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23 November 2011

Repudiation: AP Misleads on Cost of OWS

Today's Wall Street Journal includes an estimate that the municipal cost of the Occupy movement is at $13 million and climbing.
During the first two months of the nationwide Occupy protests, the movement that is demanding more out of the wealthiest Americans cost local taxpayers at least $13 million in police overtime and other municipal services, according to a survey by The Associated Press.
The heaviest financial burden has fallen upon law enforcement agencies tasked with monitoring marches and evicting protesters from outdoor camps. And the steepest costs by far piled up in New York City and Oakland, Calif., where police clashed with protesters on several occasions.
There is an important breakdown for these figures that is missing from the article.  The most expensive parts are said to be monitoring, which one can argue is an important service for both the protesters and the cities, and the evictions, which one can argue is an unnecessary cost.  Allegations of violence on the part of the protesters can be found on various Fox News articles and assorted right-wing blogs, but not so much in the mainstream news.  The same event (about a week ago) in the British news focused on police brutality.

The spending comes as cash-strapped police departments have cut overtime budgets, travel and training to respond to the recession. Nonetheless, city officials say they have no choice but to bring in extra officers or hold officers past their shifts to handle gatherings and marches in a way that protects free speech rights and public safety. In some cities, officials say the spending is eating into their overtime budgets and leaving less money for other public services.
Protesters blame excessive police presence for the high costs in some places. And they note the cost has been minimal in other cities, and worth the spending because they have raised awareness about what they call corporate greed and the growing inequality between rich and poor.
Cities and their police departments are cash-strapped largely because of an economy devastated by the unregulated misdeeds of what the Occupy movements calls the 1%.  An article on Think Progress today puts the numbers into some perspective.
$13 million for policing of ongoing protests all over the country for two months is not a particularly large sum. For example, the 2004 Republican National Committee protests, which lasted for a single week and took place in a single location, cost $50 million to secure. A small tea party rally in November 2010 that attracted only a few dozen people cost $14,000, paid for by official congressional money.
The cost of securing these protests against economic inequality and political corruption also pales in comparison to one large figure: the wealth destroyed by Wall Street’s recession. The recession caused by Wall Street’s misdeeds destroyed $50 trillion of wealth globally by 2009, $20 trillion of that wealth in the United States alone. ThinkProgress has assembled the following chart to visualize these comparative costs:
Additionally, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan cost $13 million every 40 minutes this year, and the multibillionaire magnate Koch Brothers increase their wealth by $13 million every eleven hours.
The chart is slightly misleading.  Think Progress was unable to depict the left column as smaller than one pixel in height.  If you grossly round up the left column to $20 million dollars, then it is easy to compare $20 million to $20 trillion.  The left column should be less than 0.0001% the height of the middle column.  A much larger chart would not be convenient for a computer screen, but the columns currently look closer than the really are.  Considering how many months and how many cities and how many people have been involved, $13 million dollars seems pretty inexpensive.

Some of these costs, monitoring citizens expression of their right to assembly and right of free speech, are reasonable.  Most of the police have done a good job in working for the benefit of their cities and their citizens.  Some, spraying a chemical weapon in the faces of those who were not engaging in violence,  was a violation of decency and an unreasonable waste of taxpayer dollars.

 Thanks to Joe My God for the heads up.

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