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

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

February 27, 2017
Anthony DiMaggio
Media Ban! Making Sense of the War Between Trump and the Press
Dave Lindorff
Resume Inflation at the NSC: Lt. General McMaster’s Silver Star Was Essentially Earned for Target Practice
Conn Hallinan
Is Trump Moderating US Foreign Policy? Hardly
Norman Pollack
Political Castration of State: Militarization of Government
Kenneth Surin
Inside Dharavi, a Mumbai Slum
Lawrence Davidson
Truth vs. Trump
Binoy Kampmark
The Extradition Saga of Kim Dotcom
Robert Fisk
Why a Victory Over ISIS in Mosul Might Spell Defeat in Deir Ezzor
David Swanson
Open Guantanamo!
Ted Rall
The Republicans May Impeach Trump
Lawrence Wittner
Why Should Trump―or Anyone―Be Able to Launch a Nuclear War?
Andrew Stewart
Down with Obamacare, Up with Single Payer!
Colin Todhunter
Message to John Beddington and the Oxford Martin Commission
David Macaray
UFOs: The Myth That Won’t Die?
Weekend Edition
February 24, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Exxon’s End Game Theory
Pierre M. Sprey - Franklin “Chuck” Spinney
Sleepwalking Into a Nuclear Arms Race with Russia
Paul Street
Liberal Hypocrisy, “Late-Shaming,” and Russia-Blaming in the Age of Trump
Ajamu Baraka
Malcolm X and Human Rights in the Time of Trumpism: Transcending the Master’s Tools
John Laforge
Did Obama Pave the Way for More Torture?
Mike Whitney
McMaster Takes Charge: Trump Relinquishes Control of Foreign Policy 
Patrick Cockburn
The Coming Decline of US and UK Power
Louisa Willcox
The Endangered Species Act: a Critical Safety Net Now Threatened by Congress and Trump
Vijay Prashad
A Foreign Policy of Cruel Populism
John Chuckman
Israel’s Terrible Problem: Two States or One?
Matthew Stevenson
The Parallax View of Donald Trump
Norman Pollack
Drumbeat of Fascism: Find, Arrest, Deport
Stan Cox
Can the Climate Survive Electoral Democracy? Maybe. Can It Survive Capitalism? No.
Ramzy Baroud
The Trump-Netanyahu Circus: Now, No One Can Save Israel from Itself
Edward Hunt
The United States of Permanent War
David Morgan
Trump and the Left: a Case of Mass Hysteria?
Pete Dolack
The Bait and Switch of Public-Private Partnerships
Mike Miller
What Kind of Movement Moment Are We In? 
Elliot Sperber
Why Resistance is Insufficient
Brian Cloughley
What are You Going to Do About Afghanistan, President Trump?
Binoy Kampmark
Warring in the Oncology Ward
Yves Engler
Remembering the Coup in Ghana
Jeremy Brecher
“Climate Kids” v. Trump: Trial of the Century Pits Trump Climate Denialism Against Right to a Climate System Capable of Sustaining Human Life”
Jonathan Taylor
Hate Trump? You Should Have Voted for Ron Paul
Franklin Lamb
Another Small Step for Syrian Refugee Children in Beirut’s “Aleppo Park”
Ron Jacobs
The Realist: Irreverence Was Their Only Sacred Cow
Andre Vltchek
Lock up England in Jail or an Insane Asylum!
Rev. William Alberts
Grandiose Marketing of Spirituality
Paul DeRienzo
Three Years Since the Kitty Litter Disaster at Waste Isolation Pilot Plant
Eric Sommer
Organize Workers Immigrant Defense Committees!
Steve Cooper
A Progressive Agenda
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail