Hundreds of protesters turned out to the “Sounds of Resistance” rally held in New York City’s Union Square Park today. Fifteen groups, including Veterans for Peace, ItsOurEconomy.us, and US Uncut, organized the rally in order to bring attention to the economy, housing, healthcare, social justice and opposition to war, previously stalwart issues of the left that have now slipped from President Obama’s radar, according to the protest’s organizers.
Kevin Zeese, director of ItsOurEconomy.us, says the groups gathered to make three demands: corporations must pay their fair share in taxes, home foreclosures should be stopped immediately and the big banks must be broken up. While President Obama has at least paid lip service to the idea of rich people paying their fair share in taxes, the issue of home foreclosures has appeared to slip onto the backburners.
I asked Zeese why he thought Obama had stopped talking about foreclosures. “The banks own the place,” he says. “Going into an election year, you don’t want to have big finance and big banks against you.” President Obama’s re-election campaign is expected to cost $1 billion, and the president has a long tradition of accepting lavish donations from Wall Street.
Zeese believes the solution to the foreclosures could be as easy to implement for Congress as it was for representatives to approve shelling out tens of billions of dollars accountability-free to banks and financial firms. First, refinance mortgages so homeowners can slowly pay off their mortgages instead of paying nothing and then becoming destitute. Second, reconsider the values of homes in order to properly reflect their value and eliminate the problem of mortgages that cost more than the house.
“We’re not going to have a stable economy until we have a housing market that’s not ripping apart neighborhoods…. Every time a house is foreclosed on…it pulls down the property values further. We’ve got to get a floor on the housing market and the way to do that is to face up to the foreclosure issue, but I don’t see President Obama or the Republicans and Democrats in Congress doing that because big finance is too powerful,” says Zeese.
Dave Petrovich, executive director of the Society For Preservation of Continued Homeownership, agrees with that sentiment. “The president, and most of our lapdog Congress, are employees of the banking industry, so they’re not going to really discuss this unless it’s in their own financial self-interest.”
Bank of America was once again a central target of the protest since the company hasn’t paid a nickel in federal income taxes in the past two years and received a “income tax refund from hell” of $666 million for 2010. The protesters demand to know why a company that received $45 billion in taxpayer money during the bailout now gets to play by a different set of tax rules, while simultaneously paying out obscene bonuses to its CEO and kicking hardworking Americans out of their homes.