The OB Media Rundown for 6/17/12

Plutocracy boardgame

Learning You’re Not Elite

If you ever want to see a middle-class person learn first hand and immediately that he or she is not actually an elite, attend an arraignment docket down at the county courthouse and watch defendants brought up on misdemeanors. The poor defendants already know what to expect. They’ve lived discrimination and they might qualify for the public defender. So they look bored and tired. They’re not afraid of because they have no expectations.

But the middle-class defendants will be absolutely bewildered and visibly terrified. They have no idea what they’re in for. And the only things they’ve ever heard or known about our criminal justice system are that it’s horrible, and that it’s for Other People. Watch them up shaking as they struggle to keep up with that judge reciting from the state criminal code. That’s when a lot of people realize they aren’t elites. That’s when they learn they’re Other People too.

Financial Firms Ready ‘Crisis Teams’ for Greek Election Aftermath

The banks are on high alert. Hundreds of employees at big firms, some part of special teams, will be on standby this Sunday, awaiting the results of Greece’s pivotal election. They are preparing for the worst case. The fear is that the vote will heighten the chances of Greece exiting the euro and the global financial system will be shaken when the markets open on Monday.

After being largely unprepared for the extreme stress of the 2008 crisis, large banks in the United States are determined to be ready this time. They have been taking measures to deal with instability in Europe for over a year. In recent months, they have stepped up their contingency planning, especially after it became clear that Greece was struggling to comply with the terms of a March bailout that was intended to keep the country in the euro.

In New York and London, banks have set up dedicated crisis teams, and rehearsed elaborate responses. As clients get nervous, banks have been guiding clients on how to react to a range of situations, from just one country leaving the euro zone to the dissolution of the euro itself.

Greece: Fear versus hope

The Greek general election campaign which has kept the Troika and the financial powers in suspense has ended. The masters of the world, the 1%, as Occupy Wall Street symbolically refers to the dominant financial hierarchy, are concerned with the possibility of an electoral victory for Syriza on the basis of an anti-Memorandum agenda. We know that elections are an annoyance for the élites when there is the rare possibility that the masses do not vote as they desire.

Structural adjustment policies have imploded the traditional party system in Greece. The economic and social crisis has been transformed into a generalised political crisis, a crisis of hegemony and an “organic crisis of the state”. In this scenario, the appeal to fear has been the sole asset of the Greek right through an authentic campaign of media terror and demonization of Syriza that is fed with permanent blackmail from the Troika. The infamous article appearing yesterday (Friday June 15) in the German edition of the “Financial Times” urging the Greek people to vote for the right-wing New Democracy party shows the exacerbation of the centre-periphery logic and neo-colonial relations within the EU in the context of the crisis. But also it is an example of the fear of the dominant classes that the situation in Greece will open too large a fissure within the EU.

Voters Value Entitlements Over Deficit Reduction

While Americans claim to, in the abstract, care about the deficit, they overwhelmingly don’t want entitlement programs cut to reduce the deficit, according to the new Pew Research poll.

Inequality: It’s Even Worse Than We Thought

The current debate about rich and poor — the 1 percent versus the 99 percent — is a bit misleading because the evidence usually is data about income, not wealth. Looking at wealth would make the comparison even starker.

There are some nice deals to be had in the income tax code these days, but most wealth accumulates and passes from generation to generation with no tax at all. Warren Buffett (who has selflessly taken on the role of all-purpose tape measure in these matters) is worth $45 billion or so. Do you think that all of that $45 billion, or even most of it, has appeared on any Form 1040 on its way to the cookie jar? Even at the special, low 15 percent rate the U.S. insanely confers on capital gains?

Americans Hang On After Recession Claims Wealth

Looking back, the financial lives many Americans enjoyed until just a few years ago can seem like a mirage. On a suburban cul-de-sac northwest of Atlanta, Michael and Patricia Jackson are struggling to keep a house worth $100,000 less than they owe. In a small town in West Virginia, Michael Bobic, who last year lost his job as a college professor, sells Star Trek collectibles on eBay to get by.

Their voices and those of many others tell the story of a country that, for all the economic turmoil of the past few years, continues to believe things will get better. But until it does, families are trying to hang on to what they’ve got left.

The Great Recession claimed nearly 40 percent of Americans’ wealth, the Federal Reserve reported last week. The new figures, showing Americans’ net worth has plunged back to what it was in 1992, left economists shuddering while sharpening attention on the pocketbook issues at the center of the presidential campaign. But for families across the country, the report, tracking the period from 2007 to 2010, confirms what they already felt in their gut and saw in their checkbooks. It is one more reminder that they’re not alone.

Are Corporations and Big Banks Making a Windfall From Food Stamps?

Perhaps you’ve heard: At a time of record need for food assistance among America’s poor, the U.S. Senate is poised to cut roughly $4.5 billion from food stamps, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which 46 million Americans — one in seven of us — rely upon.

While Congress is obsessed with saving money by cutting assistance to our poorest citizens, there’s been nary a peep about how major banks and food corporations profit from food stamps, and what that means for recipients and the rest of the taxpaying public.

City to Occupy Portland: No More “Unpermitted” Meetings in Director Park

Not long after Occupy Portland was cleared from its original encampments, and fences were put up around Chapman and Lownsdale Squares and Terry Schrunk Plaza, the movement started having its Sunday general assembly meetings over in the somewhat covered and uncrowded expanse of Director Park.

That never really sat well with some folks in the Parks Bureau, who felt like they were put in a tough spot because Occupy was gathering in the park without getting a permit. But amid the winter chill and the spring rain, it wasn’t much of an issue. That’s changed now that summer is dawning. A city letter asking the group to clear out for the “busy summer season,’ unless they pay for a permit, has gone up on Occupy’s Facebook page.

The EU Smiled While Spain’s Banks Cooked the Books

Only a few years ago, Spain’s banks were seen in some policy-making circles as a model for the rest of the world. This may be hard to fathom now, considering that Spain is seeking $125 billion to bail out its ailing lenders.

But back in 2008 and early 2009, Spanish regulators were riding high after their country’s banks seemed to have dodged the financial crisis with minimal losses. A big reason for their success, the regulators said, was an accounting technique called dynamic provisioning.

‘Occupy Eagles Bridge’ Movement Emerges in Bulgaria

Bulgarians, mainly young people, are organizing Saturday for a fourth evening in a row another protest rally against controversial amendments of the Forestry Act, passed by the Parliament earlier in the past week.

The demonstrators have organized themselves through a Facebook group named Occupy Eagles Bridge. About 56 000 have been invited to join and over 4 000 have confirmed attendance for Saturday evening.
. . .

The organizers of the group note that they are protesting the scandalous amendments that benefit a shady oligarch and the impudence of Emil Dimitrov aka Emo the Rothmans, Member of the Parliament from the ruling party of Prime Minister Borisov Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria, GERB, who has stated: “Bulgaria belongs to us; the forests belong to us and we will do what we please with you or without you.”

Portuguese, Spanish and Italian in ‘Huge’ Protests to Decry Austerity Plans

Huge anti-austerity protests took place Saturday in Spain, Portugal and Italy while Greek voters prepare to have their say about the cost-cutting measures in a key vote Sunday.

The largest confederation of Portuguese workers (the CGTP) organized a rally in Lisbon to protest against the International Monetary Fund, European Central Bank and European Commission – the institutions that are enforcing austerity, which is strangling some southern European countries.

The confederation of Italian labor unions (CGIL ) organized protests to demand lower taxes for workers and retired people, more resources toward reducing unemployment, and more efforts by the government to catch tax evaders.

In Spain’s capital Madrid, protesters rallied against government plans to save the country’s leading bank, Bankia.  Euro zone leaders last week approved a $125 billion loan to shore up Spain’s leading banks which are in trouble, but warned of the need for economic reform.

To get a daily listing of Occupy Boston’s events and activities (and more!), subscribe to the Daily Digest by going to To subscribe to the OB Media Rundown, send your request to [email protected]