Archive for September, 2011

By Eric W. Dolan
Small groups of demonstrators in major American cities have started their own “Occupy Wall Street” demonstrations and organizers are planning further actions in more cities across the United States.

A diverse coalition of people have pledged to occupy Wall Street until something is done about corporate greed and the financial system’s undemocratic influence on the U.S. government.

The protesters have been camped out in New York’s old Liberty Plaza, one block from the Federal Reserve, since Saturday.

“The one thing we all have in common is that We Are The 99 Percent that will no longer tolerate the greed and corruption of the one percent,” said a statement on the Occupy Wall Street website.

At least 80 to 100 people were arrested over the weekend in the first big crackdown since the demonstration began. Police accused the protesters of blocking traffic and resisting arrest.

Video recordings showed female protesters being rounded up in an orange-colored mesh pen by police and subsequently sprayed with mace, seemingly without any provocation, and other protesters being dragged across the street by police. Another protester said she was arrested for trying to film the demonstration and locked in a police van for over two hours.

The protest spread to other cities over the weekend.

A small group of “Occupy Los Angeles” demonstrators marched through the streets of downtown Los Angeles on Saturday to show their support for the protesters in New York City.

“Corporate interests seem to be controlling both parties,” one protester told LAActivist.com. “The ‘little man,’ the ‘American every man,’ just isn’t getting their voice heard. When you need $35,000 to donate to a campaign to get your voice heard, to have a meeting, that’s not democracy.”

“Occupy Los Angeles” protesters plan to begin a demonstration at City Hall on October 1. The “Occupy Los Angeles” Facebook page had nearly 2,000 likes as of Tuesday afternoon.

Another demonstration popped up in Chicago over the weekend. Around 20 “Occupy Chicago” protesters gathered at Willis Tower, formerly known as the Sears Tower, on Friday and then marched to the Federal Reserve Bank. Some protesters have remained camped out in front of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, and the organizers said the “occupation” had grown from 4 people to about 50.

Other “occupation” protests are being planned for Detroit, Denver, Cleveland, Boston, Phoenix, Seattle, Kansas City, Philadelphia, and Washington D.C. The site occupytogether.org has been set up in hopes of coordinating the protests.

Although the New York Times described the protest as a “noble but fractured and airy movement of rightly frustrated young people” whose purpose was “virtually impossible to decipher,” the demonstration has attracted some prominent voices in the progressive and liberal community.

Journalist Chris Hedges described the protest as “really where the hope of America lies.”

“The real radicals have seized power,” he asserted, “and they are decimating all impediments to the creation of a neo-feudalistic corporate state, one in which there is a rapacious oligarchic class, a thin managerial elite, and two-thirds of this country live in conditions that increasingly push families to subsistence level.”

MIT professor Noam Chomsky also said he supports the protest.

“Anyone with eyes open knows that the gangsterism of Wall Street — financial institutions generally — has caused severe damage to the people of the United States (and the world),” he said. “And should also know that it has been doing so increasingly for over 30 years, as their power in the economy has radically increased, and with it their political power.”

Filmmaker Michael Moore and Current TV host Keith Olbermann both separately lamented the lack of substantial news coverage of the event, questioning why same-sized or smaller tea party protests garnered more attention than “Occupy Wall Street.”

Even Stephen Colbert chimed in, wondering why his reporters couldn’t find the stereotypical “mindless hippie argle-bargle” in the protest.


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MSNBC host Lawrence O’Donnell on Monday condemned the “unprovoked police brutality” that occurred at the “Occupy Wall Street” protest over the weekend.

Video recordings showed female protesters being rounded up in an orange-colored mesh pen by police and subsequently sprayed with mace without any provocation, and other protesters being dragged across the street by police.

“The reason that man is being assaulted by the police is because of what he has in his hand,” O’Donnell said, while showing a video clip of a man with a video camera being tackled by police. “He’s holding a professional grade video camera. Since the Rodney King beating was caught on an amateur video camera, American police officers have known video cameras are their worst enemy. They will do anything they can to stop you from legally videotaping how they handle their responsibility to serve and protect you.”

“Everything those cops did this weekend to those protesters they’ve done to someone else when no video camera was rolling,” he later added.

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How Do You Say ‘Economic Security’?
Published: September 23, 2011

IN the face of nothing but bad economic news, Americans often take heart in remembering that we have been here before — during the Great Depression, when conditions were far worse than they are today — and we survived.

But there is a crucial difference between then and now: the words that our political leaders use to talk about our problems have changed. Where politicians once drew on a morally resonant language of people, family and shared social concern, they now deploy the cold technical idiom of budgetary accounting.

This is more than a superficial difference in rhetoric. It threatens to deprive us of the intellectual resources needed to address today’s problems.

Turn back the clock to June 1934. Millions of Americans are out of work, losing their homes and facing more of the same. President Franklin D. Roosevelt responds by creating the Committee on Economic Security. To Congress, he stresses that he places “the security of the men, women and children of the nation first.” All Americans, he emphasizes, “want decent homes to live in; they want to locate them where they can engage in productive work; and they want some safeguard against misfortunes which cannot be wholly eliminated in this man-made world of ours.”

Roosevelt asks the committee to propose “sound means” to secure against “several of the great disturbing factors in life — especially those which relate to unemployment and old age.” Those “sound means” eventually emerge as the programs of Social Security pensions, old-age assistance and unemployment insurance.

Fast forward to February 2010. With millions of Americans out of work, home foreclosures at historic highs and little prospect of relief for those in need, President Obama acts, establishing a National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform. The commission’s task is to “improve the fiscal situation,” to “achieve fiscal sustainability over the long run” and to address “the growth of entitlement spending.” The commission recommends, true to its charge, cuts in entitlement spending — that is, the programs established in 1935 and later years to aid the unemployed, aged, disabled and sick.

In August 2011, Congress acts, not to aid those in distress but to cut federal spending. The stated goal of its new “super committee” is to create fiscal balance by recommending measures “to reduce the deficit” by at least $1.5 trillion over the next decade.

Thus is the desperate situation of many Americans reduced to the clinical language of budgetary accounting. Social insurance programs that protect Americans against the common hazards of a market economy are “entitlements” that need to be revamped (read: cut) in the name of fiscal balance and deficit reduction.

As an economic policy matter, we view cutting entitlement programs as a very bad idea. But we wish to make a more fundamental observation about language and the collective imagination that language reflects.

In 1934, the focus was on people, family security and the risks to family economic well-being that we all share. Today, the people have disappeared. The conversation is now about the federal budget, not about the real economy in which real people live. If a moral concept plays a role in today’s debates, it is only the stern proselytizing of forcing the government to live within its means. If the effect of government policy on average people is discussed, it is only as providing incentives for the sick to economize on medical costs and for the already strapped worker to save for retirement.

From the 1930s to the 1960s, as the Princeton historian Daniel T. Rodgers demonstrates in his recent book, “The Age of Fracture,” American public discourse was filled with references to the social circumstances of average citizens, our common institutions and our common history. Over the last five decades, that discourse has changed in ways that emphasize individual choice, agency and preferences. The language of sociology and common culture has been replaced by the language of economics and individualism.

In 1934, the government was us. We had shared circumstances, shared risks and shared obligations. Today the government is the other — not an institution for the achievement of our common goals, but an alien presence that stands between us and the realization of individual ambitions. Programs of social insurance have become “entitlements,” a word apparently meant to signify not a collectively provided and cherished basis for family-income security, but a sinister threat to our national well-being.

Over the last 50 years we seem to have lost the words — and with them the ideas — to frame our situation appropriately.

Can we talk about this? Maybe not.

Theodore R. Marmor is a professor emeritus of public policy, and Jerry L. Mashaw is a professor of law, both at Yale. They are co-authors of “America’s Misunderstood Welfare State: Persistent Myths, Enduring Realities.”

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Police Mace Woman Protesters on Wall Street-click on link below

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Rick Perry has made his record of job creation as governor of Texas the centerpiece of his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination. But a new study is drawing attention to a side of the Lone Star State’s recent jobs boom that Perry might not be so quick to tout.

At the heart of Perry’s pitch to voters has been Texas’s jobs performance since the start of the Great Recession, which began in late 2007. During that time, the state has added around 300,000 jobs, while the United States as a whole has lost more than 7 million.

The governor’s critics have pointed out that much of the job growth is the result of simple population growth–both through immigration and through native-born Americans relocating to Texas from other states. Perry has said that only shows that his low-tax, light-regulation policies are making Texas an attractive place to live and work.

But a new study by the Center for Immigration Studies, a Washington-based group that advocates for lower immigration rates, could be more difficult for Perry to dismiss. It finds that by far the prime beneficiaries of the boom have been immigrants–both legal and illegal–from other countries.

The key stat? From the middle of 2007, shortly before the recession began, until the middle of this year, Texas added 279,000 jobs. Of those, 225,00 or 81 percent, went to immigrants who arrived in the United States in 2007 or later.

Other important numbers from the study, which is based on Census Bureau data:

• Around half of the newly-arrived immigrants were illegal. So around 40 percent of Texas’s job growth benefited illegal immigrants, and around 40 percent benefited legal immigrants.

• New jobs went overwhelmingly to immigrants even though native-born Americans accounted for 69 percent of the growth in Texas’s working-age population.

• The percentage of working-age natives who held a job fell from 71 percent to 67 percent during the 2007-2011 period. That’s a similar decline to the employment situation in the United States overall during that period.

• 93 percent of the newly-arrived immigrants who took a job in Texas during that time were not American citizens. So more than three quarters of the state’s job growth benefited non-citizens.

What does all this mean?

For one thing, it means that if you think about the population of Texas as it was four years ago, it’s fared just about as well–or as badly, we should say–as the rest of the country. As David Frum, a former speechwriter in the Bush White House who lately has been critical of the Republican Party, puts it, “There was no Texas miracle, from the point of view of the people who constituted the population of Texas back in 2007.”

It also suggests that Perry’s relatively liberal approach on immigration has been a crucial piece of his apparent success on jobs. Frum writes, “A permissive immigration [policy] is the indispensable prerequisite to the no-soup-for-you economy over which Perry presided.”

As a result the study could provide fodder for Perry’s rivals for the Republican nomination, who may use it both to argue that Perry’s record on jobs is less impressive than it sounds, and to attack his permissive approach to immigration from the right.

The study is hardly the only piece of evidence that could undercut Perry’s claims of success as a job creator. As The Lookout reported last month, other government figures show that most of the new jobs created in Texas in the last two years are in government, the low-wage service sector, or the energy sector, which has benefited from rising oil prices. And as the New York Times notes today, Texas’s unemployment rate–which is calculated differently from the total number of jobs created–has spiked lately from 7.7 percent in June 2009 to 8.5 percent today, even as the national rate has edged downward.

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Unemployment Among Those Under 29 Years the Highest Since WWII

Unemployment among young adults is at its highest point since World War II, new data show. And it’s having a disconcerting impact on the trajectory of their careers and lives.

“We have a monster jobs problem, and young people are the biggest losers,” Andrew Sum, an economist with the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University told the Associated Press.

Just 55.3 percent of people between 16 and 29 were employed in 2010 on average, according to new figures released by the Census Bureau. That represents an enormous drop from 67.3 percent in 2000. Among teens the figure was less than 30 percent.

The result? Young people are delaying taking the steps that traditionally represent movement into adult life: moving to a new place, getting married, and buying a new home. Just 4.4 percent of 18- to 34-year olds moved across state lines — again, the lowest level since World War Two (though such moves have been declining since long before the recent downturn, it’s worth noting). Roughly 5.9 million Americans between 25 and 34 lived with their parents. That’s up by 25 percent since before the recession began in late 2007. (Men are nearly twice as likely as women to move back in with Mom and Dad.) The marriage rate for those between 25 and 34 fell to 44.2 percent, also a new low. And home ownership declined for the fourth straight year.

“Many young adults are essentially postponing adulthood and all of the family responsibilities and extra costs that go along with it,” Mark Mather of the Population Reference Bureau told the AP. If that continues, it would make the U.S. more like Europe, where youth unemployment is far higher and many people continue to live with their parents into their 30s.

In addition, studies have shown that when people experience unemployment at a young age, it depresses their likely earning power over the course of their entire career. “These people will be scarred, and they will be called the ‘lost generation’ – in that their careers would not be the same way if we had avoided this economic disaster,” Richard Freeman, an economist at Harvard, said.

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