[VIDEO] Over 50 People Gather on Bank Alley in Ithaca for Rally on May 7th: Make Wall Street Pay/Close Corporate Tax Loopholes

On Friday, May 7, Ithacans gathered outside Bank of America on the Commons for the Make Wall Street Pay Up Rally, an event that featured community organizers as well as ordinary citizens deeply upset with the current financial crisis ailing the nation.

by Peter Blanchard http://ithbusters.wordpress.com

The rally was led by the Tompkins County Workers’ Center and the Midstate Central Labor Council, the latter of which is an organization that represents several hundred unions in eleven New York State counties, including Tompkins. Pete Meyers represented the Tompkins’ County Workers’ Center, while President Tom Seiling was there to respresent the Midstate Central Labor Council. At any given moment, Meyers could be seen walking around with his clipboard, making sure everything was in order. He is a strong advocate for workers’ rights in the local Ithaca community. The mission of Seiling’s organization is to improve the lives of working families in the Central New York area.

“Officially, we don’t have an amplification permit, so we may have to play it by ear,” Seiling spoke into the microphone at the rally.

There were many different concerns voiced by several guest speakers, whom hailed from around the Central New York area and shared many of the same sentiments as Ithacans. The rally was held outside Bank of America to send the message that local citizens are tired of the corruption of big corporate banks.

“It’s time for us to stand up and say, ‘This country belongs to us,'” Pam MacKesey addresses the crowd. MacKesey had been a city councilperson for the city of Ithaca, and is currently a Tompkins County legislator. “This country doesn’t just belong to wealthy people, it belongs to everyday people like you and me.”

Professor Howard Botwinick is a professor of economics at SUNY Cortland, a state university that may see its funding get severely cut in the next year. Botwinick called for government regulation on big banks, expressing the need for the priva

Noticing how many older Ithacans attended the rally, Botwinick even brought up the issue of social security, and the debt that continues to plague the government program.

“There is a problem facing us, and I think you’re going to start hearing a lot more about this,” Botwinick said. “We are facing a rising deficit in the future because of a lot of us are getting old and a lot of us are going to need health care. [The deficit] is going to go up, but there are very simple solutions to this. All you have to do is remove the cap off of social security, and make wealthy people pay their fair share for social security and that entire deficit goes away.”

Neil Oolie is just your average ordinary citizen, but he happens to look like Benjamin Franklin. Oolie occasionally comes into the Workers’ Center to help out, and he had a few words for the corporations.

“New York State could ask our Congress for a constitutional amendment so that corporations will not have the ability to buy Congress and the way to the Presidency,” said Neil Oolie, who lives in Ithaca and volunteers at the Tompkins County Workers’ Center.

Many people at the rally felt that the public sector was being unfairly blamed for the problems facing not just the nation, but especially in New York State. Nevertheless, the financial crisis has led to serious cuts in public programs such as education, welfare, social security, and health care. Dave Richie is a member of United University Professionals, a union representing thousands of faculty members in New York State schools, including SUNY Cortland. He attended the rally to voice his opposition against Governor Paterson’s plan for massive statewide budget cuts in public sectors.

“We need to stop the cuts to SUNY and to public schools k-12. These cuts destroy New York’s future. They strangle our children’s education rather than invest in it,” Richie said.

Barbara Lifton is a New York State Assemblywoman who shares similar views on this issue.

“The state income tax structure is obscenely flat and regressive. I’ve been trying to mobilize people statewide to stop cuts on our state budgets,” Lifton said.

Ultimately, the cries of most citizens were for more government regulation in the private sector, taxes on the wealthy to pay for the deficit, and better paying jobs. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate in the city of Ithaca is at 5.5% as of March 2010, but this does not mean that Ithacans are being guaranteed well-paying jobs. Meyers got the crowd fired up about this hotbed issue that the Tompkins County Workers’ Center deals with every day.

“What do we want?”

“Good jobs!”

“When do we want them?”


It remains to be seen whether any or all of these economic problems can be fixed, on a local or national scale, but it is becoming increasingly clear what the people want.