We’re Going to Need a Bigger Horse… Portland police back down, rather than engage Occupy Portland protesters
Here’s the News from OCCUPY PORTLAND, in Portland, Oregon…
Hours after the eviction deadline of 12:01 a.m. on November 13th, Portland Police attempt to use their horses to push the crowd of 10,000 protesters out of the streets. It doesn’t work, the crowd stands its ground. The police exercise exceptionally good judgment and back off. However, a police officer was injured shortly before 2 a.m. by a projectile thrown from the crowd (obviously by a moron who wanted to get someone killed.) As tensions rose, police arrested a 23-year-old man and warned demonstrators they would be subject to arrest or chemical agents. From what I heard on the news, ultimately 50 were arrested, so who knows what happened after the cameras were turned off.
The footage is dramatic and does show the power that a large crowd of committed people posses, but it also shows some uncommon discretion on the part of the police officers involved who chose to back down rather than to exacerbate the already tense interaction. And, thank God for that, because as great as it may make you feel to see this crowd stand their ground, the outcome could have very easily been very different. Remember, it’s a righteous protest until people are signing “four dead in Ohio.” After that… someone’s child or someone’s parent, or both… is gone forever. After that, what was once a constitutionally protected exhibition of free speech and the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances, becomes a battle ground on which lines are drawn, and which we can never win.
Nonetheless, I cannot lie… watching this brave and obviously committed crowd, made me feel good about America again, if only for a few moments…
I haven’t said anything about the “Occupy” movement that has spread across the country over the last two months, in large part because I’m not sure what to say. On one hand, I’m happy to see people off their couches and in the streets speaking out. On the other, from what we’ve seen transpire around the world, what starts as people assembling soon turns into a riot. And I know how angry people in this country are today, perhaps as well as anyone could, and I know that the line between anger and rage can be all too thin.
And I just want to say, for whatever it’s worth, that our fight is not with police officers, they too are part of the 99 percent… nor is our fight with the bankers on Wall Street and elsewhere, they are citizens of this country, just like we are citizens of this country. Our fight is with our politicians, those that we’ve elected to represent us in Washington D.C. and in our respective state governments. You see, it’s time we were honest about something… what’s happened is our fault too… we gave up our power when we started caring only about ourselves, and stopped speaking out… and voting out… those who fail to represent us, and instead start representing only the tiny fraction of Americans that make up the richest 1 percent.
For example, right now in Washington D.C. the bi-partisan congressional “super-committee” is meeting to determine what will be cut in order to reduce our deficit by $1.5 trillion over the next ten years. According to various reports by members of the press, both Republicans and Democrats are in favor of a plan that would cut Social Security benefits by three percent.
Now, I want to tell you about a few key points inherent to this idea…
- The people who would see their benefits reduced by this plan are people who have PAID for the benefits they are now receiving by making contributions to Social Security over their entire working lives. In point of fact, it’s their money the bi-partisan super-committee is talking about cutting from their incomes during retirement.
- Reducing Social Security benefits by three percent is exceptionally insidious and abjectly cruel, as it will cause the most pain amongst the oldest and poorest recipients. According to economist Dean Baker of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, if you’re in your 90s and have been receiving Social Security benefits for 30 years, you would see them reduced by almost 9 percent under the new cost-of-living adjustment formula that the super-committee is said to support.
- Today, untold millions of seniors are more dependent on their Social Security benefits than ever before. The financial and resulting foreclosure crisis has already destroyed most of the wealth that retirees had accumulated in their homes… wealth that many were counting on to be there now… only now, the very same people that allowed that to happen want to cut Social Security too.
According to Baker…
“The benefit cut is being justified by claiming that the current cost-of-living adjustment exceeds the true rate of inflation. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics index that measures the cost of living of the elderly indicates that the current adjustment understates the rate of inflation experienced by retirees. There should be no doubt, this is a proposal for cutting Social Security benefits; it has nothing to do with making the cost-of-living adjustments accurate.”
Baker also points out something that should be far more distressing, especially to a movement calling itself, Occupy Wall Street.”
“While the supercommittee has plenty of time to think of ways to make life more miserable for seniors, it won’t even countenance the idea of taxing Wall Street speculation. In spite of the repeated pledges that everything is on the table, taxing Wall Street speculation is absolutely off the table.”
What Baker is referring to is called a “Financial Speculation Tax or “FST.” The United Kingdom already has one in place, and the European Commission is just about to approve one as well, with the conservative leaders of Germany and France are both leading proponents of the tax. In the U.K. the FST only applies to stock transactions, and still it raises 0.2 to 0.3 percent of the country’s GDP, which in the U.S. would be about $30 to $40 billion a year. Over ten years, by itself it would raise about a third of the super-committee’s objective. But why would we need to limit such a tax to stocks. We could also apply it to futures, and derivatives like credit default swaps… and a whole other list of alphabet soup acronyms of which no one in the 99 percent has ever even heard.
According to Baker, were we to pass such a tax in this country, he thinks we could easily raise three or four times the $3- to $40 billion a year that would be raised were it limited to only stock transactions. That’s $90 billion to $120 billion a year… and over a decade that by itself would achieve the super-committee’s mandate without forcing anyone over 90 years old to eat cat food or forgo picking up a prescription.
And yet, Baker says…
“No committee member from either party is prepared to make a simple request to the Joint Tax Committee of Congress (“JTC”) that would allow a speculation tax to be one of the items considered in the mix.”
There are several senior members of both houses of congress that have requested information from the JTC about a bill taxing financial speculation, but the super-committee is doing everything possible to prevent the idea from even being brought up as part of their discussion. In other words, the bankers said no… and no means no. So, the members of the super-committee are back to coming up with ways to rob the elderly of the Medicare and Social Security benefits for which they’ve paid… and then some… throughout their long lives.
And you can call me a heretic if you’d like, but one might consider that given the starring and supporting role that Wall Street’s investment bankers played in the oh-so-recent financial catastrophe, and the fact that they were so very visibly bailed out at the expense of the American taxpayer, and that they have basically been engaged in this century’s version of the Rape of the Sabine as far as this country’s middle class is concerned, and that they’ve been allowed to continue making record profits while we continue to guarantee their bonds as we lose sleep over where we might live and how we might eat if we lose a job and can’t find another for several months…
I don’t know… would it be so unreasonable to consider a proposal that would increase a wealthy banker’s tax burden by a fraction of one percent? Not on their egregious incomes, mind you… I mean, perish that thought right now, but rather just on their speculative gambling habits whose proceeds contribute essentially nothing to our society? And we can’t even find anyone on a bi-partisan super-committee with enough moxie to broach the subject… toss it around… mention it in passing? And instead let’s get back to kicking the crap out of a ninety year-old woman with a walker who has paid enough into Social Security to earn her benefits ten times over? Screw her? Really?
And you’re telling me that’s not OUR fault? Yours and mine? Okay, whose then? We elect them, and re-elect them, again and again… can’t even sit still through 20 minutes of C-Span… and complain that the article I spent 70 hours writing is a bit too long for your tastes? And because the Occupy anywhere folks are willing to camp out in a Gore-Tex® tent twenty yards from a Starbucks for a couple of months while blogging from their Powerbooks and shooting video with their smartphones, now I’m supposed to cheer them along as they run from the teargas and pepper spray screaming “F#@K YOU!” at some cop who got his GED at 16 on his way to the Army and who now brings home $37k a year with which he’s raising three kids? Good Lord, people… I have seen the enemy… and it is US!
Okay, look… you know I don’t actually mean that the way it sounds… I mean, C-Span is boring as all get out, and some of my articles are so long I can’t even ask my mother to read them. And I do have a whole lot of respect and even admiration for the people Occupying wherever it is their occupying, even if they are stopping in for a Grande Mocha Latte before the protest kicks off for the day. And if the police abuse their power and authority and end up shooting some 22 year-old because she was taking a lipstick out of her pocket that looked like a gun, I’ll most sincerely hail her a hero, before I castigate the cop involved and rebuke the organizational culture that could ever produce such a horrendous and unforgivable outcome. And when I see her father interviewed on CNN… I will cry.
But, damn it… all around the country there will be octogenarians and nonagenarians who will forego their own medicine or eat one less meal a day in order to buy their great grandson a birthday present, and they won’t say a word about it and no one will ever know, and that’s why the super-committee can commit the act of utter cowardice that they are no doubt about to commit.
So, I guess the truth is that I do struggle with what to say about Occupy Wall Street or Occupy Portland or Occupy wherever when I see them ready to engage in mortal combat with a brigade of poorly paid and less-than-adequately trained police officers decked out in riot gear and lined up as if at the Battle of Hastings. Because that’s not our fight. History will not remember The Battle of Zuccotti Park, and getting arrested doesn’t make you noticed, it only makes you ignored. Fighting for your encampment is fighting on their terms, they’re quite comfortable in riot gear firing teargas into crowds… they trained to do that.
We need, as perhaps the late, great Steve Jobs might have said… to think differently, to fight differently. We need to scare them by making them realize that we are their source of power and just as we bestow it, we can also take it away. Because there’s only one thing more important than campaign cash to politicians… and that’s getting reelected. And while we’ll never be able to compete with Wall Street’s money, Wall Street will never be able to get anyone elected without us.
Dean Baker sums it all up more than eloquently by saying…
This contempt for the 99 percent coupled with protection for the 1 percent is the reason Congress has an approval rating of 9 percent. When both parties in Congress work against the interest of the overwhelming majority in order to protect a tiny elite, it is not surprising that most of the country would return the contempt.
No, it’s not surprising in the least. But it’s also not enough… contempt, that is. It isn’t enough. We’ll need to dop a heck of a lot better than contempt, if we’re going to make any sort of memorable impression on the banker genus, because to them contempt is like a Valentine’s Day card.
BY THE WAY…
The police in New York City cleared out Zuccotti Park last night, and unfortunately the intrepid protesters weren’t quite as resolute as the Portland people, or if they were then they weren’t nearly as successful, because I hear Occupy Wall Street is not longer occupying the park they had started to call home. Here’s the video from just hours ago below. Apparently, the police told everyone that it was a sanitary issue, which is hysterical if you’ve ever spent any time in lower Manhattan. The cops also said that they would be allowed back in, but not with their gear, wwhich is just disingenuous B.S.
But I do hear that the movement has big things planned for this week, and I’m headed there to attend Max Gardner’s seminar, meet with my new partner, Abigail Field, shoot some interviews for the documentary, and hopefully… NOT get arrested… LOL.