Monday, February 18, 2013

Isn’t it time for Occupy Bowdoin collaboration?

Brunswick, as readers know better than Side, is an ‘interesting’ town.  Oh, we could be trendier and call it a ‘community space,’ but we’re not into such eumphemisms.

We’re blessed with any number of protesters, advocates, and general show-er-uppers, ready at a moment’s notice to carry signs and say their peace, even if they’re not sure what it is they’re protesting against, advocating for, or showing up to support.  If you have to ask, then you aren’t down for the struggle.

To make our point, as we returned Saturday from breaking fast, we came across this scene on Maine Street, which has become as dependable as death and tax increases.


Presumably the loyal few have a bone to pick with Bank of America, considering it the epitome of all that evil capitalism, free markets, and corporations are doing to oppress ‘working families’ and earn obscene profits on the backs of the less fortunate.

You might remember this larger example of their efforts here in town:

Check out these comments posted with the video:

Prayer won't get you our wealth back from the capitalists. We need to demand the wealth that we, the working class, created! That means mass strikes, re-appropriations from banks, bossnapping, and other direct actions.

This is what Democracy looks like!

A peaceful and informative demonstration by the Maine People's Alliance.

“Bossnapping” anyone?  “Re-appropriations from banks?”  Where can we find classes for these here in town?  Or should we just read up on John Dillinger?

Shifting gears just a bit, we’re well aware that as a resident of Brunswick, we’re expected to regularly genuflect at the altar of Bowdoin College.  As a matter of fact, the Brunswick Downtown Association just named the College ‘Member of the Year.’

Bowdoin Campus

It’s a lovely and impressive place; there’s no denying it.  Not to mention that its optics (quad, etc) remind us of our years at our Alma Mater, which was founded 30 years before Bowdoin.  Pish, you say.

It’s fashionable to believe that Brunswick is nothing without Bowdoin.  We were reminded of this by an undergraduate not many months ago.  Do you think he came here believing this, or that he was infused with the notion during his matriculation?  Are you serious?  Here are the high points of his testimony:

You know what's awesome about Brunswick? Bowdoin College. Without Bowdoin, what is Brunswick? 

However, the point is Brunswick thrives on the presence of Bowdoin College, both financially and culturally.

Here at Other Side offices, we are ever so grateful for the personal financial benefit we’ve experienced.  More about that later.  As to the cultural benefit, we’re struggling to find the right words, especially since engineers can barely spell culture.

We aren’t struggling to find these words: the campus is awash in self-righteous pontification about the common good, multiculturalism, diversity, social justice, economic justice, racial justice, gender justice, environmental justice, food justice, fair share justice, climate justice, cosmic justice, polar bear justice, energy justice, and numerous other mantras du jour that eventually take one to the Occupy movement and the great divide between the 1% and the 99%.  The latter emphasizing income distribution justice.

Which makes it an ‘intellectual curiosity’ when one reads of the College’s ‘top earners,’ as we did in a recent edition of the Bowdoin Orient.

Total compensation for the Bowdoin staff mentioned ranges from just under $800,000 at the top, to nearly $500,000 for the President, and three other administrators pulling in packages in the range of $300,000.  The highest paid faculty members have total compensation in excess of $200,000.

While the President’s wife just stepped down from her Cabinet post at the SBA, and is already being mentioned as a possible candidate for Governor, one would think that the President’s family had a very good year financially, and find themselves comfortably in the 1% category.

Good for them all; they’re at the top of their professions, and earning rewards commensurate with their abilities, achievements, and positions.  While many of us see nothing wrong with this picture, it would seem to make them brothers and sisters of the ‘greedy capitalist pigs’ (GCPs) we’re sure students hear plenty about in their classes, and our friends with signs on Maine Street surely despise.  Funny how that works.

The difference between the Bowdoin top earners and the GCP’s is that if you’re going to be true to the Bowdoin creed, brand, and image, you’ll be committed to paying your fair share, and addressing the wide income disparities in this nation gone horribly astray. 

Accordingly, we’re confident that a good portion of the ‘financial benefit’ to our community is the sum paid by campus high earners to encourage full employment of local tax lawyers, CPAs, and others as they seek to maximize their tax obligations to the IRS and the State of Maine. 

Doing anything but would make them untrue to the College commitment to the common good, and we know none of them could look caring students in the eye if they hadn’t gone out of their way in fair share achievement.  Sheltering income from the rightful grasp of the taxman would devastate the tender young idealists who come here to make the world a better place.

Germane to this last point, we had our breath taken away by this ‘justice-driven’ reality: Government is apparently a top interest of Bowdoin students, as this report in Wikipedia states:

Government & Legal Studies was the most popular major for every graduating class between 2000 and 2009.

Since the article must be a few years old, we don’t know if the choice still holds.  But we’re stupefied that our ‘brightest and best’ think pursuing a future in the Government sector holds greater reward (whatever that might mean) than any other pursuit.  What joy this gives, and what promise for our future.

All things considered, we suspect you can’t walk on campus without stepping into the ooze of delusion and self-adulation.  Oddly, the campus is also awash in extravagant evidence of the financial successes and unjust incomes of the evil 1%.

Which suggests an object lesson.  The US Congress, composed of the House and Senate, has had an approval rating around 15% for several years.  That’s because just about everyone considers all those congress-critters down in Washington to be self-serving, dissolute, crooked, and corrupt sons-a-bitches.

On the other hand, if you ask Mainers what they think of Senators Collins and King, Angus, and Representatives Sussman-Pingree and Michaud, you’d probably get approval ratings of 60%, or even higher.  That’s because while Congress taken as a whole are sons-a-bitches, OUR OWN DELEGATION is made up of OUR sons-a-bitches.

That’s why we continue to have a Congress with an overall approval rating just above food-poisoning.  Virtually every MOC has mastered the art of being OUR PERSONAL SOB, thereby neutralizing a categorical SOB identity.  Especially when campaign time rolls around, which is always and forever.

In the same vein, we’re confident that the aforementioned downtown Occupy troops, and the Bowdoin student body, are convinced that the 1% taken as a whole is a bunch of dirt-bag, profit-mongering oppressors who could care less how many workers’ wealth they take for themselves and send into abject poverty.

Except, that is, for those who are OUR dirt-bag, profit-mongering capitalists. Because without them, what is Bowdoin, to borrow a phrase, and by extension, Brunswick?  (For those interested, we provide below various citations of mega-gifts provided by those in the upper reaches of the 1%.  All brought to you compliments of Wall Street devils.) 

That marvelous science building at the corner of Bath Road and Sills Road?  Thank alumnus hedge fund manager Stanley Druckenmiller, about whom this appeared in the Wall Street Journal in May, 2011:

A financial crisis is surely going to happen as big or bigger than the one we had in 2008 if we continue to behave the way we're behaving," says Stanley Druckenmiller, the legendary investor and onetime fund manager for George Soros. Is this another warning from Wall Street that Congress must immediately raise the federal debt limit to prevent the end of civilization?

No—Mr. Druckenmiller has heard enough of such "clamor and hyperbole." The grave danger he sees is that politicians might give the government authority to borrow beyond the current limit of $14.3 trillion without any conditions to control spending.

Widely credited with orchestrating Mr. Soros's successful shorting of the British pound in 1992, Mr. Druckenmiller also built his own fund, Duquesne Capital, into a $12 billion titan. He announced plans last year to close the fund and now reports, "I have no clients." He is still managing his own money, which Forbes magazine recently estimated at $2.5 billion.

Too bad Druckenmiller didn’t have the same sway over President Obama that he had over George Soros.

Meanwhile, Soros has sprinkled millions here and millions there to fund his collectivist vision, and in the process, kill off the capitalist system that made he, Druckenmiller, and scores of other Bowdoin alums wealthy beyond measure.  Along with windfall growth of the college endowment fund.

Ah, sweet mystery of life, at last we’ve found you: “we are the 99%,’ indeed.  Which brings us to our main point, if you’re still with us.  Q: Why don’t the Maine Street B of A souls collaborate with outraged Polar Bears to “Occupy Bowdoin,” which is by far the most egregious local symbol of 1% domination over our existence?  We’re trying to come up with an answer, and if we do, we promise to pass it along before we close.

We can’t end our study of ‘the common good’ without discussing institutional fair share.  According to town data, Bowdoin College receives a property tax exemption on the order of $120 million.  At the current tax rate, this amounts to about $3 million in property tax exclusion, or 10% of current property tax revenues.

We’ll add this: anyone who believes the assessable value of Bowdoin College properties and holdings is $120 million is sadly uninformed.  We argue it’s much more like $500 million, especially after studying the links we provide below.  If we’re right, that means their exemption is more like 50% of the total taxable value in town.  That would translate to $12 million or so in avoided property tax charges per year.

This leaves us verklempt over how a socially conscious institution, a corporation, as it were, could stand by and let such gifts be heaped on them when community needs are so great?

Why do we, the hosts of this operation, give them hundreds of prime acres in addition to subsidizing student tuition and staff salaries?  To the tune of somewhere between three and twelve million dollars a year?  We’ll take plenty of grief for this position, but so what. Just tell us how this makes sense overall, please.

Now for the question we posed a few paragraphs back:

A: Because those who symbolize and prove the dominance of the 1% within Brunswick boundaries are sainted benefactors, and are exempt from the animus reserved for more easily identifiable oppressors and GCP’s.

“We are the 99%?”  Get a clue, folks.  Looks good on TV, but most who spew the words have no idea what they’re talking about.  If they did, Bowdoin students would be un-enrolling to prove their solidarity with the 99% oppressed by so many Polar Bears who preceded them.

Unless, that is, they actually like basking in the reflected glory of those who manipulated Wall Street and unfair free markets to their own huge advantage, and in so doing, accumulated massive wealth and power over the little people.

Kind of like summering at the Breakers while you write your anti-capitalist manifesto.  Is there a better way to prepare for a career as a member of the ruling elite class?

Further Study:

Should you decide to check the following links, you’ll discover news of a $290 million plus capital campaign, and you don’t get there with $50 checks from loyal alumni.  And you’ll read of several hedge fund managers and various others who it’s pretty clear made their fortunes in/on Wall Street, the global centroid of all evil and exploitative capitalism.  And Subway Sandwiches as well.

1 comment:

  1. Mr. Poppycock: Have you ever investigated how many of Bowdoin's faculty actually live in Brunswick and contribute to its welfare through property taxes? Like the old BNAS the campus is a self contained enclave where the residents (students) need not rely on the local community for anything (food and clothing) and therfore do not support the local businesses but utilize public services like police and fire, road maintenance without paying a dime. In addition they got 170 acres of the old BNAS for nothing, taking that land off of the tax rolls.