CHURCH AND STATE: At the City of London visitor information booth on a recent Sunday, tourists were offered a “London’s burning” tour of sites from the Great Fire that swept through the financial center in 1666. In recent weeks, though, the area’s greatest draw has been the Occupy London protesters encamped in front of St. Paul’s Cathedral. Launched in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street, their campaign originally targeted the London Stock Exchange; but the stock exchange’s premises are on private property, and the landlord—the Mitsubishi estate—had a police injunction barring access to demonstrators.
The diversion to St. Paul’s soon proved a godsend to the movement, as police efforts to disperse the Occupation were blocked by Giles Fraser, canon of St. Paul’s and a frequent commentator in the British media. “We have only seen good-natured protesters and police doing their job,” said Fraser in October. When church officials decided to seek a court order allowing police to evict the demonstrators, Fraser resigned— igniting a new round of publicity.
A week later, the dean of St. Paul’s, the Right Rev. Graham Knowles, who had announced the decision to close the cathedral, also resigned. Then the Corporation of the City of London, which acts as municipal government to the financial district, halted its own eviction efforts.
As the Occupation endures, so do the questions about what lies ahead. Trying to achieve consensus on every issue “can be frustrating,” said Alex Lampros, a 29-year-old American expat carrying a large model of the White House as part of an action urging President Obama to reject the Keystone XL pipeline, which would carry tar sands oil from Canada to Texas. Nor did Lampros expect the endless debates and easy-to-parody hand signals, adopted from the Climate Camp movement, to produce a coherent vision of an alternative society.
“We’re here to make dissent visible,” he said, and on those terms Occupy London has already been a resounding success. D.D. GUTTENPLAN
TAX WARFARE: Republicans have gotten a lot of mileage recently out of the claim that 47 percent of Americans don’t pay taxes, an “injustice” decried by Rick Perry upon announcing his presidential candidacy. The explanation, of course, is that those Americans don’t pay federal income taxes because they don’t earn enough money. A couple earning less than $26,400 with two children, for example, aren’t required to pay any income taxes, because they are presumably stretched thin enough already. The elderly, poor and young receive various tax credits that exempt them from having to pay some of their meager incomes to the government.
If Republicans really want to go after tax freeloaders, they should start talking about big corporations. On November 3, Citizens for Tax Justice released a damning report detailing how many large corporations paid absurdly low tax rates on billions in profit—and in some cases, actually received money. Based on tax data from 280 of the country’s most profitable corporations between 2008 and 2010, CTJ found that although the corporate tax rate is 35 percent, on average those companies paid only about half that.
“Sixty-seven companies paid effective three-year tax rates of less than 10 percent,” CTJ said. “Their average effective tax rate was zero.” And most shockingly, thirty companies paid a negative effective tax rate, meaning that through clever accounting and generous subsidies, they got money from the government, while raking in $160.3 billion in profits over the same three-year period.
The study found that 56 percent of federal tax subsidies go to four industries: financial services, which got $37.5 million and paid an effective tax rate of 15.5 percent over the past three years; utilities; telecommunications; and oil and gas. Defense contractors also do well: the top ten have enough accountants and lobbyists to keep their average effective tax rate at less than half the 35 percent corporate rate, despite $67.1 million in profits over the past three years.
For the full report, including the names of the corporations studied, visit ctj.org. GEORGE ZORNICK
THE GLOBAL EDUCATION MARKET: Years before India’s right-to-education law went into effect in 2010, defining schooling as a fundamental right of children ages 6 to 14, Indus World School opened its first location in Hyderabad. In a country where some 8 million children in that age range did not attend school last year, IWS now operates ten schools, with plans to expand to seventy-five in the next five years.
IWS, which calls itself a “chain of schools,” was founded by Career Launcher, a test prep company based in Uttar Pradesh, India. Visitors to the IWS website are told that the Indian education sector will be valued at $80 billion by 2012 and are encouraged to become “partners” in the venture; a downloadable franchise application is available. So far, IWS has attracted as much as $10 million in corporate investments. Slick, colorful IWS brochures advertise a number of less expensive academy schools “for the poorer sections of society.” (India’s education law requires 25 percent of private school spots to be reserved for disadvantaged children.)
The situation parallels in some ways the corporate takeover of public education in the United States. As Western Michigan University education professor Gary Miron points out, American education management operations, or EMOs, are increasingly priva- tizing what were intended to be public charter schools under local control. Calls for such changes spiked after Republican electoral victories in 2010 spurred “sweeping proposals from a number of states to lift the cap on charter schools…and promote use of private companies to improve struggling schools.” Although more than half of EMOs are set up as nonprofits, a substantial portion are run as for-profits. Some operate several schools at once—an expanding chain operation similar to that seen in India (although the US schools still receive public funding).
There is no evidence so far to suggest that such a model is effective. “Education as a commodity is very difficult to put in market terms,” says Miron. And while some EMOs can provide valuable services, “mostly they are driven by profit.” Miron recalls that when testifying before Congress this past summer about charter schools, “I suggested that they call them franchise schools or corporate schools.” ALEXANDRA TEMPUS