Professor Joseph Stiglitz

  • November 15, 2011

    by Jeremy Leaming

    Though the First Amendment was given short shrift during the early morning raid of Zuccotti Park, birthplace of Occupy Wall Street, it appears that peaceful assembly and political protest will not be easily squelched.

    Nonetheless, authorities, such as those under the guidance of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, seem bent on trying.

    As reported by Brain Stelter for The New York Times' Media Decoder blog, “many journalists were blocked from observing and interviewing the protesters. Some called it a ‘media blackout’ and said in interviews that they believed the police efforts were a deliberate attempt to tamp down coverage of the operation."

    For Daily Kos, Barbara Morrill wrote, “When New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg decided to stage a middle of the night raid on the Occupy Wall Street protestors in Zuccotti Park, there was one thing he didn’t want … media coverage.” Morrill links to coverage by gothamist that says reporters with NPR and The New York Times were arrested trying to cover the clearing of the park.  

    The Times reports that nearly 200 were arrested in the early Tuesday raid. Similar raids, most just as aggressive, if not more so, have unfolded at other OWS encampments nationwide.

    Last month officers in riot gear descended upon OccupyBoston protestors, arresting more than 100, including a legal observer with the National Lawyers Guild, and a recent attempt in Oakland to clear protestors turned violent.

    Yesterday, the NLG and the ACLU lodged a lawsuit against the Oakland Policy Department (OPD) to stop the authorities from using violence against protestors.

    A statement posted earlier today at OccupyWallStreet said the effort to raise awareness about greed run amok on Wall Street, and growing economic inequality is not likely to die with the clearing of Zuccotti Park.

    The statement reads:

    Two months ago a few hundred New Yorkers set up an encampment at the doorstop of Wall Street. Since then Occupy Wall Street has become a national and even international symbol – with similarly styled occupations popping up in cities and towns across America and around the world. A growing popular movement has significantly altered the national narrative about our economy, our democracy, and our future.

    Americans are talking about the consolidation of wealth and power in our society, and the stranglehold that the top 1% have over our political system. More and more Americans are seeing the crises of our economy and our democracy as systemic problems, that require collective action to remedy. More and more Americans are identifying as part of the 99%, and saying ‘enough!’

  • October 12, 2011

    by Jeremy Leaming

    Not only is Occupy Wall Street attracting more supporters and spreading to other cities, but it is sparking some over-the-top reaction from police departments.

    Yesterday in Boston, for example, when OccupyBoston protestors sought to move from Dewey Square to a portion of Greenway Park, which encompasses open park space, police arrested more than 100 people, including the executive director of the National Lawyers Guild’s northeast regional office. Urszula Masny-Latos was among the protestors as a legal observer, wearing a green cap that identified her as such – it included "legal observer" in bold letters across the front. 

    Since the inception of the OWS movement, the National Lawyers Guild has offered legal assistance to the protestors, who are engaged in peaceful and expanding demonstrations over a growing economic inequality gap in the country, and the lack of accountability for the large corporations that ushered in the Great Recession, and were then bailed out by taxpayers.

    Masny-Latos described to The Boston Globe her experience, saying, “They really attacked. They used force that was completely unnecessary. … It was just brutal. I have no idea why they arrested us with such force.”

    Regarding her arrest, she said, “It was very surprising. Boston police usually respect our legal observers. And they usually leave us alone. … I was legal observing. I wasn’t even chanting anything.”

    When police, many in riot gear, descended upon the protestors, they started throwing them to the ground, some numerous times, see video here, and fastening their wrists with riot cuffs.

    A post from Occupy Wall Street’s website from earlier in the day condemned the actions of the Boston Police Department and New York City Police Department. (The OWS protests launched in NYC in September, along with accounts of abusive police enforcement.)

    “Every day the actions of the BPD, NYPD, etc. continue to remind us that the police no longer fight to ‘protect and serve’ the American people, but rather the wealth and power of the 1%. With each passing day, as the violence of the state continues to escalate, the myth of American ‘democracy’ becomes further shattered.”

    On its website, OccupyBoston issued a press statement saying police “made no distinction between protestors, medics, or legal observers ….”

    The press statement added that its organization is “the beginning of an ongoing discussion about reforming Wall Street and removing special interests from government.”

    Boston Mayor Thomas Menino saw nothing inappropriate with the tactics of the police officers, telling The Globe that “civil disobedience will not be tolerated.” The mayor, however, claimed that he supported the message emanating from the protests. “I agree with them on the issues,” he said. “Foreclosure. Corporate greed. These are issues I’ve been working on my entire career.”

    The National Lawyers Guild’s website includes information for the protestors and numbers to call for legal assistance. Beyond fighting for the First Amendment rights of the OWS protestors, the National Lawyers Guild says its mission includes bringing “together all those who recognize the importance of safeguarding and extending the rights of workers, women, farmers, people with disabilities and people of color upon whom the welfare of the entire nation depends ….”

  • October 11, 2011

    by Jeremy Leaming

    As Occupy Wall Street continues to spread from city to city and garner backers from Union leaders to the head of Washington’s largest progressive nonprofit, an important and long overdue focus is shifting to the efforts of the nation’s super wealthy to keep things just the way they are.

    In a piece for The Huffington Post, Dean Baker, of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, laments the stranglehold the status quo has on Washington, where austerity measures are all of sudden the obsession of many conservative politicians, and incessant talk of cutting Social Security and Medicare rules the day.

    While conservative talking heads bemoan the growing gap between the nation’s top one percent and everyone else as class warfare, Baker notes that the only redistribution of wealth occurring in this country is that which helps those within the top one percent.

    Baker concludes:

    In short, we have an economic system that, even when it is working, has been rigged to redistribute income to the rich. And we have a political system that at a time of immense economic distress is more focused on undercutting the means of support for working families than fixing the economy. It is hard to understand why everyone is not occupying Wall Street.

    As noted on this blog numerous times, Columbia Business School Professor Joseph E. Stiglitz wrote earlier in the year about the power of the country’s top 1 percent and its efforts to hold the status quo. He argued that the top one percent is seriously out of touch with the rest of the country, and it appreciates a government that can only push policy that furthers its interests.

    But such action has created the current economic morass, one that doesn’t bother many conservative pundits or is not understood by them.

  • September 23, 2011

    by Jeremy Leaming

    The yawning gap between the nation’s super wealthy and everyone else is likely the widest it has been since the 1920s. And, as TPM reported recently, Fox’s talking head Brit Hume asked “who cares?”

    Obviously many right-wingers do not care. But history is replete, as Columbia University Professor Joseph E. Stiglitz noted earlier this year in a piece for Vanity Fair, with stories of crumbling societies where the wealthy few ignored the plight of the many.

    “The top 1 percent,” Stiglitz wrote, “have the best houses, the best educations, the best doctors, and the best lifestyles, but there is one thing money doesn’t seem to have bought: an understanding that their fate is bound up with how the other 99 percent live. Throughout history, this is something that the top 1 percent eventually do learn. Too late.”

    So as Hume smirks at the growing inequality gap and his colleague Bill O’Reilly claims the discussion of income inequality annoys him, more and more Americans are catching onto the fact that right-wing economic policies pushed for decades are doing nothing for the country except making a tiny few much wealthier. Our infrastructure is eroding, and numerous states, as noted in this piece by The New York Times, are cutting already meager safety nets for the less fortunate. Such cuts are swelling the ranks of the poor and especially shoving larger numbers of children into poverty. According to an Annie E. Casey Foundation report, cited by The Times, by 2009 “about 2.4 million more children’s families lived below the poverty line than in 200, an increase of 18 percent.”  

    The Census Bureau reported earlier this month that the number of people in poverty is at its highest in more than 50 years. Just last year, the Census Bureau reported that another 2.6 million people fell into poverty. A press release announcing the Bureau’s findings, states, “The nation’s official poverty rate in 2010 was 15.1 percent, up from 14.3 percent in 2009 – the third consecutive annual increase in the poverty rate. There were 46.2 million people in poverty in 2010, up from 43.6 million in 2009 – the fourth consecutive annual increase and the largest number in the 52 years of which poverty estimates have been published.”

    Beyond irking knee-jerk pundits, talk of economic inequality also elicits typical cries of “class warfare,” from some congressional lawmakers, as The Times’ Paul Krugman writes, noting Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan who bemoaned as “class warfare,” President Obama’s recent comments that the wealthy in the country pay too little in taxes, and that more should be asked of this group.

    Krugman dismantles the class warfare rhetoric, writing that “it’s people like Mr. Ryan, who want to exempt the very rich from bearing any of the burden of making our finances sustainable, who are waging class war.”

    Elizabeth Warren, the Harvard professor who helped launch the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and is now running for the U.S. Senate, also forcefully countered the right-wing’s take on economic inequality.

    Warren (pictured), who detailed her idea for a consumer protection agency at the 2009 ACS National Convention, said earlier this week, “There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own. Nobody. You built a factory out there, good for you. But I want to be clear, you moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for. You hired workers, the rest of us paid to educate. You were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for.”

  • August 11, 2011

    by Jeremy Leaming

    Tea Party activists and some in Congress remain dead-set against increasing taxes on the wealthiest, loudly proclaiming that the nation must make draconian spending cuts to lower the national debt. Indeed, as the debt-ceiling debacle revealed, some House lawmakers appear forever committed to slashing government programs. The Right’s mantra of no new taxes continues to thrive and galvanize, even as the economic inequality gap continues its devastation.  

    The president and other Democratic leaders are also apparently swayed by the obstinate stance against increased revenue, in light of the agreement reached on raising the debt ceiling, which includes plans for even more spending cuts, during a time when the effects of the Great Recession continue to be felt coast to coast.

    And yet, as numerous economists have pointed out time and again, there is an economic inequality gap that is exponentially growing. Columbia University Business School Professor Joseph E. Stiglitz wrote earlier this spring for Vanity Fair in an article titled “Of the 1%, by the 1%, for the 1%,” about this yawning gap that has been nurtured by the economic policies of the Right, and embraced by too many Democratic leaders.

    “While the top 1 percent have seen their incomes rise 18 percent over the past decade, those in the middle have actually seen their incomes fall,” he wrote. “All the growth in recent decades – and more – has gone to those at the top.”

    The shrinking middle class is increasingly taking note of this picture, recent polls bear this out. At capitalgainsandgames, Bruce Bartlett cites 23 recent polls that show overwhelming numbers of respondents believe the budget deficit must be tackled by tax increases, not just spending cuts.

    And the wrangling over national debt is just part of the ongoing effort by the nation’s wealthiest to keep things just the way they are. As Stiglitz wrote in his piece, “The top 1 percent may complain about the kind of government we have in America, but the truth is they like it just fine: too gridlocked to re-distribute, too divided to do anything but lower taxes.”