Rome We started out the day with a run by the office where we are “bunking” for free to meet three tenants from Rome who were making the final decision about joining ACORN Italia and “registering” their landlord, which means putting his property on the state tax rolls and off of the black market. They left the meeting with David Tozzo, ACORN Italy’s head organizer, raring to go. By doing so they will pay their small share of back taxes, but will also save 90% of their rent for the next 8 years. Thus far our Tenant-Landlord Registration Campaign has won similar savings of over 4 Million Euros and gained us pages of publicity and members all over Rome, but also in Venice, Turin, Bologna, and elsewhere in Italy.
For a treat we then bused into the center of Rome and visited Sant Eustachio il Caffe, the Fair Grinds Coffeehouse of Rome, but that’s a longer story for another day or go right to Fair Grinds Around the World.
After a lunch with Senator Lucio d’Ubaldo, our very generous host, where we dissected the impact of new requirements for voter identification in the USA and what it might mean for the Obama candidacy as well as the retrenchment of democratic principles. The room at the Ristorante da Sabatino a S. Ignazio, near the Parliament, was far in the back. As I looked on the right was a newspaper report on a meeting that ex-President Bill Clinton had with the Ukrainian Premier in the restaurant and how much he liked the classic Roman pasts, the carbonera. On my left were a dozen Christmas tree ornaments sent over the years from the White House and a framed picture of Barbara Bush with a personal note of thanks to the restaurant’s owners for past pleasures. This was no Tea Party, but a working lunch, but I still wondered what any of us would think about spending our tax money to send these baubles over to this fancy restaurant in Rome.
Senator Ubaldo is with the more liberal Democratic Party, but after a tour of the Senate (and, yes, there is a mural of the Roman Senators from thousands of years ago in debate that rests on a wall over the modern Senate meeting spaces!), he introduced us to the his more conservative colleague, Senator Baldassarri, who heads the Finance Commission. We had a most engaging conversation with Sen. Baldassarri, who also carries around a Phd in Economics from MIT and a thesis signed by three Nobel prize winners from Paul Samuelson to more recently Paul Krugman. He argued in elegant English that we should not be confused by looking at the Greek crisis as if we were “looking at a finger and didn’t realize it was pointing at the moon,” meaning in his words the financial mess in the USA and the huge debt now owned by China. Importantly Sen. Baldassarri understood ACORN International’s Remittance Justice Campaign immediately, making this meeting invaluable.
I made it through my presentation on Democracy in the XXI Century, with no huge problems, despite the fact that the broadness of the topic was wide enough to crush me with its weight. Great questions from both long time observers of the US and other countries and smart-as-a-tack younger professors and policy people. Very engaging!
And, exhausting! By the time we crawled off of the bus at rush hour we were barely able to make it through a rice-and-tuna fish dinner, since there’s packing to do, and my horoscope reportedly says, “Go home!”