Cold Cash

Protesters at Zuccotti Park spent a very long weekend in an October snow, tarps and tents providing scant protection against some early flurries.  Zuccotti sits on the south edge of Tribeca, a tony, toasty neighborhood of the 1 percent, where loft and condo prices still run in the many millions and whose inhabitants have a different perspective on things cold.

These are the coldest of times, as child poverty hit 22 percent in the U.S.—this nation now ranked near the bottom of OECD countries on youth health and welfare — a pointed indication of the appalling demise engulfing this country. In this land of the 1 percent, banks and non-financial companies are hoarding trillions of dollars in very essential capital.  Cash holdings of non-financial S&P 500 are over $1 trillion—“more cash than in decades,” is how Lisa Myers of Templeton Income Fund put it last month, a figure exclusive of cash held abroad by U.S. companies, estimated at $1.5 trillion.  Myers reported the cash holdings at European non-financials is now 800 billion euros, which puts the Greek rage in some perspective.

Quarterly reports in the U.S. are due out in coming weeks and, according to S&P Valuation and Risk Strategies research group, “[T]he question seems to be not whether cash holdings exceed the $1 trillion mark again, but by how much.”  Cold cash.

“Cash provides an important cushion,” offered the Wall Street Journal in an article last month, “Companies Shun Investment, Hoard Cash”.  In any event, to take these funds out of reserve requires “confidence,” as the 1 percent explain in their daily mantra, that droning cry for confidence, echoed in a media ever-alert to the supreme priority – indeed, moral responsibility — of colossal cash accumlation.  Confidence by consumers, confidence in government. After decades of stagnant wages, phony ratings by Moody’s and others, bank scams and rip-off interest rates triggering millions of home foreclosures – putting families, children out– and now predictable, escalating child poverty–  confidence?  A self-fulfilling prophesy if ever there was: impoverish the masses and plead no confidence in their future; impoverish the government and plead no confidence in its role; promote confidence in cash and hoard it.

Just a few miles up from Zuccotti, across the Harlem River that borders Manhattan on the north, the Bronx sits in expanse, the poorest urban county in the U.S., a vast borough of 1.4 million where the rate of poverty stands now at 30 percent.   For the more than one in four Bronx residents  18 years old or younger the poverty rate is 40 percent. As someone recently said, do the math.

Most Bronx residents work; they just don’t get paid a living wage.  Cold cash is the cause, working poor is the effect. Do the math.  Mayor Michael Bloomberg took time from a busy schedule decorating his Manhattan townhouse, described as “baronial,” to nix a $10-per hour minimum wage for a city-supported retail project last year, the tough-minded billionaire playing his part in readying the population for a life at or near poverty.  “A low-wage job is better than no job,” explained fellow billionaire and former Google CEO Eric Schmidt on ABC News on September 18.  “The real problem,” added Schmidt, “is not the business community.”  Add billionaire Schmidt’s name to list of purveyors of cold cash.  (Bloomberg also owns homes in London and Bermuda and the purchase of a  summer estate on Long Island for tens of millions was recently made known, the frugal mayor’s protestations for privacy notwithstanding. There is a fortune to be made in ignoring the needs of children.

The  reality for these young people of the Bronx is gut wrenching, as parents escort their neatly dressed and groomed children to dilapidated schools, with few labs, computers or even facilities for a physical activity.   Most recreation is gone and with it the full physical development of their children.   That’s incendiary.

Along Park Avenue in Manhattan, elite private school children congregate after school, awaiting transport to soccer, swimming, tennis, fencing.   Skiing is for winter break.  Their parents, paragons of responsibility, whose civic calling embraces the latest celebrity illness, a High Line promenade abutting Tribeca and most recently a $182 million in donations to the Metropolitan Opera, “an astonishing amount in a tough economic climate,” chimed the New York Times on October 10.  David Knott, McKinsey consultant, and his spouse kicked in an extra $500,000 this year “to support ‘The Enchanted Island,’ a new Baroque pastiche production this season.”  Bravo.

It was five years ago that the Bar of Association of the City of New York filed an amicus brief in the Supreme Court in the Seattle and Louisville  school cases.  It was a stunning document.  In this filing, the Bar decried the separate and unequal make up of New York City schools.  The Bar wrote that “separate is inherently unequal”  and added:

[F]ifty years after Brown, the promise of ending racial segregation in public education and eliminating the educational and social disadvantages that accompany racially segregated schools has been lost in many of our nation’s largest school districts. New York City is a particularly poignant case in point: it is widely known for its racial and ethnic diversity and eliminated de jure segregation long ago, yet its public schools are among the most heavily segregated in the nation. Numerous schools reflect a level of racial segregation that has led prominent critics to label them “apartheid schools” ….

Indeed, a system of apartheid schools persists today in the Bronx and elsewhere in New York City, separate and unequal.   Still, educational opportunity is touted as “the way out,” or the way in to the world of cold cash.

The 1 percent show no mercy.  Primary care is hard to obtain in the Bronx, with ERs substituting on a crisis basis.  Bus stops are overrun with eager riders, subways few and far between.  Quality fresh produce is not available, overpriced when it can be found.  Bronx landlords hound their tenants, with illegal notice a regular device.  One report is of a landlord who delivered an apartment to a new tenant with a vermin-infested stove.  When asked to replace it she explained the place had been rented “as is.”  Health codes be damned.   This landlord, like so many of the absentees ensconced in Manhattan, cutting every corner in pursuit of cold cash.

Carl Ginsburg is a lawyer, writer and organizer. He lives with his family in the Bronx.  He can be contacted at carlginsburg@gmail.com.

Exclusively in the new print issue of CounterPunch

One of the Greatest Descriptions of Farm Work Ever Written— Don’t miss Frank Bardacke’s marvelous account from the California fields. ALSO Linn Washington Jr. on the “Black Backlash Against Obama.”

Order your subscription today and get
CounterPunch by email for only $35 per year.

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 16, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Michael Uhl
The Tip of the Iceberg: My Lai Fifty Years On
Bruce E. Levine
School Shootings: Who to Listen to Instead of Mainstream Shrinks
Mel Goodman
Caveat Emptor: MSNBC and CNN Use CIA Apologists for False Commentary
Paul Street
The Obama Presidency Gets Some Early High Historiography
Kathy Deacon
Me, My Parents and Red Scares Long Gone
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Rexless Abandon
Andrew Levine
Good Enemies Are Hard To Find: Therefore Worry
Jim Kavanagh
What to Expect From a Trump / Kim Summit
Ron Jacobs
Trump and His Tariffs
Joshua Frank
Drenched in Crude: It’s an Oil Free For All, But That’s Not a New Thing
Gary Leupp
What If There Was No Collusion?
Matthew Stevenson
Why Vietnam Still Matters: Bernard Fall Dies on the Street Without Joy
Robert Fantina
Bad to Worse: Tillerson, Pompeo and Haspel
Brian Cloughley
Be Prepared, Iran, Because They Want to Destroy You
Richard Moser
What is Organizing?
Scott McLarty
Working Americans Need Independent Politics
Rohullah Naderi
American Gun Violence From an Afghan Perspective
Sharmini Peries - Michael Hudson
Why Trump’s Tariff Travesty Will Not Re-Industrialize the US
Ted Rall
Democrats Should Run on Impeachment
Robert Fisk
Will We Ever See Al Jazeera’s Investigation Into the Israel Lobby?
Kristine Mattis
Superunknown: Scientific Integrity Within the Academic and Media Industrial Complexes
John W. Whitehead
Say No to “Hardening” the Schools with Zero Tolerance Policies and Gun-Toting Cops
Edward Hunt
UN: US Attack On Syrian Civilians Violated International Law
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Iraq Outside History
Wilfred Burchett
Vietnam Will Win: The Long Hard Road
Victor Grossman
Germany: New Faces, Old Policies
Medea Benjamin - Nicolas J. S. Davies
The Iraq Death Toll 15 Years After the US Invasion
Binoy Kampmark
Amazon’s Initiative: Digital Assistants, Home Surveillance and Data
Chuck Collins
Business Leaders Agree: Inequality Hurts The Bottom Line
Jill Richardson
What We Talk About When We Talk About “Free Trade”
Eric Lerner – Jay Arena
A Spark to a Wider Fire: Movement Against Immigrant Detention in New Jersey
Negin Owliaei
Teachers Deserve a Raise: Here’s How to Fund It
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
What to Do at the End of the World? Interview with Climate Crisis Activist, Kevin Hester
Kevin Proescholdt
Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke Attacks America’s Wilderness
Franklin Lamb
Syrian War Crimes Tribunals Around the Corner
Beth Porter
Clean Energy is Calling. Will Your Phone Company Answer?
George Ochenski
Zinke on the Hot Seat Again and Again
Lance Olsen
Somebody’s Going to Extremes
Robert Koehler
Breaking the Ice
Pepe Escobar
The Myth of a Neo-Imperial China
Graham Peebles
Time for Political Change and Unity in Ethiopia
Terry Simons
10 American Myths “Refutiated”*
Thomas Knapp
Some Questions from the Edge of Immortality
Louis Proyect
The 2018 Socially Relevant Film Festival
David Yearsley
Keaton’s “The General” and the Pernicious Myths of the Heroic South