Mitchell Cohen From Bensonhurst
All it takes is dragging myself to one local Democratic Party meeting, even one hosted by a progressive and Green-friendly State Assembly member like Bill Colton (47 A.D. - Bensonhurst), to make me again realize two things:
1) How important regular local meetings are for congealing a "force" to accomplish *anything* ; and,
2) Why, despite all of our problems, I am a Green and not a Democrat.
I've just returned from a "breakfast" at my NY State Assembly representative Bill Colton's clubhouse. There were around 120 people there, crammed into a bagel-and-cream-cheese fluorescent brunch at $25 a pop.
Also present, every NY Democratic Party politician and his .... I was going to say "mother", but the 12 on the stage were all men, and all White men until City Council member John Liu joined the dais.
The ostensible purpose was to hear NY State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli speak. THIS, I thought I'd be interested in. I have some very pointed questions about the way NY under Governor Patterson and Mayor Bloomberg is smashing working class people in order to pay off the interest on the debt to the banks.
But no questions were allowed -- at least not while I was there.
I left, needing to throw up after Senator Schumer spoke. Didn't hear our new Congressional rep McCann, nor Boro President Marty Markowitz, nor any of the other bevy of liars and thieves.
It was only out of respect for Bill Colton and the fine work he is doing on every level with our community that I didn't shout out my questions or comments.
But one fellow did. He was in his 90s, stood up and interrupted Schumer's speech. Schumer is a consummate schmoozer -- man, is he good at it! You'd never know from his talk about his parents in Florida, his youth in East New York where his father was an exterminator (!), how billionaire-banker-friendly his actual voting record is.
As Schumer was peakocking around the stage bragging about how they'd convinced three moderate Republican Senators (2 from Maine, and 1 from Pennsylvania) to join the Democrats in passing the so-called "stimulus" package, otherwise known as "bail out the billionaires", a 90-year-old grizzled Brooklynite got to his feet and shouted out, "Kill all the Republicans."
Schumer tried to regain the floor by saying, "Well, I wouldn't go that far," but the elder man said, "I was a kid in 1929 at the Great Depression, and the Republicans did then what the are doing now. I say 'kill them all'."
Schumer regained the floor with some witty remark, and went on. I was tempted to shout out, a few minutes later, "Kill the Democrats," but thought better of it, berated myself for copping out, and left as State Sen. Carl Krueger was about to begin.
Had we been allowed to ask questions, I would have asked:
1) What are you doing about CitiBank's unilaterally raising its Credit Card rates to 21 percent last week? Here they're getting billions of working class funds in the bailout pushed by the Democrats, and they accelerate their soaking of working people and those on fixed income and making it HARDER to get credit -- exactly the opposite of what the Stimulus package is supposedly designed to do.
2) The transit fare is slated to go up to $3 a ride, to raise $1.2 billion claimed by the MTA as its deficit. Meanwhile, the interest on the MTA's capital expenditures (NOT operations) -- that is, the building of the 2nd Ave. subway, etc. -- is $1.5 billion for this year. So the transit fare is being increased to pay the INTEREST to the banks on loans the MTA had taken. At the same time, we're giving the same banks tens of billions of dollars. Why haven't the Democrats earmarked the funds they're paying for bailing out the billionaire shareholders to paying off the bank loans, so that no fare increases and no layoffs would be needed?
3) Why doesn't the City impose a 5 cents transfer tax on every stock transaction? There are tens of billions of shares traded every day. A puny 5 cent tax would pay off the entire City debt in a month, and add tens of billions of dollars to the City's coffers, which could be used to make mass transit FREE, AND hire more teachers to reduce class size, AND clean up the environment, AND hire more Parks Dept. workers to remove the artificial turf and restore and maintain natural grass to the City's parks.
Those are what I was prepared to ask.
I would have also asked something about where NY State invests its pension funds under DiNapoli's control, but it was just too last minute and it would have been too convoluted.
Feel free to add more to this list, it would help us out the next go 'round.
I'm glad things went so well for Bill Colton and for local Democratic Party chair Mark Treyger (who was my mom's student years ago in second grade). Maybe they can serve some organic vegetables, fruit and free-trade coffee the next time, and invite local activists like me -- and hopefully some women -- onto the panels in the future.
Whew, what a welcome moment it was to rush out into the 60 degrees sunlight, breathe deep the glorious Brooklyn air, and remember why I'm a Green and not a Democrat!
Friday, February 13, 2009
Report from the Brooklyn trenches