By Tony Murphy
October 17, 2012
On Oct. 15, New York’s Metropolitan Transit Authority announced the
fourth round of fare hikes in four years. During that time the MTA has also
been on a cutback frenzy. Dozens of station booths have been demolished. The
transit agency has made it harder for people with disabilities to qualify for
Charged with running public transportation, the bank-owned MTA has become a
poster child for how drastically capitalism is unable to provide people with
the most basic services.
One of the things making a fightback campaign on this issue difficult is
that after four years, the fare hikes and cuts seem inevitable, an impression
the MTA and its allies in the New York media are only too happy to promote.
At fare hike public hearings in 2009, politicians lined up to take the
microphone and denounce the hardship that increased fares would impose on
At the last round of fare hike public hearings in late 2010, the politicians
were gone. And while this gave activists and transit workers the ability to
dominate the hearings, the fare hikes and cuts went through anyway.
Fightback campaign exposes MTA’s racist politics
However, a fightback campaign against the MTA has already begun —
against the racist ads targeting Muslim people that the MTA ran on behalf of
arch-racist Pamela Geller.
The deliberateness with which the MTA promoted war and racism highlights how
thoroughly public transportation has been hijacked by the 1%. And it
obliterates its spokespeople’s protestations that their “hands were
tied” by a court decision ordering the ads to be run.
That order gave the MTA board 30 days to do two things: one, review its
“appellate options,” meaning decide whether it would appeal the
ruling; and two, revise its own guidelines governing noncommercial, that is,
political ads. The board of bankers and real estate players refused to do both.
The MTA’s hands were not “tied” but “sat on.”
Thus the ads went up in the New York subway system on Sept. 24, during the
second week the U.N. was in session and at the height of the media hysteria
against Iran President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s visit to New York. The
placement of the ads begat another media flurry in which the racist language of
the ads was repeated over and over.
By the end of that week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held up a
cartoon of a ticking Iranian bomb before the U.N. General Assembly.
The MTA board’s complicity in the pro-war, anti-Muslim media campaign
was then underscored by the new steps it adopted for future noncommercial ads.
At its Sept. 27 board meeting, the board adopted new guidelines which would
“untie” the MTA’s hands in prohibiting speech.
But the new guidelines did not prohibit speech of the Geller variety on the
basis of being racist and/or offensive. The new guidelines prohibited ads that
“would imminently incite or provoke violence or other immediate breach of
In other words, in the wake of the rebellions against U.S. embassies sparked
by the crude anti-Muslim YouTube trailer, the MTA used, as the basis for future
prohibitions, the media’s racist caricature of the Muslim community as
The MTA has long played a role in the bogus “war on terror,” as
SWAT teams armed with submachine guns and accompanied by attack dogs regularly
patrol the subway. Since 2001, the New York Police Department, recently joined
by the airline industry’s Transportation Security Administration, has
conducted racist-profiling spot checks of people’s bags and
And when the anti-war International Action Center recently attempted to buy
ad space for anti-war messages of solidarity, the MTA reneged on the agreement
it made, pushing back the date several times and insisting on ridiculously
large disclaimers. The MTA’s stance could not be more consciously
Make banks pay for public transportation
Another factor helping the new struggle against fare hikes could be the new
subway station the MTA opened at Barclays Center, Brooklyn’s new
basketball arena. After closing stations all over New York, somehow a new $76
million station was opened by what the media refer to as the
This shows the domination of the MTA by the banks. The new stadium is named
after the scandal-ridden Barclays Bank, which financed it through Forest City
Ratner Companies, run by real estate developer Bruce Ratner, who razed
people’s homes so he could build 16 skyscrapers.
If Barclays can finance a new station, Wells Fargo can finance a reduction
in fares. Citibank can finance the expansion of services for the disabled, and
Chase Manhattan Bank can finance the rebuilding of station booths.
As the Republic Windows and Doors workers did in 2008 — when they got
Bank of America, the true power behind their bosses, to cough up the cash they
were owed — New York riders can demand that the banks, the true power
behind the MTA, pay to rebuild public transportation. The MTA is not
“cash-strapped.” The money is there.