Morning Must Reads: Three Act Plays About Zombie Banksters, Smokestack Chasing and the Convoy

Paul Krugman describes our economic woes as a three-act play; now you Occupy Wall Street kids turn it into zombie banker street theater!

So, in case you’ve forgotten, it was a play in three acts. In the first act, bankers took advantage of deregulation to run wild (and pay themselves princely sums), inflating huge bubbles through reckless lending. In the second act, the bubbles burst — but bankers were bailed out by taxpayers, with remarkably few strings attached, even as ordinary workers continued to suffer the consequences of the bankers’ sins. And, in the third act, bankers showed their gratitude by turning on the people who had saved them, throwing their support — and the wealth they still possessed thanks to the bailouts — behind politicians who promised to keep their taxes low and dismantle the mild regulations erected in the aftermath of the crisis. Given this history, how can you not applaud the protesters for finally taking a stand?

A story in The Philadelphia Inquirer suggests Occupy Wall Street - Philadelphia is off to good start and includes more than just unshowered hippie kids. My twitter feed this morning even included a rumor that the Mayor was going to approve a brief moment of electricity so the protestors can watch the Phillies in Game 5 of the National League division series against the St. Louis Cardinals. As the saying goes, we want bread AND roses Phillies.

In the course of the morning, infrastructure — the kind meant to sustain the protest — started falling into place. After an organizer hopped up on a stone wall and called out that tables were needed for first aid and other stations, a rabbi from a nearby temple offered four tables, as did a community group called Fight for Philly. District 1199C of the National Union of Hospital and Health Care Employees donated office space for Occupy Philadelphia's legal team. Philadelphia Jobs with Justice, a coalition of labor unions and student, community, and religious groups, agreed to allow financial donations for the protest to be funneled through it, to ensure compliance with tax laws. The stagehands union said it would have a professional sound system in place for Friday, eliminating the need for the 'people's mike' — a system of echoing by the crowd, so all could hear.

Our friends at Good Jobs First often talk about the war among the states where economic development officials throw bags of cash at companies to lure them across state lines. Delaware gave AstraZeneca $40 million to leave Pennsylvania for Wilmington. AstraZeneca is now shedding jobs. In the spirit of Occupy Wall Street, you can put on your cardboard sign the following: To attract good jobs to your region, invest in institutions that provide public goods like education and training, not individual companies. Of course, with a sign like that, you will want to go over the top with your zombie banker costume.

London-based AstraZeneca has about 14,400 employees in North America, of which about 3,500 are in Delaware. AstraZeneca moved much of its operations in the Pennsylvania suburbs of Philadelphia to Wilmington in 1999, in part because the Delaware Economic Development Office gave it a package of grants and tax credits totaling $40.7 million ... These are not the first and won't be the last of the job cuts for AstraZeneca. It announced in March 2010 that it would cut 10,400 jobs by 2014. Employment was about 63,000 at the end of 2009 and is down to about 61,000 currently.

Saving the most exciting morning news for last: The Patriot-News editorial board comes out this morning in favor of exploring whether south-central Pennsylvania could benefit from more integrated public transportation systems across counties. Well, not the most exciting bit of news, but south-central Pennsylvania stands to gain a lot in terms of economic growth, environmental quality and economic opportunity for low-income workers from more integrated public transportation systems and, going beyond The Patriot-News, better funded public transportation agency.  

The counties of Adams, Cumberland, Dauphin, Lebanon, Lancaster and York make up south-central Pennsylvania. They share many similarities, and their populations routinely travel between county borders and the major cities in the region. Yet in these six counties, there are four different public transit systems in operation ... PennDOT recently undertook a study of the transit offerings in Lackawanna and Luzerne counties and the cities of Scranton, Wilkes-Barre and Hazleton. The study laid out the costs and benefits of more cooperation among the systems and recommended some consolidations.

And for those of you in south-central Pennsylvania yet to venture out onto the highways to join the convoy, a reminder why better public transportation is important.


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