DC Mic Check Volume 2 Issue 2

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D.C. Mic Check We the 99% Washington, D.C. LIFE IN THESE OCCUPIED WASHINGTON TIMES March/April 2012 D.C. college students demand education reform Local universities join national day of action By Amal Mimish Last month, around two hundred student activists from colleges and universities around the Washington D.C. area descended on Sallie Mae and the Department of Education. On March 1, they voiced their concerns about exploding student debt, rising tuition costs, and the lack of direct stakeho
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  Even before the raids that ended the encampments atFreedom Plaza and McPherson Square, Occupy DC’s faith- based community had begun to shift its focus.“After a time, we felt the physical encampment had lostits effectiveness towards the ends of the Occupy movement[such as] ending inequality, corporate power in govern-ment, and for us, as Christians, calling out a society that worships money and economies in place of God,” said Jer-emy John of Occupy Church.The Christian activist group started out of a prayer tentin McPherson Square, where they offered tea and conver-sation to passersby and held a weekly service on Saturday night, giving occupiers a space for worship and discussion. Yet as the occupation continued, the prayer space lostpopularity and the small group lost faith in the encamp-ment as a means to an end. By the end of December, Occu-py Church had left McPherson Square to pursue new goals. Another group, Occupy Faith DC, developed out of thegroundwork laid by Occupy Church and Occupy Judaism.Unlike its predecessors, who focused on the political work of the movement, Occupy Faith DC’s mission was to sup-port the material and spiritual needs of the physical en-campments by networking with local faith communities.In the aftermath of the raids on McPherson Square andFreedom Plaza, Occupy Faith DC played a significant rolein helping feed and house dislocated occupiers at affiliatedchurches. But with the encampments gone, Occupy FaithDC faced a fundamental question of self-definition.Last month, around two hundred student activists fromcolleges and universities around the Washington D.C. areadescended on Sallie Mae and the Department of Educa-tion. On March 1, they voiced their concerns about ex-ploding student debt, rising tuition costs, and the lack of direct stakeholder input in the education reform process.Responding to a call to action from Occupy Education, thestudents brought banners, posters, and chants to demandreal change through a Students’ Declaration of Grievances. As similar actions were occurring throughout the coun-try, the students in Washington D.C. were met by a heavy Homeland Security presence at the Department of Educa-tion, which kept the protest confined to the sidewalk. A representative of the Secretary of Education, Tim Tu-tan, claimed to have carefully listened to everyone in thegroup who wished to express their concerns. Tutan wasgiven a copy of the students’ grievances and the books  Pedagogy of the Oppressed  by Paulo Freire and  A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn to present tothe Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan.Braving torrential rain, police violence, and a sea of redpaint used for street theater, around 60 Occupy DC oc-cupiers and their allies blockaded Monsanto’s downtown Washington, D.C. office for almost two hours. The protest was a part of a nationwide “Shut Down the Corporations”campaign in solidarity with Occupy Portland on the morn-ing of February 29.Occupy protesters aroundthe country targeted vari-ous member corporationsof the American LegislativeExchange Council (ALEC), which represents over 300corporations. The protest-ers were bringing atten-tion to the policy lobbyinggroup’s ghostwriting of leg-islation.The protesters specifical-ly targeted the agricultural biotechnology company Monsanto. “Money, for [Monsanto], comes before publicsafety and there has to be a line drawn,” said Mike Basillasfrom Occupy DC, explaining the choice to target Monsanto.There was no shortage of targets. ALEC members in-clude AT&T, Bank of America, Kraft Foods, McDonald’s,and Walmart. ALEC also counts among its stakeholders 85members of Congress (of both major political parties), 14current or former governors, and over 2,000 members of state legislatures. These individuals often take legislation written by ALEC and present them directly in their legis-lature.“[ALEC’s proposed legislation]is passed to protect corporate in-terest, usually at the expense of the working classes,” said Tim“Gonzo” Anderson of the Anar-chist Alliance, one of the groupsthat planned the action along with D.C.’s Freedom Plaza andMcPherson Square occupations.“ALEC is a true threat to democ-racy and a true threat to the fu-ture of the planet.” A set of ALEC-authored voterID laws has been particularly controversial recently. Votingrights groups say the laws could disenfranchise up to fivemillion voters in the United States. They also drafted Wis-consin’s law abridging public union organizing and theFlorida “Stand Your Ground” deadly force law, which drew national attention with the killing of Trayvon Martin. Continued on page 5Revs. Karen Brau and Suzanna Blume of LutherPlace celebrate Ash Wednesday. (Coulter Loeb)Continued on page 4 MONSANTO QUICK FACTS Headquarters: Creve Coeur, MO Founded: 1901 Consumer product: Roundup weed killer Sales (2010): $10.5 billion Net profts (2010): $1.5 billion Lobbying spending (2011): $6.4 million Watchdog group: monsantowatch.org Sales source: SEC Lobbying source: OpenSecrets.org  Occupy Faith reaches out to greater D.C. with a message of social justice ByMatthew Santoro D.C. collegestudents demandeducation reform Local universities joinnational day of action ByAmalMimish Occupy DC targets corporations,lobbyists in nationwide action ByMichael GoldmanContinued on page 3 LIFE IN THESE OCCUPIED WASHINGTON TIMES  We the 99% D.C. Mic Check   Washington, D.C.March/April 2012 Kelly Canavan demonstrates against anti-protesting laws at an Occupy DC march. Story, page 5.(Coulter Loeb)  2 On Saturday April 14, Occupy DC’s Corporate Person-hood Solutions working group will be hosting a large, day-long conference to tackle the issue of money in politics andits influence on national and local elected officials. Theconference was conceived of as a way to bring citizens, of-ficials, academics, and activists from across the politicalspectrum together to find common ground on the issue of campaign finance.The conference, entitled “Money Out of Politics Confer-ence: How Cross-Partisan Citizen Movements Can ReformOur Democracy in 2012 and Beyond,” will be held at AllSouls Unitarian Church at 1500 Harvard Street NW.The event is slated to feature approximately eight speak-ers and dozens of attendees from a wide variety of back-grounds and political viewpoints including academics,grassroots activists, and concerned community members.Speakers include Harvard Professor and author LawrenceLessig and former Republican presidential candidate andcampaign finance advocate Buddy Roemer.Members of the working group believe that it is pos-sible to find significant common ground between citizensfrom the left and the right on these issues. The organizersare putting no limits on what solutions the speakers canpropose. “The point of this conference is to have an openexchange of ideas on how we can decrease the influenceof money in politics,” said Gene Hummel from the work-ing group. “We want an open platform to exchange a broadrange of innovative ideas.”The Supreme Court’s controversial 2010 Citizens Uniteddecision struck down congressional limitations on politicalcontributions on behalf of, but not directly to, a candidate.The resulting rise of influential SuperPACs, often funded by billionaires or corporations, has caused significant con-cern within the Republican ranks.“Americans across the political spectrum are unhappy  with Citizens United. If we wish to move forward, we mustcross the aisle and build alliances across political lines,”said Devora Liss of the working group. “[We hope] to startto develop an understanding of how these different groupscan agree.”Committee members hope the conference will serve asa forum to learn about, discuss, and plan people-poweredsolutions to eliminate what they call the “corrosive influ-ence of large corporate and personal contributions in poli-tics.”“Political representatives should be responsive to thecitizenry,” concluded Liss, “Citizens United allows such aninflux of money that citizen’s voices are drowned out. Or,rather, monied out.” The event is Saturday, April 14 from 9:15-4:15. Registration is free but required. Sign-ups canbe completed at moneyout.eventbrite.com. For the first three issues, this paper was given excellentservice by a sympathetic independent New York printshop,Linco Printing. However, as D.C. issues grew larger and lo-cal groups gained interest, it was time for a local connec-tion. The newspaper team quickly realized that it’s almostimpossible for a shoe-string publication like this to print both on newsprint and in a union shop.The newspaper committee found that there were almostno union printshops in D.C., and those that could be founddid not have the equipment needed for a tabloid or broad-sheet - they focused on leaflets, brochures, flyers, and othersmall press. Eventually, the  D.C. Mic Check was put in con-tact with Doyle Printing and Offset in Hyattsville, Mary-land, thanks to friends at the Metro Washington LaborCouncil. But one thing couldn’t be carried over – the paper.Newsprint was not an option.In general, North American newsprint manufacturersare largely unionized, but few union printers are able toprocess newsprint paper for publication. This is becausenewsprint requires “web presses” which need to be fed pa-per from enormous rolls, not individual sheets. The mini-mum wholesale order for these rolls is 40,000 pounds of paper – a “truckload” in the industry jargon – and smallerunion shops don’t have the equipment, the demand, or thefinancial resources to produce these large orders. As a re-sult, newsprint jobs tend to be dominated by large printingfirms that profit from volume.Instead of roll-fed web presses, small shops use sheet-fed presses that use pre-cut sheets of a certain size, likethose this paper is now printed on. Though small shopscan broker a large newsprint job out to one of the nation’slarge union printers, shipping and large minimum printruns drive up the price and make it inaccessible to smallpublications. This kind of arrangement is common aroundD.C., since most union business comes from the capitaleven though the big printers have moved out. A manager at a Maryland paper distributor explainedthe hurdles facing union print shops in D.C. Mainly, hesaid, costs have simply been going up as Washington hasdeveloped over the last 40 years. Wages are higher, leasesare more expensive, and the tax breaks and other consid-erations that were once available for light industry likeprinting have largely been shifted to service and housingindustries. As a result, it doesn’t make business sense tolocate in the District as it becomes increasingly dense andurban. “They are very sensitive to be close to their clients,and Baltimore is not a union town,” said the manager. And that’s why the  D.C. Mic Check went glossy: to gounion. www.dcmiccheck.org Editors ~ Jill Blazek Natalie CamouBenjamin DanielsMichael GoldmanJoe Gray Devora LissCoulter LoebKarina StenquistJason Woltjen Contact ~ editor@dcmiccheck.orgsubmissions@occupydc.org Printing ~ Doyle Printing & Offset5206 46th AvenueHyattsville, MD3000 copies Credits ~ Special thanks to the Metro WashingtonLabor Council, the Washington-BaltimoreNewspaper Guild (CWA Local 32035), andthe Communication Workers of America forsupporting this publication.Back page photo: Kenneth Randazzo Mission ~ The D.C. Mic Check was commissioned by the General Assembly of Occupy DC atMcPherson Square. Free from corporateadvertisers, this paper is dedicated tocovering all aspects of the movement forsocial and economic justice in the D.C. area.Our goal is to show readers that there is realhope for change in D.C. by highlighting whatis being done, and showing them how they  can join the ght. Check Mic D.C.   Volume 2, Issue 2 The politics of paper  Why isn’t this paper on newsprint anymore? ByBenjamin Daniels Conference organized to form allianceson campaign finance ByMatt Patterson by Mike Flugennock  Donate online at dcmiccheck.org  3  After students requested a timeline for when their de-mands would be met, Tutan promised to meet with theSecretary of Education personally and to provide an of-ficial response by March 9. The date passed, no response was received, and American University (AU) students wereunable to contact Tutan. Student groups continue to reachout to the department for a response.One common concern voiced by the students was thehigh cost of college. “I come from a poor family … a lot of  young people go to the military just so they can go to col-lege,” said Michael Patterson, who recently returned fromserving in Iraq. “How many of our soldiers have died tryingto go to college?”“I am fortunate enough to have parents who can afford topay for an education that will open up a world of opportu-nities for me,” said Ashley Weston, a student at AmericanUniversity. “A good education should not be out of reachfor anyone. Education is a right, not a privilege, and I stand by that statement.”One protester, a student at The George Washington Uni- versity, said that she was $66,000 in debt and “was noteven done yet.”Some university students involved have already begun totake a proactive approach to solving the problem of nar-row educational choices. An alternative education workinggroup, formed by Occupy AU, hopes to design free one-day  weekend courses on subjects that are not covered in theuniversity’s curriculum. Occupy AU hopes to open theseevents to all members of the Washington D.C. community to ensure there are no boundaries between universities andthe communities that surround them.  Follow & contact the DC student Occupy movement on Twitter as @AUOccupy @OccupyUMD Since Occupy DC was evicted from McPherson Square,I’ve been sleeping in a college house known as Porterhaus -a short walk away from American University.I was eager to see how American University General As-sembly (AU-GA) functioned since some of my roommatesare involved. After months spent standing in the metro-politan assemblies of Cincinnati and D.C., I found myself sitting in a neatly arranged circle of about 25 students in AU’s School of International Service. I watched, listenedand, in the end, was impressed by nearly every aspect of the AU-GA. While there is certainly room for improvement, the AU-GA runs like a well-oiled machine compared to the openpublic general assemblies. In only an hour and twenty min-utes, they tackled issues so complex that it would take a‘regular’ GA of equal size hours, if not days, to chew throughthem. Standards of interpersonal respect were palpably stronger and the group adhered closely to stack - a process which organizes the input of participants.I began to analyze why the student body is well-suited tothis form of organization and came up with the followingtheory.The internet is an information mill: it requires from ev-eryone the same basic sets of rules and etiquette to effec-tively interface. Current university students are the first tohave lifelong immersion in internet patterns of behavior.None in this generation remember a time before their in-ternet browser. In the era of podcast lectures and onlinetextbooks, classrooms have never been this technologically integrated. The internet, a machine of complex social in-teractions, allows this generation of students to consumeand utilize higher densities of information than ever before.Interfacing with a system based simply on 1’s and 0’s re-quires adherence to a standard set of procedures across the board. Juggling multiple email accounts, blogs, vlogs, andtweets has become part of the everyday experience. Life-long exposure to these systems builds a strong base upon which students are able to interact and share information.Higher densities of information flowing through thissocial system allows greater potential for connectivity among ideas. This structure enables student discussionsto resonate across more wavelengths. When combined with the standardized rules of a general assembly, just as when combined with the standardized rules of the internet,discussion results in more cooperation among individuals.The machine that is the AU-GA is measurably more com-plex and capable than the metropolitan assemblies I hadstood in on for the past few months.This generation’s technological capacity is only a reflec-tion of how our society is evolving into a digital world. Theinternet is the only medium across which GA as we know itcan be fully explored. There are other student assemblies just as capable as AU’s; they make up the pieces of machin-ery necessary to form a digital national student body farmore powerful than the sum of its parts.Expanding to an online national assembly which reaches beyond students to the community would integrate thosepreviously disenfranchised into the policy process. Wemust take the first step towards a more democratic system by building the infrastructure for an online national stu-dent GA.Students are the stewards of our future democracy; wemust embrace our responsibility to this nation. We mustdefend our rights and see out our visions; we must let thosepowerful few know that we are here to stay. Across the na-tion thousands have been evicted from encampments; wethe people are running out of time to define ‘freedom’ forourselves before those in power define it for us. Occupy Educationtakes root in D.C. Continued from page1 Students’ Declaration of Grievances andDemands to the Department of Education 1) Democratize education by giving students,parents and teachers the primary role in theeducation reform process and implementbudget transparency.2) All persons must have equal access tohigh-quality education.3) De-privatize the student loan industry. 4) Remove corporate inuence from educa -tion to allow for multi-perspective under-standing of existing social, economic andpolitical paradigms.5) States must improve funding for educa-tion to eliminate the lack of opportunityamongst impoverished and marginalizedcommunities. Students march on Sallie Mae and theDepartment of Education. (Coulter Loeb)Top: Students use “book block” shields during the march to the Department of Education.Bottom: Occupy American University mic checks Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer. (Coulter Loeb) The gears of democracy are turning Closing the gap between the people and the power ByCoulter Loeb Occupy on Campus  4 The colonists who founded this country fought a revolu-tionary war against taxation without representation. Morethan 200 years later, one of the most absurd American iro-nies is that the people of our capital city pay federal taxes but get no vote in Congress, and are, essentially, colonized.“We have been conditioned to look at ourselves as slavesand to accept it,” saidD.C. activist Jose-phine Butler in 1994.“We have to be will-ing to show Congressthat as much as they may try to shackle us, we still know how to break loose.”Butler spoke those words just 20 yearsafter D.C. was grant-ed the right to votefor its own mayor andcity council, and 33 years after D.C. residents were permitted to vote for presi-dent. Between 1874 and 1975, U.S. presidents appointedabout 100 different commissioners to run our largely black city. All but one was white and all but one was male.Today D.C. has one non-voting delegate in Congress – El-eanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) – and it is the only city thathas to pass its new laws and budgets through congressio-nal review. Such review is the duty of the House OversightCommittee – the “overseers,” as one student called themin a recent teach-in. That committee is chaired by DarrellIssa (R-Calif.), a Republican who represents a district onthe other side of the continent. He is also the wealthiestmember of Congress, worth hundreds of millions of dollars.Issa, who received 94% of his campaign contributions fromoutside of his district, successfully called for the NationalPark Service to forcefully evict the two Occupy DC encamp-ments.In the context of America’s purported dedication tospreading democracy around the world, it is a telling in-congruity that we are the only so-called democracy in the world whose capital is unrepresented in its national leg-islature. This longstanding injustice and the national lack of awareness inspired several members of Occupy DC toembark on a hunger strike, demanding that Congress grantD.C. full representation and autonomy.The five members of Occupy the Vote DC took only waterfor different periods of time, ranging from eight to 25 days.They were joined by solidarity strikers for 24 to 48 hoursat a time, including Congressmen Keith Ellison (D-Minn.),longtime civil rights activist Dick Gregory, and many oth-ers. This lasted for 51 consecutive days, to symbolize the51st state that D.C. should be.“As long-time devotees of the Occupy movement we feelthat the game is rigged against the 99% of Americans andpeople across the world – the silencing and overpoweringof our voices by the 1% is a form of disenfranchisement,”said a hunger striker. “But we also feel that to exclude100% of Washingtonians from being represented in gov-ernment, especially while taxing us, is to commit a directact of disenfranchisement and colonization.”Despite this, there are those who remain content to deny the 617,000 residents of Washington, D.C. the same demo-cratic rights they cherish for themselves.The most common argument against the liberation of D.C.is Article 1, Section 8, Clause 17 of the Constitution, whichgives Congress the power “to exercise exclusive legislationin all Cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceedingten Miles square) as may, by Cession of particularStates, and the acceptanceof Congress, become theSeat of the Government of the United States.”However, constitutionalscholars have noted thatthe “Seat of the Govern-ment” need only refer to theNational Mall and the partsof Capitol Hill where thefederal government build-ings are located. Since theonly requirement is that it be smaller than ten-by-tenmiles, what is considered the seat of government could beshrunken down to solely encompass the federal govern-ment’s land, thereby withdrawing the blanket of disenfran-chising oversight from the rest of the city.Contrary to popular belief, the vast majority of people inD.C. do not work for the federal government – nor are they even represented in it.  Sam Jewler can be reached on Twitter as@luddofthefuture and as part of @occupythevotedc. President Obama recently called for a reduction of thecorporate tax rate, frequently cited as one of the highestrates in the industrialized world. But focusing on one num-  ber oversimplies the issue. There’s more than one way to look at corporate taxation.The oft-mentioned 35% rate is the statutory rate – think of that as the “in theory” tax rate. And yes, among the Or-ganization for Economic Cooperation and Development(OECD) nations, the 35% rate of the U.S. is currently thehighest. But the statutory rate doesn’t tell us what propor- tion of total prots a corporation actually pays in taxes. The effective corporate tax rate is the “in practice” rate.The statutory and effective rates are different becausecorporations have many ways to keep some of their in-come from counting as “taxable” income, or the total thatthe 35% rate applies to. Some corporations keep income overseas, and others nd loopholes with bizarre industry  nicknames like the “Double Irish” or the “Dutch Sandwich.” A 2008 report from the U.S. Government Accountability  Ofce (GAO) measured the U.S. effective corporate tax rate at an average of 25.2% in 2004, almost ten points lowerthan the statutory rate. The 2008 GAO report found thatover a third of corporate taxpayers paid effective rates of 10% or less, while only a quarter had rates over 50%.The World Bank’s 2009 Doing Business report on taxescompares the effective rate to some other G8 and BRIC na-tions and the U.S. comes in lower than several, includingItaly, Brazil and China. Even this gure doesn’t tell the whole story, because it’s still an average. There’s a lot of variation in the effectivetax rates among U.S. corporations. A report by Citizensfor Tax Justice broke down the “in practice” rate by indus-try. At the high end were corporations working in retailand wholesale (27.7%), household and personal products(24.2%), and food, beverage, and tobacco (23.8%). At thelow end were industrial and farm equipment (6.2%), trans-portation (4.3%), and aerospace and defense (1.6%).In 2010, U.S. corporations contributed 10.9% to theoverall U.S. tax receipts, placing it sixth among the 34OECD countries. Just one year earlier however, corporatetaxes were 6.9% of total revenues, pushing the U.S. evenfurther down the list.If we look at U.S. corporate taxes as a percentage of thecountry’s total GDP, we fall somewhere in the middle of the OECD countries. In 2010, corporate taxes made up2.7% of U.S. GDP - compared to Norway (9.7%) at the topand Germany (1.4%) and Estonia (1.2%) at the bottom.But again, focusing on one year can be deceptive. In2009, only 1.7% of GDP came from corporate taxes. The  White House budget gures are even lower: 1.3% in 2010 and 1.0% in 2009.So let’s get some historical perspective, starting with the“in theory” rate of 35%. This rate has been steadily fallingsince the ‘60s, when the top corporate rate was at 52.8%.The effective corporate tax rate has also fallen over time.Data from the Economic Report of the President shows it was around 20% in 2009 and 25% in 2010. This is downfrom a high of around 45% in the mid-’70s.Corporate taxes are also contributing less to overall taxreceipts. White House budget data shows that corporatetaxes used to be as much as 40% of total tax revenue back  in the ‘40s. Ofce of Management and Budget (OMB) data show that payroll taxes seem to have lled that gap.  As far as corporate tax as a percent-age of GDP, there’s been a lot of varia-tion, but it’s been a downward trendsince a high of over 7% of GDP in the‘40s.Even beyond what has been out-lined above, there are other measures(like marginal effective corporate taxrate) that add layers to this issue. Thefocus on the 35% statutory rate and itscomparison to other nations, withouttaking into account other measures ora historical perspective, is a choice tosee the issue through only one of many lenses. Payroll taxes have grown to ll the gap (source: OMB) Federal tax revenue per capitaD.C. residents pay the highest per capita taxes in the nation by a wide margin. (Source: IRS)Share of federal tax revenue “After the raids, the changes in terms of Occupy [DC]have become more apparent. Before the raids, a lot of peo-ple had focused [on] the encampments,” explained JamesLee, a founding member of Occupy Faith DC. “Since thattime, it’s become clear that there’s been a shift to more ac-tion, more organizing, more outreach into the communi-ties.” The movements are working to keep Occupy’s mes-sage alive in local communities of faith.Occupy Church maintains solidarity with members of Occupy DC, but now focuses its energies on reviving social justice practices within Christian communities. Their toppriorities include foreclosure resistance, stockholder activ-ism, and supporting the Move Your Money project.Meanwhile, Occupy Faith DC is developing its own ini-tiatives. They plan to host an economic inequality and so-cial justice event the weekend of May 19 that will involveat least 14 houses of worship around the greater D.C. area.In addition to building faith-based support for Occupy’score issues, Lee expressed concern over what he called an“exploitive” approach to austerity measures and cutbacks.Social welfare responsibilities are being shifted into thehands of faith-based communities that don’t have the re-sources to handle the overload, he said.“We can’t do it alone; we shouldn’t be expected to do italone,” Lee contends. “We’re going to hold them account-able so they cannot shirk the responsibility of attending tothe general welfare of our society.” Occupy Faith Occupy DC Christians carry an idol of WallStreet’s “Charging Bull” (Coulter Loeb)Continued from page1 Taxation without representation:The colony in Congress’ backyard BySam Jewler  What’s in a number? Statutory rates hide the truth about corporate taxes ByKarina Stenquist
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