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Video: Two Perspectives on Our Economic Crisis

Video from two recent April rallies in downtown Portland, both motivated by our current economic crisis. Interesting to compare and contrast the different assessments of the problems and their solutions.

Break Up the Banks

The first video is from the local April 11, 2009 A New Way Forward Rally at Pioneer Square in downtown Portland and subsequent march to three Portland banks, issuing them a citizen notice of termination.

Break Up the Banks

At Pioneer Square the event was moderated by Laurie King of Portland Jobs with Justice, who states in broad terms the problem with past and current government bailouts of the banking industry. "That money should be going to health care, education, child care, jobs for now and in the future, .............not to zombie banks, zombie bankers and zombie shareholders.

She then introduces Barbara Dudley, adjunct professor at Portland State University, the first of three speakers, who declares, "if they're too big to fail, they're too big to exist. What we need to know is that any time they are demanding taxpayer money to keep Wall Street afloat we have a problem."
She spoke about a Populist movement 100 years ago whose first focus was the banks. "One of the things they demanded was that they be broken up because they were essentially monopolizing the money of this country. We can't allow this to happen again. We need to nationalize these banks, and not nationalize and give them back to Wall Street, but keep them under our control or keep them so small that they will never again need to be bailed out by the taxpayer."
"We need to bring our money home. It is very, very important that we begin to understand that investment is about economic development, it is not about gambling....We need to decentralize our money......and the banks, and make our State government put it's money in the state, to put people back to work, and we need to put our personal money in this state."

Barbara then introduces Jarat Gardener, working with a a local campaign called Fire Your Banks, which urges people to fire their national, multinational, corporate banks. "We have some tremendous banks and credit unions in town that are serving our community, and that's what we are asking people to do."

Jarat introduces Mike, of the Rural Organizing Project,who says that "we need to take things over.........we have to get serious, we have to look deep down inside and see if we have the fortitude to move forward and take control of these institutions before they take control of us entirely."
He speaks about some of the work his organizations is doing in the rural communities of Oregon, called Human Dignity Groups, who seek to address the problems and form alliances which could find innovative solutions.
"When people create revolutions they create alternative structures of government and we have to think about that." After a few more words from Laurie, the gathering moves off down the street to Bank of America, the first of the three banks being given their Notice of Termination by the people. Chris Ferlazo first emphasizes the fact that this bank received 25 billion dollars in tax payer bailout, adding "now that we have contributed our part, don't you think that it is time that we owned this bank."
Jarat then read the Notice of Termination. We are firing this bank for "violent disregard of public welfare, gross mismanagement of all taxpayer funds, devastating violation of public trust, willful and criminal undermining of the values assets world wide, and a personal grievance, outrageous compensation for these criminals."
He then encourages folks to move their money to Community Banks and Credit Unions, using their money towards more productive use.
Chris then speaks about Bank of America organizing against the Employee Free Choice Act, the right of workers to organize. "They are taking our tax dollars and trying to stop our right to organize unions.

The march next stopped at Key Bank, who, besides receiving 2.5 billion in bail out money, are currently funding Oak Harbor Shipping and Delivery out of Seattle Washington, who is attempting to break their Teamsters union. Members of the Portland Teamsters Local 81 have recently returned after being on strike there for 154 days.
A member of local Jobs with Justice took the megaphone and stated that, "they've brought in strikebreakers from all over the country to bust this union that has been there for over 50 years."
"This is 1000 family wage jobs before this contract battle happened. They've been without a contract for two years, they are trying their best to bargain a new one, but Oak Harbor is able to hold out because they're being funded by Key Bank. Our bail out money is being used to fund these strike breakers and to break this Union......We don't want our taxpayer money to go to break Unions and take away people's right to a decent life."BR>
The final stop was at Wells Fargo, also loudly fired by the crowd. This bank received 25 billion taxpayer dollars in bailout money. Taking the megaphone, Chris Ferlazo declares that, "it's time to nationalize this bank, it's time to fire this bank and break it up."
As with the other two banks, there were other Northwest grievances. "Wells Fargo is an investor with the Geo Group which runs the Tacoma Immigration Detention Center up in Tacoma Washington. This is a privately run prison, technically a holding center for folks who have no rights, folks that were arrested at the Del Monte factory in Portland, taken up to Tacoma where they were tricked into signing voluntary deportation. Wells Fargo invests heavily in the Geo Group which runs that."
Reading from the Notice of Termination, Chris says, "it has come to my attention that this bank participates in corrupt financial practices that have damaged working people everywhere. I can no longer support this shameless behavior with my patronage, therefore...........you are hereby given notice that your employment as my bank is terminated. You are not too big to fail; you have failed."
"I am moving my money to local institution that better reflects my values, one that is accountable to me and my Community.

The video of the event finishes with a brief interview with Barbara Dudley, who besides urging folks to move their money from the big banks to smaller, more socially responsible institutions, is also trying to get the State of Oregon to move it's money into more productive places. These many billions of dollars are now "in the same private equity and global investments that brought us into this problem.A HREF="http://www.banknd.nd.gov/bndhome.jsp">North Dakota, a good example of what we could do if we decide to take over our own Economy."
Barbara believes that presently "the level of anger and understanding on the part of many people in this country is more heightened than I've ever since it since maybe the Vietnam War days. I wish people were out in the streets more.........their consciousness has been raised dramatically by the debacle that we see on Wall Street, and the greed. "

Portland Tax Day Tea Party

The second video is from the April 15th Portland Tax Day Tea Party which was held Pioneer Square. The Square itself, the steps leading up to the upper level, as well as all the surrounding areas looking down and across to the main square was filled with people, many of which carried signs. Throughout the afternoon there were several spontaneous chants of "USA, USA," "We the People" and "We have just begun," as well as several more such chants initiated by a host of speakers.

Portland Tax Day Tea Party

Most signs and all the speakers blamed the government, mainly the present administration, for a whole range of problems, including taxes, bail outs, the compromise of liberty, and "the wholesale intrusion of the public sector into the private sector, our businesses, our property, our families. "
A dominant theme throughout the rally was that the problems we face "are not a left and right thing, but an up and down thing, an us versus them thing." There was a consistent and persistent effort to include and play to the left, though the left had no obvious part in the planning or execution of the event.
When thank yous were handed out at the end no Progressive group was included, though many thanks were offered to the Republican and Libertarian parties, Glenn Beck's 912 Project, and Americans for Prosperity, among others.

An opening speaker brought the crowd together, defining their values and priorities. "Our state and nation were founded on time honored principles; we believe in living within our means, living according to the Ten Commandments.....and yet today our state and national leaders have gone astray. Today our leaders seek to solve a credit and debt crisis with unprecedented levels of borrowing and spending."
"Today our state and national leaders act like we are working for them instead of them working for us. In 1773 the Sons of Liberty sent a message to the King of England when they tossed a boatload of British tea into the cold, black waters of Boston harbor."
Today we gather in cities and ports across our nation to honor those patriots and send our message to elitist officers in Salem and in Washington: 'we have had enough.'"

Speaker after speaker fanned the crowd into a nationalistic frenzy of chants about liberty, revolution, religious and family values. All the Conservative hot button phrases and values were utilized to impress upon them the need to organize against what they allege is wholesale government intrusion into their lives. Obama wasn't specifically mentioned though many signs depicted him as a dangerous socialist; another claimed that we have "One Big Ass Mistake America (OBAMA)." The event patriotically began with a spirited speaking of the Declaration of Independence and ended with our Pledge of Allegiance.

Both these events were as interesting for what they left out as for what they discussed. The former Rally and March didn't address government collusion in the banking collapse and the later didn't mention either the past Republican contribution to current crisis or the overall culpability of our Capitalist economic system.

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