Wisconsin has come to New York, home turf of the Wall Street banksters and faux Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo. In anticipation of a draconian spending package cutting aid to schools and giving huge tax breaks to the rich, a crowd of thousands converged in Albany Thursday to protest. Cuomo and the Legislature cowered behind closed doors to pass the package. It's one of the rare times in the history of the state that a budget has ever passed before schedule.
And just last week, a crowd of an estimated 5,000 people met at City Hall and marched down Wall Street to protest the budget. This "Day of Rage" against the state cuts passed by largely unnoticed by the nation at large, because it was not covered by the mainstream media. The New York Times did not give it any space at all. I initially found out about it on Al Jazeera, of all places. You can view a video of the event in the previous post, below.
The New York budget cuts total $10 billion, including $1.5 billion slashed from school aid and $3 billion from health care.
The protest was organized around several demands, including no cuts to social services, job creation rather than layoffs, improved access to affordable housing, protecting workers' rights, ending school closings and mayoral control and firing Cathleen Black, the controversial chancellor of New York City public schools. She was appointed to the post last year by her friend, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, despite having no prior education experience and never having sent her own children to public schools.
The marchers called for extending the millionaires' tax, reinstating the stock transfer tax and closing corporate tax loopholes. Extending the millionaires' tax would have raised between $1 billion and $5 billion. Reinstating the stock transfer tax--which is already on the books but is returned every year to the banks it is collected from--would have raised $15 billion per year, enough on its own to eliminate the entire budget deficit and create a surplus instead.
But Cuomo, citing a threat by banks that they would leave the state unless they got their concessions, caved like an Obama clone. Rich New Yorkers currently pay a lower portion of their income in state taxes than those in lower-income brackets. Under current rates, the richest one percent of New Yorkers pay 8.4 percent of their income in state taxes, while middle-income workers (such as state university adjuncts and faculty) pay 11.6 percent. Once the millionaires' tax expires, the state tax rate of the richest 1 percent will drop to just 7.2 percent.
The projected impact of the budget cuts on New York City varies widely. At the low end, Cuomo claims the city would lose $659.4 million, including $579.7 million in education aid. Bloomberg, on the other hand, claims the city will lose closer to $2 billion, adding that the budget "does not treat New York City equitably" because it cuts a higher portion of aid to the city than other localities, which are facing a mere 2 percent reduction. Shades of that famous Daily News headline "Ford to New York City: Drop Dead!" -- only this time it was Cuomo giving the Big Apple the shaft.
But Bloomberg is not getting much sympathy from working people. For one thing, he is threatening to lay off teachers, which is never a good idea. For another thing, he's a Forbes billionaire and a big friend to Wall Street. You don't hear him griping about the tax breaks given to the banksters.
Last weekend's protest, which lasted about two hours, was organized by a new coalition calling itself "New Yorkers Against Budget Cuts: Students-Labor-Communities United". Participants included the Transport Workers Union Local 100, which represents New York City transit workers; AFSCME District Council (DC) 37, which is New York City's largest municipal worker union; and the CUNY Mobilization Network. Professional Staff Congress-CUNY (CUNY's faculty union), the United Auto Workers regional office, and Teamsters Local 808. Other key supporters were the Freedom Party, formed by City Councilmember Charles Barron after he left the Democratic Party, and the recently formed South Bronx Community Congress, as well as the Green Party. You may remember Barron as one of the slew of gubernatorial candidates challenging Carl Palladino and Cuomo last fall.
We knew we were in trouble when The Tea Party factions in New York State actually sent out emails earlier this year urging support for Cuomo and his budget. Some of us knew we were getting a Republican in Democratic clothing, since Cuomo as attorney general did little to nothing to go after Wall Street crooks. The new governor rarely speaks to reporters, another warning sign. Will our next step be a recall? We can always hope -- and better yet, march and clamor. The next big event will be on May 1, with several smaller rallies geared against Cathie Black and college funding cuts scheduled before then.
* Update (4/3) -- Doug Singsen, of New Yorkers Against Budget Cuts, confirms in an email that his group notified all local and major media outlets of the event, which like Wisconsin, suffered a news blackout:
" We sent out a press release to all the major media outlets in NYC as well as many of the smaller ones. The reason for the lack of coverage is that America's mainstream media is simply biased against covering any struggle for progressive change (regressive movements like the Tea Party get coverage aplenty, on the other hand), especially if it doesn't involve elected officials or the . (Since the budget cuts are coming from the Democratic Party, we naturally were not working closely with them, although two anti-cuts Democrats did speak at the rally.) We did get some media coverage."
Among the outlets either covering or acknowledging the event were Al Jazeera, the iconic Amsterdam News, News 1 (a 24-hour NYC TV Station) and Telemundo, the Spanish language TV network. And of course, not a few independent blogs.
|New York's Day of Rage|