‘Oc­cu­piers’ didn’t start the class war­fare

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - NEWS -

No­body asked me, but I’ll bet cash money that half the peo­ple who com­plain about Oc­cupy Wall Street/ Oc­cupy Bal­ti­more and ridicule the pro­test­ers didn’t vote in the last elec­tion and never took part in a pub­lic demon­stra­tion of any kind. And those who de­cry “class war­fare” from high atop their mil­lions can’t make it go away by do­ing so. That’s what we have af­ter 30 years of gen­er­ally stag­nant wages for the mid­dle class, matched against the largest con­cen­tra­tion of wealth in the na­tion’s his­tory, and ac­com­pa­nied by the high­est level of poverty since the govern­ment started mea­sur­ing it. As my friend Donna says, “It is what it is,” and Amer­i­cans are fi­nally start­ing to com­plain about it.

No­body asked me, but why are we still play­ing this game? The O’Mal­ley ad­min­is­tra­tion and Mary­land law­mak­ers Thurs­day ap­proved a $9.5 mil­lion grant to Bech­tel Corp., the largest en­gi­neer­ing com­pany in the coun­try and a global project man­ager with bil­lions in an­nual rev­enues. Why? Be­cause the com­pany had talked about mov­ing its Bech­tel Power divi­sion from Fred­er­ick to North­ern Vir­ginia. The Fred­er­ick News-Post said the com­pany agreed to keep a min­i­mum of 1,250 jobs in Fred­er­ick through 2018; Bech­tel only has to pay the money back if it doesn’t keep that prom­ise. The O’Mal­ley ad­min­is­tra­tion says the money will be re­couped through tax rev­enues that other­wise would have been lost had the com­pany moved. Lo­cal politi­cians ra­tio­nal­ize this kind of stuff — giv­ing tax­payer money to com­pa­nies that make bil­lions in prof­its — all the time. House Speaker Michael Busch told the As­so­ci­ated Press that “our num­ber one job is sup­port­ing [the] pri­vate sec­tor.” Of course it is. Who do you think foots the bills for cam­paigns? And you watch: In the post-Cit­i­zens United era, politi­cians will be even more gen­er­ous in pad­ding the pock­ets of cor­po­ra­tions with our money. And peo­ple scoff at OWS?

Mean­while, Sen. Ben Cardin sounded down­right OWS in a re­cent email about Big Oil, taxes and deficit re­duc­tion: “Over the last decade, the five largest oil com­pa­nies re­ceived $21 bil­lion in tax­payer-funded sub­si­dies, de­spite the fact that they raked in $1 tril­lion in prof­its and are pro­jected to make $144 bil­lion more this year. This is ab­surd ... It’s got to stop.” The email pro­vided an In­ter­net link: “Click here to join me in de­mand­ing that the Su­per Com­mit­tee stop send­ing bil­lions of tax­payer dol­lars to the five largest, most­prof­itable pri­vate oil com­pa­nies in the coun­try.” So I clicked, ex­pect­ing to see a pe­ti­tion form. In­stead, it was a link to SenBen’s re-elec­tion cam­paign — and a do­na­tion form. (Sigh.) Since BP, Exxon­Mo­bil, Shell, Chevron and Cono­coPhillips prob­a­bly won’t be “friend­ing” SenBen, he’s got to get it from some­where else.

Just when some of us started to think it might be OK to shop at Wal-Mart, the com­pany posts a 5.7 per­cent profit in­crease for the sec­ond quar­ter, then starts cut­ting health ben­e­fits to part-time em­ploy­ees and sig­nif­i­cantly in­creas­ing pre­mi­ums for many full-timers. Plus, there was the whole bleach at­tack thing ...

Kevin Fitzger­ald, a reader and lis­tener, asked me what I thought of Bal­ti­more County’s new ar­range­ment for Robert E. Lee Park: a fenced dog run of nearly 2 acres that peo­ple will have to pay $35 per pair of pooches to use. In that there was once so much dog waste in the city­owned-leased-to-the-county park that the city had to de­clare a big part of it a health haz­ard, close it down and re­move the top­soil; and in that hu­mans who like the un­for­tu­nately named park have stayed away in droves be­cause of the poop and un­leashed dogs, I think the county has found a rea­son­able so­lu­tion. Was the fee es­tab­lished to “keep the riff raff out,” as Mr. Fitzger­ald says he was told by a park vol­un­teer? If “riff raff” refers to the hu­man own­ers of ag­gres­sive dogs who like to let them run through the park un­leashed (and un­scooped), I say, “Good dog, here’s a treat.”

Speak­ing of re­cre­ation, this just in from Lit­tle Italy: The bocce courts are now open to the pub­lic. Bocce balls are not pro­vided; play­ers must bring their own.

No­body asked me, but you can’t fault Johns Hop­kins for ac­cept­ing into the class of 2015 that Howard County lad who was in­dicted Thurs­day for con­spir­ing with a Penn­syl­va­nia wo­man known as “Ji­had Jane” to pro­vide ma­te­rial sup­port to ter­ror­ists. I mean, I can’t imag­ine any ra­tio­nal young man would have listed JJ as a ref­er­ence and ex­pressed ad­mi­ra­tion for the mu­jahid in his Com­mon App es­say.

Speak­ing of Hop­kins — would y’all slow down, re­move the earplugs and head­phones, and look around when you’re cross­ing the streets near cam­pus? Pedes­tri­ans, driv­ers, bik­ers — ev­ery­one needs to stay alert in the Hop­kins Zone of Charles Vil­lage. This has been a pub­lic ser­vice mes­sage from this colum­nist and The Bal­ti­more Sun.

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