URPE Newsletter F11

URPE Newsletter Fall 2011, Vol. 43, No. 1 (pdf)

In This Issue:
URPE Supports OWS: Report from New York
Announcements

On Radicals and Economists
An Insidious Threat to the Occupy Movement
2012 ASSA program
Economy Connection
The Role of URPE…
Paddy Quick: URPE Supports OWS
OWS: A Gift for the Economy
The Fires Were Already Burning
Reflecting on OWS

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URPE Supports OWS: A Report from New York

People participating in Occupy Wall Street shared their experience at the URPE “War on the Working Class” conference in Brooklyn on Saturday October 1, and a group of 9 people also attended Sunday’s Membership Meeting. URPE members applauded the activists and the discussion turned to ways in which we could cooperate in working for our shared goals. It is clear that the activists will succeed in continuing the occupation for a long time, and also that the fledgling movement will grow. Already there have been occupations in 45 states, and increasing numbers of people are openly challenging “the system.” Two of the popular chants are: “They got bailed out, we got sold out” and “We are the 99%.”

The activists are eager to discuss their own perspectives and are open to a wide range of ideas. There is a general recognition that the economic system has failed to provide for the people and that the political system does not provide for their representation. Several URPE members have already visited “Liberty Park” where informal discussions are continually taking place. The occupants come from a wide variety of backgrounds. Young people who have never held regular jobs mix with students from both public and private universities and are joined by unemployed people from “Main Street” to “Wall Street.” There is a daily “General Assembly” each evening at 7 where decisions are made by consensus with scrupulous attention to democratic procedure, including a policy for preferential under-represented in traditional discussions. (This resembles URPE’s own “affirmative action” policy for recognition based on gender and race/ethnicity/nationality, but includes preference for GLBT people.) URPE members also participated in the New York October 5th demonstration of 20,000 people which brought more than 30 trade unions, many community organizations and students walking out from several universities to march in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street. It is hard to describe the ways in which the possibility of a broad-based, unified movement in opposition to “the system” generated a welcome sense of optimism about the future, in place of the despondency which has been an all too common a response to the increasing attacks we have been experiencing for a long, long time. On a small scale, the participation of Occupy Wall Street people in Sunday’s URPE Membership meeting was a terrific experience for URPE members, and the activists were delighted to be greeted with such enthusiastic support.

The activists are committed to a long-term struggle. They know that it will be hard to continue the actual occupation in New York in its present form in the cold months of winter, and there is ongoing discussion of how to build the movement into the future. New York activists talked, at Sunday’s URPE meeting, of setting up a “free university” which would allow for more structured learning, and URPE offered to help in this. Sunday’s discussion included ways in which we could share out experiences on how to ensure transparency and accountability among our members/participants. In the meantime, please note the following:

· Occupied Wall Street Journal (a newsletter produced by Occupy Wall Street) is taking in submissions from everyone at occupymedia@gmail.com. If you could pass this info around with the people in URPE, that would be great.

· For live feed go to: http://www.livestream.com/globalrevolution

· In New York, the people working on URPE and Occupy Wall Street are: Julio Huato (juliohuato@gmail.com), Ruthie Indeck (soapbox@comcast.net), Paddy Quick ( paddyquick@aol.com), and Chris Rude (chris.rude@ciper.org).

· URPE members who are active in this movement in other parts of the country are encouraged to share their experiences on URPE listserv, which can be found at www.urpe.org.

· Please sign the Higher Education petition: Higher Education Faculty support the OCCUPY WALL STREET protest. We see the impact of the economic crisis in our classrooms and on our campuses each day. Our students are burdened with crippling student loans as they face a bleak and depressed job market and an economic recession with no end in sight, while our institutions increasingly rely on adjunct and part time faculty. We teach more and more for less and less, and our students suffer as we lose our ability to mentor because of our own lack of time and financial insecurity. The OCCUPY WALL STREET movement is a step towards a better and more just future for our past, current, and future students and for higher education faculty. We stand in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street. To read more and to sign, please visit: http://chn.ge/vx7Gqw

Report submitted: October 8, 2011

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Announcements


RRPE Editorial Board Election Results

Your votes are in! Seventy-five members voted to fill eleven positions on the RRPE Editorial Board from a slate of thirteen candidates. Those elected for the 2011-2014 term are: Brigitte Bechtold, Firat Demir, William Dugger, Don Goldstein, Jon Goldstein, Fadhel Kaboub, Tim Koechlin, Minqi Li, Andrew Mearman, Shaianne Osterriech, and Bruce Pietrykowski.

Our sincere thanks to retiring board member Richard Cornwall, who brought such breadth and depth of knowledge to the ranks of reviewers. Richard is a true philosopher.

Hazel Dayton Gunn, Managing Editor


URPE Conference: Brooklyn, NY

The War on the Working Class October 1 & 2, 2011

Thanks go out to all of the presenters, speakers, attendees, volunteers, and the staff of St. Francis College for helping to make the URPE 2011 Brooklyn conference a success.

On behalf of the URPE Steering Committee, I would like to thank everyone in attendance for being patient throughout the day as we all had to deal with the fire alarm fiasco. The conditions were not ideal; however, many people were still able to share ideas, learn something new, and make connections to individuals and groups that share their common interests and goals.

For audio and video of selected presentations, go to the URPE website, http://www.urpe.org.

In Solidarity, Frances Boyes (for the URPE Steering Committee)


URPE at ASSA Chicago 2012

URPE will be sponsoring the following events in Chicago for the annual ASSA conference.

The URPE cocktail reception will be Friday, January 6th at 6 p.m. at the Palmer House Hilton in the Wilson Room.

The URPE membership meeting is Saturday, January 7th at 4:45 p.m at the Palmer House Hilton in the Indiana Room.

For a complete schedule of URPE sessions at the 2012 ASSA, please click here.


URPE 2012 Summer Conference

August 10-13, 2012

Political Economy of the 99%: Today and Tomorrow

For more details, workshop submissions, and registration information, please visit www.urpe.org.


Update on Economy Connection, URPE’s Resource/Speakers Bureau

By Ruthie Indeck, Coordinator (201-792-7459 or soapbox@urpe.org)

Seniors Fight Back “You’re smarter than the average,” Renee Toback told an audience of seniors living at a NYC residence, as they replied with a chorus of “No!” to her question: “Is Social Security going to disappear?” They might not be camping out on Wall St., but they were certainly eager to learn about the economy and explore ways to exercise their political power. Armed with charts on productivity, inequality of income and wealth, and tax and deficit rates over time, Renee began her Sept. 7 talk with a discussion of the Social Security non-crisis, and then moved on to the deficit, inequality, taxes, creation of demand, interest rates, and the politics of attacking New Deal programs. She concluded with suggestions on how to fight back. The Social Security system is not in crisis, Renee said – it currently has a surplus. Mainstream conservative predictions of failure are based on conservative assumptions, and many predictions about what will be happening 75 years from now, or even a few years from now, are as likely to be accurate as predicting the weather. Shortfalls that may arise in the future can be fixed by such measures as lifting the cap on the level of income that is taxed. She responded to politically-motivated anguish about Social Security being financed by government IOUs – money that has already been spent – by noting that the “IOUs” are more commonly known as bonds or treasury bills, which are considered safe by lenders around the world. When the government, or anyone, borrows money, this money is generally spent or invested – that’s why it was borrowed in the first place! Moving on to deficits, Renee demonstrated that our current deficit is lower as a percentage of GDP than some earlier deficits, especially the deficit incurred during World War II. As a percentage of GDP, the US is 35th on the list of countries in deficit. It is not a cause for hysteria at this time, and austerity measures will make it worse. What we should be worrying about, Renee said, pointing to her chart, is growing inequality of income and wealth. We should raise taxes on the rich. Demand will not be created by giving more money to the rich; they can’t spend all the money they have already! The rest of us create demand through consumption, but currently most of us don’t have much money to spend. That leaves government, which could generate demand by spending money on a long list of infrastructure and social service needs. When asked why Obama’s stimulus didn’t work, Renee said that it did work to some degree, but it was too little and too short. Renee responded to the argument that government borrowing would raise interest rates, which are now so low that she couldn’t even see them because of all the 000’s before the numbers. Why, then, do politicians want to destroy New Deal programs? She suggested a few reasons: scaring people into subservience and weakening labor’s power to resist, and preserving a climate in which large companies can buy up failing smaller companies. Profits are doing well, Renee noted. In response to questions about what people can do, Renee recommended several courses of action: “Don’t fall for it!”; educate people and talk to your friends; visit and write to your political representatives; vote, and march. Renee ended by quoting a woman she met at a protest march: “I’ve been marching since the New Deal, so stop complaining and move!” Fixing the Broken Economy Renee Toback also spoke to members of Northwest Bronx for Change on September 17. The topic was: “The Budget Deficit Crisis: The Inconvenient Truths They Don’t Want to Talk About When It Comes to: Jobs, Taxes, Balancing the Budget, the Recession, and Unemployment.” A comment on the NwBx website: “Our September 17th NwBxFC General Meeting turned into an economic version of the popular Discovery Channel show as progressive educator/economist Renee Toback debunked several of the conservative myths that the media is so fond of repeating endlessly.” Members of NwBx were first introduced to Renee when she and Eric Laursen spoke at a March 2010 MoveOn.Org event on corporate political and economic power.

A Radical Political Economist’s View of OWS: Chris Rude on KPFA On October 1, Chris Rude took a break from the URPE Brooklyn Conference to be interviewed by Kris Welch of Pacifica’s KPFA Berkeley. Kris was looking for a radical political economist’s viewpoint on Occupy Wall Street. Chris began by placing the Occupation in the context of the ongoing economic crisis. He noted that the economy is in its most serious crisis since the 1930s, and that as soon as the banking crisis was stabilized (though not solved) through massive intervention by the Fed, a new crisis phase emerged: a fiscal crisis of the state – a crisis of sovereign debt. In the US, banks are profitable again, largely because of foreign investments, but are not lending domestically; the domestic economy remains frozen. The two outstanding features of the current crisis, Chris said, are persistent unemployment and a foreclosure crisis, which feed one another and keep the economy at a standstill. Bipartisan government policies of austerity have made the situation worse. Chris does not think the powers that be have any solutions to the crisis. Chris went on to enthusiastically describe Occupy Wall Street, to some extent an outgrowth of an earlier struggle over the mayor’s budget which culminated in an encampment near City Hall called Bloombergville. Chris has been particularly struck by the self-organization of OWS. And not only are other organizations, like unions, supporting OWS, but the occupiers are sending people to support other movements, such as joining teachers in a picket line. Chris finds people at Liberty Plaza to be eager for knowledge — he has spoken there a few times. Chris worked on Wall Street for a number of years and is struck by the increased security in the area, and by “how scared they are by ragtag demonstrators.” Chris is inspired by OWS and feels that their presence is having a profound political effect that overrides any lack of specific demands. During the interview Kris Welch talked about the URPE conference taking place in Brooklyn and listed some of the workshops. Chris talked about our website, and some of URPE’s regular activities. You can listen to the interview at http://www.kpfa.org/archive/id/73830.

Could Wall St. and Climate Change Be Connected? “I was listening to AM news radio reporting on the Wall St. demonstrations and the announcer seemed genuinely perplexed that there could be a connection between the ‘Wall Streetification’ of the U.S. and climate change,” Eco-Logic (WBAI) host Ken Gale said, while introducing the topic of his Oct. 4 show featuring talks by Brian Tokar and Chris Williams. “The two authors analyze the connections between economics/economic systems and climate change, energy sources and social movements.” The two talks were recorded at URPE’s 2011 Left Forum Panel “Capitalism, Climate Change and Social Conflicts.” Their use on the radio was suggested by EC. Brian began by talking about the disconnect between how climate change is discussed in the mainstream press and what’s really happening in climate science. The popular press debates whether climate change is real and if so, whether it is caused by greenhouse gasses. Brian says that among scientists, that debate was over 30 years ago; now they talk about the severity of climate change, how quickly it’s developing, and the implications for humanity. “When we look at what’s really being said by the climate scientists today, it makes an increasingly compelling case for the inherent incompatibility of capitalism with the continued thriving of life on earth, particularly human civilizations.” Brian went on to talk about the December 2009 Copenhagen conference, which many had anticipated would take further steps toward reducing greenhouse gasses. Instead, the US led a backward march from legally-binding rules to voluntary compliance and coercive backroom processes. Developing countries were asked to submit greenhouse gas reduction pledges in order to be eligible for US aid. Brian then presented scenarios of the effects of varying degrees of temperature change. Brian concluded by proposing some real solutions: a drastic reduction in energy use, and an economy that is not capitalist – one that allows us to reduce consumption while improving the quality of life.

With an augmented sense of urgency from Japan’s disaster, and inspired by Wisconsin’s spirited activism, Chris Williams painted a picture of what a better world might look like and explored how to get there. He talked about physical changes (no radiation or toxic chemicals, more jobs and infrastructure repairs, food rather than guns) as well as lifestyle changes (working less, more choices about work, less pollution, goods that would last, more decision-making power). Chris gave a scathing critique of current energy policies – “clean” coal, “safe” nuclear power, offshore drilling, hydrofracking – and noted that we can’t explain recent US wars without talking about the need to control oil. To fight these policies, we need a movement for labor, social and ecological justice based on the twin pillars of renewable energy and jobs, Chris said, quoting the Wisconsin slogan “I am the union!” Chris agreed with Brian about the need for a new economic system based on cooperation, production for need not profit, and democratic decision making about production. He wants a world where people have time for arts and culture, can eat the food and drink the water, and can live sustainably. After the two recordings, Chris gave a live update, expressing hopeful feelings about a new unity among labor, students and community members based on current OWS activities. You can listen to Brian, Chris and Younes Abouyoub at www.urpe.org/conf/lf/LFproceed11.html.

URPE Members Participate in #Occupy Wall St.

Many URPE/EC members and others from the general URPE community have signed themselves up to do teach-ins and forums at various Occupations. Economics Forums at Occupy Boston’s Free School University have featured URPE folks and some of their talks are online. See these pages:

http://dollarsandsense.org/blog/ (scroll down)

http://wiki.occupyboston.org/wiki/FSU
http://www.occupyboston.org/
https://www.facebook.com/groups/ OccupyBostonFSU

If you are in the Boston area and want to sign up for a teach-in, email Christ Sturr: mailto:sturr@dollarsandsense.org. EC has received requests for speakers in Chicago and Albuquerque. More in the next issue if these develop.

In NYC the URPE presence has been a combination of people signing up on their own, and a small group (Julio Huato, Paddy Quick, Chris Rude, Sara Burke and me) thinking about ways to involve URPE. This group has begun to schedule some open forums and teach-ins, and to look for ways to make URPE resources accessible to OWS. For past and future NYC events, at Liberty Plaza and Washington Square Park, you can look through these two calendars: http://www.occupywallst.org/

http://www.nycga.net/events/

NYC archived Listserv post on getting involved:

http://greenhouse.economics.utah.edu/pipermail/urpe-announcements/attachments/20111024/9d522c5f/attachment.txt

URPE steering committee member Jenny Brown and other reporters at Labor Notes have been covering OWS, particularly its connection to labor. It would be great to hear from participants in other parts of the country! See Sara Burke’s article in this newsletter for an in-depth discussion of OWS.

Resource Questions:

Who Creates Jobs? A woman working with a Queens community organization loosely affiliated with MoveOn.Org contacted EC with a general request for more fact sheets and short, clear informational pieces for use by activists. She also had a specific request: a fact sheet on whether rich people create jobs. This would be used to combat the current bombardment of mainstream arguments that rich people and their companies won’t create jobs without an assurance that their taxes will be low. A number of people responded to my listserv request for input, and several of us have been collecting information on job creation. The original question has given rise to a number of others: has anybody been creating jobs, either during the recession or during the past few decades; which sectors create more jobs and what is the net job creation; how do technological advancements and increases in productivity affect job creation; how much do taxes really affect investment decisions; how does the “race to the bottom” affect which countries attract investment. (Warren Buffet confirmed what we already knew – that profit is the determining factor in investment decisions – but tax breaks are one part of a package that lures companies to other countries.). This project is in progress.

Economics Resources for Children

A teacher from Bank Street School wanted economics resources for teaching children in elementary and middle school, and suggestions on integrating progressive economic concepts into classes on various commonly-taught subjects. This inspired an update of Economy Connection’s “High School” page. The page contains links to websites, reading lists and publications that can be used for students in grades 1-12, and some of these resources can also be used for popular education purposes. A few weeks later a man working on children’s curricula for Occupy Wall St. was looking for additional resources, and we exchanged links. Please send additions to this page to soapbox@urpe.org. HS page: http://www.urpe.org/ec/high_school.htm

Resources from the URPE Brooklyn Conference We are collecting supporting materials from panels that took place at the October 1 URPE Conference in Brooklyn, “The War on the Working Class.” This page is in progress. If you participated and have papers (pdf format please), web links, recordings, etc., please send them to soapbox@urpe.org.

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Editor’s note

This issue of the URPE newsletter is dedicated to information and analysis about the Occupy Movement. The pieces printed are what were submitted as of November 1st. Recognizing that this is a rapidly changing movement with new events happening daily, what is printed on the pages of this issue can only reflect the thought and involvement of URPE members to a certain point. URPE, as an organization, is a “big tent” with many perspectives encouraged and shared. Nothing printed reflects any official position of URPE, as that would be impossible to establish. The purpose of this issue is to capture the activities of URPE and its diverse membership in this exciting time. Please feel free to respond to the pieces in this issue, as well as submit your own contributions related to the Occupy Movement for print in our next issue. All submissions should be emailed to franceskboyes@gmail.com by April 7, 2012.

My hope is that everyone reading this newsletter is as encouraged and inspired as the contributors (including myself) are.

Hasta la victoria siempre!

Frances Boyes, newsletter editor