Saturday, April 2, 2011

A New York State of Mind

New York Protesters Storm Capital Building, Budget Passed Behind Closed Doors (Mike Groll, AP)

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 Democratic Party. (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


Anne Lavoie said...

Watching the video, one important thing came to mind that came up with the Middle East uprisings, and that is that protesters need to limit themselves to one demand for a particular action, not dozens, and at the same time have no one single leader. Everyone should feel equal in making the demand, and not act like sheep following a leader.

The power elite always want some one person they can soften up and negotiate half-measures with on a minor issue (when multiples demands are made), thus weakening the unified front of the coalition.

Somehow we need to do the same in our country. Make one solid, powerful demand and stick with it until the power elite concedes. What could that be? Taxes on the rich?


Anonymous said...

Everyone on all sides of the political Spectrum admit that The President and the people around him only represent themselves. They are not Progressives and they sure are not Tea Baggers. Why then do you think that if you can even get them to tax themselves they will do anything more than just give themselves back the money becoming even richer in the process?


Denis Neville said...

Inequality the wealthy will come to regret…

“America’s inequality distorts our society in every conceivable way…It is this sense of an unjust system without opportunity that has given rise to the conflagrations in the Middle East: rising food prices and growing and persistent youth unemployment simply served as kindling…In recent weeks we have watched people taking to the streets by the millions to protest political, economic, and social conditions in the oppressive societies they inhabit…In important ways, our own country has become like one of these distant, troubled places…

Joseph Stiglitz asks, “As we gaze out at the popular fervor in the streets, one question to ask ourselves is this: When will it come to America? In important ways, our own country has become like one of these distant, troubled places…

“The top one percent have the best houses, the best educations, the best doctors, and the best lifestyles, but there is one thing that money doesn’t seem to have bought: an understanding that their fate is bound up with how the other 99 percent live. Throughout history, this is something that the top one percent eventually do learn. Too late.”

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr. Neville,

Your comment brings to mind The Committee of Public Safety and the time of Terror. Perhaps you should look at who really "Owns The Country", the Federal Government is the largest Land oner in the U.S. Controling over 650 million acres of land that is 30% of the total country and 50% of the 10 Western States. The largest individual Private Land Owner is Ted Turner a Liberal at just 2 million acres. There are, of corse, the lands controlled by the various states making them second in line behind the Federal Government.

Most of this "Public" Land is controlled by nameless, faceless, and unelected Bureaucrats. Land is the ultimate source of wealth and this "Public" Land and it's improvements are the major assets of the U.S. These assets for the most part generate little income and pay no taxes. You might want to consider that when you go looking for "the Rich".


Anne Lavoie said...

Come to think of it, I didn't even hear about this on 'Democracy Now!' Maybe they didn't contact any media in advance? Surely Amy Goodman would have chosen to cover it if she had known. Did anyone know this was happening in advance?

Media coverage doesn't necessarily just happen. You have to put out a press release in advance if you want any coverage at all, plus do things like street theater or other media catching, non-violent tactics. Gene Sharp wrote the book on all this and even Egyptians are familiar with him and his works. But Americans? *sigh*

It's no wonder Republicans and Tea Party people get the media's attention. They know what they're doing (getting professional help of course) and they are serious about it, while Democrats usually look like they are just trying to have a good time, drumming and singing as in Wisconsin, mostly all loosey goosey feel-good stuff.

Our side desperately needs a professional community organizer! (Who isn't busy giving tax cuts to billionaires, worshipping at the feet of his corporate masters, and waging 3 wars for the MIC.)


James F Traynor said...

Fiddle-dee-diddle! Let's cut to the chase! Cuomo is, indeed, a clone of Obama. Why? Because it works! And we, God help us, the base, confirm it. Screw us to a fare-thee-well, and we still troop loyally to the polls, because '...the alternative is so much worse.'

It's the black strategy, and it worked, over and over again, for both the Republicans and the Democrats. Until the blacks started burning down the cities (Detroit really made THEM nervous).

We, the Democratic base, can deny Obama the presidency in 2012 and we should, either through a primary or leaving our presidential choice blank. The alternative will be terrible, but it will finally wake up the electorate to the sham of our political system.

Anne Lavoie said...

To Richard:

Oh boy, Richard, do you need to do your homework about public lands! Start by looking up the National Mining Act of 1872. You are so wrong about public lands that it is unbelievable. Year after year, Congress has refused to repeal or amend this act, and for good reason: corporate welfare.

For over a hundred years, millions of acres of public lands are used by private corporations to generate billions of dollars in profit, oftentimes with tax breaks, and with NO royalties paid from gold, silver, and precious metals extracted for the lease price of a pittance.

Public lands are either leased for a mere $2-$5/year and sometimes simply sold for a few dollars. The public land is used for ski resorts, hotels, logging for the forest products industry, mining for gold and silver and other precious metals, housing subdivisions, campgrounds, even a brothel, to name just a few.

Public lands and waters are also used by those who buy snowmobiles, boats, fishing rods and reels, hunting rifles, jet skis, camping equipment, ATVs, and all the other toys of the powerful recreational industry. That's another area for you to do some homework - start with Coleman or Kawasaki or Honda.

The land is subject to damage from explosives, earthmovers, logging trucks, chemical pollution such as cyanide to extract precious metals, and who pays for the pollution cleanup? The taxpayer. Granted, many local economies are sustained by these activities, but that also makes nonsense of your statement that public lands are an economic waste.

The only thing I agree with you on is that public lands are not generating money for the taxpayer, but you can blame Congress for that. Since there are so many powerful corporate entities that are happy to have free public land to get rich from, don't expect Congress to ever take it away from them!

If anything, they will give it away to solve our 'budget problems'. That's the plan anyway - the Corporate takeover of all public resources, aka 'Privatization'.


Anonymous said...

Karen Garcia, I peruse your comments on and off in the Times, but I wonder how you can wonder that no one of note took note (pun intended) of the quasi Arab "day of rage". There is a lot to be upset about under Obama's regime, but taking a page from Islam, never mind Obama's leanings, won't change a thing in our land.
Our gemius President did not do much with his hopey changey theme, but vote with an open mind
without prejudice toward the Right and some things may change for the better.
By the way, congratulations on the more than
thousand approvals on every golden word either you or our Marie Burns utter. You are veritable
best sellers.

Anonymous said...

Addressing the last comment made by WHOM? I always find it cowardly to make snide comments and then hide behind "anonymous." Maybe the reason readers are following Marie Burns and Karen Garcia is because they mirror what we believe. Personally, I am glad to read intelligent comments by thoughtful people.

Valerie Long Tweedie
Adelaide, Australia
(for the benefit of anonymous, I am an American citizen)

turnipseed said...

Dear Anonymous:

At least Karen Garcia and Marie Burns use their real names.

Janet Camp

alan said...

Really appreciate what you choose to cover and how you cover it,depressing and
maddening as it all is. Been lurkin' for awhile and thought it was time to give you a " you go girl!"
I guess I'm kind of a quitter, but it seems to me that the game is over and the conservatives have won. Now they are in the Sore Winner phase and are making sure there aren't even any scraps left for us to fight over. Man, I'm no tea partied, but I sure would like my country back! Is there really no other party we can vote for than democrats? Is it insane to HOPE that the Green party could have an impact in America?
Sorry for the negativity, I really do appreciate your efforts. Your writing is pitch perfect...

Anonymous said...

Dear Annenigma,

Yes, the government leases some of the land, sea floor, and the air waves. The government receives what ever money they are due and down the rat hole it goes with the rest of the money they collect or borrow. However the Government still owns the land. that is why they lease it.
Marie Burns is careful to say that "one percent of the population controls forty percent of the wealth"' here in the U.S. She includes most of the members of Congress in the rich one percent. The congress also oversees the leasing of Federal lands and federal spending in general. That makes the members of the Congress the most powerful group in the Country, rich or not. Do you think the Congress has done a good job these last two years? Do you want to give them even more power now and in the future?


jujudahl said...

First I would like to comment to Richard and thank Anne for taking him to task about public lands. US Government is largest landowner. Richard, we the people are the US Government and this land is being held in trust for the public use and for generations to come. Some want to sell it off to private owners and corporations and I am from the West and want to keep it for the people and when we deem it logical lease it for private use with regulations for a fee which as Anne said well it is not being done to benefit the taxpayer. Shame on Congress. Also, anonymous people might not of set up accounts enabling to comment. I just did as my last post was anonymous and I want a Multi Million March on Wall Street, K Street and DC asking Ed Shultz, Thom Hartman, John Stewart, Rachel Maddow, Democracy Now et. al to organize this march in July. We need to get in these people faces big time so media cannot ignore us(?).

Anonymous said...


I am also from the west. Know that owning the land because you are a citizen is in fact incorrect. The land is held in trust for the citizens of the U.S. By the Federal government and it is controlled by nameless faceless bureaucrats with Congressional oversight or not. If you think that is incorrect try going onto your land without a permit or not paying the entrance fee.