Had enough?

By Matt Mihlbauer of Portland, Oregon. Matt is a student in the School of Social Work at Portland State University and completing an internship with SEIU local 503.

Have Oregonians had enough of this economy?

Enough of watching their savings disappear? Debts pile up? Their retirement disappear?

Health care costs go up, and up and up?

Layoffs ... foreclosures ... dropping housing values and paychecks that don’t keep up?

I know that I have. And most of you probably have too. While most Americans are struggling to stay above water in this economy, what are our financial companies and big banks doing?

Goldman Sachs, before taking $10 billion in taxpayer bailout funds the company rewarded the architects of its collapse $6.5 billion in bonuses.

Bank of America handed out $5.2 million in corporate bonuses while laying off over 30,000 workers. That was after the collected $45 billion in federal bailout money.

AIG, during a historic collapse, set aside over $1 billion for bonuses and have handed out $220 million dollars already.

All of these companies profited off of a system that was too loosely regulated, and gave working people too small of a voice. There is little we can do apart from getting serious about change.

For instance, imagine if the workers at Burger King (which is owned in large part by Goldman Sachs) had a voice in their economic future, like the high-paid senior executives and wall street traders did. The amount that Goldman Sachs paid out in bonuses could have given each Burger King employee an $18,000 bonus (more than doubling their average wage of $14,000 per year).

College students like myself are now facing record amounts of debt upon graduation thanks to the de-regulation, borrowing, selling and trading of our student loans, with no reversal of this trend in sight. I went to school to study social work to study how to help people – NOT how to make more money. I have never had any intention to be rich, but at this rate, who knows if I will EVER be able to get out of debt. Who profits from my interest payments?

In order to make sure that we can ALL benefit from our economic recovery, and be protected in an economic crisis, Congress needs to act:

If you are in the Portland area and you care about these issues, please stop by our rally tomorrow - downtown at 11:45 a.m. at the Salmon Street Fountain (at SW Salmon and Naito).

If you are unable to stop by the rally, but still interested in the efforts of groups around the nation to rebuild the economy, check out TakeBackTheEconomy.org.

  • (Show?)

    I think the reason why we have a high demand for health care is because people are eating at Burger King. Anyone that regularly eats at Burger King should get out and do the march.

    I think this raises my point, however. 95% of diabetics have adult onset Type II diabetes. How much does that cost us each year? Research, especially current research, has shown how "bad" fatty acid chains are exacerbating diabetic symptoms.

    In all, we need to levy a huge excise tax on these corporate chains and have the proceeds pay for health care in the state. This will help local small business restaurant owners in the process like Laughing Planet, which serves much better choices than a double Whopper.

    Tax the megacorporations! Get 'em out of Portland!!

  • Vincent (unverified)

    College students like myself are now facing record amounts of debt upon graduation thanks to the de-regulation, borrowing, selling and trading of our student loans

    Erm, as someone with a reasonably large chunk of student loans to pay off myself, I have to say that the reason people like you and me are now facing record amount of debt upon graduation is because we took loans, not because of the sinister machinations of greedy fat cat Wall Street stereotypes.

  • (Show?)

    Our colleges get less than 20% of their funding from the government anymore. More and more funding comes from megacorporations. Look at the donor role at the PSU or UofO school of business. That, and we are funding college through higher tuition rates. So students overall are needing to work more to the detriment of their studies or carry increasing amounts of debt.

    Has the introduction of large corporate donors persuaded university administrators to teach in accordance to corporate interests? Or does our education still represent a fair attempt at receiving a well-rounded skill set useful to say . . . uhm, run a small business?

    Tax the megacorporations! Get 'em out of Portland!!

  • rural resident (unverified)

    Oregon's anti-growth policies are certainly responsible for some of our stubbornly high unemployment (we have more even during economic expansions) and the lack of funding available for social programs. They're not the only cause, but they contribute.

    The state's legialtors and voters have consistently chosen this path. We would have to make some trade-offs, including somewhat less environmental protection -- though not much -- in order to have a more dynamic economy and more tax revenues. However, that isn't the choice we've made. When people decide that they're tired of schools with less funding than they would like, cuts in programs protecting children and seniors, and health care cutbacks for the most vulnerable among us, it will change. But not anytime soon.

  • cw (unverified)

    Great post Matt, I will definitely see you at the rally. Thanks for the reminder of why we are in this situation, and what we can do to help put pressure on for real change.

  • Blue Aura Gone (unverified)

    You'll know people have had enough when, at the next outrageous news, they simply walk out of the office and take it straight to the offending party. The potential is there. Sony brought the potential for change home to their execs with an interesting little vid, at a recent exec retreat. It at least makes you think about jobless numbers differently (being Sony they couldn't resist that last stat).

  • Eschatological Tumescence (unverified)

    We would have to make some trade-offs, including somewhat less environmental protection -- though not much --

    Funny, that's just the same amount most our wild areas are hanging on by!

    Let's see. Corporations are growing at 2% a year, which is horrid, because they plan for 5-10% and want 15%. Critical habitat is decreasing at 5%/year, but we need just a little bit more from nature. Nature is more adaptable than us.

    Oh, right. I forgot the "humans uber alles" multiplier. What is it these days, 100x? 1000x?

  • (Show?)

    Thanks for the post and for the rally heads-up -- I hadn't heard about it, but I'll be there.

  • George Anonymuncule Seldes (unverified)

    I know, let's pour money that would otherwise be squandered on schools and services to remodel a recently-remodeled PGE stadium (that is still being paid for) and to tear down a perfectly viable Memorial Coliseum and replace it with another sports facility, to subsidize someone whose wealth derives from the precise bastards you're complaining about.

    Yes, I would say I've had enough.

  • Goodwill (unverified)


    I think Paul Krugman put it well recently, "What we want is a system in which banks own the downs as well as the ups."

    Time for a tea party?

    AIG contributions:

    Name Total Contributions Dodd, Chris (D-Conn) $281,038 Bush, George W (R-Texas) $200,560 Schumer, Charles E (D-NY) $111,875 Obama, Barack (D-Ill) $110,332 McCain, John (R-Ariz) $99,249 Baucus, Max (D-Mont) $90,000 Kerry, John (D-Mass) $85,000 Johnson, Nancy L (R-Conn) $75,400 Sununu, John E (R-NH) $69,049 Clinton, Hillary (D-NY) $61,515 Lieberman, Joe (I-Conn) $57,900 Rangel, Charles B (D-NY) $53,582 Giuliani, Rudolph W (R-NY) $50,250


  • Tom Vail (unverified)

    I disagree with your call to "Pass the Employee Free Choice Act and give workers a real voice in the recovery." The net effect of this legislation will be that you will have different bosses, the Union leaders rather than the managers of the business. I have a post about why I am against this legislation here

  • urban planning overlord (unverified)

    Hello Matt, you left out one policy change that would bring a lot of good jobs to Oregon, or at least prevent them from being lost:


    But that would mean repudiating the economic illiteracy of Peter DeFazio and his ilk, which would probably be asking too much...

  • Kurt Chapman (unverified)

    Please help me understand how the SEIU taking away the right to a secret ballot (like all voters have in political contests) and replacing it with high pressure signature gathering is a step in the "right" direction?

    Also, if you are so in favor of EFCA, would you also allow decertificatio via a simple majority of cards signed?

  • gl (unverified)

    whatever I got MLS....paid for by LEH puts!!!

  • The Libertarian Guy (unverified)

    Having punched many of a timeclock I sure as hell don't want anyone standing over me expecting me to sign a card they hand me. I have a phrase for those people but I won't use it in polite company.

    As for the costs of these items you mentioned have you analyzed any of the factors that go into these costs? Why does college costs so much? Why does healthcare costs so much. It just doesn't happen out of the blue.

  • Zarathustra (unverified)

    Why does college costs so much?

    It's not seen as something the state provides, but is marketed as a product. What you can expect to make is the best predictor of what your total cost will be after fees, etc. We're still caught in that Reagan-Thatcher, "the more everything is like private enterprise the better it is" mindset. It doesn't allow for any other motivation but it's own furtherance, and when society decides it has other motivations, it just doesn't work.

  • Harold Saxton (unverified)

    Americans are being pussycats on this. Check out the level of outrage in the UK . I love the bit about the company advising employees to "cover the logo in lit places".

    How about just wearing a bag over your head?

  • JJ Ferguson (unverified)

    Anyone vested in the system is afraid. Anyone not vested in the system is of no account. Ergo, "Had enough?" and behavior, bear no relationship to each other.

    Now, that's an idea for a protest. Bring the kiddies and let's all design paper bags for each of the employees at the downtown office. I can get an org. chart if you want to personalize them. It would combine action, awareness, spectacle and outrage, like Ghandi's march to the sea.

    <h2>I've yours already done, David Yeung. It's leather and comes with a nicely knotted rope.</h2>
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