FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Rich Man, Poor Man Long Island-Style

by KARL GROSSMAN

Poverty and extreme wealth on Long Island, where I live, have been in the national spotlight in recent days. HBO this month broadcast a powerful documentary “Hard Times: Lost on Long Island.” Filmmaker Marc Levin followed four Long Island families who suddenly became poor.

They’re not rarities. A commission established by the Suffolk County Legislature has been holding hearings about how 6.1% of the county’s 1.4 million residents now live below what the U.S. government considers the poverty line ($22,113 a year for a family of four). The hearings’ title: “Struggling in Suburbia: Meeting the Challenges of Poverty in Suffolk County.”

There have “long been pockets of poverty, created by race and income segregation” on Long Island, editorialized the New York Times on July 7. “But it is not just pockets of poverty anymore. These days the struggle has metastasized: foreclosed homes are just as empty in the better-off subdivisions, with the same weed-choked yards, plywood windows and mold-streaked clapboard siding…Long Island’s two counties, Nassau and Suffolk, have the second-and third-highest foreclosure rates in New York State.”

The four Long Island families presented in “Hard Times: Lost on Long Island,” as Verne Gay wrote in his Newsday review, “aren’t whiners or slackers, but desperate and afraid.”

All had extensive educations and well-paying jobs, and then in the Great Recession were tossed into poverty. Perhaps the most poignant of these stories was that of teacher Heather Hartstein and her husband, David, a chiropractor, of Montauk. He dies at the end of the documentary, which is dedicated to him. Look for a repeat of the excellent work on HBO.

Meanwhile, hyper-expensive fundraisers were held on July 8 in Suffolkfor Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney—and there were demonstrations protesting them.

There was a $50,000-a-plate fundraiser at the Southampton residence of David and Julia Koch. He’s the oil industry billionaire who with his brother, Charles, has been directing huge amounts of money into far right-wing political efforts, and now the Romney campaign.

There are some GOPers who charge that President Obama’s re-election campaign is seeking to gain political advantage by stirring up a “class-conflict” in the U.S. When the charge for a fundraiser is $50,000-a-plate, that‘s not about “class conflict.” Most upper-class people can’t afford a $50,000 lunch tab. It’s related to the Occupy Wall Street movement’s charge about the ultra-rich—1% of the population—owning nearly all the assets of this country.

“Romney has a Koch Problem,” read a banner towed by an airplane flying near the Koch estate on Meadow Lane. This was repeated on banners carried by many of the 200 protesters on the ground. “We’re here because of David Koch and his vow to purchase a president,” Anthony Zenkus of Occupy Wall Street told CNN. “It doesn’t sound like democracy to me.” It sure doesn’t.

Another Romney fundraiser was at the East Hampton mansion of billionaire Revlon chairman Ron Perelman. Here the charge was $25,000 to have a photo taken with Mr. Romney. Lunch itself was $5,000 a person, $7,500 a couple (almost a lunch two-for-one).

The third was back on Meadow Lane in Southampton at the estate of Clifford Sobel, who, after chairing fundraising in New Jersey for President George W. Bush’s first campaign, was rewarded with ambassadorships to the Netherlands and Brazil. Diplomat Sobel’s background: making a fortune selling store fixtures.

The demonstrators came from many organizations in addition to Occupy Wall Street including Occupy The East End, Greenpeace, Long Island Jobs with Justice, Long Island Progressive Coalition, MoveOn.org and NY Communities for Change.

The New York Times summarized the situation by declaring that “what was billed as a day of elegant campaign events at the homes of the ultrarich turned out to be an afternoon of curious and clashing tableaus: protesters with their bandanas and Occupy Wall Street-inspired chants (‘We got sold out, banks got bailed out!’) standing amid multimillion-dollar mansions, where live bands played ‘Margaritaville’ and donors dined on prosciutto-wrapped melon balls.”

Meanwhile, there’s news that home foreclosures on Long Island grew in the last three months. Poverty increases—and the 1% pay big to dominate the governmental system.

Karl Grossman, professor of journalism at the State University of New York/College at Old Westbury, has been a Long Island-based journalist for 50 years.

Karl Grossman, professor of journalism at the State University of New York/College of New York, is the author of the book, The Wrong Stuff: The Space’s Program’s Nuclear Threat to Our Planet. Grossman is an associate of the media watch group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR). He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

August 30, 2016
Russell Mokhiber
Matt Funiciello and the Giant Sucking Sound Coming Off Lake Champlain
Mike Whitney
Three Cheers for Kaepernick: Is Sitting During the National Anthem an Acceptable Form of Protest?
Alice Bach
Sorrow and Grace in Palestine
Richard Moser
Transformative Movement Culture and the Inside/Outside Strategy: Do We Want to Win the Argument or Build the Movement?
Nozomi Hayase
Pathology, Incorporated: the Facade of American Democracy
Jan Oberg
How Did the West Survive a Much Stronger Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact?
Linda Gunter
The Racism of the Nagasaki and Hiroshima Bombings
David Swanson
Fredric Jameson’s War Machine
Dmitry Kolesnik
In Ukraine: Independence From the People
Omar Kassem
Turkey Breaks Out in Jarablus, as, Fear and Loathing Grip Europe.
George Wuerthner
A Birthday Gift to the National Parks: the Maine Woods National Monument
Logan Glitterbomb
Indigenous Property Rights and the Dakota Access Pipeline
National Lawyers Guild
Solidarity with Standing Rock Sioux Tribe against Dakota Access Pipeline
August 29, 2016
Eric Draitser
Hillary and the Clinton Foundation: Exemplars of America’s Political Rot
Patrick Timmons
Dildos on Campus, Gun in the Library: the New York Times and the Texas Gun War
Jack Rasmus
Bernie Sanders ‘OR’ Revolution: a Statement or a Question?
Richard Moser
Strategic Choreography and Inside/Outside Organizers
Nigel Clarke
President Obama’s “Now Watch This Drive” Moment
Robert Fisk
Iraq’s Willing Executioners
Wahid Azal
The Banality of Evil and the Ivory Tower Masterminds of the 1953 Coup d’Etat in Iran
Farzana Versey
Romancing the Activist
Frances Madeson
Meet the Geronimos: Apache Leader’s Descendants Talk About Living With the Legacy
Nauman Sadiq
The War on Terror and the Carter Doctrine
Lawrence Wittner
Does the Democratic Party Have a Progressive Platform–and Does It Matter?
Marjorie Cohn
Death to the Death Penalty in California
Winslow Myers
Asking the Right Questions
Rivera Sun
The Sane Candidate: Which Representatives Will End the Endless Wars?
Linn Washington Jr.
Philadelphia District Attorney Hammered for Hypocrisy
Binoy Kampmark
Banning Burkinis: the Politics of Beachwear
Weekend Edition
August 26, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Louisa Willcox
The Unbearable Killing of Yellowstone’s Grizzlies: 2015 Shatters Records for Bear Deaths
Paul Buhle
In the Shadow of the CIA: Liberalism’s Big Embarrassing Moment
Rob Urie
Crisis and Opportunity
Charles Pierson
Wedding Crashers Who Kill
Richard Moser
What is the Inside/Outside Strategy?
Dirk Bezemer – Michael Hudson
Finance is Not the Economy
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Bernie’s Used Cars
Margaret Kimberley
Hillary and Colin: the War Criminal Charade
Patrick Cockburn
Turkey’s Foray into Syria: a Gamble in a Very Dangerous Game
Ishmael Reed
Birther Tries to Flim Flam Blacks  
Brian Terrell
What Makes a Hate Group?
Andrew Levine
How Donald Trump Can Still be a Hero: Force the Guardians of the Duopoly to Open Up the Debates
Howard Lisnoff
Trouble in Political Paradise
Terry Tempest Williams
Will Our National Parks Survive the Next 100 Years?
Ben Debney
The Swimsuit that Overthrew the State
Ashley Smith
Anti-imperialism and the Syrian Revolution
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail