FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Rich Man, Poor Man Long Island-Style

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.

More articles by:

Karl Grossman, professor of journalism at State University of New York/College at Old Westbury, and 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.

Weekend Edition
December 14, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
A Tale of Two Cities
Peter Linebaugh
The Significance of The Common Wind
Bruce E. Levine
The Ketamine Chorus: NYT Trumpets New Anti-Suicide Drug
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Fathers and Sons, Bushes and Bin Ladens
Kathy Deacon
Coffee, Social Stratification and the Retail Sector in a Small Maritime Village
Nick Pemberton
Praise For America’s Second Leading Intellectual
Robert Hunziker
The Yellow Vest Insurgency – What’s Next?
Patrick Cockburn
The Yemeni Dead: Six Times Higher Than Previously Reported
Nick Alexandrov
George H. W. Bush: Another Eulogy
Brian Cloughley
Principles and Morality Versus Cash and Profit? No Contest
Michael F. Duggan
Climate Change and the Limits of Reason
Victor Grossman
Sighs of Relief in Germany
Ron Jacobs
A Propagandist of Privatization
Robert Fantina
What Does Beto Have Against the Palestinians?
Richard Falk – Daniel Falcone
Sartre, Said, Chomsky and the Meaning of the Public Intellectual
Andrew Glikson
Crimes Against the Earth
Robert Fisk
The Parasitic Relationship Between Power and the American Media
Stephen Cooper
When Will Journalism Grapple With the Ethics of Interviewing Mentally Ill Arrestees?
Jill Richardson
A War on Science, Morals and Law
Ron Jacobs
A Propagandist of Privatization
Evaggelos Vallianatos
It’s Not Easy Being Greek
Nomi Prins 
The Inequality Gap on a Planet Growing More Extreme
John W. Whitehead
Know Your Rights or You Will Lose Them
David Swanson
The Abolition of War Requires New Thoughts, Words, and Actions
J.P. Linstroth
Primates Are Us
Bill Willers
The War Against Cash
Jonah Raskin
Doris Lessing: What’s There to Celebrate?
Ralph Nader
Are the New Congressional Progressives Real? Use These Yardsticks to Find Out
Binoy Kampmark
William Blum: Anti-Imperial Advocate
Medea Benjamin – Alice Slater
Green New Deal Advocates Should Address Militarism
John Feffer
Review: Season 2 of Trump Presidency
Rich Whitney
General Motors’ Factories Should Not Be Closed. They Should Be Turned Over to the Workers
Christopher Brauchli
Deported for Christmas
Kerri Kennedy
This Holiday Season, I’m Standing With Migrants
Mel Gurtov
Weaponizing Humanitarian Aid
Thomas Knapp
Lame Duck Shutdown Theater Time: Pride Goeth Before a Wall?
George Wuerthner
The Thrill Bike Threat to the Elkhorn Mountains
Nyla Ali Khan
A Woman’s Selfhood and Her Ability to Act in the Public Domain: Resilience of Nadia Murad
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
On the Killing of an Ash Tree
Graham Peebles
Britain’s Homeless Crisis
Louis Proyect
America: a Breeding Ground for Maladjustment
Steve Carlson
A Hell of a Time
Dan Corjescu
America and The Last Ship
Jeffrey St. Clair
Booked Up: the 25 Best Books of 2018
David Yearsley
Bikini by Rita, Voice by Anita
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail