Occupy Wall St Demands REAL Healthcare for the 99%

From OccupyWallSt.org regarding the Affordable Care Act:

“The law was largely written by Liz Fowler, Vice President of Policy at the nation’s largest and most profitable health insurance company, WellPoint.

The law will deliver 20+ million new customers and $447 billion in taxpayer subsidies directly to the private health insurance companies, but leave at least 23 million uninsured, and millions more under-insured with inadequate health insurance coverage.

The cornerstone of the ACA is the individual mandate. This regressive policy requires that if you are not eligible for a public program (Medicare, Medicaid, the V.A.), you will then be forced to buy private health insurance, or remain uninsured and pay a fine. The 99% will have to pay a much higher percentage of their income than the affluent for their coverage, and older people pay more than younger people. A 43-year-old individual making 34,000 a year will pay $5,204 in premiums and deductibles before the insurance will kick in to only cover 60% of the cost of care.

Having insurance is no guarantee that you won’t go bankrupt should you have a serious illness or accident. Massachusetts implemented the individual mandate model in 2006, and their numbers still match the nation with 2/3 of all bankruptcies linked to medical debt, even though most people had insurance at the time of illness.

Massachusetts claims it has reduced the number of uninsured in the state by 60-80%, but the state safety net programs have been decimated. With pressure from the federal government, the law funneled public dollars at lightning speed to the private health insurance industry to subsidize their inadequate policies.

Healthcare suffers because these companies do not prioritize paying for care, but rather gobble up 30% of our healthcare dollar with shareholder profits, huge CEO salaries, marketing, high overhead and administrative costs (compared to Medicare with administrative costs of only 2%).”

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Matt Stoller “Obama Accelerated the Growth of Inequality”

Matt Stoller of the Roosevelt Institute posted a pretty damning blog about the Obama administration’s economic policies at Naked Capitalism. According to the data Stoller presents in his post the 99% should perhaps be occupying the White House instead of Wall st.:

Under Bush, the 1% captured a disproportionate share of the income gains from the Bush boom of 2002-2007.  They got 65 cents of every dollar created in that boom, up 20 cents from when Clinton was President.  Under Obama, the 1% got 93 cents of every dollar created in that boom.  That’s not only more than under Bush, up 28 cents.  In the transition from Bush to Obama, inequality got worse, faster, than under the transition from Clinton to Bush.  Obama accelerated the growth of inequality.

The data set is excellent, it’s from the IRS and it’s extremely detailed.  This yawing gap of inequality isn’t an accident, and it’s not just because of Republicans.  It’s a set of policy choices.”

Read more here.

Talib Kweli’s Occupy Wall St Inspired Video “Distractions”

Occupy Wall St Returns to Zuccotti Park

Occupy Wall Street returned to Zuccotti Park Wednesday as the barricades surrounding the plaza were finally removed.

Hundreds of protesters went back into the lower Manhattan park in an attempt to reclaim the privately owned park that was the birth place of the national anti-greed movement.

Events were mostly peaceful until three demonstrators attempted to lie down to sleep, and were arrested by NYPD.

“We were recovering,” Occupier Felix Rivera-Pitre said about the movement’s low profile in recent months since the NYPD stormed the park Nov. 15 and removed everyone.

“Everything we had was lost during the raid.”

Rivera-Pitre, from Harlem, made headlines in October when he was punched by Deputy Inspector Johnny Cardona during a peaceful march. Brandon Watts, 20, was also among the masses who returned to Zuccotti Park. He had a similar brutal encounter with officers on Nov. 17 that left a huge bloody gash on his forehead. Pictures of the incident made national headlines.

About 1:30 a.m. Wednesday around 50 to 70 protesters remained in the space and a handful attempted to stretch out on pieces of cardboard.

The park’s owner, Brookfield Office Properties, has banned the use of tents, tarps or sleeping bags and even forbids people lying down on the benches. The rules were introduced after hundreds of Occupy Wall Street demonstrators began camping out in the park in September. They remained for nearly two months until cops evicted them.

“You are not allowed to lay down or sleep in the park,” an NYPD officer warned the protesters through a microphone on Wednesday. “If you do not obey these orders, you will be arrested for trespassing. This is your final warning.”

Some protesters shouted back, “Go home, terrorist!” while others carried handmade “angry pacifists” signs.

When park officials moved to confiscate the cardboard, a fight ensued and two men and one woman were removed from the area in plastic handcuffs. The rest of the crowd shouted, “Shame, shame.”

Occupy Wall Street protesters first took over Zuccotti Park, which by law is open 24-hours-a-day, on Sept. 17 as part of their campaign for greater social and economic equality.

The movement has spread to dozens of countries around the world.

NYU Offering Course on Occupy Wall Street

Occupy The Classroom!

Beginning next semester New York University will offer a class on the anti-greed Occupy Wall St movement.

A description in the school’s course catalog reads “We will examine the long history of finance, the impact of financialization on empires and regimes historic and present, and the sources and impact of economic, political, social and cultural inequalities,”.

“We will also investigate the conditions for challenges, uprisings and change,” says the description for the course offered in the school’s Department of Social and Cultural Analysis.

“Occupy Wall Street has done us all the service of illuminating [the fact] that the economy operates within the framework of political, social and cultural conflicts, and not outside them,” professor Lisa Duggan, who will teach the class, told the Washington Square News campus newspaper.

Not to be outdone Columbia University will also be offering a course on OWS.  The course [pdf], called “Occupy the Field,” will offer “training in ethnographic research methods alongside a critical exploration of the conjunctural issues in the Occupy movement: Wall Street, finance capital, and inequality; political strategies, property and public space, and the question of anarchy; and genealogies of the contemporary moment in global social movements.”

Professor Hannah Appel will be teaching the course, which will consist of seminars and lots of fieldwork with Occupy Wall Street, where students are encouraged to get involved with any of the working groups that meet regularly in the atrium at 60 Wall Street. Appel is a self-proclaimed “regular participant in the Occupy movement,” and in the course description she assures students with “absolute certainty that there is no foreseeable risk in teaching this as a field-based class. On the contrary, the risks of disengaged scholarship seem more profound.”

 

 

Lobbying firm proposes plan to undermine Occupy Wall Street

MSNBC’s Chris Hayes, host of Up w/ Chris Hayes, has obtained a memo from lobbying firm Clark Lytle Geduldig & Cranford to the American Bankers Association which lays out a plan to undermine the Occupy Wall St movement.

The memo proposes that the ABA pay them, CLGC, 850k to conduct what they call opposition research on OWS. Using this research they would then build “negative narratives” about the protests and any politicians who show support for them. The memo also asserts that Democratic victories in 2012 would be detrimental for Wall Street and points to specific races in which Wall Street would benefit from Republican victories. It also states that an even bigger concern than Democratic victories would be that Republicans would no longer defend Wall Street companies.

Another issue that CLGC sees as a concern is that The Tea Party and Occupy Wall St may find common ground. According to the memo “OWS protestors and the Tea Party overlap on angered populism..This combination has the potential to be explosive later in the year when media reports cover the next round of bonuses and contrast it with stories of millions of Americans making do with less this holiday season.”

CLGC outlines a 60-day plan to conduct surveys and research on OWS and its supporters so that Wall Street companies will be prepared to conduct a media campaign in response to OWS as Wall Street companies “likely will not be the best spokespeople for their own cause,”.

Part of the proposed plan is to do “statewide surveys in at least eight states that are shaping up to be the most important of the 2012 cycle.”

Specific races listed in the memo are U.S. Senate races in Florida, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Wisconsin, Ohio, New Mexico and Nevada as well as the gubernatorial race in North Carolina.

Research would also be done on who has contributed financially to OWS, noting that, “Media reports have speculated about associations with George Soros and others.”

“It will be vital,” the memo says, “to understand who is funding it and what their backgrounds and motives are. If we can show that they have the same cynical motivation as a political opponent it will undermine their credibility in a profound way.”

Two of the memo’s writers , partners Sam Geldudig and Jay Cranford, have worked in the past for House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio. Cranford joined the firm this year after serving as Boehner’s assistant to policy, while Geldudig joined before Boehner became speaker. A third partner, Steve Clark, is reported to be a close associate of Boehner.

Jeff Sigmund, an ABA spokesperson, confirmed that the association got the memo. “Our Government Relations staff did receive the proposal – it was unsolicited and we chose not to act on it in any way,”

 

 

The ever shrinking middle class…

Middle class incomes have been stagnant for at least a generation, while the wealthiest Americans have seen their income surge ahead at warp speed.

In 1988, the income of an average American taxpayer was $33,400, adjusted for inflation. 20 years later not much had changed, the average income was still just $33,000 in 2008, according to IRS data. During that same time the richest 1%, those making $380,000 or more,  of the country have seen their incomes grow 33%.

One of the causes for wage stagnation that experts point to is the decline of unions and other labor protections, said Bill Rodgers, a former chief economist for the Labor Department, now a professor at Rutgers University. Through deals struck by way of collective bargaining, union workers have traditionally earned 15% to 20% more than their non-union counterparts, Rodgers said.

But union membership has declined rapidly over the past 30 years. In 1983, union workers made up about 20% of the workforce. In 2010, they represented less than 12%.

“The erosion of collective bargaining is a key factor to explain why low-wage workers and middle income workers have seen their wages not stay up with inflation,” Rodgers said.

Without collective bargaining pushing up wages, especially for blue-collar workers, average incomes have remained flat.

International competition is another factor. While globalization has lifted millions out of poverty in developing nations, it has had a negative affect on middle class workers in the U.S.

Factory workers have seen many of their jobs shipped to other countries where labor is cheaper, putting more downward pressure on American wages.

“As we became more connected to China, that poses the question of whether our wages are being set in Beijing,” Rodgers said.

Finding it harder to compete with cheaper manufacturing costs abroad, the U.S. has emerged as primarily a services-producing economy. That trend has created a cultural shift in the job skills American employers are looking for. 50 years ago, there were plenty of blue collar opportunities for workers who had only high school diploma, now employers seek “soft skills” that are typically honed in college, Rodgers said.

While the average American was losing ground in the economy, the wealthiest were capitalizing on these issues.

Globalization has been a major issue for the countries labor force, but it’s also been a major win for corporations who’ve used new global channels to reduce costs and increase profits. New markets around the world have also created greater demand for their products.

“With a global economy, people who have extraordinary skills… whether they be in financial services, technology, entertainment or media, have a bigger place to play and be rewarded from,” said Alan Johnson, a Wall Street compensation consultant.

As a result, the disparity between the wages for college educated workers versus high school grads has widened significantly since the 1980s. In 1980, workers with a high school diploma earned about 71% of what college-educated workers made. In 2010, it was 55%.

Another driver of the rich has been the stock market. The S&P 500 has gained more than 1,300% since 1970, which has helped the American economy grow but the benefits have been disproportionately reaped by the wealthy.

Over the last 30 years regulation of the financial industry has been on the decline. President Regean was very much anti-regulation, but it was during the Clinton years in which barriers between commercial and investment banks, enacted during the post-Depression era, were removed. In 2000 the Commodity Futures Modernization Act also weakened the government’s oversight of complex securities, allowing financial innovations to take off, creating unprecedented amounts of wealth both for the overall economy, and for those directly involved in the financial sector. Tax cuts enacted by the Bush administration and extended by President Obama have also been a major windfall for the wealthy. Former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan brought interest rates down to new lows during the last decade and the housing market experienced explosive growth.

“We were all drinking the Kool-aid, Greenspan was tending bar, Bernanke and the academic establishment were supplying the liquor,” Deutsche Bank managing director Ajay Kapur wrote in a research report in 2009.

We all know what was the end result of these economic policies. The worst economic crash since the great depression.

The unemployment rate is still higher than 9% and the real estate market is showing few signs of rebounding, meanwhile corporate profits are at historic levels and the stock market continues to charge ahead. The wealthiest people continue to eclipse their middle-class counterparts.

“I think it’s a terrible dilemma, because what we’re obviously heading toward is some kind of class warfare,” Johnson said.

Anyone still having a hard time figuring out what Occupy Wall st. is all about?