Hartmann: Massive Strike Shuts Down UK – Winter of Discontent?

Ari Berman, The Nation Magazine, joins Thom Hartmann. Massive labor strikes rocked the U.K. today – as public workers took to the streets to protest ongoing austerity measures. Last year – the Conservative government passed a slew of austerity measures – laying off public workers – cutting back on pensions – and ending social welfare programs – claiming it was what needed to happen to get the British economy back on track. A year later – the British economy still hasn’t grown – and now the government is calling for more austerity. In response – over two million civil servants are protesting. Schools, hospitals, airports, courts, and government buildings are all being affected by the strike – which is the largest in over a generation in the U.K. since the “Winter of Discontent.” According to the Guardian – 19,000 out of 21,700 schools in England and Wales are closed or partially closed – and roughly 6,000 non-urgent operations have been cancelled …. Watch the Broadcast

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Under The Reading Lamp — 10/28/2010


Bank Transfer Day: A Guide to Closing Your Account
News Analysis: “The description and goal of Bank Transfer Day is straightforward: If you currently have checking and savings accounts (deposit accounts) with a big bank, the organizers encourage you to remove all of your funds, close your accounts, and place your money in a new deposit account with a not-for-profit credit union. The organizers ask that you do this by November 5. And since November 5 is a Saturday, you should definitely do it before November 5 since many big banks aren’t open on weekends.”


Goldman Sachs v. Occupy Wall Street
Video Report: “A controversy in the banking community has arisen around the Occupy Wall Street movement. Greg Palast investigates the story behind Goldman Sachs’ recent decision to pull out of a fundraiser for the Lower East Side People’s Federal Credit Union in New York City after it learned the event was honoring the protesters at Occupy Wall Street. The investment bank withdrew its name from the fundraiser and also canceled a $5,000 pledge. Was the $5,000 a Goldman Sachs donation or actually American taxpayer bailout money Goldman set aside for community banks?”


GOP Presidential Candidates’ Tax Plans Would Benefit The Rich
Steven Thomma, News Analysis: “The flat tax — so called because it offers one flat rate for taxpayers in all income groups while taking away many or all deductions — would simplify taxes. It also would almost certainly give big tax cuts to wealthy Americans. Republicans believe that cutting taxes, especially on the wealthy, helps to spur investment, economic growth and hiring.”


Should Minimum Wage Earners Pay a Tax Rate 460 Times Higher than Millionaires?
Kyle Linzer, Special Feature: The question of the supposed simplicity and fairness of a flat tax keeps popping up every few years in political debate, most recently with the 9-9-9 plan of Herman Cain. I just wanted to look at what this kind of flat tax would look like for people across the income range to see how fair and simple it would be. One question needs to be addressed before we can begin to look at real numbers.


Robert Reich | Wall Street is Still Out of Control
Robert Reich, Op-Ed: “Next week President Obama travels to Wall Street where he’ll demand – in light of the Street’s continuing antics since the bailout, as well as its role in watering-down the Volcker rule – that the Glass-Steagall Act be resurrected and big banks be broken up. I’m kidding. But it would be a smart move — politically and economically.”


What’s Happened to the Big Players in the Financial Crisis
Braden Goyette, News Investigation: “Mortgage lenders contributed to the financial crisis by issuing or underwriting loans to people who would have a difficult time paying them back, inflating a housing bubble that was bound to pop. Lax regulation allowed banks to stretch their mortgage lending standards and use aggressive tactics to rope borrowers into complex mortgages that were more expensive than they first appeared.”


Flanders on Ed Schultz on Oakland Crack Down
Laura Flanders, Video Report: Whose servants? Whose safety? Whose space? The extreme violence of the Oakland police underscores the critical questions the Occupy movement is raising. Just what is the place of the public in the privatized state? Good for Ed Schultz, alone in prime time, for leading with this story Wednesday night.


Jim Hightower: “We the People,” Not “We the Corporations”
Jim Hightower, Op-Ed: “A year from now, Americans will be caught in an unprecedented blizzard of presidential campaign ads. We’ll be blinded by the whiteout and buried in the storm’s negativity. For the first time ever, most of this ad blizzard will not come from the candidates, but from ads secretly funded by huge corporations. This is because a five-man cabal on the Supreme Court issued an edict last year that perverts nature itself.”


Rick Perry Outlines Flat Tax, Social Security Proposals
Adam Beam, News Report: “The optional flat tax is the centerpiece of a broad economic initiative that includes Social Security and Medicare changes, spending cuts, freezing pending federal regulations and other steps aimed at bolstering the economy and balancing the federal budget by 2020. Perry described it as a ‘bold reform needed to jolt this economy out its doldrums.’ The flat tax would offer a major break for America’s wealthiest taxpayers by enabling them to move from the current top bracket of 35 percent into the 20 percent bracket.”


Perry: “I Don’t Care” Whether My Tax Plan Gives Breaks to the Rich
Pat Garofalo, News Analysis: “Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) today became the latest GOP presidential hopeful to release a tax plan, as he tries to catch up in the polls, some of which even have him trailing former Speaker Newt Gingrich and libertarian favorite Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX). The plan, as Perry has been explaining, revolves around a 20 percent flat tax. Former pizza magnate Herman Cain and former Govs. Mitt Romney (R-MA) and Jon Huntsman (R-UT) have all laid out tax plans that give huge tax breaks to the wealthy.”


Who Are these Occupy Protesters, and What Do They Want?
Lois Beckett, News Analysis: “At first glance, the synchronized protests that took place in more than 900 cities around the globe on Oct. 15 seemed to indicate that Occupy Wall Street had achieved a kind of worldwide resonance. But the truth is more complex. Many of the protests elsewhere grew out of movements that pre-date Occupy Wall Street and out of frustrations that, though similar in some ways, are also specific to their countries. Here’s a look at the origins, demands and affects of five of these global protests, as well as the criticism they’ve faced.”


Glen Greenwald: Immunity and Impunity in Elite America
Glenn Greenwald, Op-Ed: “As intense protests spawned by Occupy Wall Street continue to grow, it is worth asking: Why now? The answer is not obvious. After all, severe income and wealth inequality have long plagued the United States. In fact, it could reasonably be claimed that this form of inequality is part of the design of the American founding — indeed, an integral part of it. Many Americans who once accepted or even cheered such inequality now see the gains of the richest as ill-gotten, as undeserved, as cheating.”


Dean Baker: The Military Spending Fairy
Dean Baker, Op-Ed: “Faced with the prospect of cuts to the Defense Department’s budget, the defense industry is pushing the story of the military spending fairy on members of Congress. They are telling them that these cuts will lead to the loss of more than 1 million jobs over the next decade. Believers in the military spending fairy say things like “the government can’t create jobs,” but also think that military spending creates jobs.”


Obama Housing Plan Gets Faint Praise
Ben Hallman, News Report: “Obama’s new housing initiative, announced Monday in Las Vegas, may not be as bold as some had hoped, but it offers some underwater homeowners the possibility of relief. A week earlier at the Venetian casino, the leading Republican candidates said that the government should get out of the way and let the market sort out the foreclosure mess. The president’s plan will loosen restrictions on the Home Affordability Refinance Program (HARP), which was created especially for homeowners who owe more on their mortgage than their homes are worth.”


Occupy Wall Street, 1979
John Cavanaugh and Robin Broad, New Analysis: “Thirty-two years ago, the two of us and 1,043 other protesters were arrested for what one would now call “occupying” Wall Street. It was October 29, 1979, the 50th anniversary of the Wall Street crash that ushered in the Great Depression. We two were then graduate students at Princeton, and we had trained for weeks as part of an “affinity group” of about a dozen people prepared to commit acts of civil disobedience to prevent what we saw as a greater evil.”


Robert Reich | Why We Shouldn’t be Selling the Right to Live in America
Robert Reich, Op-Ed: “America is having a fire sale. Why not sell wealthy foreigners the right to live here, too? That’s the notion behind a bill introduced last week by Republican Senator Mike Lee of Utah and Democrat Senator Charles Schumer of New York: Stoke demand for American homes by allowing foreign nationals to buy them. In return, give foreigners the right to live here (although not work here).”


A Fire Sale for Arsonists: The “Revised” Bank Mortgage Settlement Still Stinks
Richard (RJ) Eskow, Op-Ed: “Let’s imagine that the Mayor, the DA, and the Chief of Police said they’ve come up with a great “settlement”: The arsonists will pay a small fine, and they’ll never be prosecuted for arson. Plus, if they’re asked very nicely, they’ll also agree to provide a little help to 27 out of the 1,000 families they made homeless – although they’d control the ‘help’ process and the town might wind up footing the bill anyway.”


Recalling the Lost Paradise of Budget Surpluses
Froma Harrop, Op-Ed: “Hard to believe, but once upon a time, economists worried that the U.S. government would pay off all its debt. Also hard to believe, once upon a time was only 11 years ago. President Clinton had bequeathed his successor budget surpluses “as far as the eye could see.” He wanted some of them used to speed up repayment of the remaining $3.6 trillion still owed the public in Treasury bonds. He said it could all be paid off by 2013.”


Alan Grayson Gets It …

Maybe you’ve seen the Bill Maher segment yet with former Congressman Alan Grayson. 414,028 people already had when I watched it.

Week before last, Alan Grayson appeared on HBO, on Real Time with Bill Maher. The subject was Occupy Wall Street. Bill’s guests mocked the Occupy Wall Street protesters, complaining they didn’t know what the protest was all about.

Grayson had a different point of view:

Grayson: “Let me tell what they’re talking about. They’re complaining about the fact that Wall Street wrecked the economy three years ago, and nobody’s been held responsible for that. Not a single person has been indicted or convicted, for destroying twenty percent of our national net worth, accumulated over two centuries. They’re upset about the fact that Wall Street has iron control over the economic policies of this country, and that one party is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Wall Street, and the other party caters to them as well. That’s the truth of the matter, as you [Bill] have said before. And . . . .”

P.J. O’Rourke: “Get the man a bongo drum, they’ve found their spokesman!”

Grayson: “If I . . .”

P.J. O’Rourke: “Get your shoes off, get a bongo drum, forget where to go to the bathroom, and it’s yours.”

Grayson: “If I am the spokesman for all the people who think we should NOT have 24 million people in this country who can’t find a full-time job; that we should NOT have 50 million people who can’t see a doctor when they’re sick; that we should NOT have 47 million people of this country who need government help to feed themselves; and that we should NOT have 15 million families who owe more on their mortgage than the value of home, OK, I’ll be that spokesman.”

The moment was electric. Bill Maher looked at the audience and said, “look, they’re standing!” It was the first standing ovation for a guest in the 10-year history of the show.

And why? Because in less than a minute, Alan Grayson articulated what so many observers had been groping for, since the Occupy Wall Street movement started: the sense of what’s gone wrong, and the urgent need to do something about it.

  1. Wall Street has created and perpetuated a system of enormous inequality.
  2. That system caused The Crash, and no one has been punished for it.
  3. Wall Street perpetuates that system through iron control of our political process.
  4. The result is pervasive suffering: joblessness, homelessness, illness, poverty and even hunger.

Alan Grayson has the insight and the courage to say that.

And that’s why that short video clip from Bill Maher’s show has been passed round and round. Last week, it was the fifth most-watched news video in the world. All the different versions that have been posted on YouTube are approaching 500,000 views, with more on Facebook.

The breakdown is 4098 “likes,” and 68 “dislikes.” Which proves that we really are “the 99%.” Or at least 98.4%.

Zeitgeist. n. The spirit of the time; the taste and outlook characteristic of a period or generation.

There, in a few sentences, Alan Grayson captured the spirit of our time: the urgent sense that the system is broken; that people are suffering; and that we have to face the real problems in our lives, attack them, and defeat them.

November 5th is Bank Transfer Day

First, the banks held the nation hostage as they held onto capital, refused to loan money to small business owners, refused to allow homeowners to equitably refinance their homes, fraudulently robo-signed documentation and foreclosed on millions of homeowners — all while receiving a bailout from the US Government (that would be us) and interest-free loans the federal reserve.  Now, it appears they want to step up their hostage-taking another notch or two by not just refusing to allow ordinary Americans to close their banking accounts with them, but by having them arrested by attempting to do so.

Folks … it’s time to move your money out of the big banks (Citigroup, Chase, Bank of America, etc.) and move it to an unaffiliated local bank or credit union.  If you consider yourself one of the 99%, and if you have your money in one of these mega-banks, OWS (Occupy Wall Street) protesters are asking you to stand with them and transfer you money out of these megabanks on or before November 5th.

Together we can ensure that corrupt crony-capitalist banking institutions will ALWAYS remember the 5th of November! If the 99% removes our funds from major banking institutions to non-profit credit unions on or by this date, we will send a clear message to the 1% that conscious consumers won’t support companies with unethical business practices.

Did you know you don’t even have to go to your bank to transfer your money.  All you need to do is go to your new bank or credit union and do an electronic transfer of funds and closure of the old account.  I learned I could do that years ago whilst in the U.S. Navy.  I’d leave my funds intact in the old account and when I got to my new duty station, I’d set up a new account and give them permission to electronically transfer the funds from my old account to my new account in their bank.  So, if you’re afraid you also might get arrested in the process of doing as those in the following YouTube videos did, just let your new bank do all the work for you.  I’m sure they’ll be thrilled to have the new business.

OWS News Update from Sen. Bernie Sanders

The Occupy Wall Street protests are shining a national spotlight on the most powerful, dangerous and secretive economic and political force in America.

If this country is to break out of this horrendous recession and create the millions of jobs we desperately need, if we are going to create a modicum of financial stability for the future, there is no question but that the American people are going to have to take a very hard look at Wall Street and demand fundamental reforms.  I hope these protests are the beginning of that process.

Click here to read my recent op-ed at the Huffington Post.

Let us never forget that as a result of the greed, recklessness and illegal behavior on Wall Street, this country was plunged into the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.  Millions of Americans lost their jobs, homes and life savings as the middle class underwent an unprecedented collapse.  Sadly, despite all the suffering caused by Wall Street, there is no reason to believe that the major financial institutions have changed their ways, or that future financial disasters and bailouts will not happen again.

The question now becomes: how do we change the financial system so that it works for all Americans, not just the top one percent?

Here are several proposals that I am working on:

  1. If a financial institution is too big to fail, it is too big to exist.  Today, the six largest financial institutions in America have assets equivalent to 65% of the United States’ GDP – $9.4 trillion dollars.  It is time to take a page from Teddy Roosevelt and break up these behemoths so that there will be real competition in the financial industry and, when big banks fail again, there will be no need to bail them out.
  2. Put a cap on credit card interest rates to end usury.  When credit card companies charge 25- or 30-percent interest rates they are not engaged in the business of “making credit available” to their customers.  They are involved in extortion, usury and loan-sharking.
  3. The Federal Reserve needs to provide small businesses in America with the same low-interest loans it gave to foreign banks.  When Wall Street collapsed, the Fed lent out $16 trillion in low interest loans to central banks around the world and every major financial institution in this country.  Now, at a time when small businesses can’t get the loans they need, it is time for the Fed to create millions of American jobs by providing low-interest loans directly to small businesses.
  4. Stop Wall Street oil speculators from artificially increasing gasoline and heating oil prices.  Wall Street speculators are buying and selling billions of barrels of oil in the energy futures market with no intention of using a drop for any purpose other than to make a quick buck.  We have got to end excessive oil speculation and bring needed relief to American consumers in lower oil and gas prices.
  5. Demand that Wall Street invest in the job-creating productive economy, instead of gambling on worthless derivatives.  The American people have got to make it crystal clear to Wall Street that the era of excessive speculation is over.  The “heads, bankers win; tails, everyone else loses” financial system must end.
  6. Establish a Wall Street speculation fee on credit default swaps, derivatives, stock options and futures.  Both the economic crisis and the deficit crisis are a direct result of the greed and recklessness on Wall Street.  Establishing a speculation fee would reduce gambling on Wall Street, encourage the financial sector to invest in the productive economy, and significantly reduce the deficit without harming average Americans.

Click here to read my full op-ed at the Huffington Post.

The Occupy Wall Street demonstrators are shining a light on one of the most serious problems facing the United States — the greed and power of Wall Street.  Now is the time for the American people to demand that the president and Congress follow that light — and act.  The future of our economy is at stake.

Thank you for your support.