As the “Occupy Wall Street” protests in New York and global “solidarity” demonstrations continue gaining support — especially among labor unions and socialist groups — reports of alleged police brutality and mass arrests are helping to propel the purportedly “leaderless” movement into the media spotlight around the world.
Before the events officially got underway on September 17, organizations affiliated with the movement insisted the so-called “occupation” and “Day of Rage” would be non-violent. At the same time, however, organizers were disseminating instructions on how to engage in civil disobedience, resist arrest, and even disrupt court proceedings.
While the protests — far smaller than the 20,000 hoped for by activists — began relatively unnoticed in terms of media coverage, that is quickly changing. Recent police actions have helped garner unprecedented publicity and even some sympathy for the largely anti-capitalist agitators.
Over the weekend, for example, hundreds of protesters were arrested and released after repeatedly disobeying orders not to block traffic across the Brooklyn Bridge. Dozens more were handcuffed and taken away on buses. And the press dutifully descended upon the scene.
On Thursday, Bank of America announced that, starting the first of the year, they would be charging debit card users $5 a month for the privilege as a way to recoup lost income under new rules from the Federal Reserve. The rules, which took effect on Saturday, October 1, limit the amount banks may charge merchants accepting debit cards to 21 cents per transaction, down from 44 cents previously. Under the Dodd-Frank bill passed in 2010 — initially proposed by former Senator Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) and Representative Barney Frank (D-Mass.) — banks processing the transactions will see their income from those fees drop by about $10 billion a year, all in the name of fairness and equity, according to the Federal Reserve, which determined that the new fees are “reasonable and proportional.” According to industry sources, the real cost of handling each debit card transaction amounts to “a penny or two,” and so politicians decided this called for action.
One of those was liberal interventionist Senator Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), who sponsored the swipe fee amendment, saying,
Referring to his jobs bill in his weekly address to the nation, President Barack Obama stated, “I want it back.” No, the President is not having second thoughts about the $447 billion bill; he just wants Congress to pass the bill so he can sign it.
Obama submitted his American Jobs Act to Capitol Hill nearly three weeks ago, having preceded it with a speech to a joint session of Congress in which he repeatedly urged that body to “pass this bill right away.” Since that time the bill has been subjected to much scrutiny and criticism, but no action has been taken on it. Fed up with legislators’ stalling, Obama said, “It is time for Congress to get its act together and pass this jobs bill so I can sign it into law.”
Obama’s latest shot across Congress’s bow differed little from his previous remarks on the bill. He asserted that the “bill would boost the economy and spur hiring” and that it “is fully paid for.” “Why,” the President asked, “would you be against that?”
There are a number of good reasons to oppose it.
Claiming that the United States “can’t afford” to lose the race to develop the technologies necessary for a transition to a green economy, Acting Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank defended the dispersal of millions of dollars in federal funds to the winners of the government’s i6 Green Challenge.
The i6 Green Challenge is undeniably a very small program; the challenge website acknowledges that approximately $12 million was available for “proof of concept” models. Under business-as-usual in Washington, D.C., the expenditure of $12 million would look like a departmental rounding error. In part, the i6 Green Challenge awards will receive a measure of public scrutiny because of the scandal surrounding President Obama’s favorite (at least until recently) example of a corporation of the new “green economy” — Solyndra — which recently found itself under investigation in connection with $535 million in loan guarantees that it had received from the federal government. The image of Solyndra being raided by FBI agents may continue to linger for a time — much to the chagrin of the President and his standard bearers in government and the media.
An article for CNSNews (“Acting Commerce Secretary: Despite Failures, ‘U.S. Can’t Afford’ Not to Subsidize Green Tech”) highlights the “good money after bad” strategy being employed by the White House: In short, pay no attention to the scandals and lack of success — the “green economy” must be pursued at any cost.
Who talked Rick Perry into grabbing the third rail of American politics? In case you don’t recognize the phrase, “the third rail” refers to any criticism of the Social Security system or any suggestions on ways to improve it by anyone running for public office anywhere in the United States.
It’s called the third rail because, just like a subway line, touching it usually proves fatal.
In the book Perry published last year, which he called Fed Up!, the Texas Governor referred to Social Security as “a Ponzi scheme.” Nobody made much of a fuss about it at the time. Outside of Texas, who cares what the Governor there says?
But now that Perry has taken the top spot in the Republican race for the White House, the poor guy is really getting pounded for it — and for a bunch of other “crazy, right-wing” sentiments he expressed there as well. Or at least so saith the New York Times and Washington Post.
A growing number of unions, prominent big-government advocates, and socialist groups are joining the “Occupy Wall Street” demonstrations in New York and “solidarity” protests nationwide.
The trend has some analysts very concerned — particularly after reports claimed union bosses tied to the Obama administration were plotting to bring about chaos. And while the protests which began on September 17 may be small now, supporters and critics alike say this may be only the beginning of something much bigger.
In just the last week several large labor groups have officially announced their support for the occupation. The NYC Transit Workers Union, with nearly 40,000 members, voted to back the protesters on September 28. And the SEIU’s massive 32BJ union, which claims to represent over 120,000 property service workers, recently decided to use an upcoming rally to show “solidarity” with the Wall Street occupiers.
"The call went out over a month ago, before actually the occupancy of Wall Street took place," 32BJ spokesman Kwame Patterson told the Huffington Post. But now "we're all coming under one cause, even though we have our different initiatives."
House Resolution 2681 would delay the EPA's onerous 2010 regulations for the cement industry.
Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) plans to introduce a controversial bill that would abolish every federal regulation enacted in the past two decades, including restrictions on banking, oil drilling, healthcare, and food and drug safety. "My bill is very simple, I just null and void any regulations passed in the last 20 years," Young announced to a crowd at the Anchorage Downtown Rotary Club. "I picked 20 years ago because it crossed party lines and also we were prosperous at that time. And no new regulations until they can justify them."
Rep. Young’s legislation is still in development, but the premise of the bill is to dissolve burdensome regulations that hamper American businesses from growing and prospering in the sluggish U.S. economy. "The main thing is if an agency can’t justify a regulation, it shouldn’t be on the board," he contended. "The overall idea behind the legislation is to make sure an agency justifies these regulations." The Alaskan congressman did however cede to the likely fate that his proposal would be barricaded by the Democratic-led Senate or stamped with a veto by President Obama.
Today the German parliament voted overwhelmingly, 523-85, to increase the size of the European Financial Stability Fund (EFSF) from $335 billion to $600 billion, and to allow it to purchase sovereign bonds, lend to profligate governments, and strengthen banks hurt by holding risky government debt.
Protests over the move came primarily from Wolfgang Bosbach, a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s own party and an initial supporter of the European Union. He pointed to the failure of the continuing Greek bailouts, observing, “The first medicine didn’t work, and now we are simply doubling the dose. My fear is that when the big bang happens, it won’t just be us who will have to pay for generations hereafter.” He still favors the union, however: "I don’t want to be co-opted into an anti-euro movement — the EU is an important political project. But what we promised the people was a union of stability, not a union of debt."
Bosbach reflects increasing discontent of German citizens who find themselves forced to give approximately $300 billion to the rescue fund which will then use the money to buy worthless Greek bonds and continue to extend credit to the bankrupt country.
A church I visited recently announced a seminar for “financial professionals” who lament their industry’s “fallen ethics.” In 2009, USA Today reported that “the top Roman Catholic bishop in the United States said … the global economic crisis was caused in part by people abandoning personal ethics, and he's calling for increased morality in business.” And earlier this year, Jewish Week lamented that “financial scandals have become a fixed component of our civilization” after opining, “If current trends [in cheating] continue, the Wall Street gang of 2020 will make the slithery coterie of 2008 look like a Cub Scout pack in comparison.”
I’m just a parishioner, not a cleric. Maybe that’s why I don’t see the inherent evil of business. In fact, when I pick up the phone to hear my father from 500 miles away tell me he loves me, or I send another article to an editor with a click of a mouse, or I feast on fresh spinach and blueberries while a blizzard howls outside, I thank God for the market. The comfort, abundance, convenience, and leisure it provides are enormous blessings.
Indeed, the market is nigh miraculous. Jesus Christ fed 5000 men with a few loaves and two small fish, but we mere mortals must depend on voluntary exchange. Yet that astounding commerce multiplies the earth’s scarce resources to feed, house, and clothe billions of people who would otherwise suffer short, nasty, brutish lives.