Monthly Archives: December 2011

To solve the economic crises, all the classes will have to pay

By: Joanna Wilson

The Occupy Wall Street protestors are calling for higher taxes for the top 1 percent of earners in the country, but to solve the nations’ financial problems, 100 percent of Americans will have to pay.

Terrance Grieb, a University of Idaho professor of finance, said the first step back to economic stability is a balanced national budget, which would grow jobs and increase the health of the middle classes.

“I think that means that people in the middle class are going to have to give up their home mortgage interest deductions,” Grieb said. “You bring in new revenues and you also cut spending to balance the budget.”

The problem lies in deciding what to cut, Grieb said. Cutting medical and welfare safety nets could leave people without anywhere to go. Cutting education would damage the best option for the middle class to improve their station in life.

“There are cuts that can be made, and they will be painful,” Grieb said.

Grieb said taxes will need to be raised along with spending cuts to balance the budget.

“It’s got to be a combination of both of those. Now, as part of that, could we be raising taxes on corporations and the wealthy? Yeah, I think we probably could,” he said.

Grieb said the current tax code requires corporations to pay 35 percent, one of the highest rates among developed countries, but after loopholes and tax credits, most pay between 10 and 20 percent. But if the code was simplified and the leaks stopped, corporate taxes could still be cut.

“What we’ve got is this tax code that’s 2-feet thick,” Grieb said.

Grieb said even conservative hero Ronald Reagan raised taxes.

“How did we defeat Russia and win the Cold War? Star Wars – the nuclear race,” Grieb said. “We spent Russia into the ground. We spent so much on defense. That’s how we brought down the Berlin Wall. Then he realized he had to raise taxes to pay for it.”

Shelly Bennett, owner of Palouse Commercial Real Estate at 103 E. Second St., said the politicians on both sides of the aisle are to blame for the soaring deficit.

“They voted us into debt beyond anybody’s stretch of the imagination,” Bennett said. “We can’t continue. Everybody has to pay. They said 14 months from now, this country’s bankrupt.”

Many of the Occupy protesters are calling for radical taxes to shift the wealth held by the 1 percent to help the middle classes.

Jon Kimberling, owner of Kimberling Insurance Agency, at 205 S. Main St., said if the 1 percent were eliminated, entrepreneurs would lose an incentive to continue to develop new technologies.

“You think about the Bill Gates’ and the Steve Jobs,’” Kimberling said. “The innovation they’ve brought. They are deserving of what they’ve earned for that.”

Bennett said the housing bubble, which has further damaged the economy, was caused by relaxed lending regulations to move people out of poverty and into homes.

“I do a notary service, so I’m running around the county, and I’m notarizing documents from lenders that are all online lenders,” Bennett said.

She would go into double-wide homes strewn with beer bottles and people flopped on the floor, she said.

“You could look at them and say ‘they’re not gonna pay,’” Bennett said. “So they’re getting money against something they own because we’ve inflated it, and I bet they never made a payment.”

Everything was too loose, she said.

“Everything was ridiculous,” Bennett said. “So we have to pay the piper as a country. Everybody has to pay. Needs to pay higher taxes. Everybody needs tighter regulations.”

Borrowers should have 10 to 20 percent down, and Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac should be shut down, Bennett said.

“Asking for their student loans to be waved because of the housing bubble popping and they don’t have jobs – there’s no money,” Bennett said. “You can’t. There’s no money. The country’s broke. So they can’t spend their way out of the problem.”

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A Nation divided

By: Joanna Wilson

A nation divided: Local political perspectives on the Occupy Wall Street movement.

Legislators tend to listen to whoever is in front of them, said Dan Schmidt, Idaho Senate.

“Lobbyists have the time to be in front of legislators,” Schmidt said. “The average farmer is too busy driving his truck to spend the hours it takes.”

Tom Lamar, a Moscow City councilman, said the movement is forcing decision makers to listen and face the growing income gap in America.

“We’re seeing more and more lack of equality between different groups of people,” Lamar said. “The main issue they are raising is the inequality between the people who live in the 1 percent and the people who live in the 99 percent. As you drop down within that 99 percent, inequality becomes more and more apparent.”

Lamar said the gap is an artifact of the economic system – those who have money have more ways to make more money.

Gresham Bouma, a Tea Party candidate from Latah County who ran for Idaho Senate in 2010, said the Occupy Wall Street movement is reacting to the same problems the Tea Party has focused on, but their solutions are opposites.

“The bank bailouts,” Bouma said. “The way big business is affecting the government. They want bailouts for themselves, and we don’t want anyone getting bailouts.”

Bouma said he supports a limited constitutional government, and bailouts are a violation of that principal.

“If those bailouts had not occurred, a lot of the banks that they are protesting wouldn’t be around,” Bouma said. “They are angry at big business. They are angry at the banks, but you can’t blame the dogs for getting into the garbage. You have to blame the person that put the garbage out where they can get it.”

The government is putting that money out where the banks can get to it, he said.

“You should blame the party that enables it all. That’s big government,” Bouma said. “Who do you think writes the legislation? They aren’t even reading it. Special interest groups and lobbyists are writing it. Our legislators aren’t dong their job, which leads to a system that will ultimately fail.”

Walter Steed, the chairman for the Latah county Republicans and a city councilman, said the Occupy people should be protesting Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

“If you are going to protest Wall Street, and or banks, why not Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac – a government organization that was a large part of the same mortgage problems that we have, and the economic collapse we had,” Steed said.

If their grievance is with those who caused the collapse, they should include all the responsible parties, he said.

Steed said their lack of coherent demands have rendered the movement irrelevant, unlike the Tea Party.

“(The Tea Party) made their point and then they moved on,” Steed said. “And then they worked within the system to effect change. I have Tea Party people in the Latah GOP working within the system. They get positions so they can vote, and they vote their beliefs.”

Lamar said he is frustrated that a number of lawmakers fail to understand why people are protesting.

“It’s been frustrating to me that a number of lawmakers, whether they are at a city level, or at a congressional level, fail to understand why people are protesting, and the important of those protests,” Lamar said. “To me, the lack of understanding is a demonstration of arrogance.”

Lamar said he visited with the Occupy Moscow group and asked them what they want to see city government do.

“The response was primarily along the lines of ‘acknowledge what the issues are. At least locally, and help us figure out how we can improve our lives,’” Lamar said.

Shirley Ringo, Idaho state representative, said one issue in Idaho is the weakening of labor unions, creating a class of workers who are not making a living wage.

“I think that particularly in Idaho, which is a Right to Work state, I see them having less and less in the way of influence,” Ringo said. “And people that work for substandard pay and benefits have no way to effect change. They are simply told they are lucky to have a job.”

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The 99 Percent: ‘Respect existence or expect resistance’

By: Michelle Gregg

Drive by Friendship Square, downtown Moscow around 5 p.m. daily and an array of colorful signs with passionate words might be seen. They use their voice, signs, flyers, social media groups, blogs and general assemblies to attract attention.

They call themselves the 99 percent.

The Occupy Wall Street movement began Sept. 17 in Manhattan’s Zuccotti Park, initiated by online Canadian anti-consumerist magazine Adbusters. In an a New York Times interview with Kalle Lasn, editor and co-founder of Adbusters, said the Middle East uprisings and the constant economic struggle inspired him to start the Occupy movement.

On July 13, 2011, Adbusters created the Twitter account #OCCUPYWALLSTREET. After interest on the issue increased, the protest and encampments began Sep. 17.

The 99 percent refers to their claim that the majority of the population is controlled by the remaining 1 percent, who hold all the money and power over major corporations and politics.

Although the Occupy movement started in major cities throughout America, Moscow, along with numerous small towns have joined in the increasingly popular protests.

Sarah Sundquist, founder of the Occupy Moscow group, said being a full-time student and mother to her 10-month-old daughter is already hard. The rising cost of food and gas, along with the Idaho health care cuts can be discouraging, she said.

“The Occupy idea is an important concept because the issues of social inequality affect everyone,” Sundquist said. “Whether you live in a giant city or a small town, East Coast or West Coast, we are all facing the same issues with unemployment and unfair social policies.”

Sundquist said she started the Occupy Moscow group to inform Moscow residents and students about the real meaning of Occupy Wall Street, because the Palouse had limited media coverage regarding any Occupy movements. About 15 to 20 people came to her first Occupy Moscow event, announced on Facebook, and from there they have grown to be known around the Palouse, she said.

“Through that first Occupy event, I got a lot of contact information from others who had similar issues and supported the values of the OWS protestors,” Sundquist said. “With those supporters we try and get at least a few people out to Friendship Square daily from 4 p.m. to about 6 p.m.”

Sundquist said with OM, she wanted to address the more important, local concerns in the community so they are able to understand the issues that our country is dealing with and how the results could impact them.

“Personally, I know a lot of students who continually struggle with the rising rates of loan debt and the tuition and fees that keep on rising,” Sundquist said. “Many of the protestors in the nationwide Occupy movement are educated people in their mid to late twenties but still unemployed.”

Sundquist said when looking for employment, she had a hard time finding a job that could pay the bills for her and her daughter.

“No one can afford to live off of minimum wage anymore, but those business are the only ones hiring,” Sundquist said. “A lot of my friends that have recently graduated aren’t using their degrees, they’re working at sandwich shops.”

Sundquist said because of the rising debt, Idaho’s first cuts were in Medicaid and Medicare.

“When these cuts are made people with disabilities can’t afford the home assistance they rely on to get them out of bed in the morning and into bed at night,” Sundquist said. “So they have to choose one of the two.”

A lot of people are also being affected by the rising costs of heating and energy as well, Sundquist said.

“People can’t even afford to keep their houses at a warm temperature so they get sick, but have no money to go to the doctor,” Sundquist said. “This isn’t just happening in Idaho but across the country.”

Sundquist said Occupy Moscow has recently joined together with Washington State University’s Occupy the Palouse, and have collaborated for events such as Occupy Chase Bank in Pullman.

Despite Latah County being Idaho’s only blue county, Occupy groups have made their way across the typically conservative state.

Tom Kershaw, who serves as a spokesman for Occupy Boise said their group has made a prominent presence in the state’s capitol of Boise and continues to grow.

“Because we live in the state capitol, which deals with anything political, we can take advantage of Occupy Boise expanding and use its voice to influence the hindering effect of Idaho’s political decisions,” Kershaw said.

The Boise occupiers stand behind the meaning of the 99 percent and bring many of those values from the national level to the local concerns.

“For people to truly understand the weight of the problem, confronting local issues in every geographic location that are directly related to the problems OWS is addressing is what needs to happen,” he said.

Kershaw said Zion bank wanted to build a branch on a vacant lot in downtown Boise.

“The bank would cost $4 million and we would be paying for it with increased taxes,” Kershaw said.

The Occupy movement has have become a new American institution, he said. So whether the movement continues as a protest, camp-out or just a group of Americans, it’s not going to go away, he said.

“The fact is that one way or another, the occupiers have become connected in a network, nationwide and beyond, and because everyone’s issues are related, it is the now,” Kershaw said.

To form larger and more effective groups, small towns and cities are partnering up to make their voice heard.

Greg Norrell, from the Occupy Idaho Falls group, said he hopes the unwavering support of the Occupy goals helps communicate and implement social and economic changes within our nation.

“We try to propel our organization in the interest of everyone, the OWS disputes are a lot of things we can agree on, just the same as the rest of America,” Norrell said.

The passion that is expended by the Occupiers in larger cities continues to arouse interest in the American public. After almost three months of camping out in public areas, various prominent city movements have faced eviction by police forces.

Forceful and sometimes violent evictions in Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Denver, Salt Lake City, Oakland, Portland, and more have happened within the last month. However, it hasn’t stopped devoted Occupiers from going on.

Violence seems to intensify their passion for the movement and to inspire other Occupy groups nationwide. On Dec. 7, Occupiers participated in the “Day of Action: Occupiers Unite,” hoping to sway the Supreme Court’s decision in the Citizens United case. Over 70 arrests were made in Washington D.C. when hundreds of Occupiers refused to move from the targeted K Street, the nation’s long standing lobbying industry, according to The Washington Post.

According to USA Today, the next nationwide Occupy movement is set for Dec. 12, when Occupiers hope to shut down West Coast ports with a mass community protest, in what they call “Wall Street on the waterfront.” Their goal is to “disrupt and blockade the economic apparatus of the 1 percent,” according to the Occupy Ports website.

Occupy blockades are planned in Seattle, Portland, Ore., Tacoma, Wash., Los Angeles, Long Beach, Oakland, and San Diego, Calif., Denver, Colo., Anchorage, and Vancouver, B.C., according to the Occupy Ports website.

Sundquist said she hopes to see more creativity from Occupiers across the country to get their message heard.  On a local level, she said they hope to organize more events and get more people involved with the Occupy issues.

“For me it’s been inspiring to watch this national movement grow where all types of people working together,” she said. “And bringing to national issues onto a local level, we need to continue foster the idea that hard work can help build the Moscow community and a lot could be solved.”

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Diversity finds unity in the 99 percent

By: Bradley Neal

Mel Leviton graduated in 1998, and is still paying her student loans in 2011. Now she is occupying Moscow.

“I had been watching the Occupy Wall Street movements before they actually started,” Leviton said.

Her daughter, Sarah Sundquist, was a co-founder of Occupy Moscow who pulled her mother into the movement a few months ago.

Sundquist said her mother’s interest in the movement stemmed from her care for people. No matter how busy she is, she is still helping Sundquist with the movement.

“She is willing to be active,” Sundquist said. “Provide the same care (as Leviton’s parents gave her) and opportunities for me.”

Sundquist said even though her mother has a job, her mother’s student loans have added to Leviton’s anxiety with the economy.

“I don’t know if I’ll be employed in a month,” Leviton said.

The local movement has had its fluctuations in the number of people actually protesting. Leviton said anywhere from a couple people, to as many as 25 people will show up for the protests.

“We’re all people who probably wouldn’t come into contact with each other,” Leviton said.

Leviton was born in Sacramento, Calif. but grew up in Idaho Falls. She left Idaho at 16 and moved around to different states, while spending the majority of her time in Idaho because she loves the people who live here.

“I always do this rubber band thing with Idaho,” Leviton said.

Leviton went to Urban Community College at the age of 22 while pregnant with her daughter. She graduated with an English degree from Idaho State University in 1998. Leviton said she chose the degree because “people don’t know how to write.”

After graduation, she became a substance abuse counselor for children with drug and alcohol abuse problems.

Leviton has lived in Moscow for 12 years. Her daughter is attending the University of Idaho and her son is working in Brazil. She works full-time for DisAbility Rights Idaho as a legal advocate to help write grants and reports. DRI is an advocacy and lobbyist group for people with disabilities in Idaho.

“I think it’s something that touches a lot of people,” Leviton said.

She met her partner in Moscow. They were friends for a couple years, and have been together for 9 years.

Leviton said her children are not ashamed of who she is, but she is cautious of talking openly about her relationship, because her partner is worried people in the community may not fully accept their relationship.

Leviton’s partner has had a particularly hard time with her small business in Moscow. Leviton said she is consistently denied loans to help build her business, and the banks usually suggest having a friend or family member loan them the money.

“It was ridiculous for a banker to tell someone that,” Leviton said.

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