Take heart, downtrodden rich people of America: Another famous rich guy has heard your cries of persecution and is joining the small but growing 1st Percent Defense Brigade.
Billionaire bottom-feeder Wilbur Ross on Tuesday declared that “the 1 percent is being picked on for political reasons” and that poor people should stop their gripin’ and get themselves an education if they ever want to stop being part of the 99 percent.
“Education is the way that people get out of the ghetto and into, if not the 1 percent, something close to it,” Ross wealthsplained in an interview with Bloomberg TV, which is fast becoming the house organ for aggrieved rich guys (and not just the rich guy whose name is in the title).
Ross pledged his allegiance to another billionaire, the gnome king Sam Zell, who last week told Bloomberg TV that the 1 percent are “being pummeled because it’s politically convenient to do so” and because the poors are simply incapable of working as hard as the rich, leaving them seething with jealousy. Lazy, lazy jealousy.
On the other hand, Gohmert said, poor people were using food stamps to buy food that other Americans could not afford. He claimed his “broken-hearted” constituents had repeatedly told him they had seen people use food stamps to buy king crab legs.
“Because he does pay income tax, he doesn’t get more back than he pays in, he is actually helping pay for king crab legs when he can’t pay for them for himself,” Gohmert explained.
a cartoon from the California Federation of Teachers has stirred some controversy, not for its scathing critique of income disparity in America, but for a particular scene in which a wealthy man urinates on poor people below him. Actor Ed Asner narrated the video, and so a producer for Fox News’ Hannity confronted him.
Frank Vogl has spent more than half his life exposing and fighting corruption — first as a journalist, then with the World Bank, and finally with Transparency International, which he cofounded. His book about his experiences, Waging War on Corruption, does not disappoint.
The book is a history of both those who have fought corruption — the dangers they faced and the obstacles they overcame — and of the people exposed. From Watergate to the Arab Spring, Vogl was either directly writing about or otherwise exposing the corruption involved.
Vogl explains the problem thus:
Corruption is not a single event, but a continuum, perpetrated day in and day out against citizens by crooked politicians and civil servants who enjoy positions of power. They can be heads of state who demand a payoff of millions of dollars on major government contracts. Or they can be lowly civil servants in small towns who have the power to grant building permits or allow access for children to schools or reserve hospital beds, and who use such powers to extort cash payments from poor people.
In any book where the author has so much knowledge, there is a risk that the numerous stories and examples of gross and petty corruption will become tedious, since so many of the cases follow the same lines. But before one is about to think “enough already,” each chapter concludes with some general insight on the problems and how they were overcome.
Under the broad heading of “Villains Everywhere,” Vogl traces corruption in locations such as Chicago, Cuba, China, Indonesia, and Russia. The historical explanation of the early stalling and eventual advance of anti-corruption is the most intellectually satisfying part of the book. During the Cold War, neither the Soviets nor the Americans cared at all about the corruption of the dictators they supported. With the Third World carved up, we had our dictators and they had theirs. Preventing any country from falling under the clutches of communism was enough — worrying about the actions of “our” dictators was never much of a consideration, even when monsters like Mobutu Sese Seko of the Congo essentially impoverished his people.
Only the fall of the Berlin Wall led to the end of the practice and the beginning of real advances against corruption. The origin and advance of Vogl’s obviously beloved Transparency International is also a powerful story, since TI started not that long after the fall of the Wall and could never have succeeded before.
Meet Clifford Russell a Romney Campaign Worker in Bedford, Virginia.
I ask him to elaborate and he complies, vigorously.
“What’s killing us is all these entitlements, we’ve got to get rid of all of them. All this welfare, food stamps, Medicare, and then big government health care on top of it, it’s all just too much! When do we say enough is enough?’
What do you mean, exactly, I ask him. You say people are suffering under Obama, don’t they need some help?
‘No. No more help, enough is enough. People have to pick themselves up, take some responsibility. Why should we be paying for people’s mistakes and bad choices? All these illegitimate families just adding to the population, making all these bad decisions, then asking us to pay for it? It’s time to cut them off.”
I ask for some clarification: what do you mean, just starve them out? What if people can’t find work? Let them starve?
“Look, there’s always something you can do. You telling me people can’t make a choice for a better life? We have to help all of them? No. I’ll tell you what really need to do with these illegitimate families on welfare—give all the kids up for adoption and execute the parents.”
I stare at him and blink in a glaze of shock.
Just to be sure I heard him right, I ask him to repeat it, twice.
“Yes, I mean it. Get rid of all of them, give the kids up for adoption, execute the parents, and you get rid of the problem.’ (When I call him back to revisit the issue, he elaborates: ‘put the children up for adoption and execute the parents, and word would get out soon’ that poor people shouldn’t have kids.)
This is a local Romney headquarters in swing-state Virginia, not some far-right Tea Party fringe group (or maybe that’s what the GOP has become). This is, at least in growing part, today’s mainstream GOP.
Mr. Russell has several other opinions about government programs and policies to share with us in the article, most equally as bad. How is it that these types of beliefs have become acceptable enough within the GOP so as not to preclude him from fronting a Romney campaign office? This is really the kind of man the Romney campaign wants talking to prospective voters when they come thru the door?
The author of the article did miss one question that I definitely would have asked Mr. Russell…
“If the both the parents of any illegitimate child are put to death for their “crime” what do you suppose that would do to the abortion and murder rates?”
After all when a pregnancy becomes a matter of life or death you have to believe that 99.9% of people would make the choice to terminate it. Some women certainly would not want to tell their boyfriends that they were pregnant either, they might end up being murdered if they did.
Then again, perhaps Mr. Russell has thought about that side of things and simply sees his suggestion as a “legal” means of minority/underclass population control?
Dr. Richard Wesley has amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, the incurable disease that lays waste to muscles while leaving the mind intact. He lives with the knowledge that an untimely death is chasing him down, but takes solace in knowing that he can decide exactly when, where and how he will die.
Under Washington State’s Death With Dignity Act, his physician has given him a prescription for a lethal dose of barbiturates. He would prefer to die naturally, but if dying becomes protracted and difficult, he plans to take the drugs and die peacefully within minutes.
“It’s like the definition of pornography,” Dr. Wesley, 67, said at his home here in Seattle, with Mount Rainier in the distance. “I’ll know it’s time to go when I see it.”
Washington followed Oregon in allowing terminally ill patients to get a prescription for drugs that will hasten death. Critics of such laws feared that poor people would be pressured to kill themselves because they or their families could not afford end-of-life care. But the demographics of patients who have gotten the prescriptions are surprisingly different than expected, according to data collected by Oregon and Washington through 2011.
Dr. Wesley is emblematic of those who have taken advantage of the law. They are overwhelmingly white, well educated and financially comfortable. And they are making the choice not because they are in pain but because they want to have the same control over their deaths that they have had over their lives.
Individually the poor are not too tempting to thieves, for obvious reasons. Mug a banker and you might score a wallet containing a month’s rent. Mug a janitor and you will be lucky to get away with bus fare to flee the crime scene. But as Business Week helpfully pointed out in 2007, the poor in aggregate provide a juicy target for anyone depraved enough to make a business of stealing from them.
The trick is to rob them in ways that are systematic, impersonal and almost impossible to trace to individual perpetrators. Employers, for example, can simply program their computers to shave a few dollars off each paycheck, or they can require workers to show up thirty minutes or more before the time clock starts ticking.
Lenders, including major credit companies as well as payday lenders, have taken over the traditional role of the street-corner loan shark, charging the poor insanely high rates of interest. When supplemented with late fees (themselves subject to interest), the resulting effective interest rate can be as high as 600 percent a year, which is perfectly legal in many states.
It’s not just the private sector that’s preying on the poor. Local governments are discovering that they can partially make up for declining tax revenues through fines, fees and other costs imposed on indigent defendants, often for crimes no more dastardly than driving with a suspended license. And if that seems like an inefficient way to make money, given the high cost of locking people up, a growing number of jurisdictions have taken to charging defendants for their court costs and even the price of occupying a jail cell.
GOP Split over help tp poorpeople-press.org
Mitt Romney’s statement that he is focused solely on the problems of middle class Americans, not the poor, may not sit well with lower-income voters within his own party. Roughly a quarter of Republican and Republican-leaning registered voters have annual family incomes under $30,000, and most of them say that the government does not do enough for poor people in this country.
In a Pew Research Center survey conducted in early October, 57% of lower-income Republican and Republican-leaning voters said the government does too little for poor people. Just 18% said it does too much.
By contrast, higher-income Republicans took the opposite view; by roughly two-to-one (44% to 21%) Republicans with incomes of $75,000 or more said the government does too much, not too little, for poor people.
I first learned about the World Economic Forum at Davos as a greenhorn in college. At the time, I was knee-deep in coursework on economic development, a field that extols the social and economic virtues of tending to the world’s poor. I was somewhere between Amartya’s Sen’s 1999 Nobel Prize-winning book Development as Freedom, a cult sensation among wonky Ivy Leaguers and 20-something granolas bound for the Peace Corps, and Joseph Stiglitz’s 2002 bestseller Globalization and Its Discontents, when I first dreamed of going to Davos to take part in the lofty mission of “solving the world’s problems.”
Those were the years when globalization really earned its bad rap. And as a result, a counter movement, rooted in aspirations of global equity and social good, began to take hold. Anti-globalization protests so disrupted the WEF in 2001 that its organizers had to relocate the event to New York the following year. The anti-globalization movement even erected its own conference, the World Social Forum, in Porto Alegre, Brazil, to serve as a populist counterweight to the elite Davos powwow. By 2002, Porto Alegre had drawn in 50,000 people, triple the number from the previous year. Even the Economist conceded that, in light of popular backlash, the march toward globalization could yet be reversed:
The economic history of the twentieth century is full of reminders that the move towards globalisation is not inevitable. War in 1914 brought an end to a period of economic openness and integration unparalleled even today. The 1930s were more painful than necessary precisely because of beggar-thy-neighbour policies adopted in the wake of the Depression. It is not impossible that governments today will turn their backs on open trade and capital flows. Many of those in Porto Alegre would welcome such a policy reversal.
In WEF-like circles, the biggest critics of globalization then were the defenders of the world’s poor, who cited a growing gap between the fortunes of Western economies and those of the developing world. As the Economist noted:
[Anti-globalizationists] point to the 2 billion or so people who live in countries where poverty has increased, where economic growth is stagnant, and where trade has shrunk as a proportion of GDP. A large chunk of the world, home to a third of its people and including much of Africa and the Muslim world, has been marginalized. Such deterioration in the living standards of so many, argue globalization’s critics, is evidence of the selective benefits it brings: the rich minority thrive at the expense of a much larger group of desperately poor people. It is this message [the World Social Forum] will seek to develop and strengthen.
As I scurried from panel to panel at Davos this year, I realized just how dramatically the perspectives on globalization has changed since those years. No doubt, the topic of globalization is as hot as ever at the WEF. But on the question of what to do about it, on how to make it inclusive and fair, the answers have changed.
A prison is a trap for catching time. Good reporting appears often about the inner life of the American prison, but the catch is that American prison life is mostly undramatic—the reported stories fail to grab us, because, for the most part, nothing happens. One day in the life of Ivan Denisovich is all you need to know about Ivan Denisovich, because the idea that anyone could live for a minute in such circumstances seems impossible; one day in the life of an American prison means much less, because the force of it is that one day typically stretches out for decades. It isn’t the horror of the time at hand but the unimaginable sameness of the time ahead that makes prisons unendurable for their inmates. The inmates on death row in Texas are called men in “timeless time,” because they alone aren’t serving time: they aren’t waiting out five years or a decade or a lifetime. The basic reality of American prisons is not that of the lock and key but that of the lock and clock.
That’s why no one who has been inside a prison, if only for a day, can ever forget the feeling. Time stops. A note of attenuated panic, of watchful paranoia—anxiety and boredom and fear mixed into a kind of enveloping fog, covering the guards as much as the guarded. “Sometimes I think this whole world is one big prison yard, / Some of us are prisoners, some of us are guards,” Dylan sings, and while it isn’t strictly true—just ask the prisoners—it contains a truth: the guards are doing time, too. As a smart man once wrote after being locked up, the thing about jail is that there are bars on the windows and they won’t let you out. This simple truth governs all the others. What prisoners try to convey to the free is how the presence of time as something being done to you, instead of something you do things with, alters the mind at every moment. For American prisoners, huge numbers of whom are serving sentences much longer than those given for similar crimes anywhere else in the civilized world—Texas alone has sentenced more than four hundred teen-agers to life imprisonment—time becomes in every sense this thing you serve.
For most privileged, professional people, the experience of confinement is a mere brush, encountered after a kid’s arrest, say. For a great many poor people in America, particularly poor black men, prison is a destination that braids through an ordinary life, much as high school and college do for rich white ones. More than half of all black men without a high-school diploma go to prison at some time in their lives. Mass incarceration on a scale almost unexampled in human history is a fundamental fact of our country today—perhaps the fundamental fact, as slavery was the fundamental fact of 1850. In truth, there are more black men in the grip of the criminal-justice system—in prison, on probation, or on parole—than were in slavery then. Over all, there are now more people under “correctional supervision” in America—more than six million—than were in the Gulag Archipelago under Stalin at its height. That city of the confined and the controlled, Lockuptown, is now the second largest in the United States.