Allison Kilkenny: Unreported

Toronto on lockdown for G20 summit: the wall, snipers, and sound cannons

Posted in Capitalism, Economy, police state, wealth divide, world by allisonkilkenny on June 25, 2010

Protesters march through downtown Toronto on Thursday to draw attention to aboriginal issues. (Pras Rajagopalan/CBC)

I find it disturbing that a major city being put on lockdown in order to accommodate the international elite and suppress the underclass has become standard — and acceptable — procedure.

Right now, the leaders of rich and developing nations are in Toronto, and the authorities anticipated that there will be a series of protests during the conferences because there are always protests during the G8/G20 meet-ups.

Capitalism is particularly unpopular right now because the US has unleashed a steroid-filled version of it unto the world, and this economic system has failed to provide for the majority of people. It has, however, created a dwindling elitist echelon who control a vast majority of riches. In the year of Hayward and his yachting adventures, there’s no reason to doubt there will be any fewer protests against the douchiest rich people among us.

Toronto was ready to suppress such dissent, and shape a nice, pleasant narrative for the city’s visitors, by implementing a complete and total lockdown.

The “lockdown” of central Toronto includes a 3m-high (10ft), 3.5km (2.2-mile) concrete and metal fence enclosing the G20 meeting area and a huge security presence. Banks and theatres will be closed, as will one of Canada’s most famous tourist attractions – the CN Tower.

It’s important to remember that the supposed goal of the G20 summit is “to continue the work of building a healthier, stronger and more sustainable global economy.” And what better way to express that kind of egalitarian unity than to build a 10-ft-high, 2-mile-long fence to keep out the serfs?

These kinds of global gatherings have also become a playground for authorities to experiment with their newest, shiniest crowd control devices. Last year, I reported that Pittsburgh police demonstrated the latest suppression technology on protesters near that year’s G20 summit. The weapon du jour were sound cannons.

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Reviving the Dream

Posted in Barack Obama, class divide, Economy, politics, worker rights by allisonkilkenny on March 10, 2009

Bob Herbert

workers4Working families were in deep trouble long before this megarecession hit. But too many of the public officials who should have been looking out for the middle class and the poor were part of the reckless and shockingly shortsighted alliance of conservatives and corporate leaders that rigged the economy in favor of the rich and ultimately brought it down completely.

As Jared Bernstein, now the chief economic adviser to Vice President Joseph Biden, wrote in the preface to his book, “Crunch: Why Do I Feel So Squeezed? (And Other Unsolved Economic Mysteries)”:

“Economics has been hijacked by the rich and powerful, and it has been forged into a tool that is being used against the rest of us.”

Working people were not just abandoned by big business and their ideological henchmen in government, they were exploited and humiliated. They were denied the productivity gains that should have rightfully accrued to them. They were treated ruthlessly whenever they tried to organize. They were never reasonably protected against the savage dislocations caused by revolutions in technology and global trade.

Working people were told that all of this was good for them, and whether out of ignorance or fear or prejudice or, as my grandfather might have said, damned foolishness, many bought into it. They signed onto tax policies that worked like a three-card monte game. And they were sold a snake oil concoction called “trickle down” that so addled their brains that they thought it was a wonderful idea to hand over their share of the nation’s wealth to those who were already fabulously rich.

America used to be better than this.

The seeds of today’s disaster were sown some 30 years ago. Looking at income patterns during that period, my former colleague at The Times, David Cay Johnston, noted that from 1980 (the year Ronald Reagan was elected) to 2005, the national economy, adjusted for inflation, more than doubled. (Because of population growth, the actual increase per capita was about 66 percent.)

But the average income for the vast majority of Americans actually declined during those years. The standard of living for the average family improved not because incomes grew but because women entered the workplace in droves.

As hard as it may be to believe, the peak income year for the bottom 90 percent of Americans was way back in 1973, when the average income per taxpayer, adjusted for inflation, was $33,000. That was nearly $4,000 higher, Mr. Johnston pointed out, than in 2005.

Men have done particularly poorly. Men who are now in their 30s — the prime age for raising families — earn less money than members of their fathers’ generation did at the same age.

It may seem like ancient history, but in the first few decades following World War II, the United States, despite many serious flaws, established the model of a highly productive society that shared its prosperity widely and made investments that were geared toward a more prosperous, more fulfilling future.

The American dream was alive and well and seemingly unassailable. But somehow, following the oil shocks, the hyperinflation and other traumas of the 1970s, Americans allowed the right-wingers to get a toehold — and they began the serious work of smothering the dream.

Ronald Reagan saw Medicare as a giant step on the road to socialism. Newt Gingrich, apparently referring to the original fee-for-service version of Medicare, which was cherished by the elderly, cracked, “We don’t get rid of it in Round One because we don’t think it’s politically smart.”

The right-wingers were crafty: You smother the dream by crippling the programs that support it, by starving the government of money to pay for them, by funneling the government’s revenues to the rich through tax cuts and other benefits, by looting the government the way gangsters loot legitimate businesses and then pleading poverty when it comes time to fund the services required by the people.

The anti-tax fanatic Grover Norquist summed the matter up nicely when he famously said, “Our goal is to shrink the government to the size where you can drown it in a bathtub.” Only they didn’t shrink the government, they enlarged it and turned its bounty over to the rich.

Now, with the economy in free fall and likely to get worse, Americans — despite their suffering — have an opportunity to reshape the society, and then to move it in a fairer, smarter and ultimately more productive direction. That is the only way to revive the dream, but it will take a long time and require great courage and sacrifice.

The right-wingers do not want that to happen, which is why they are rooting so hard for President Obama’s initiatives to fail. They like the direction that the country took over the past 30 years. They’d love to do it all again.

DeMint: The Richest 0.7 Percent of the Population is “Lots of People”

Posted in class divide, Economy, politics, wealth divide by allisonkilkenny on February 25, 2009

Matthew Yglesias

The right-wing is flinging smokescreen rhetoric about income taxes and small businesses so quickly that it’s difficult to keep track of what they’re saying. But the important things to recall are that very few people find themselves in the top two tax brackets, and that though some of these people are small businessmen they’re paying taxes on net income. These are brackets for a small number of unusually prosperous people. For example, here’s Jim Demint:

It looks like he’s gonna try to get a lot of that revenue from raising payroll taxes on upper income and that sounds good but basically that affects small businesses and their ability to hire people. So I just think it shows a lack of understanding of the private sector. A lot of people make — who are reporting a quarter million dollars — you know, I’ve done that before in my small business, and I was actually taking home like 50 or 40.

In fact, about 0.7 percent of households file in the top two brackets: 

taxes.png 

Meanwhile, I don’t know why DeMint thinks people who are only taking home $40k or $50k would be filing as people who earn $250,000. I think he wants people to think that the government is taxing gross business receipts, so that if I spend $230,000 on my business to earn $300,000 in revenue, that I’m taxed on all $300,000. But that’s not how it works at all. You deduct business expenses and pay taxes on your net income. Any small businessman who’s earning a middle class income isn’t paying in the top two brackets, just as any salaried employee who’s earning a middle class income isn’t paying in the top two brackets.

Watch the Demint video here.

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