Life in the Low to Mid-Teens

Even on the streets of Harlem, where residents are all too aware of  the very low priority to which they have been consigned, the news that 5,000 echocardiograms went unread registered palpable alarm.  From an initial review of the backlog of these critical heart tests – stockpiled since 2005 – one cardiologist said that half were abnormal and that 20 to 30 percent of patients needed immediate medical attention at the time they were performed.

Medicare and private insurers were quick to assert that they were on it, that is, investigating fraud, for while the tests were essentially trashed, charges were surely billed. An estimated 200 patients died, though whether acting on test results may have saved them will never be known.  No doubt a cardiac unit in an affluent community would be inundated with tort litigation after just one such case, the incident put before the courts, a steady supply of headlines ensuing and plenty of television reportage.

On the corner of Malcolm X Boulevard and 135th Street, where Harlem Hospital sits, few had anything to add to the grisly details of this latest incarnation of benign neglect.   Workers from within the complex indicated they had been instructed to offer no comment.

Around the way, on West 134th Street, half the block sits boarded up.  Just two years ago, as unsuspecting patients thought they were receiving cardiac care, developers on this block announced plans to renovate town houses and sell them for $1 million.  One unfinished town house belonged to a Harlem family for 90 years, as the new owner today contemplates turning it into a rooming house, his plans for a high-end sale scuttled.

Long-time Harlem residents have scattered, much like those cardiac patients, as new condos and elaborate renovations dot the landscape, many sitting empty now in the enduring and historic mismatch of wages and prices that is the netherworld of free market speculators.   Antipathy for speculators is strong here, as underpaid and unemployed Harlem residents make their way home to tenements, walking past these new, vacant apartments, empty but being kept cool — as attested to by the hum of air conditioning — ready to accommodate a visit from a bargain hunter or, more likely, from an officer of the bank’s foreclosure department.

The almighty bond market and the bounty of yields are now center stage, as the days of reaping 40 per cent returns every 60 days  — as in the height of subprime mortgage market — are gone, foreclosure rates are galloping, now encompassing commercial real estate, as well, in one city after another.

Panic – of the distinctly non-Depression variety — has set in at the private equity firms, which are sitting on $500 billion in cash, seeking companies to buy, boost and flip, as is their trade.   Most private equity funds are required to return investor money after several years if no activity has been initiated, and the clock is ticking.  The returns being offered by firms for new investments indicate that over the life of the funds investors can expect a return in the range of low to mid- teens.   Most firms require a minimum of $10 million to invest and at, say, a mid-teen of 13 per cent annual return, a participant would receive $1.3 million per year on the investment.  “Those are far from the gross returns of the mid to high-teens that we saw a few years ago,” Hugh H. MacArthur, head of global private equity at Bain & Company told the New York Times in June.   These are hard times.

With all attention in the financial field focused on repairing deficits, it’s easy to overlook the very basic fact that America is awash in cash. This is a very, very rich country with piles and piles of cash.  Private U.S. accounts today contain approximately $10 trillion in cash and liquid assets, including some of those funds assigned to private equity.  On the corporate side, non-financial U.S. corporations are holding more than $1.8 trillion, constituting a 26 percent increase as of March from one year earlier— the largest increase on record going back to 1952, according to the Wall Street Journal.  America is immersed in an era of aggressive hoarding, an irony that goes unaddressed in the daily fiscal debate, though debate is certainly too strong a term.    Illinois teeters on bankruptcy and rich Americans search for yields.

One beneficiary of this grand obfuscation is the Responsibility President, for whom the leakage of oil affecting coasts from Texas to Florida, an impertinent general recalled from a stepped-up war in Afghanistan and a PR dilemma with Israel must come as welcome relief.   President Obama never has to explain to those Harlem residents why they cannot live in the empty condos or, for that matter, why no one bothered to read their echocardiograms.

CARL GINSBURG is a journalist in New York City.  He can be reached at carlginsburg@gmail.com.





More articles by:

CARL GINSBURG is a tv producer and journalist based in New York. He can be reached at carlginsburg@gmail.com

Weekend Edition
March 23, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Roberto J. González
The Mind-Benders: How to Harvest Facebook Data, Brainwash Voters, and Swing Elections
Paul Street
Deplorables II: The Dismal Dems in Stormy Times
Nick Pemberton
The Ghost of Hillary
Andrew Levine
Light at the End of the Tunnel?
Paul de Rooij
Amnesty International: Trumpeting for War… Again
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Coming in Hot
Chuck Gerhart
Sessions Exploits a Flaw to Pursue Execution of Meth Addicts
Robert Fantina
Distractions, Thought Control and Palestine
Hiroyuki Hamada
The Eyes of “Others” for Us All
Robert Hunziker
Is the EPA Hazardous to Your Health?
Stephanie Savell
15 Years After the Iraq Invasion, What Are the Costs?
Aidan O'Brien
Europe is Pregnant 
John Eskow
How Can We Live With All of This Rage?
Matthew Stevenson
Why Vietnam Still Matters: Was Khe Sanh a Win or a Loss?
Dan Corjescu
The Man Who Should Be Dead
Howard Lisnoff
The Bone Spur in Chief
Brian Cloughley
Hitler and the Poisoning of the British Public
Brett Wilkins
Trump Touts $12.5B Saudi Arms Sale as US Support for Yemen War Literally Fuels Atrocities
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Iraqi Landscapes: the Path of Martyrs
Brian Saady
The War On Drugs Is Far Deadlier Than Most People Realize
Stephen Cooper
Battling the Death Penalty With James Baldwin
CJ Hopkins
Then They Came for the Globalists
Philip Doe
In Colorado, See How They Run After the Fracking Dollars
Wilfred Burchett
Vietnam Will Win: Armed Propaganda
Binoy Kampmark
John Brennan’s Trump Problem
Nate Terani
Donald Trump’s America: Already Hell Enough for This Muslim-American
Steve Early
From Jackson to Richmond: Radical Mayors Leave Their Mark
Jill Richardson
To Believe in Science, You Have to Know How It’s Done
Ralph Nader
Ten Million Americans Could Bring H.R. 676 into Reality Land—Relief for Anxiety, Dread and Fear
Sam Pizzigati
Billionaires Won’t Save the World, Just Look at Elon Musk
Sergio Avila
Don’t Make the Border a Wasteland
Daryan Rezazad
Denial of Climate Change is Not the Problem
Ron Jacobs
Flashing for the Refugees on the Unarmed Road of Flight
Missy Comley Beattie
The Age of Absurdities and Atrocities
George Wuerthner
Isle Royale: Manage for Wilderness Not Wolves
George Payne
Pompeo Should Call the Dogs Off of WikiLeaks
Russell Mokhiber
Study Finds Single Payer Viable in 2018 Elections
Franklin Lamb
Despite Claims, Israel-Hezbollah War is Unlikely
Montana Wilderness Association Dishonors Its Past
Elizabeth “Liz” Hawkins, RN
Nurses Are Calling #TimesUp on Domestic Abuse
Paul Buhle
A Caribbean Giant Passes: Wilson Harris, RIP
Mel Gurtov
A Blank Check for Repression? A Saudi Leader Visits Washington
Seth Sandronsky
Hoop schemes: Sacramento’s corporate bid for an NBA All-Star Game
Louis Proyect
The French Malaise, Now and Then
David Yearsley
Bach and the Erotics of Spring