What Wealth Gap?

I just read The Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap

This was a well-written and interesting book, but I just wanted to finish it quickly because I got so disgusted at the stories. It was extremely accessible. In some senses it’s informal in its writing – sometimes coming across as a little snarky. But for the most part, it is pretty objective, citing specific examples to support what the book is trying to say.

The Rich

The first chapter takes to task government and the law, showing how the system is designed to protect big business even when they should be criminally charged. Interestingly, the most successful prosecutions during the whole mortgage scandal seemed to be when the targets were a small family-owned bank in Chinatown, NY, and a “black gang member [when] the victims were banks.”

So, the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. And the system is helping that along. The government, the courts, everything.

Race

Not to mention that when you define “poor” that’s mostly blacks and Hispanics. So we not only have a wealth divide, but a racial divide.

The chapter “The Man Who Couldn’t Stand Up” discusses the New York epidemic of police false arrests. The author summarizes: “If they want, the police can arrest you for just about anything.” And with blacks and Latinos, they generally do.

And still, I know people that suggest that we live in a post-racial society.

Immigrants

It’s also disturbing how immigrants are treated. They have no rights as U.S. Citizens – and are often treated like they have no human rights. I’ve personally seen men get deported who have wives and families – all citizens.

And there’s big money in incarcerating undocumented immigrants. No one is doing this out of a sense of justice because a law is being broken. (Though that’s how it’s sold to voters.) In reality, it’s making people rich.

So it’s not safe to be black or Hispanic in America – and whites think they’re not privileged.

He goes on to say, “There’s generally no consequence for bad police behavior, even repeated or serially bad behavior.” And cites specific examples.

The Rich (again)

The juxtaposition of white collar criminals who steal hundreds of millions of dollars and have no consequence, and less-well-to-do people who get jailed for nothing is appalling. And unjust.

It’s disgusting how much big business gets away with. And the politicians who make money at it are just helping. And the (less wealthy) people who vote in the politicians are just as much to blame.

It’s funny how so many right-wing people want to suggest that rich people all got their money through intelligence and open and honest business savvy. I’m sure that’s true of some, maybe of many. But how many have gotten – and kept – their riches through dishonest, unethical, and downright ugly and evil means? I mean, we trust these folks to the point that we shouldn’t even tax them and should treat their companies as actual human beings. “But they’re the job creators,” we cry. “They do so much for us!

Welfare

Then there’s welfare. Supreme Court Justices shouldn’t have to ask the question, “Does the 4th Amendment apply to people on welfare?”

I love how we’re all worried that some single black mom in downtown Atlanta might smoke some weed once in a while. “She shouldn’t get welfare!” But when massive banks jilt taxpayers for billions of dollars we turn a blind eye. What the hell?

Of course, there’s “That winking understanding we all share about who gets the book thrown at them and who doesn’t, that’s where American racism had gone: unspoken and hidden, but bureaucratized and automated, and therefore more powerful than ever.”

When you look at things like welfare fraud and compare it to fraud done by big banks, “the penalties for fraud seem to increase as the amounts get smaller.”

In 2011, Ohio, trying to recoup the millions of dollars it lost from the bank debacle, sent out 22,000 notices out to Ohioans seeking reimbursement for “overpayments” that had taken place over the last *25* years.

The author describes how, under Clinton, welfare fraud investigation grew to the point that it was almost worse for a minor infraction than nearly any other crime.

That’s insane.

But let’s end on an interesting thought:

“Now the political momentum in both parties traveled in the same direction. Both parties wanted to merge the social welfare system with law enforcement, creating a world that for the poor would be peopled everywhere by cops and bureaucrats and inane, humiliating rules…And on the other hand, both parties wanted the financial services sector to become an endless naked pillow fight, fueled by increasingly limitless amounts of cheap cash from the Federal Reserve (literally free cash, eventually). If they turned life in the projects into a police state, they turned life on Wall Street into its opposite.”

Good god, we have to change this…

4/5 Stars

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