Klein: Occupation Needs To Confront Power

Melissa Bailey PhotoYale PhotoAs Occupy Wall Street spawns a New Haven encampment, a local expert on social movements sees a watershed moment in American history approaching.

That expert, Jennifer Klein, traveled with her family from Westville to Wall Street to observe the ongoing demonstrations that have riveted the country’s attention and sparked similar protests in more than 100 other cities—all focused on corporate greed and an imbalance of economic and political power in the country.

“Labor has been clueless” about how to respond to the recession, Klein observed—but is now starting to unite with protesters who showed the way, and may be primed to reassert its long-shelved role in helping push for systemic social change.

And the demonstrations may be allowing a long-overdue phrase—Tax the rich—to reenter mainstream public debate, she said.

Klein, a Yale history professor specializing in U.S. labor history and social movements, made those observations in an interview on the eve of Saturday’s planned demonstrations and indefinite encampment on the Green by local supporters of the Occupy Wall Street movement. What has the movement accomplished so far? What are its historic parallels? What needs to happen next? And what will it mean for New Haven? An edited transcript of the interview follows.

Do you think there was a clear message about what is wrong with system?

They are [demonstrating] about all the things that seem to be wrong with it.

Such as?

Such as: Why is that people cannot get affordable housing? Why is it that they are loaded under so much debt trying to get a college education? Why is it that banks and elite economic interests have such a privileged position in our politics? Why is it that we have no democratic voice? Why is it that we can’t actually influence what it is that government does? There is a huge list of issues they were going through.

They have this general assembly. Sometimes it meets on just an open set of issues. Sometimes it has a particular topic.

Who sets the agenda?

I guess the general assembly group sets the agenda in the morning. We saw one open forum where it seemed there was a general set of issues to be discussed.

What was really fascinating about it: There would be a speaker. They were not allowed any loudspeaker. They were not allowed any megaphone. The person would say four or five words. “The cost of housing is out of reach.” Then everybody says, “The cost of housing is out of reach!” It makes people be part of what’s being said.

It wasn’t just a speaker imposing on an audience. It was people participating, raising issues. We have an economic crisis. And we have a democracy crisis. I see no problem that they have no “demands.” Any demands they make would just be too puny compared to what the problem is and what the solutions need to be. They’re forcing themselves to debate this.

I think of the civil rights movement and the sit-ins. The lunch counter sit-ins. Just about a hamburger and a Coke? No, as Ella Baker said, ‘This is about more than a hamburger.’ The point of the students doing that was to cast illegitimacy on the whole system. White supremacy is a system that can’t be tolerated.

I’m not saying these people [today on Wall Street] are saying “Capitalism as a whole can’t be tolerated, we’re bringing down capitalism.” There are a range of opinions. They are saying, “The majority of people are suffering under an imbalance of economic power.” I would think of it in those terms.

The other thing is, ever since the 1880s there’s been such an attempt by the courts, by the state, to just limit what constitutes legitimate collective economic action in the public sphere, to foreclose that. There used to be all sorts of forms of local economic action—boycotts, sympathy strikes, actions that communities as a whole could take to try to gain their terms in the marketplace. Those were legally suppressed by courts and the state in the late 19th century. At various moments in the 20th century, there were spurts, attempts to open up again what kind of collective action could take place in the public sphere around economic issues. It doesn’t happen that often. It happened in the 1930s.

Think about what happened to labor after World War II. Labor was increasingly backed into this form of collective bargaining that ended up being very narrow. It was about contracts with the employer. It really narrowed their sphere of action until it came to be seen as what is legitimate for labor to do is bargaining [and nothing else].

In the recent [city Democratic primary] election, the fact that labor was acting politically, everybody went hysterical about that—as though there was something profoundly illegitimate about labor unions acting politically. People said, “I support unions—if they just focus on their contract.”

Historically, what has labor done when it acted politically in this country?

Acting in conjunction with other movements, it pushed broader possibilities in terms of housing—tenement reform in the 1890s, garden public housing in the 1930s, housing policy that supported the ability [to buy] homes in the ‘30s and ‘40s. Labor was definitely involved in pushing for Medicare.

I don’t want to make it sound like this movement going on now is a labor thing. One reason it is happening is because labor has been clueless about what to do since the recession started. Organized labor has been saying, “Why isn’t there an upheaval? We have a recession like the Great Depression. Why don’t we have people hitting the streets?” They’ve been absolutely clueless about how to pry that open themselves. Part of that is they are so dependent on the state, they’re dependent on the conventional election cycle, nationally.

So how is it that they’ve now joined this movement?

Where they’ve joined, it is fantastic. They didn’t try to take it over. They said, “We will come and support what the people who have occupied Wall Street are doing. We will listen to them. We will provide them with what they need to keep going. We let their creative ideas flow out.’”

What’s really important about what the protesters are doing, that needed to be done at this moment, is just to puncture the language and the sense of inevitability that has just hung over everyone for the last couple of years. For people who are unemployed, or people who are struggling economically, all we hear is, ‘Well, this is just inevitable. This is the economic crisis. Nothing can be done in terms of public budgets . It’s inevitable that there’s a fiscal crisis for the state [and] for the city. The bank bailout was inevitable.” At some point somebody has to step forward and puncture that.

What happens after that?

What’s happening now in these different cities where they’re starting to take action ... The fact that it spread to all these cities so quickly has set in motion that first process of questioning the inevitability and opening up a space that needs to open up.

What does that mean for New Haven?

Hopefully it will also mean we can start to question the political options that we’ve been given. We’re told public services have to decline or have to be ratcheted down because there is a fiscal crisis. That’s all there is to it.

In New Haven, what would be the alternative? How can we control whether we have a fiscal crisis?

Tax the hell out of people in Greenwich and New Canaan.

So it’s a state issue?

Yes. We need to have a Board of Aldermen that is really willing to speak in unison with a lot of pressure at the state level, with the mayor. What they’re saying at Occupy Wall Street is, “We don’t want to accept anymore the option that there’s no money and there are no options, when there has been plenty of money for these bankers.”

Do you worry about the movement being co-opted—or not being focused enough for the next stage?

It seems to me the next stage is going to have to be you start putting yourself on the line and confronting the system physically.

How so?

Just like they did in the Civil Rights Movement. Blocking people from going into the stock exchange. Blocking the federal reserve buildings. Protesting in front of Bank of America. If the plutocrats are afraid, be in front of JP Morgan every day. That’s where it needs to go.

Do you need arrests?

Yes. You have to create a crisis to get a response.

How about in New Haven? Should demonstrators work with police?

For now I think the police should be joining them! You think about what’s happening in New York. The police see themselves so much in opposition to the people protesting. Yet what is the main concern of police now economically? It’s that their pensions are going to go bust. They’re worried about the rollback of collective bargaining. Well, whose fault is that? It’s Wall Street’s. The police should be getting on the barricades with them.

In New Haven, the police are working with demonstrators on plans for Saturday’s march and occupation. The parks department is giving them port-o-lets.

I think that’s great.

That doesn’t create a crisis, some people argue.

At some point if you’re going to actually push the system to change, that has to happen.

Does that mean confronting police? Protesting Bank of America? Going to Yale’s Wall Street? How do you confront the crisis in New Haven?

Them being where they are in New York [by Wall Street] is symbolic. In Chicago they have been protesting in front of the Board of Trade, the federal reserve. In Chicago it’s particularly interesting because the city recently spent an enormous amount of money to completely renovate the interior of the Board of Trade while telling people living in impoverished, devastated neighborhoods that there’s no money. Especially neighborhoods where banks have allowed vacant buildings to stand there. Where Bank of America has taken over houses that have been foreclosed and they’re sitting there boarded up, unguarded, unmonitored. They’ve created a public health hazard.

Lenders have also dawdled on properties here. We have a foreclosure crisis stemming from subprime lending and fraud. How would you confront that here?

That’s a good question. That ‘s up to the movement to decide. They should set up a process.

Should Yale be part of the picture in New Haven?

Yale certainly owes more to the city.

In what sense is Yale connected to the abandoned housing?

I think they’ve actually helped stabilize neighborhoods through their homeownership program.

Yale should be kicking up more money. This is one of the issues that came up in our aldermanic primary [in Westville’s Ward 25—whether to] ask more of Yale [in the conflict over whether to revisit a 20-year-old deal to cede two downtown streets to the university]. “We should not be negotiating with Yale”—I assume that is the mayor’s position. We were saying this is precisely the time to renegotiate [on Wall Street]...

So should the New Haven protest be on Wall Street instead of on the Green?

I don’t see why it’s on the Green. I wonder if you can identify a couple of places—Wall Street, Bank of America .... But I haven’t been part of the process. So I would feel presumptuous making suggestions.

Previous Occupy Wall Street/ New Haven coverage:

Whoops! Movement Loses $100K
New Haven’s “Occupation” Takes Shape
Occupy Branford: Wall Street Edition
Anti-Bankers’ Dilemma: How To Process $$
Labor, Occupiers March To Same Beat
Protests’ Demand: A “World We Want To See”
Protesters To Occupy Green Starting Oct. 15
Wall Street Occupiers Page Verizon
New Haven Exports “Free”-dom To Occupiers

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posted by: Tom Byron on October 13, 2011  3:40pm

If you want the to leave the green, you should set up a job fair.

posted by: ignoranceisbliss on October 13, 2011  3:47pm

This is what passes for analysis by a Yale Professor?  Sorry Ms. Klein but the money for those bankers came from the Federal government and last I checked the Federal government was the sole authority to run the printing presses and create dollars. And the consequences of that course of action are still to be reckoned. The banks were bailed out with magic money and when the rest of the world loses faith in the magic, there will be a price to pay.

And I suspect that Yale is going to tell us “You want to take the street back? Take it back.”

The State of Connecticut is facing its own structural fiscal crisis. It may warm the cockles of her liberal heart to believe that we can tax our way out of this exclusively on wealthy Fairfield county residents (and I support higher taxes on the wealthy), but the numbers just don’t add up.

This is not a state problem, this is a national one and it does not take Tom Friedman to tell you that its because the U.S. is no longer the preeminent economic power we were immediately after World War II when Europe and the rest of the World were in ruins; that we don’t manufacture anything here any more; that we have become crazy spoiled (cable tv and smart phones being considered necessities of life) and that we have a decadent culture that celebrates “celebrities”, sports stars and thugs and devalues education and hard work.

There is a crazy confluence between her and the political right in that both believe that we are some how entitled to the life style to which we have become accustomed.  The right because they believe in “American Exceptionalism” ; the left because they believe there is some bogeyman who can be exposed and forced to pay.

All the pressure in the world by the Board of Alderman and the Mayor is not going to change the fact that there really is no money; at least no real money.

We have to reform public sector compensation packages, we will all have pay higher taxes and we all must be prepared to live a reduced standard until we can figure out how to re-create an economy that produces jobs in industries that actually make things not just financial derivatives. The ability to pay for public services and healthy pensions will follow.

posted by: Mac on October 13, 2011  3:56pm

This professor is obviously a socialist. She says “tax the hell” out of people who live in Greenwich and New Canaan?  What she doesn’t realize is that they will just leave for another state that doesn’t confiscate their assets. Those who took risks and worked their butts off for the wealth that they have will never let parasites just steal it like that.  Socialism is just government-organized and sanctioned theft. And the “occupy Wall St.” movement is nothing but a collection of smelly, unkempt, losers who want to live well off the hard work and initiative of others.

posted by: Bill Saunders on October 13, 2011  4:34pm

So here is a pop quiz of local import;

Q: What do Turkmenistan,  Bolivia, Estonia, Uganda, and Bosnia/Herzegovina all have in common?

A: Depending on Market Conditions, all of these countries have of a GDP approximately equal to the Yale Endowment.

So, what is it that the labor movement missed the boat on, Ms. Klein?

It certainly appears that the 1% is a living breathing monster living in our own backyard, and it’s eating New Haven.

posted by: pat on October 13, 2011  5:54pm

yale is the 4th wealthiest university on the planet and it’s “share of taxes” paid to New Haven comes from the State of CT.

If I’m not mistaken, as a CT tax payer, I"m subsidizing Yale?

What is wrong with this picture?

posted by: richgetricher on October 13, 2011  6:25pm

50 million Americans have slipped into poverty. Who knows how high the actual unemployment rate is. The middle class is getting screwed and struggling just to stay afloat. For 11 years we’ve had reverse socialism - money being redistributed from the lower and middle classes to the super rich.  The super rich and big corporations have been like the owners of a rigged casino - they control the game, they own the politicians, they never lose, they can never get enough. Meanwhile everyone else slides into desperation. But this is an historic awakening.

Obama was elected to even the playing field, but has been unable to shake the Bush status quo. But now the tables are starting to turn.
As Tracy Chapman sang:

“While they’re standing in the welfare lines
Crying at the doorsteps of those armies of salvation
Wasting time in unemployment lines
Sitting around waiting for a promotion

Don’t you know you’re talking about a revolution
It sounds like a whisper

Poor people are gonna rise up
And get their share
Poor people are gonna rise up
And take what’s theirs

Finally the tables are starting to turn
Talking about a revolution
Finally the tables are starting to turn”

posted by: Jonathan Hopkins on October 13, 2011  6:32pm

“Acting in conjunction with other movements, it pushed broader possibilities in terms of housing—tenement reform in the 1890s, garden public housing in the 1930s, housing policy that supported the ability [to buy] homes in the ‘30s and ‘40s.”

The National Housing Act of 1934 created the Home Ownership Loan Corporation (HOLC), which was a government agency in charge of surveying the quality of the country’s housing stock for the purpose of securing bank loans. These surveys were blatantly racist and resulted in the denial of government-backed bank loans to minorities, immigrants and urban dwellers.
Those 1930s style Garden Public Housing Projects were built in New Haven, too. They were called Elm Haven, Quinnipiac Terrace, and Farnam Courts.
Then of course there were the government-built suburban housing subdivisions of the Post-WW2 reconstruction era that unfairly competed with urban neighborhoods for middle class residents. The Federal Housing Administration expanded under the National Housing Act of 1949 and continued to enable the redlining of immigrant and minority neighborhoods by banks through prejudice surveys.
This directly caused the further deterioration of the city’s housing stock, which lead to the perceived need and ultimate execution of urban renewal.
These are not things to champion, they are things to condemn.

As for Yale paying more. I think the only way to go about getting more revenue from Yale is to lobby the state to allow for the taxation of the non-academic facilities of all private university’s. A special “University Property Tax” should be created that levies a reduced tax on things like residential dorms, dining halls, student stores, gyms, teacher’s offices, health services departments, and other non-academic facilities. The goal should not be to simply milk money out of Yale and private colleges because that will simply raise tuition fees, which is extremely undesirable. The goal should be to dismantle the unjust monopoly that private universities have on the services, housing, and food markets. It used to be that students of schools lived in market rate housing in the city that average landlords owned and rented out, and paid city property taxes on. Same goes for the other functions previously mentioned.
We would find it ridiculous for Yale, or any other private university, to claim clothing or art supply stores that serve students to be tax exempt, yet we find it perfectly normal that residential dorms and dining halls should go untaxed. Why?
Housing - whether for workers, professionals, or students - should be provided for in the private market and made available to all.
The problem is going to be the transition between the current situation and the desired outcome. Either universities should get out of the housing, food, health services, recreation and office game and allow them to return to the private, taxable sector sector or the University should pay a reduced tax on their monopoly and find new revenue streams elsewhere, perhaps in real estate.

posted by: joey on October 13, 2011  6:38pm

these people could’nt get or maintain a job if it was given to them. they are incapable of gainful employment or are just professional students that will never accomplish anything.

posted by: Anderson Scooper on October 13, 2011  6:41pm

Me, I’m tired of paying double or triple in car taxes as compared to surrounding suburban towns. Frankly, Connecticut should be subsidizing middle-class to live in its troubled cities. Instead we get penalized!

And why are insurance rates allowed to differ from town to town? The Branford person commuting daily into New Haven is a higher risk than many of us.

But of course you never hear “boo” from the unions about these issues. (Probably because their leadership can afford to live in the wealthier suburbs.)

Anyhow, it will be good to see if anything comes out of this. Can’t say I really have my hopes up. Maybe they’ll start by demanding an end to the “Proprietors of the Green”? It’s not right that five people presume ownership of our central park. Particularly when Anne Calabresi, the ringleader, lives in Woodbridge!

posted by: Yimski on October 13, 2011  6:57pm

Uh, sorry to break it to you Professor Klein, but you work for a formidible corporation that is very much at the center of the various institutions and actors that run Wall Street. A corporation whose endowment increased 21.9% in the past fiscal year, from 16.4 billion dollars to 19.4 billions dollars.  Your university is making billions off the imbalances and glitches in the system, no better than Goldman Sachs or JP Morgan.  Did you get a raise this year?  I didn’t.

posted by: alexey on October 13, 2011  8:31pm

Pop Quiz 2

Q:  What do Avatar, Titanic and the Lion King have in common?

A:  They are three of the top 20 worldwide movies that have grossed as much money as Yale’s endowment (based on market conditions, of course)

I never thought I would spring to Yale’s defense.  But, against an ad hominem attack, sure. Yale’s endowment is the result of donations from (mostly) alumni, and the growth of its investments. You may not agree with all of its investments, but they provide capital that creates jobs and a return to the University, which is then able to invest in the local economy, including many construction jobs for Yale’s continuing building and renovations projects.  The endowment also supports a needs-blind admissions policy.  I’m not going to defend every move Yale makes, but I don’t see how a bizarre attack on Yale for having an endowment that is equal to the GDP of some random group of countries is relevant. The so-called “living breathing monster” isn’t eating New Haven, it is a stabilizing and driving force of the local economy.  Without Yale, New Haven might just be another run-down New England mill town.

posted by: scammin sid skidliac on October 13, 2011  8:43pm

to say that labor has joined the ‘occupiers’ is a bit of a stretch…around the corner from Zuccotti park is a Verizon building being picketed by employees that make 72k before overtime. the picketers cannot drum up support the old-fashioned way, so they are standing with the occupiers for personal gain in the hope of drawing attention and sympathy.

the whole thing is a joke. wait until the first cold November rain…that’ll suck the life out of any outdoor protest.

...

posted by: Bill Saunders on October 14, 2011  1:24am

Wow, Alexey,

Comparing the worldwide distribution of America’s biggest export (entertainment), to the coffers of a ‘non-profit educational corporation’, or the total production of an entire country,  even goes further to prove my point. 

All those movies are predominantly high cost CGI Animation, anyway!
What happened to the real folks….(Oh, I remember, the Screen Actor’s Guild Strike!)

Let’s further explode the statistics:

Turkmenistan:  population 5.1 million
                biggest industry: Oil/Natural Gas (4th largest reserve)
                (hmmm, a war in Afghanistan for a pipeline?)

Bolivia;: population 9.8 million
        major exports: natural gas, cocaine

Estonia:  population 1.3 million
          biggest industry:  Industrial Processing, Financial Services
`(balanced budget, no debt, high income per capita, The Baltic Tiger)

Uganda:  population 32 million
          biggest industry:  Agriculture
  (Uganda has the potential to feed all of Africa, but people still starve)

Bosnia/Herz:  population 4.6 million
              biggest industry: Mining

USA:  population 308 million
      biggest industry: services

Get it???

posted by: financial guy on October 14, 2011  2:16am

So we obviously agree there is a financial problem with big business. But no one cared to think about how much this stunt financially affects the city and how it puts the residents in a very poor position.. ill use this as an example:

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/44851474/ns/us_news-life/t/million-overtime-police-ny-occupy-protest/

I would like to see a story about the actual costs associated with this “occupation”

posted by: pat on October 14, 2011  7:22am

Financial Guy seems more concerned about the costs of the protests - the peaceful right of assembly guaranteed by the Constitution - than about the costs of health insurance, elections, pointless wars, incarceration of drug users, pollution, etc.

This is democracy in action. Yes, we haven’t seen much of it in recent years, but it’s back and it’s a peaceful rebellion against the privileges and controls the plutocracy has put in place by owning the political and economic systems.

Maybe you can donate this year’s bonus to the City to subsidize democracy.

posted by: alexey on October 14, 2011  7:57am

Get it?  No.

My point was that comparing a country’s annual economic output to the endowment of a school doesn’t make any sense (to me).  What is the significance of putting several countries’ GDPs in one column and Yale’s (or Harvard’s or any other school’s) endowment in the other?  My comparison to the movies was just to find another basket of money that equal’s Yale’s endowment.

If the biggest industry of the U.S. is “services,” so what?  The economy is still diversified, arguably not enough, to include all of the other industries you list.  (I imagine the U.S. is the biggest consumer of Bolivia’s cocaine.)  Okay, we’ve got a lot of problems here and I may not even disagree with some solutions you would propose, but I just don’t see a link between Estonia et al’s GDP and any school’s endowment.

Okay, now I’m just rambling.

posted by: William Hosley on October 14, 2011  8:45am

The Occupy movement won’t amount to more than a ripple until and unless it broadens its purview to take on big government. There’s no disputing that government policies and meddling in the real estate markets was a major factor in the collapse of the economy. Indeed, at the very moment that Senate Banking Chairman - CT’s own Sen. Chris Dodd was camped out in Iowa, in a delusional, narcissistic run for the Presidency, the committee he chaired was ignoring 101 signs that the real estate bubble was just that - a dangerous situation, created by their policies and enabled by mortgage bundlers on “wall street” and others.

To restore the middle class economy and keep the ladder of hope accessible to the poor - we need to look BOTH at Big Govt and at Big Finance and while at it maybe Big Medicine and other forces that benefit the few at the expense of the many.

posted by: DR on October 14, 2011  8:50am

@Mac
What do you think the people who “leave the state” are going to do, abandon their multi-million dollar homes? No they’ll sell them to some other rich people. The wealthy live in Greenwich because of the quality of life there. Yes, tax the hell out of them.
Also, you have a strange definition of socialism.

posted by: Bill on October 14, 2011  9:19am

It’s convenient to hide behind slogans like we are the 99% and tax the rich. The truth is less convenient. The top 1% pay 40% of the federal income tax and was at 25% about 25 years ago. Meanwhile 47% don’t pay any federal income tax at all.

posted by: Anon on October 14, 2011  10:00am

Some suggestions for Connecticut protesters: Add some politicians to the mix to point out the oversized influence of Wall Street on government.

As the housing bubble grew, it was no secret to global capitalists (especially here and in the UK) or to Congress and the White House that we were sitting on a bubble.

This fact also was not a secret: Any CEO of any bank that tried to put the brakes on it would have been fired by the bank’s board of directors under pressure from investors for failing to take action to maximize profits from securitized mortgages whether they were a mortgage bank or an investment bank. Ditto on the rating agencies.

Obviously, that is a classic example of when government should intervene - when the market forces on Wall Street and elsewhere won’t allow the corporations to hem in themselves.

But government did not respond this way. Instead, we got Exhibit A, Sen Dodd. Nothing epitomizes government response like former Sen. Dodd’s sweetheart mortgage deal with Countrywide Home Loans.

Business interests, for over a hundred and fifty years, has had a heavy-handed say in US foreign and domestic policy. I am not sure that at any time it has been as disgusting as it is now, especially considering that now we are long past having any excuses for failing to learn from past mistakes.

So, I recommend the protest visit Dodd’s house.

Second: Hedge Funds are partly to thank for Connecticut having the second highest electricity rates in the country (second only to Hawaii) There is no excuse for it. Connecticut does NOT have a shortage. The New England Grid has ample capacity.Thir

There are more hedge funds headquartered in Connecticut than anywhere in the world after NY and London.

Find out the hedge funds most involved in Connecticut’s electric rates and protest in front of their offices, whether here in Conn. or NY.

Third: Bank of America’s main New Haven branch is on the New Haven Green, in that pastel post modern tower between the federal court building and city hall. I am sure the protesters will remember to address them every single day they occupy the Green. I hope organizers have reached out to the group that already has been protesting Bank of America for the past year or so, to join forces with them.

posted by: Anon on October 14, 2011  10:42am

To Ignorance is Bliss, who is nonplused by this historian’s comments. I am curious as to what you expected her to say, something complicated, opaque and impenetrable?

It isn’t rocket science.

The most complicated, opaque and impenetrable thing on Wall Street in the last 15 years was the 1000-page poison prospectuses of mortgage-backed securities offered up to investors who should have known better and in most cases actually did know better but chose or were forced by their investors to gamble.

Let’s not even get started with the London unit of AIG which ran sophisticated computer programs set up by geniuses only to have them spit out a piece of paper that said: Take on the risk of insuring the whole world’s financial products and leverage the entire value of AIG on it, that’s right, leverage the value of the world’s largest insurance company on these deals in this one tiny London unit: The financial products unit.

Quantum brainiacs from Connecticut and elsewhere squeezed out this infinite piece of wisdom. Rocket Science perhaps, result: utter stupidity that defied common sense.

Let’s demystify this nonsense. If you can’t figure out what a company even does for a living, please, don’t get your head checked, don’t go back to school. Just be a little skeptical and ask dumb, simple questions

Or maybe you expected her to talk like Mitt Romney. Nothing is more entertaining than reading NYT reader comments on stories about Romney’s “new” foreign economic policy ideas because the readers know their history. My favorite was a disaffected one-liner that read: “This is so last century.”

Mitt’s ideas are absurd on so many historical grounds it’s not funny—He conjures images of the Texas Rangers enforcing US economic interests overseas—but they are made even more absurd by developments in the late 20th century, which are best encapsulated by this question: What is an American corporation?

It is perhaps only small hyperbole to say that an American corporation has become no more than a piece of paper in the corporate recording office of the state of Delaware.

For these pieces of paper belonging to global giants who less and less even identify with America, whose fates barely even depend on America, who have shipped every last job overseas, he wants to fight the Chinese and wage America’s “Open Door” wars and revive some notion of Manifest Destiny. And he is actually campaigning on this, as if that should win the votes of American workers. Honorable votes for that platform can only be won by trickery, by manipulating ignorant voters. The rest of his support is plainly evil.

American politics, if you haven’t noticed, is becoming psychotic.

posted by: Bill Saunders on October 14, 2011  11:36am

Alexey,

It is about perspective;

Let’s bring it down to the extreme local level.

Based on available numbers, of population size and per capita income, to match the size of Yale’s Endowment,  every person in the City of New Haven would have to work 7.7 years as an indentured servant to match that level of untaxed wealth.

On a State level, that Endowment could run the State for almost the same amount of time.

Social Justice???

posted by: Allan Brison on October 14, 2011  1:09pm

William Hoxley:

Government makes a convenient whipping boy, but makes sure you look to where the real power resides.

Big Government is but a lap dog of Big Corporate Power. Our government is totally in the hands of corporate lobbyists, and big campaign contributors to candidates of both major political parties.

Our presidents are Wall Street operatives regardless of where they claim to stand on the liberal/conservative continuum. Barack Obama is not, for example, going to reach the One BILLION dollar goal set for his campaign by contributions from regular folks. It will come almost exclusively from Wall Street, despite all the hype about his “grassroots” support. That is because, despite the hype, he impliments Wall Street’s agenda.

Powerful Corporations write, for example, all the trade laws which have been shipping our manufacturing base oversees to the detriment of workers both here and in the other countries, including the ones just passed for Columbia, Panama, and South Korea; and to the benefits on the 1%.

It also has worked for the 1% by following fiscal policies, such as the absurd bailouts with the banking crisis, that benefit only the extremely wealthy.

Not one of these crooks of the banking crisis is going to prison except poor Bernie Madoff whose main crime is that he cheated the rich instead of the middle and working classes.

We have a government of, by, and for the Corporations which have now been granted “Personhood” with all the privileges, but none of the responsibilities involved.

As one of the signs down at Zuccotti Park reads, “I’ll believe in Corporate Personhood as soon as a Corporation can be Executed.”

posted by: Philo on October 14, 2011  1:18pm

@Mac: Self-generated wealth is a myth, therefore all wealth is a product of all labour. The wealthy people in this nation benefit the most from the least amount of labour, while those who work, not just here but abroad, are paid very little. It is an inherent imbalance to the neo-liberal paradigm, and it is something that needs to be corrected. Socialism is one way to re-distribute the wealth and power in a more equitable way. But, socialism isn’t just raising tax rates on the wealthy, it is creating worker ownership of industry and trade and socializing healthcare and other essential services (transit, education, emergency services, etc.).

posted by: alexey on October 14, 2011  3:46pm

Okay, I guess we’re just going to have to agree to disagree on what the meaning of Yale’s endowment is.

Loosely extrapolating off of your math, Yale is a regional institution, so the people in the county would have to work one year and two months to equal Yale’s endowment.  Oh, wait, it’s a Connecticut institution—you compared it to running the state—so Nutmeggers would have to work three and a half months.  But, Yale accepts students from around the country, so that every American would have to work one day to generate Yale’s endowment.  But, wait, Yale accepts people from all over the world, who would each have to work one and one-half hours.  What does that even mean?

If Yale did not have an endowment, would that be okay?  If Yale did not have generous alumni and a successful chief of investments, and thus had a smaller endowment, would that be okay?  If Yale abandoned needs-blind admission, and raised its tuition,  would that be social justice? I’m just not sure what you want.

But, the dialogue has been fun.

posted by: ignoranceisbliss on October 14, 2011  4:18pm

Mr. Brison,

While much of what you say is true, the auto unions and industrial unions supported the free trade deals.  We lose some and win some with these agreements.

posted by: Mitchell Young on October 14, 2011  5:57pm

I’m confused by the UAW participation didn’t the American taxpayer just bail out the UAW?

The bailout of the UAW like the “bailout” for the banks came against the desires of a great many citizens, maybe the majority were against the bail out of Chrysler and GM.

posted by: Anon on October 14, 2011  6:25pm

Ignorance is Bliss:
Wow, union labor is over a barrel. It wins concessions here and there in trade deals. Unions WERE, past tense, the last voice of the people 50 years ago. It sat at the table where major foreign and domestic policy decisions were made, sitting alongside corporations and government.

That hasn’t been true in a very long time. All you’ve got now is your vote and shoe leather for marching on the street. 

These trade deals are crap for unions. In Columbia, union organizers are simply murdered.

To say these trade agreements enjoy union support is pushing it. 

Business interests are important in foreign and domestic policy but until they stop skewing and overwhelming the agenda we will continue to grow poor here at home and gain enemies overseas.

posted by: Anon on October 14, 2011  6:49pm

Maybe protesters could incorporate this into their demands, considering it originated in New Haven:

http://newhaven.gfip.org/

posted by: Bill Saunders on October 14, 2011  7:30pm

Alexey,

We are not in agreement on anything with regards to my posts that I can see. Trite, PC rhetoric is part of the problem. We do not see eye to eye.

posted by: Rocco on October 15, 2011  6:54am

The United Auto Workers Union, aren’t they the one’s that the American tax payer just bailed out?
What are they mad about. Maybe the tax payers should occupy someplace. We really do have a gripe

posted by: Thomas on October 15, 2011  11:40am

When The Grad Students Unionize and the professors have their socialist utopia will they be paid the same amount as the custodians and animal technicians? Or because they are so “educated” they will obviously be compensated more because of they are so much more “smarter.” Exactly where is the Auto Plant in New Haven? And aren’t automobiles bad for the overall collective?

posted by: HhE on October 16, 2011  2:22pm

The only socialism I have time for is British Coal Miner Socialism.  In exchange for a hard, dirty, dangerous job, one gets a living wage.  That is a British living wage, which is just enough to survive on, not an American living wage which is much higher.

posted by: ASTANVET on October 18, 2011  10:29am

You know, i’m really getting tired of these elitist Marxists who are preaching about the “revolution” in their tweed jackets sipping late at Starbucks while the blog on the evils of capitalism on their IPad.  For all your “facts” you don’t check the census:  the economic gap between rich and poor has grown over the last 30 years - True - what economic class population has had an explosion in the last 30 years??  it isn’t the wealthy.  So because there are more people that are lower middle class you tell me that the wealth has been stolen by the “rich”. 

How about our highly educated professor of social movement history at Yale telling us to “tax the hell” out of the wealthy.  Aren’t they covering the cost of 70% of all tax revenues in this country which pay for all the programs they would never qualify for? 

She asks why are you under a burden of debt just to get an education?? because maybe the degree is worth it… maybe because people want to pay for that education so they can compete in a free economy and make more than the guy who doesn’t go get a degree… but of course i’m telling that to someone who spent 4 years in college and 4 years getting a PhD that education has a monetary value.  She clearly didn’t get a degree in economics! 

Why is there not “affordable housing” - who says there isn’t affordable housing?? You can’t find it in a super wealthy neighborhood, but in scales of economy there are affordable housing in almost every corner of our state - just because you can’t live in a mansion when you can’t afford a mansion doesn’t mean you are getting screwed. 

Bunch of whiny self absorbed F-ing marxists who think it’s cool and edgy to start a Revolution.  You all have no idea what that looks like!  Having been places that are countries in “transition” i’d hope that you supported your right to carry firearms because YOU WILL NEED THEM if you are successful in crashing the economy of the greatest country in the world.  Talk about screwing generations - ....

posted by: Chartric on October 24, 2011  3:58am

Your answer was just what I neeedd. It’s made my day!

posted by: non-elitist, non-marxist on October 25, 2011  9:45pm

ASTANVET

What about the Bush/Obama bailouts?

Hundreds of BILLIONS of dollars thrown at the very crooks who formed these shady and deliberately misleading derivative swaps and passed them off as being low-risk on an unsuspecting public, robbing pension funds, and sinking the economy for their own enrichment, and worse.

A guy robbing a convenience store of $50 gets jail time. A billionaire crook who robs the economy of BILLIONS of dollars get taxpayer bailouts. And NOT ONE of them in jail. It is a disgrace. Don’t be an apologist for a bunch of crooks. See them for what they are.

This is not marxist theory. It is just F-ing common sense.