by Paul Street
Big city mayors, most of them Democrats, colluded with federal Homeland Security officials to devise a uniform pretext to clean out Occupy Wall Street sites: they were a “threat to public health and safety.” But poverty is the real source of the urban health and safety crisis. “A record-setting 1 in 15 Americans now lives in what poverty researchers have recently resorted to calling ‘deep poverty’ – at less than half the federal government’s notoriously miserly and inadequate poverty measure.” The Occupy sites are targeted because “city officials and police are beholden to overlapping metropolitan financial, corporate, and real estate elites, that is, to members, allies, and servants of the upper 1 percent.”
Urban Neoliberal Racism, Mass Poverty, and the Repression of Occupy Wall Street
by Paul Street
This article was previously published in Znet.
“In thirty-five of America’s largest cities, official jobless rates for blacks were between 30 and 35 percent- levels equal to the worst days of the Great Depression.”
Consistent with recommendations they received from experts in domestic population control at the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security, big city mayors and police chiefs across the United States have uniformly cited concerns for “public health” and “public safety” in justifying their armed force assaults on and evictions of the Occupy Movement in mid and late November of 2011. i This shared and coordinated pretext for urban repression reeks of bad faith and rich irony. The assaults themselves have been monuments to public un-safety, amounting in many cases to militarized state-terrorist raids on peaceful and democratic free speech and public space.ii The Occupy Movements have been clean, peaceful (nonviolent), safe and healthy, reflecting their determination to prefigure a positive, people-friendly and cooperative future (beyond the rule of the rich and powerful, what the movement has famously labeled “the 1 percent”) and their knowledge that city officials have wanted reasons to close them down. To be sure, given the ubiquity of homelessness and extreme misery among a significant and rising share of the nation’s urban population and the refusal of many idealistic young Occupiers to simply shun the long-demonized urban “underclass,”iii it was inevitable that the camps would attract a certain number of city residents plagued by addiction, criminal records, mental instability, chronic joblessness, and the like. Still, the Occupy Movement has dealt well and sensitively with the problems of these forgotten and oppressed people, problems that Occupiers hardly created and which Occupiers seek to alleviate and would like to end through positive government action.
“The big city fat cats do not appreciate high profile symbols of how much their system has failed the American people.”
Beneath the officially stated reasons for the often vicious and over-the-top, military-style municipal assaults on and break ups of Occupy’s camps lay a cold reality: city officials and police are beholden to overlapping metropolitan financial, corporate, and real estate elites, that is, to members, allies, and servants of the upper 1 percent that Occupy has with no small reason identified as the primary threat to public health, safety and democracy in the U.S. and the world. The masters and their metropolitan servants do not like to see enduring visible and attention-grabbing symbols of popular opposition to the nation’s “unelected dictatorship of money” (Edward S. Herman and David Petersoniv), whose rule and austerity agenda (imposing increased poverty and insecurity on the Many while profits soar and wealth and power is further concentrated upward in the Few) is widely resented by ordinary U.S. citizens even if only a tiny share of the American populace is willing or able to camp out in cold and grimy city parks. The big city fat cats do not appreciate high profile symbols of how much their system has failed the American people (modern day “Obamavilles” that hark back to the ignominious “Hoovervilles” of the early Great Depression) or vibrant gatherings of energized people who seem to threaten to develop a life and culture beyond the wage- and salary- (and debt- and time-) slavery that is expected of the populace under the rule of capital.
If They Were Serious
City officials who were serious about advancing and protecting public health and safety would divert resources from the repression of their downtown Occupy Movements to meeting the needs of the rising mass of poor and deeply poor citizens stuck in ghetto neighborhoods that wallow in the shadows of urban America’s shining financial districts. A recent chilling study issued on the eve of the holiday season by the Brookings Institution paints a terrifying picture of deepening and increasingly concentrated destitution across the supposed national homeland and headquarters of global “freedom.” “As the first decade of the 2000s drew to a close,” Brookings researchers report on the even of the nation’s holiday season, “the two downturns that book-ended the period, combined with slow job growth between, clearly took their toll on the nation’s less fortunate residents.” Further: ”Over a ten-year span, the country saw the poor population grow by 12.3 million, driving the total number of Americans in poverty to a historic high of 46.2 million [emphasis added]. By the end of the decade, over 15 percent of the nation’s population lived below the federal poverty line—$22,314 for a family of four in 2010—though these increases did not occur evenly throughout the country.”v
The researchers might have added that the 2010 Census reveals that a record-setting 1 in 15 Americans now lives in what poverty researchers have recently resorted to calling “deep poverty”vi – at less than half the federal government’s notoriously miserly and inadequate poverty measure (that would at less than $11,157 for a family of four). Furthermore, a recent Census report commissioned by the New York Times shows that 1 in 3 Americans lives either in official poverty or in “near poverty,” either officially poor or at less than 150 percent of the poverty level.vii Shockingly enough, half of all U.S. children and 90 percent of black U.S. children now depend on Food Stamps at some point during their childhood.viii
The Race and Geography of Extreme Poverty, Subprime Lending, and Depression Era Unemployment
Nothing is more consistently and positively correlated with poor health, crime, illness, educational failure – with threats to public health and safety – than poverty, a great destroyer of lives and opportunity. At the same time, poverty’s negative impact on its most immediate victims and the broader society is magnified and intensified by the extreme spatial concentration of the poor in high poverty neighborhoods. As the Brookings researchers note in their report The Re-Emergence of Concentrated Poverty: Metropolitan Trends in the 2000s: “Rather than spread evenly, the poor tend to cluster and concentrate in certain neighborhoods or groups of neighborhoods within a community. Very poor neighborhoods face a whole host of challenges that come from concentrated disadvantage—from higher crime rates and poorer health outcomes to lower-quality educational opportunities and weaker job networks .A poor person or family in a very poor neighborhood must then deal not only with the challenges of individual poverty, but also with the added burdens that stem from the place in which they live.” ix Enduring poverty in a very poor neighborhood subjects poor residents to obstacles and difficulties reaching beyond the costs of individual poverty.
It is one thing to be technically poor but live in a safe “middle class” neighborhood with well-maintained homes, good schools, green space, thriving shops, accessible quality health care, regular public transportation, full-service grocery stores, and other amenities. It is another thing to be poor in a dangerous, crime-ridden, high-poverty neighborhood with boarded up and dilapidated homes, where: the schools feel like jails; intact families are rare; nutrition is purchased under bullet-proofed plastic windows at inflated prices from combination food-liquor stores that lack fresh vegetables and specialize in starchy high sugar and salt items; gangs are prevalent; diabetes, hepatitis, and HIV are near epidemic; prison histories are more common than jobs; more than 40 percent of the men have been saddled with the lifelong mark of a criminal record; incarceration is an almost routine experience for young males; parks are scarce and/or too precarious to visit; doctors and dentists are absent and small shops are rare; taxies never go and public transit is irregular and hard to reach.x As sociologist Douglas Massey noted in 1994, “housing markets…distribute much more than a place to live; they also distribute any good or resource that is correlated with where one lives. Housing markets don’t just distribute dwellings, they also distribute education, employment, safety, insurance rates, services, and wealth in the form of home equity; they also determine the level of exposure to crime and drugs, and the peer groups that one’s children experience.”xi
“Poverty’s negative impact on its most immediate victims and the broader society is magnified and intensified by the extreme spatial concentration of the poor in high poverty neighborhoods.”
Massey’s observation notwithstanding, U.S poverty remains highly and (by the Brookings researchers’ finding) increasingly concentrated. After declining somewhat during the long economic boom of the 1990s, Brookings reports, the number of Americans living in “extreme poverty neighborhoods” – where 40 percent of the residents live below the poverty line – rose by one third between 2000 and 2009. Currently in the U.S., 10.5 percent of poor people live in such neighborhoods, up from 9.1 percent in 2000. New York City, where the financial titan turned Mayor recently spent $7 million repressing and finally evicting Occupy from the city’s affluent financial district, is home to 1,575, 032 officially poor people and to 174 extreme poverty census tracts that house 697,375 people, including 375,876 poor. Chicago, where the rugged hippie-punching corporate mayor Rahm Emmanuel (Barack Obama’s former White House chief-of-staff) has consistently denied Occupiers a campsite, is home to 593,000 poor people and to 124 extreme poverty tracts that together house 304,139 people including 140,574 poor. Los Angeles, where Antonio Villaraigosa recently evicted his city’s Occupy Movement over mass public protest, is home to 844,712 poor people and to 65 extreme poverty tracts that house more than a quarter million (264,888) residents. Philadelphia, where Occupy was recently evicted, is home to 352,265 poor people and 58 extreme poverty census tracts that house 222,434 people.xii
The recently increased concentration of poverty reflects among other things the disastrous impact of two recessions (the most recent one constituting the biggest economic downturn since the 1930s). Unfolding due to the capitalist profits addictionxiii of the Occupation Movement’s official enemy the One Percent, the crises have taken a terrible toll on the employment prospects, net worth, and geographic mobility opportunities for the nation’s disproportionately nonwhite poverty population.
Racial oppression is critical here, beneath the movement’s sometimes simplistic division between the super-rich and “the rest of us” (the 1 Percent and the 99 Percent). The Brookings study’s online version includes a link to maps showing the location of the extreme poverty tracts dozens of American cities.xiv As is obvious to anyone familiar with the racialized geography of these highly segregated metropolises, the maps demonstrate that America’s zones of concentrated urban misery are very disproportionately black and Latino. And indeed, while blacks make up 12.6 percent of overall U.S. population, the Brookings reports that blacks comprise 45 percent of the population (by far and away the largest share) that lives in the nation’s extreme poverty neighborhoods.xv
“The crises have taken a terrible toll on the employment prospects, net worth, and geographic mobility opportunities for the nation’s disproportionately nonwhite poverty population.”
The mortgage crisis created by the financial elite and the collapse of the housing market has been particularly devastating in Black and Latino neighborhoods. This is because those households’ net worth is more proportionately tied up in home equity, thanks to the broad absence of financial wealth in the Black and Latino communities. As the leading wealth and power analyst G. William Domhoff explains on his Web site Who Rules America?: “In 2007, the average white household had 15 times as much total wealth as the average African-American or Latino household. If we exclude home equity from the calculations and consider only financial wealth, the ratios are in the neighborhood of 100:1. Extrapolating from these figures, we see that 70% of white families' wealth is in the form of their principal residence; for Blacks and Hispanics, the figures are 95% and 96%, respectively.”xvi To make matters worse, the predatory home lending practices (carried out by the leading financial institutions owned and run by the One Percent) that did do much to precipitate the mortgage and financial collapse of 2007 and 2008 particularly targeted people of color. As David McNally notes:
“By 1998…subprime mortgages composed one-third of all home loans made to African-Americans and a fifth of those made to Latinos. And the numbers just kept rising. By 2005, 70 percent of all subprime loans made in Washington, D.C. went to African-Americans. A year later, African-Americans received 41 percent of all sub-prime mortgages in New York, while 29 percent went to Latinos. Women of color were especially vulnerable to subprime extortion. Inevitably, as the mortgage rates kicked higher it became increasingly difficult for the borrowers to make payments, especially as job loss soared, especially among workers of color, reducing peoples’ capacity to pay.”xvii
Incredibly enough but consistent with longstanding racial patterns in U.S. labor markets, four of every ten black Americans experienced unemployment during the 2008-09 Great Recession. As McNally elaborates: “Throughout the first half of 2010, official unemployment among blacks was over 16 percent, while among Latinos, it hovered around 13 percent. In thirty-five of America’s largest cities, official jobless rates for blacks were between 30 and 35 percent- levels equal to the worst days of the Great Depression [emphasis added]….Not surprisingly, blacks and Latinos are almost three times more likely to live in poverty than whites.”xviii
In today’s New York Times (I am writing on the morning of Thursday, December 1, 2011), liberal columnist Nicholas Kristof reflects on the recollections of former Chase Home Finance regional vice president James Theckston, who told Kristof how he won company accolades for high sales in 2006 and 2007. Theckston “says that some account executives earned a commission seven times higher from subprime loans, rather than prime mortgages. So they looked for less savvy borrowers — those with less education, without previous mortgage experience, or without fluent English — and nudged them toward subprime loans…These less savvy borrowers were disproportionately blacks and Latinos, he said, and they ended up paying a higher rate so that they were more likely to lose their homes. Senior executives seemed aware of this racial mismatch, he recalled, and frantically tried to cover it up,” Kristof writes. “If you want to understand why the Occupy movement has found such traction,” Kristof comments, “it helps to listen to a former banker like Theckston. He fully acknowledges that he and other bankers are mostly responsible for the country’s housing mess.”xix
Militarized Policing in the “Free Market” Era:
According to a recent Associated Press report, 18 U.S. cities including New York City spent 13 million taxpayer dollars on the policing and repression of their local Occupy Movements between the rise of Occupy Wall Street in mid-September and Bloomberg’s recent quasi-totalitarian police-state tear-downxx of the original Occupy Wall Street (OWS) camp in the New York City financial district’s Zucotti Park.xxi Urban policymakers who were actually serious about protecting public health and safety would have spent that money (itself a small drop in the bucket of the vast taxpayer expense of public service to corporate and financial Americaxxii) instead on various forms of direct social service (health and child care, drug counseling, education, food and nutrition, recreation, and …the list of unmet needs to address goes on) to the many and growing number of primarily nonwhite extreme poverty neighborhoods that have been struggling for many decades in the invisible and painful shadows of the profits system – the system that Occupy has tried in its own imperfect ways to oppose. The needs of those communities and the broader mass of the rising American poverty and near-poverty populations do not jibe with the longstanding corporate neoliberal agenda that serves and protects “the One Percent” – the top hundredth of disproportionately Caucasian corporate and financial masters who own more than a third of the nation’s wealth and a larger share of its elected officials while an increasing share of the citizenry slips into the nation’s disproportionately nonwhite misery class.xxiii
In the dominant public discourse shaped by that agenda, the nation’s “pervasive racial hierarchies collapse,” in the words of the prolific social critic Henry Giroux, “into power-evasive strategies such as blaming minorities of class and color for not working hard enough, refusing to exercised individual initiative, or practicing reverse racism.” Even as an insidious, increasingly invisible racism “functions” as “one of the deep and abiding currents in everyday [American] life,” this discourse works “to erase the social from the language of public life as to reduce all racial problems to private issues [of]…individual character and cultural depravity.” This “neoliberal racism,” as Giroux calls it, “can imagine public issues only as private concerns. It sees “human agency as simply a matter of individualized choices, the only obstacle to effective citizenship being the lack of principled self-help and moral responsibility” on the part of those most victimized by structural oppression and the amoral agency of those super-empowered actors who stand atop the nation’s steep and interrelated hierarchies of class and race. Under its rule, “human misery is largely defined as a function of personal choices,” consistent with “the central neoliberal tenet that all problems are private rather than social in nature.” xxiv Government efforts to meaningfully address and ameliorate (not to mention abolish) sharp societal disparities of race and class are deemed alternately futile, counterproductive, and inappropriate. Government’s functions are progressively concentrated on “making war,” “enhancing opportunities for the investor class,” “suppressing wages for everyone else,” and “suppressing dissent.”xxv
“The real issue is who government should work for: the US public and the common good or the nation’s leading centers of concentrated wealth and power?
Over the last generation, the dominant U.S. neoliberal ideology advanced by and for the elite has masterfully disseminated a fantasy struggle between the allegedly evil state and the supposedly virtuous (and supposedly free) “free market.” At its “conservative” (radically regressive) extremes, the ideology’s proponents have proclaimed a desire to “starve the [government] beast” and “cut government down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub” (leading Republican anti-tax guru Grover Norquist). Beneath quasi-libertarian discourse about the epic conflict between “stultifying government bureaucracy” (bad) and “free market” capitalism (good), however, neoliberalism’s corporate sponsors and beneficiaries have unfailingly sought to wield and profit from government policy of a particular sort. Consistent with a state-capitalist Western profits system and corporate order that has always relied heavily on government protection and assistance, they have only targeted certain parts of the public sector for malnourishment. They have de-funded and de-legitimized what the late French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu called “the left hand of the state”: programs and services won by past popular struggles and social movements for social justice, equality, and inclusion. They do not wish to take the budgetary or policy axe to the “right hand of the state”: the parts that provide service and subsidy (corporate welfare) to concentrated wealth and dole out punishment (including rampant mass incarceration and felony-markingxxvi) for the poor. They do not wish to dismantle America’s military-industrial and imperial complex, a form of massive public transfer to, and protection for “private” high-tech firms like Exxon, Boeing, Lockheed-Martin, and Raytheon.xxvii
State-capitalist neoliberalism’s disingenuous “anti-government” rhetoric cloaks the actual and core policy question. During the last three and half decade as through all of American history, the real issue is NOT whether government can or should “work.” It’s who government should work for: the US public and the common good or the nation’s leading centers of concentrated wealth and power?xxviii Along the way, the not-so “free market” neoliberal era has hardly abolished the wealthy Few’s longstanding reliance on the state’s repressive functions to control the Many who must understand that they have no option but to rent themselves out at a properly profitable price to the capitalist employer class. As McNally notes:
“when capitalist market relations become widely normalized, states do not regularly have to behave in…blatantly brutal ways to keep their work forces in line. Much can be left to the quiet violence of the capitalist economy in which dispossession (owning no productive assets except for one’s ability to work) compels people to submit to the unyielding disciplinary regimes of wage labor.”
“But while much can be left to the market discipline, not everything can. That is why law, police, prisons, and direct force remain omnipresent. Indeed, the intensified disciplinary regimes of the neoliberal period – punitive laws against panhandling or sleeping in parks, widespread incarceration of those found with small bits of drugs, harsher street-level policing and jail terms, and ever more people stuffed into prisons – are sharp reminders that the coercive powers of the state will be regularly mobilized every time the ‘work ethic’ and social discipline seem to be waning…..[Thus]…Under the guise of a so-called ‘war on drugs,’ militarized policing has been imposed on poor and racialized communities across the U.S. as well countries like Mexico and Colombia….imprisonment has become the preferred form of social control of largely racialized ‘surplus populations.’ It is prisons – not schools or even job training programs – that secure the disciplinary ethos of neoliberalism.”xxix
The punitive right-handed function of the state in relation to the mostly Black and Latino urban and suburban poor actually grows in proportion to the assault on the left hand of government. The less authorities are willing or able to offer inclusion and protection for those at the bottom of the nation’s steep pyramids of class and race, the more those authorities must respond to the “underclass’s” plight with the iron fist of repression.
“Government Writ Large is Not the Problem”
To its credit, despite the problematic presence in its ranks of some from the “libertarian” right, the genuinely populist Occupy Movement has never opposed government as such but rather the capture and control of government by the rich and powerful. The fake-populist “Tea Party”xxx and the broader reactionary trend of elite-managed U.S. political culture more generally directs popular ire (quite disingenuously) at “government” per se and trumpets the deceptive virtues of self-reliance and the unalterable rectitude of the so-called free market. As Time’s Ishaan Thoroor noted in a thoughtful early response to media commentators who quickly labeled OWS “the Tea Party of the left,” Occupy has sought not to demonize and destroy the state but rather to democratize government by taking it back from economic elites and building its positive possibilities from the bottom up:
“The answer, for many of the protesters I’ve spoken with, is never the wholesale dismantling or whittling away of the capabilities of political institutions (except, perhaps, the Fed), but a subtler disentangling of Wall Street from Washington. Government writ large is not the problem, just the current sort of government….. Occupy Wall Street, like most idealistic social movements, wants real political solutions. Excited activists in Zuccotti Park spoke to me about the advent of ‘participatory budgeting’ in a number of City Council districts in New York — an egalitarian system, first brought about in leftist-run cities in Latin America, that allows communities to dole out funds in their neighborhoods through deliberation and consensus-building. It’s the same process that gets played out every day by the activist general assemblies held in Zuccotti Park and other occupation sites around the U.S. To the outside observer, that may seem foolishly utopian — and impracticable on a larger scale — but it’s a sign of the deep political commitments of many of the motley protesters gathering under Occupy Wall Street’s banner. They want to fix government, not escape from it [emphasis added].” xxxi
“The mostly white (but consistently non- and anti-racist) sleep-and eat-in-the-urban-park Occupy Movement has itself come face-to-face with the right and militarized police hand of the repressive state.”
A democratic and participatory budgeting system in urban America would surely find something better to do with $13 million in eighteen poverty-ridden U.S. cities than the high-tech authoritarian-cleansing of youthful and populist dissenters on false public safety and health pretexts by the likes of Michael Bloomberg, the twelfth richest person in the U.S.
Given the corporate and financial stranglehold on U.S. urban governments, it is hardly surprising that the mostly white (but consistently non- and anti-racist) sleep-and eat-in-the-urban-park Occupy Movement has itself come face-to-face (well face-to-Darth-Vader-visor) with the right and militarized police hand of the repressive state that has been so ubiquitous in the nation’s urban communities of color throughout the long mass-incarceration-ist neoliberal era. Large numbers of young white progressive and radicals have been given an instructive new taste of what many Black and Latino youth have been experiencing for decades in the disingenuous name of “the free market.” Let the lessons be learned as we build toward ever more epic, multiracial and many-sided struggles with the rich and powerful Few who are crucifying, our cities, our civil rights and social justice ideals, and livable ecologyxxxii on a cross of capitalistic greed.
Paul Street (www.paulstreet.org) is the author of many books and studies, including Empire and Inequality: America and the World Since 9/11 (Paradigm, 2004), The Empire’s New Clothes: Barack Obama in the Real World of Power (Paradigm, 2010), Still Separate, Unequal: Race, Place, Policy and the State of Black Chicago (Chicago, IL: Chicago Urban League, 2005), and (co-authored with Anthony DiMaggio) Crashing the Tea Party: Mass Media and the Campaign to Remake American Politics (Paradigm, 2011). Street can be reached at [email protected]
i David Lindorff, “Police State Tactics Point to a Coordinated National Program to Try and Unoccupy Wall Street and Other Cities,” This Can’t Be Happening (November 15, 2011) at http://thiscantbehappening.net/node/900; Andy Kroll, “Mayors and Cops Traded Strategies for Dealing with Occupy Protestors,” Mother Jones (November 16, 2011), read at http://motherjones.com/mojo/2011/11/occupy-protest-coordinate-crackdown-wall-street; Nigel Duara, “Mayors, Police Chiefs Talk Strategy on Protests,” Associated Press (November 15, 2011), read at http://www.boston.com/news/nation/articles/2011/11/15/mayors_police_chiefs_talk_strategy_on_protests/
ii The first repression in Oakland was described by a downtown security guard who witnessed a massive, Nazi-like police rush on 100 or so hundred peaceful occupiers last October 25th: “It was terrifying to see …there were just so many policeman… the numbers were incredible….they lined up almost like in a phalanx, on the street, and then they moved in….There were helicopters flying about and with high beams on the camps…the beams were moving across every which way…there were young people in these camps and children, infants in a lot of the tents and this was just …completely out of whack with the situation….they shot …tear gas into the middle of the camp, and at the time, there were dumpsters lined up in front, at the entrance, on the corner because the occupiers were trying to conform to the new regulations that the city of Oakland had given to them….the police moved those dumpsters to the side and then they moved to the next stage of taking the barricades and kicking them down. And then they moved in and the first thing they hit was the information tent, and they just started just tearing everything down… this was a military type operation, the way they moved in. It harkened back to old footage I had seen of Nazi Germany where you know you had the Nazis, the SS going in and picking up innocent people. It had that tenor. …the helicopters, and the lights, and the loud speaker, all those were all intended to create panic and terror for the people inside….It was something like out of a Star Wars movie except instead of being in white they were all in black. …they were all in riot gear…with the visors, they looked like automatons, they just moved in, in a line…They had these vehicles that looked like armored boxes, black, special riot vehicles….the thing that stays in my minds eye is in the middle ground with the lights from the helicopters, the police moving in and just stomping on these tents, and moving in one layer, after another, moving in deeper and deeper.”Oakland’s over-the-top later October exercise in militarized policing put a U.S. military veteran (Scott Olson) in intensive care with a fractured skull and inflicted numerous other injuries. It also provoked subsequent large-scale protests (including an attempted and partially successful local General Strike) that added to the costs of policing Occupy. Equally chilling in its own was the quasi-totalitarian crackdown conducted in the name of public safety at the orders of the financial titan Michael Bloomberg in lower Manhattan in the dead of night two Tuesdays ago. By one eyewitness account: “The area around Zuccotti Park was subject last night to a 9/11-level lockdown over peaceful, lawful protests by a small number of people…Martial law level restrictions were in place. Subways were shut down. Local residents were not allowed to leave their buildings. People were allowed into the area only if they showed ID with an address in the ‘hood. Media access was limited to those with official press credentials, which is almost certainly a small minority of those who wanted to cover the crackdown (the Times’ Media Decoder blog says that journalists are describing the tactics as a media blackout). ..reading the various news stories, it appears they were kept well away from the actual confrontation (for instance, the reported tear gassing of the Occupiers in what had been the kitchen, as well as separate accounts of the use of pepper spray and batons). News helicopters were forced to land. As of 10 AM, reader Wentworth reported that police helicopters were out in force buzzing lower Manhattan.” See Dennis Bernstein, “What The Cops Really Did in Oakland,” Counterpunch (November 2, 2011) at http://www.counterpunch.org/2011/11/02/what-the-cops-really-did-in-oakland/; “Police State: #OWS, Other Crackdowns Part of National, Coordinated Effort,” Naked Capitalism (November 15, 2011) at http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2011/11/police-state-ows-other-crackdowns-part-of-national-coordinated-effort-bloomberg-defies-court-order-to-let-protestors-back-into-zuccotti-park.html
iii An especially useful reflection on the classist-racist demonization and its historical roots and cultural and political power is Steve Macek’s remarkable book Urban Nightmares: The Media, the Right, and the Moral Panic Over the City (University of Minnesota Press, 2006).
Edward S. Herman and David Peterson, “Riding the ‘Green Wave’ at the Campaign for Peace and Democracy and Beyond,” Electric Politics, July 22, 2009, read at http://mrzine.monthlyreview.org/2009/hp240709.html; Paul Street. “America’s Unelected Dictatorship of Money: Dark Reflections on the Need for Real Change at Home, Not Just in the Middle East,” ZNet (April 14, 2011) at http://www.zcommunications.org/america-s-unelected-dictatorship-of-money-by-paul-street.
Elizabeth Kneebone et al., The Re-Emergence of Concentrated Poverty: Metropolitan Trends, The Brookings Institution (November 4, 2011), 2, read at http://www.brookings.edu/~/media/Files/rc/papers/2011/1103_poverty_kneebone_nadeau_berube/1103_poverty_kneebone_nadeau_berube.pdf
vi Ashley Portero, “U.S. Poverty Data: 1 in 15 Live in Extreme Poverty – A Record,” International Business Times, November 4, 2011, at http://www.ibtimes.com/articles/243600/20111104/u-s-poverty-data-1-15-live.htm
vii Jason DeParle et al., “Older, Suburban, and Struggling, ‘Near Poor’ Startle the Census,” New York Times, November 18, read at http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/19/us/census-measures-those-not-quite-in-poverty-but-struggling.html?pagewanted=all
viii David McNally: Global Slump: The Economics and Politics of Crisis and Resistance (PM Press, 2011), 126, 218n271.
ix Kneebone et. al, The Re-Emergence of Concentrated Poverty, 3.
x For one detailed and chilling urban portrait, see Paul Street, Racial Oppression in the Global Metropolis: A Living Black Chicago History (New York: Rowman&Littlefield, 2007).
xi Douglas S. Massey, “American Apartheid: Housing Segregation and Persistent Urban Poverty,” Distinguished Lecture, Social Science Research Institute (DeKalb, Illinois: Northern Illinois University, 1994).
xii Kneebone et al., The Re-Emergence off Concentrated Poverty, Appendix B, 24-26; Andrew Dalton and Christina Hoag, “Streets Re-opened After Occupy Los Angeles Protest,” Bloomberg/Business Week (November 28, 2011) at http://www.businessweek.com/ap/financialnews/D9R9Q4L80.htm; “Occupy Chicago Arrests: Nurses Picket Mayor Rahm Emmanuel’s Office,” International Business Times, October 24, 2011 at http://www.ibtimes.com/articles/236640/20111024/occupy-chicago-arrests-nurses-protest-mayor-rahm-emanuel-office-grant-park.htm
xiii The best account to date of the origins of the most recent and arguably ongoing slump is written by the Canadian Marxist David McNally: Global Slump, 13-112.
xv Kneebone et al., The Re-Emergence of Concentrated Poverty, 1; U.S. Census Bureau, “USA QuickFacts From the Census Bureau (last revised October 13, 2011), at http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/00000.html
xvi G.William Domhoff, “Wealth, Income, and Power” (updated July 2011), Who Rules America? http://sociology.ucsc.edu/whorulesamerica/power/wealth.html
xvii McNally, Global Slump, 124, 217n266n267.
xviii McNally, Global Slump, 126, 218n271.
xix Nicholas D. Kristof, “A Banker Speaks, With Regret,” New York Times, December 1, 2011, read online at http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/01/opinion/kristof-a-banker-speaks-with-regret.html?_r=1&hp
xx “Police State: #OWS, Other Crackdowns Part of National, Coordinated Effort,” Naked Capitalism (see note 2 above).
xxi Meghan Bar and Ryan Foley, “Occupy Protests Cost Cities $13 Million,” Associated Press (November 23, 2011) read at http://www.myfoxphoenix.com/dpps/news/Occupy-Protests-Cost-Cities-13-Million-dollars-20111123-APX_16084623
Paul Street, “Repressing Occupy as Corporate Welfare,” ZNet (November 28, 2011) at http://www.zcommunications.org/repressing-occupy-as-corporate-welfare-reflections-on-corporate-media-and-the-costs-of-the-occupy-movement-by-paul-street
xxiii Paul Street, “The Filthy Rich: Mass Ignorance and the Mythology That Protects the Wealthy,” Z Magazine (October 2011), read (available to subscribers) online at http://www.zcommunications.org/the-filthy-rich-by-paul-street
xxiv Henry A. Giroux, The Abandoned Generation: Democracy Beyond the Culture of Fear (New York, NY: Palgrave-MacMillan, 2003), pp. 1-70; Henry A. Giroux, The Terror of Neoliberalism: Authoritarianism and the Eclipse of Democracy (Boulder, CO: Paradigm, 2004), pp. 1-53.
Adolph Reed, Jr., “Undone by Neoliberalism: New Orleans Was Decimated By an Ideological Program, Not a Storm,” The Nation (September 18, 2006): 26-30; Street, Racial Oppression in the Global Metropolis, 3-65, 229-283.
Paul Street, The Vicious Circle: Race, Prison, Jobs, and Community in Chicago, Illinois, and the Nation (Chicago, IL: Chicago Urban League, October 2002), available online at http://www.prisonpolicy.org/scans/theviciouscircle.pdf; Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness (New York: New Press, 2010).
Noam Chomsky, Profit Over People: Neoliberalism and Global Order (New York: Seven Stories, 1999), 29, 31, 57-58, 69, 134.
For discussion from the Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, Donald Rumsfeld and George W. Bush era, see Paul Street, Empire and Inequality: America and the World Since 9/11 (Paradigm, 2004), 143-181 and passim.
McNally, Global Slump, 117, 119.
See Paul Street, “Occupy Wall Street is Not the Tea Party of the Left,” Z Magazine (December 2011) forthcoming on news shelves; Anthony DiMaggio and Paul Street, “Occupy Wall Street, Mass Media and Progressive Change in the Tea Party Era,” Economic&Political Weekly [Mumbai, India], November 19, 2011, vol. XLVI, no.47, 10-12, available online at
Ishaan Thoroor, “Why You Shouldn’t Compare Occupy Wall Street to the Tea Party,” Global Spin (October 18, 2011) at
See Herve Kempf, How the Rich Are Destroying the Earth (White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green, 2007); Bill McKibben, Eaarth: Making Life on a Tough New Planet (New York: Times Books, 2010); John Bellamy Foster, Brett Clark, and Richard York, The Ecological Rift: Capitalism’s War on the Planet (New York: Monthly Review, 2010); William Greider, Come Home America: The Rise and Fall (and Redeeming Promise) of Our Country (New York: Rodale, 2009); James Gustave Speth, The Bridge at the End of the World: Capitalism, the Environment, and Crossing From Crisis to Sustainability (New York: Yale University Press, 2008); George Monbiot, Heat: How to Stop the Planet from Burning (Boston, MA: South End Press, reprint edition, 2009).