Matt Taibbi's The Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap, ”as infuriating as it is impossible to put down.”
“Taibbi wrote The Divide to demonstrate that unequal wealth is producing grotesquely unequal outcomes in criminal justice. You might say that’s an old story, but Taibbi believes that, just as income disparities are growing ever wider, so, too, are disparities in who attracts the attention of cops and prosecutors and who doesn’t. Violent crime has fallen by 44 percent in America over the past two decades, but during that same period the prison population has more than doubled, skewing heavily black and poor. In essence, poverty itself is being criminalized. Meanwhile, at the other end of the income distribution, an epidemic of white-collar crime has overtaken the financial sector, indicated, for instance, by a proliferation of record-breaking civil settlements. But partly because of an embarrassing succession of botched Justice Department prosecutions, and partly because of a growing worry (first enunciated by Attorney General Eric Holder when he was Bill Clinton’s deputy attorney general) that any aggressive prosecution of big banks could destabilize the economy, Wall Street has come, under President Obama, to enjoy near-total immunity from criminal prosecution. It had more to fear, ironically, when George W. Bush was president. …
[C]riminals are getting harder to find even as new computer systems are enabling the police commissioner to keep track of which precincts are making the most arrests. The solution turns out to be aggressive use of a stop-and-frisk policy that gives cops a blank check to “search virtually anyone at any time.” The police start behaving “like commercial fishermen, throwing nets over whole city blocks.” Some of the fish get prosecuted or ticketed for ever-pettier offenses; 20,000 summonses, for instance, are handed out annually for riding a bicycle on the sidewalk. But most fish aren’t guilty of anything and must grow accustomed to being routinely cuffed and ridden around in a police van before they are tossed back into the water. These fish are, of course, typically black and poor. Anecdotal evidence suggests that throwing a similar fishnet over entire Wall Street firms would produce a criminal yield at least as high as any random ghetto block. But innocent Wall Street fish would have a much bigger megaphone with which to proclaim their constitutional rights, and guilty Wall Street fish would have much better lawyers. …
We may be approaching a day when any kind of personal attention from a large institution that wields substantial control over your life becomes a luxury available only to the few, like a bespoke suit or designer gown.”
The Justice Gap
50 years ago, America’s biggest employer was General Motors, where workers made the modern equivalent of $50 dollars an hour. Today, America’s biggest employer is Walmart, where the average wage is $8 dollars an hour. Which means you can share a room in a transient hotel with a drifter who cuts his toenails with a machete.
And Walmart released their annual report this month, and in it was the fact that most of what Walmart sells is food. And most of their customers need food stamps to pay for it. Meanwhile, Walmart’s owners are so absurdly rich that one of them, Alice Walton, spent over a billion dollars building an art museum in Bentonville, Arkansas, 500 miles away from the nearest person who ever would want to look at art.
And she said about it, “For years I’ve been thinking about what we can do as a family that can really make a difference.” How about giving your employees a raise, you deluded nitwit?
Take the case of Belle Knox. She’s the Duke University freshman who was recently outed as a porn star. But she doesn’t have the typical porn star biography… No, she’s a level-headed articulate 18-year-old majoring in women’s studies.
So people are saying, why the porn? Because Duke costs $61 grand a year! Since 1980, college tuition has increased 600% above the inflation rate. I’m surprised they’re not all doing porn. …
This is what the Paul Ryans of the world don’t understand — that this is not a country of lazy people and good people, so much as it is a country of rich people and desperate people.
Do you know how much Americans owe in student loans?
$1.3 trillion dollars.
We’re going to have to sell a lot of ass to pay that tab.
“How does this [Manning] prison sentence compare with those of the major banks, lenders and servicers behind the mortgage bust? Oh, wait.”
“You want lessons? Don’t sprawl. That Ponzi scheme will catch up with you. Nurture real universities, constant reinvention and civic decency and opportunity that includes all citizens. Don’t assume the “creative destruction” of the supposedly unfettered free market won’t destroy your community, too. Or end up at the gates of your gated property (not for nothing do we have a zombie craze). Invest in your city. Beware of scare tactics by the right and some quarters of the media about the gazillions facing us in “unfunded liabilities.” There is a gap between public pension promises and assets, but who the hell’s fault is that? We’re the richest country in the world. Wall Street is gambling with $600 trillion in nominal derivatives. And the retired garbageman is to blame?”
“When a society spends thirty years not only allowing a small number people to amass ludicrous amounts of money for valueless transactions that serve mostly to further exacerbate the dangerous imbalance in income stratification at a time when “equality of opportunity” is no longer a concept to which the monied class and its elected representatives can pay lip service with a straight face, but also creating an environment in which the members of that same small group are praised for their avarice and paraded in public as benevolent engines of commerce whose success is all that fuels a supposedly vibrant economy for which the rest of us are supposed to be grateful, you can’t exactly act surprised when they screw up the beach for everyone else in order to protect their expensive homes.”
Rich People Things
“Broadly speaking, the data now indicate that as people get richer, they report getting happier too… [except] The U.S. is nearly three times as rich today as it was in 1973 … According to nearly every survey, though, Americans are not at all happier than we were back then.”
They are now worth $1.9 trillion: just a little less than the entire output of the United Kingdom.
This is not the result of chance. The rise in the fortunes of the super-rich is the direct result of policies. Here are a few: the reduction of tax rates and tax enforcement; governments’ refusal to recoup a decent share of revenues from minerals and land; the privatisation of public assets and the creation of a toll-booth economy; wage liberalisation and the destruction of collective bargaining.
The policies that made the global monarchs so rich are the policies squeezing everyone else. This is not what the theory predicted. Friedrich Hayek, Milton Friedman and their disciples – in a thousand business schools, the IMF, the World Bank, the OECD and just about every modern government – have argued that the less governments tax the rich, defend workers and redistribute wealth, the more prosperous everyone will be. Any attempt to reduce inequality would damage the efficiency of the market, impeding the rising tide that lifts all boats. The apostles have conducted a 30-year global experiment, and the results are now in. Total failure.”
If you think we’re done with neoliberalism, think again | Guardian
The same people who bet big on Mr. Romney, and lost, are now trying to win by stealth — in the name of fiscal responsibility — the ground they failed to gain in an open election. […]
Consider, as a prime example, the push to raise the retirement age, the age of eligibility for Medicare, or both. This is only reasonable, we’re told — after all, life expectancy has risen, so shouldn’t we all retire later? In reality, however, it would be a hugely regressive policy change, imposing severe burdens on lower- and middle-income Americans while barely affecting the wealthy. Why? First of all, the increase in life expectancy is concentrated among the affluent; why should janitors have to retire later because lawyers are living longer? Second, both Social Security and Medicare are much more important, relative to income, to less-affluent Americans, so delaying their availability would be a far more severe hit to ordinary families than to the top 1 percent.
Or take a subtler example, the insistence that any revenue increases should come from limiting deductions rather than from higher tax rates. The key thing to realize here is that the math just doesn’t work; there is, in fact, no way limits on deductions can raise as much revenue from the wealthy as you can get simply by letting the relevant parts of the Bush-era tax cuts expire. So any proposal to avoid a rate increase is, whatever its proponents may say, a proposal that we let the 1 percent off the hook and shift the burden, one way or another, to the middle class or the poor. […]
So keep your eyes open as the fiscal game of chicken continues. It’s an uncomfortable but real truth that we are not all in this together; America’s top-down class warriors lost big in the election, but now they’re trying to use the pretense of concern about the deficit to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. Let’s not let them pull it off.”
Paul Krugman: Class Wars of 2012
“One last thought you guys: when I was a boy, I used to think that becoming rich and becoming famous would make me happy. BOY, was I right!”
Mitt Romney, March 17, 2005 [via Daily Show]