‘ The banks must pay!’ Wall Street march targets NYC austerity budget

By Larry Hales

NYC F.I.S.T.

Billionaire New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, released his city budget on May 6, a day late, and stated, “This budget is full of difficult decisions.” The fiscal year starts on July 1, and the budget voting process will extend into late June.

Already activists are planning to fight a plan that will limit city employees to the lowest number since 2002.

In the proposal, Bloomberg, who has been trying to end the “last in, first out” rule regulating the layoff process for teachers, calls for firing 5,400 city public workers, the bulk of them teachers. In addition to mass layoffs, the city will also lose more than 2,000 other teachers through attrition. All told, more than 6,000 teacher slots are slated to disappear by next year.

Five percent of city teachers will be fired if the city budget is passed, an action that will increase class size by at least four students per class, according to the mayor’s new pick for schools chancellor, Dennis Walcott. New York City has the largest public schools system in the country with 1.1 million students.

Walcott was deputy mayor of New York before being asked to take over as chancellor of New York City schools. Bloomberg had first chosen Cathleen Black, who was president of Hearst Magazines and sat on the boards of both IBM and Coca-Cola Co. Black had been a teacher for less than a year and had no school administration experience, but received an experience waiver from the New York State Education Department.

During Black’s brief tenure, which saw many demonstrations against her and against mayoral control in general, she was known for appearing lost at public meetings and once made the statement that the solution for overcrowded schools is birth control. She was never made to apologize. Bloomberg forced her to resign because of how unpopular she was and announced Walcott, who is a Bloomberg education program advocate and will also require a waiver, as the next choice.

The budget proposal also calls for layoffs of health clinic and parks department workers, cuts of $40 million to the library system, the closing of 20 firehouses and a cut of funding for child care vouchers. An additional $63 million will be slashed from community colleges while rent subsidies for 15,000 formerly homeless families will be lost.

To answer the critics who point to the city’s multibillion-dollar surplus, Bloomberg responded, “This thought that, ‘Oh, the city has plenty of money, they can make up for anything,’ is just not realistic.” Bloomberg stated that the cuts will save hundreds of millions of dollars for the city. The overall budget for the city will be reduced to $65 billion, almost half of what the New York state budget is.

Bloomberg, who is a Wall Streeter, is worth more than $12 billion. Though he likes to trumpet that he receives almost no salary for being mayor, his wealth has more than tripled since being in office. Bloomberg supported the repeal of the millionaires’ tax by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and increased the amount of monies given for charter school development.

The city of New York pays billions of dollars to bondholders and banks in interest payments. Though there is a loss of revenue at local, state and federal levels because of high unemployment and because of massive subsidies and tax breaks to corporations and the rich, there is also plenty of money. A budget of $65 billion is certainly not evidence of governmental poverty and is a great deal more than the budget of many countries around the world.

On May 12, workers, students and community members will be marching on Wall Street to point the finger at banks and financial institutions for being the cause of the austerity budgets sweeping the country. The main slogan will be, “The banks must pay!”

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