by U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich
Once they were as gods, but the deities of the American banking system are now in ruins, plunged from their pedestals into the maw of taxpayer largesse. Congress voted to give the banks $700 billion, lifting them temporarily out of their sepulcher of debt, while revealing a deep truth about the condition of America’s financial powers:
They never had the money they said they had as they constructed their debt-based monetary system which now lies in ruins. Their decisions on behalf of depositors, shareholders and investors were lacking in basic integrity and common sense. Green gods bailing out with their golden parachutes.
There was a time when their power was real. Come with me to Cleveland 30 years ago today.
Dec. 15, 1978, Cleveland, Ohio
I awoke to find a curt payment demand that was dropped on my front step by a grandfatherly man who supplemented his Social Security delivering the morning newspaper. The headline plastered across the front page:
Cleveland Trust: Pay Up. Bank would relent if Muny Light were sold, Forbes believes.
One of America’s largest banks, Cleveland Trust, led local banks in demanding immediate payment from the city by midnight, Dec. 15, of $14.5 million in short-term loans.
I regarded the headline skeptically. Having lived in 21 different places by the time I was 17, including a couple of cars, I had come to an encyclopedic knowledge of dun letters, sent to my parents by battalions of bill collectors seeking immediate payment for televisions, cars and a variety of household appliances that never seemed to work. I first came to regard these credit alarms with trepidation, later with impassiveness, with the expectation that as our family grew to two adults and seven children it would soon be on the move again, incurring new delinquencies with each new address. Lack of access to money, housing and credit seemed to be a permanent condition.
Now, having fought through a thicket of consequence to become America’s youngest mayor, elected on a promise to stop the privatization of the city’s electric system, I was faced with paying off loans taken out by the previous mayor, for the financing of municipal projects of dubious value.
The banks refused to extend terms of payment and connived with City Council members to block alternative payment plans, such as the sale of city land or tax revenues. The banks knew the city couldn’t otherwise pay. They demanded instead the sale of the city’s electric system, Muny Light, to an investor-owned electric company, the Cleveland Electric Illuminating Co. (CEI). The president of the Cleveland Council, George Forbes, had met with the head of Cleveland Trust bank, who insisted on the sale of Muny Light as a precondition for extending the city credit. This was a case of the bank blackmailing the city, pure and simple.
http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/08349/935101-176.stm for complete story
Now that Sen. Barack Obama is President-elect Obama, what will all the thousands of members of his vast, fabled grass-roots network do with the rest of their lives?
This weekend, at least, they’re partying.
Across the country, Obama volunteers are hosting nearly 5,000 Obama-sanctioned “Change is Coming” house parties — including about a dozen different events in the Pittsburgh region, from Sewickley to Canonsburg to Wilkinsburg — even as Obama transition officials debate how best to harness the momentum created during the campaign.
Locally, Randy Shannon, who heads a chapter of Progressive Democrats for America in New Brighton, Butler County, hosted a breakfast yesterday for about 40 people, including Obama volunteers who support single-payer health care.
“It’s a whole new ballgame now,” said Mr. Shannon, whose group has its own Web site, Beavercountyblue.org, and has been working with the AFL-CIO on single-payer health care during the past few elections.
This time, “we wanted to bring in Obama volunteers to see if we could work together” — even, as he acknowledged, it’s not clear if the Obama administration will support a single-payer approach.
The New York Times Dec. 12, 2008
CHICAGO — The word came just after lunch on Dec. 2 in the cafeteria of Republic Windows and Doors. A company official told assembled workers that their plant on this city’s North Side, which had operated for more than four decades, would be closed in just three days.
There was a murmur of shock, then anger, in the drab room lined with snack machines. Some women cried. But a few of the factory’s union leaders had been anticipating this moment. Several weeks before, they had noticed that equipment had disappeared from the plant, and they began tracing it to a nearby rail yard.
And so, in secret, they had been discussing a bold but potentially dangerous plan: occupying the factory if it closed.
By the time their six-day sit-in ended on Wednesday night, the 240 laid-off workers at this previously anonymous 125,000-square-foot plant had become national symbols of worker discontent amid the layoffs sweeping the country. Civil rights workers compared them to Rosa Parks. But all the workers wanted, they said, was what they deserved under the law: 60 days of severance pay and earned vacation time.
They could have given the loan on the condition that the automakers start building only cars and mass transit that reduce our dependency on oil.
They could have given the loan on the condition that the automakers build cars that reduce global warming.
They could have given the loan on the condition that the automakers withdraw their many lawsuits against state governments in their attempts to not comply with our environmental laws.
They could have given the loan on the condition that the management team which drove these once-great manufacturers into the ground resign and be replaced with a team who understands the transportation needs of the 21st century.
Yes, they could have given the loan for any of these reasons because, in the end, to lose our manufacturing infrastructure and throw 3 million people out of work would be a catastrophe.
But instead, the Senate said, we’ll give you the loan only if the factory workers take a $20 an hour cut in wages, pension and health care. That’s right. After giving BILLIONS to Wall Street hucksters and criminal investment bankers — billions with no strings attached and, as we have since learned, no oversight whatsoever — the Senate decided it is more important to break a union, more important to throw middle class wage earners into the ranks of the working poor than to prevent the total collapse of industrial America.
PITTSBURGH, December 11-Supporters of the House of Hope, a unique shelter and counseling center for chemically-dependent, pregnant woman, rallied today at UPMC Braddock, calling on UPMC, the largest hospital corporation in Western Pennsylvania, to keep the facility open, to expand its services in Braddock, and to replicate these services in other low-income communities throughout the UPMC service territory.
UPMC has announced its intention to close House of Hope on January 2. In 2005, UPMC “challenged its community partners to develop new ways to address health care disparities in the localities served by [UPMC Braddock].” One of those new ways was supporting the House of Hope, which led to a dramatic decrease in the percentage of low birth weight babies. In 2007, UMPC boasted that “a robust and sustainable program that brings together UPMC, local clinics, government agencies, and other organizations is in place [in Braddock] to improve the care in the community.”
Ed Grystar, Vice President of the Western Pennsylvania Coalition for Single Payer Healthcare noted, “The tragedy surrounding the cut in funding for the House of Hope amplifies the crying need for a total reordering of the nation’s health care delivery system away from the current insurance run profit first approach. Under a single payer plan embodied in [US House of Representatives bill] HR 676, citizens would receive heath care services based on their need and funding would be earmarked based upon the needs of the communities, not on the whims of profiteering health care corporations.”