made it possible for Eric Schneiderman, the New York
State attorney general, and Kamala Harris, his California counterpart, to
face down the banks and the Obama administration to forge a strong
settlement with six major banks to renegotiate mortgages for homeowners
that they ripped off.



More evidence of the effectiveness of the growing protest movement is the
recent enacted of "responsible banking ordinances" in several cities,
including Los Angeles and New
York<http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/15/nyregion/council-wants-banks-to-describe-efforts-made-in-poor-areas.html>.
On Tuesday, May 15, the LA City Council voted
13-0<http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-0516-banking-ordinance-2012051
6,0,7542332.story>to
require any commercial bank wishing to hold city deposits to submit an
annual statement of community reinvestment activity in the city, including
the number, size and type of small business loans, home mortgages, home
improvement loans, community development loans, and banks' participation
in
the City's foreclosure prevention and home loan principal reduction
programs. Activist groups can use the information to develop a "report
card" on banks that could push the city government, unions, churches,
foundations and others to remove their deposits from banks with poor
grades. A year ago, the proposal, sponsored by City Council member Richard
Alarcon, died on the vine for lack of support. But this year, in the wake
of the Occupy movement, Alarcon resurrected the ordinance, which quickly
gained momentum, despite the opposition of LA's banks and business
community. The grassroots campaign for the ordinance was led by LA Voice,
POWER, SEIU, and the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment
(ACCE).



Other major cities, including Boston, Oakland, Austin, Portland, Kansas
City, and Seattle, are now reviewing "responsible banking" laws, which
allow cities to use their leverage as large depositors to hold big banks
publicly accountable for their reinvestment in neighborhoods, especially in
low to moderate-income neighborhoods of color, where predatory lending and
bad business practices by big banks have devastated communities' small
businesses and homes. Cleveland has had a similar law for almost two
decades.



The same week, the  Oakland (California) City Council* * stood up to
lobbyists from the Mortgage Bankers Association and the Chamber of Commerce
and voted to expand *Vacant Property Registration & Foreclosure Blight
Ordinance<http://calreinvest.org/news/oakland-city-council-expands-anti-blight-ordinance>
*, which will make banks pay when then foreclosure on properties and don't
clean them up.  In San Jose, the City Council passed a *Payday Lending
Ordinance<http://calreinvest.org/news/san-jose-city-council-restricts-payday-lending>,
*which imposes a cap on the number of current payday lenders (which
typically charge rip-off fees to cash checks) and the first to prevent
payday lending businesses from opening in or near very low-income areas in
the city.

Still another by-product of the Occupy movement has been the growing uproar
over mounting student debt.  This was a key aspects of the Occupiers and it
has been getting more and more attention in recent months from President
Obama, Congress, and the media, including this
article<http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-student-debt-20120520,0,742
1626.story>in
today's
*Los Angeles Times*.  It is outrageous that working class and middle class
college students are saddled with years of debt, as this *Truthout *article
,
"Understanding Student
Debt,"<http://truth-out.org/news/item/8778-understanding-student-debt>rev
eals.
  In many other democratic countries, a college education is free
or almost-free - an idea that America's land-grant universities once
embodied.  My wife got  her nursing school tuition paid for by the federal
government in exchange for spending a few years working in a low-income
area.  (She wound up spending her entire career working in low-income
communities).  I think that U.S. should require all young people to spend
at least two years doing community service (as an alternative to serving in
the military) in exchange for free college tuition for four years.
Doctors, nurses, public health workers, public interest lawyers, teachers,
and others who agree to work with and for the poor should get further
public support for their graduate education.

Meanwhile, in Chicago this weekend, thousands of protestors from around the
country converged on the NATO meeting, while a few hundred angry Chicagoans
marched to Mayor Rahm Emanuel's home to protest the closing of six mental
health facilities all across the city, a symptom of the impact that the
nation's economic hard times and budget crises is having on key human
services.

The past year's battle in Wisconsin - first to protect workers' rights and
government services, and now to throw the reactionary Gov. Scott Walker out
of office - is another part of the widening protest movement.  John Nicho
ls
of The Nation magazine and the Madison Capital-Times has been the best
chronicler of that struggle, including this interesting
article<http://host.madison.com/news/opinion/column/john_nichols/john-nicho
ls-june-recall-should-send-message-that-austerity-isn/article_213a61be-9de0
-11e1-9e53-0019bb2963f4.html>in
the Capital-Times last week.

The *New York Times* recently published this provocative article, 
"Capitalists
and Other Psychopaths,"<http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/13/opinion/sunday/
fables-of-wealth.html>which
is worth reading.  Of course not everyone in the 1% are psychopaths
or even conservatives. Some are liberals, some are Democrats, and a few are
even radicals. But one of the real right-wing billionaire wackos, in the
same category with the Koch Brothers, is Joe Ricketts.  Last week the *New
York Times* exposed Ricketts'
plan<http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/17/us/politics/gop-super-pac-weighs-har
d-line-attack-on-obama.html?_r3D2>to
bankroll  a $10 million series of race-baiting anti-Obama ads that
would
resurrect clips of Rev. Jeremiah Wright.   Ricketts is the founder of the
brokerage firm TD Ameritrade and his family owns the Chicago Cubs.  The *Ti
mes
*story triggered an immediate backlash and then Ricketts disavowed the
plan<http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/17/us/politics/gop-super-pac-weighs-har
d-line-attack-on-obama.html?_r3D2>.
One reasons for the quick apology is that the Cubs are asking the city of
Chicago for a huge subsidy to renovate Wrigley Field, and Rickets'
anti-Obama plan angered Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.  Of course, why should
a team owned by the billionaire Ricketts' family qualify for a subsidy in
the first place?  But the controversy over the Ricketts' plan reveals yet
another example of the terrible impact of the Supreme Court's *Citizens
United* 2010 ruling and the subsequent rise of the Super-PACs funded by
billionaires intent on stealing our democracy.

Overturning the *Citizens United *decision is critical.  That will only
happen if Obama gets to appoint at least one more person to the Supreme
Court and if he makes it an implicit litmus test issue for his next
appointment.  But there's a potential steppingstone victory in the
making.  According
to articles in the Chicago
Tribune<http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/chi-illinois-amon
g-22-states-joining-campaign-finance-fight-20120520,0,2989271.story>and
Politico <http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0512/76448.html>,  22 states
are now backing Montana's fight to prevent the Citizens United ruling fro
m
being used to strike down state laws restricting corporate campaign
spending. These states are asking the Supreme Court  to preserve Montana'
s
law limiting corporate political expenditures.

Giving Obama four more years to appoint a new Supreme Court justice to
replace one of the reactionaries and conservatives on the current court is
one more reason for the Occupiers and others to get deeply involved in the
upcoming election, and to  make voter registration and turnout a priority,
especially in the key swing states of Florida, Virginia, Ohio,
Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Iowa, Colorado, Nevada, North Carolina, and New
Hampshire.

Sarah Jaffe wrote this interesting article in *Truthout*, "What Occupiers
Learned from Obama - And What He Should Learn From Them."
<http://truth-out.org/news/item/9081-what-occupiers-learned-from-obama-and-
what-he-should-learn-from-them>

Jaffe claims that many people who've participated in the Occupy movement
got their first taste of political activism - and learned their organizin
g
skills - in the 2008 Obama campaign.  Many of them are now disillusioned
with the president.  Hopefully that doesn't mean that they'll stay home
  on
election day in November. In fact, they need to understand that helping
re-elect Obama - and getting more Democrats elected in Congress - is ke
y to
translating any of their ideas into real public policy.  A Romney win would
be a complete victory for the 1%.  An Obama victory - along with wins for
progressive Democrats in Congress - would make it possible (though not
inevitable) for a wider and wiser progressive movement to put key aspects
of their demands on the national agenda.



One of those goals is to eliminate private money from American politics and
substitute public funding.  The nonprofit group Public
Campaign<http://www.publicampaign.org/>has been leading that good
fight for years.  It is part of the broader
crusade for more democracy, fairness and equality, the broad goals of the
Occupy movement and its union, community, and faith-based allies - to tak
e
the country back from the billionaires, big corporations, and their
political allies who do their bidding.





------------------------------------------------------------------

Peter Dreier
Dr. E.P. Clapp Distinguished Professor of Politics
Chair, Urban & Environmental Policy Department
Occidental College
1600 Campus Road
Los Angeles, CA 90041
Phone: (323) 259-2913
FAX: (323) 259-2734
Website: http://employees.oxy.edu/dreier

Next book:  The 100 Greatest Americans of the 20th Century: A Social
Justice Hall of
Fame<http://www.amazon.com/The-Greatest-Americans-20th-Century/dp/156858681
7/ref3Dsr_1_1?s3Dbooks&ie3DUTF8&qid3D1334420440&sr3D1-1>
*(Nation Books) - coming out in June 2012*

"The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who in times of great
moral crises maintain their neutrality" - Dante



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