FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Trading Places: the Other 1% and the .001% Who Won’t Save Them

Ben Carson thinks he can free the poor by charging them more rent. [i]  Though it sounds like he’s put a scalpel to his own circuits, he’s not out of touch in America.  The same leading ‘minds’ that preach self-rule push for mass-incarceration, regressive tax plans, voting restrictions, and expect students to self-fund more than 1/3 of their education.  Clearly, it doesn’t take a brain surgeon to see why we, the richest country, rank 18th in life-chances, among the G20 nations.

But we don’t just obstruct the poor. Mistaking ‘is-ought’ for meritocracy has build the most calcified system in the developed world.  Think, in many ways a more complex political map, Spain found a way forward in the space of last week, and all our press could say was how terrifying to not know what the future holds.  Here, tracking the numbers, not knowing sounds like bliss. But instead I’m reminded of a Bush era cartoon, quoting him that you ‘don’t change horses mid-stream’, whilst spurring a drowned horse.  We’re still in Afghanistan.

On that note, the Democrats just unveiled their plan to re-elect Trump.  ‘The key’ according to John Delaney -millionaire, Maryland Congressman and their first declared candidate for president, is to ‘bring the country back together.  It’s not only right,’ he told the Washington Post, ‘it’s what people are looking for.’[ii]

Delaney is renowned for his Partnership to Build America Act, which offered Infrastructure Bonds to US companies with the incentive of allowing them to repatriate, tax free, their overseas haul -say (per his example) $4 for every $1 they invest (but based on market rates).  4 for them and 1 for us -until we pay them back the 1 + interest- to spend how they please.  Electing presidents, for example.

True to his word, uniting corporations with tax-free money plays well on both sides of the isle.  But millionaires might find ‘right’ and ‘together’ harder sells to the public.  $180 million in his case, which makes him card-carrying .001%.  Over the past 25 years 1/5 of all gains went to his 1,400-member cult.  Of which they returned fewer than 18¢ per dollar in taxes.  Meanwhile the bottom 90% of us saw an average 40% decline in wealth, pushing the entire bottom quintile into the red.  -Which is neither right, nor together, since, if there’s room for guys like Delaney, 20% of the parts don’t even fit.    43 million Americans live in poverty, 18.5 million in extreme-poverty, and over 5 million in ‘Third World’ conditions. Enough to earn us reproach from the the UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights, following their recent investigation.

But even Delaney was as poor as Neville Chamberlain, peace in our time is neither conscionable nor wise, given the policies the two parties can agree on.  Namely, top-down, undemocratic administration to protect the employer’s capital: wars, deregulations, consequent bailouts, extra-legal surveilance, and now helping the top 1% dodge another $20,000 each per annum in taxes. This year alone, Delaney’s unexceptional votes helped Republicans jack the military budget to $717 billion, make resisting arrest a hate crime, extend the FISA Act, rescined the Volker Rule, and approve Jared Kushner’s bill to avoid reforming our prisons, the First Step Act.

Republican and Democrat communion underplays in the headlines, in part because, together, they signed the Telecommunications Act, deregulating who owns the media.  Now 15 members -roughly 1%- of the .001% own most of it, and us it for other purposes than democracy.[iii]  In contrast, but for the same reason, anything of social benefit, or that directly engages the public, the two parties are explicitly at odds, and the papers are flush with it.

Still, we’re to assume the Democrats have held as best they could against the Republican juggernaut.  But take for example replacing Glass-Steagal (after a binge) with the conspicuously-weaker, Dodd-Frank Act.  Ever positive, Democrats still tout Dodd-Frank as a step in the right direction; if flawed, the best we could do at the time.  Rather than strengthen it, they -together- axed a key provision (the Volker Rule) this past May.

The First Step Act implies the same hyperbolic optomism to prison reform.  Prison, but not prison sentencing, which it ignores.  It demands intake and exit counceling, prohibits -with exceptions- shackling pregnant women, and it considers early release for old and terminally ill prisoners.  As the ever-vigilant Guardian phrased it: ‘Trump will sign prison reform that could free thousands’.  To be clearer, up to 4,000 sick and elderly who could die cheaper at home.  And that’s most of the bill, save some anti-reforms, like permitting guards to carry guns outside of prison.[iv]

Why is that all?  In the UN Special Rapporteur, Philip Alston’s words: ‘the criminal justice system is effectively a system for keeping the poor in poverty while generating revenue to fund not only the justice system but many other programs.’  But even the use of terms like system and program suggest some good might come out of it, or if not ‘good’, at least spent on the public and not on martinis. But besides the 1% who own more than 1/3 of the wealth, another 1% are rotting in jail.  1 in 10 of them in for-profit institutions.  Two publicly traded companies, CoreCivic and GEO Group spend $3-4 million lobbing and command over half of the $4.8 billion private prison industry, which generates $6.5 million each year in profits for the top 1%.  Their CEOs alone made $2.3 and near $9.7 million, respectively, off tax-payers last year.  Even Delaney, with no direct ties, holds interests via his stock in Wells Fargo and Fidelity, who are deeply invested.

Shares that we mustn’t devalue, which makes prison depopulation hard.  Stocks had tanked in 2016 when Obama suggested phasing out private Federal Prisons (though most are state-contracted), but Jeff Sessions mended ties, since.  In April ICE awarded GEO Group a $110 million contract to build a facility north of Houston, and stocks have climbed 45% in anticipation.  ICE just added 1,600 untried prisoners to the current mix, its biggest drop so far, to further shore the market.[v]  But I’d just add that with 1% parity at America’s top and bottom, Trading Placeswith Eddie Murphy might reveal simpler options.

Hopefully that comes up when Philip Alston presents his findings to the U.N. (‘attacks the US’ in the Washington Post’s words) this week, on the 21st.  Some Left-Democrats have already made an appeal to Trump to act on his recommendations, but they have little sway even within their own party.  And as Jessica Jackson-Sloan of Cut50, who helped Jared Kushner write First Step, told the Post: critics fail to recognize the ‘new political reality’ reformers face under Trump.[vi]

Maybe.  A lot see the future as either Liberal or illiberal racist-populism, and thus forgive that our ‘norms’ were thinly-veiled abuses long before Trump shit in the punchbowl. No such ultimatum exists, and to think that making America ‘pre-Trump again’ would solve anything fails to confer with reality.

But thinking we have to work within the bounds of a rigged system -or if you believe the hype, a derailed or Russian-opperated system- is fantasy, too.  Figure, if you’re descent and/or fool enough to play by their rules, then you lack the skills to leave the ghetto, halve the prison population, run a business or the country.

And yet the meritorious decide which (or whose) ploys warrant bailouts, tax holidays, or candidacy, and which end in prison.  So, unless your on top already, breaking the rules fails too.  -And that about sums our ‘meritocracy’.

Notes.

[i]HUD Secretary Ben Carson to propose raising rent for low-income Americans receiving federal housing subsidies – The Washington Post

[ii]https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-question-that-could-decide-the-2020-election/2018/06/03/760a7ac2-6435-11e8-a69c-b944de66d9e7_story.html?utm_term=.1f4174b19fd

[iii]https://www.forbes.com/sites/katevinton/2016/06/01/these-15-billionaires-own-americas-news-media-companies/

[iv]https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/3356

[v]https://www1.salary.com/George-C-Zoley-Salary-Bonus-Stock-Options-for-GEO-GROUP-INC.html

[vi]https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/jun/05/trump-prison-reform-first-step-act-tension

More articles by:

January 16, 2019
Patrick Bond
Jim Yong Kim’s Mixed Messages to the World Bank and the World
John Grant
Joe Biden, Crime Fighter from Hell
Alvaro Huerta
Brief History Notes on Mexican Immigration to the U.S.
Kenneth Surin
A Great Speaker of the UK’s House of Commons
Elizabeth Henderson
Why Sustainable Agriculture Should Support a Green New Deal
Binoy Kampmark
Trump, Bolton and the Syrian Confusion
Jeff Mackler
Trump’s Syria Exit Tweet Provokes Washington Panic
Barbara Nimri Aziz
How Long Can Nepal Blame Others for Its Woes?
Cesar Chelala
Violence Against Women: A Pandemic No Longer Hidden
Kim C. Domenico
To Make a Vineyard of the Curse: Fate, Fatalism and Freedom
Dave Lindorff
Criminalizing BDS Trashes Free Speech & Association
Thomas Knapp
Now More Than Ever, It’s Clear the FBI Must Go
Binoy Kampmark
Dances of Disinformation: The Partisan Politics of the Integrity Initiative
Edward Curtin
A Gentrified Little Town Goes to Pot
January 15, 2019
Patrick Cockburn
Refugees Are in the English Channel Because of Western Interventions in the Middle East
Howard Lisnoff
The Faux Political System by the Numbers
Lawrence Davidson
Amos Oz and the Real Israel
John W. Whitehead
Beware the Emergency State
John Laforge
Loudmouths against Nuclear Lawlessness
Myles Hoenig
Labor in the Age of Trump
Jeff Cohen
Mainstream Media Bias on 2020 Democratic Race Already in High Gear
Dean Baker
Will Paying for Kidneys Reduce the Transplant Wait List?
George Ochenski
Trump’s Wall and the Montana Senate’s Theater of the Absurd
Binoy Kampmark
Dances of Disinformation: the Partisan Politics of the Integrity Initiative
Glenn Sacks
On the Picket Lines: Los Angeles Teachers Go On Strike for First Time in 30 Years
Jonah Raskin
Love in a Cold War Climate
Andrew Stewart
The Green New Deal Must be Centered on African American and Indigenous Workers to Differentiate Itself From the Democratic Party
January 14, 2019
Kenn Orphan
The Tears of Justin Trudeau
Julia Stein
California Needs a 10-Year Green New Deal
Dean Baker
Declining Birth Rates: Is the US in Danger of Running Out of People?
Robert Fisk
The US Media has Lost One of Its Sanest Voices on Military Matters
Vijay Prashad
5.5 Million Women Build Their Wall
Nicky Reid
Lessons From Rojava
Ted Rall
Here is the Progressive Agenda
Robert Koehler
A Green Future is One Without War
Gary Leupp
The Chickens Come Home to Roost….in Northern Syria
Glenn Sacks
LA Teachers’ Strike: “The Country Is Watching”
Sam Gordon
Who Are Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionists?
Weekend Edition
January 11, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Richard Moser
Neoliberalism: Free Market Fundamentalism or Corporate Power?
Paul Street
Bordering on Fascism: Scholars Reflect on Dangerous Times
Joseph Majerle III – Matthew Stevenson
Who or What Brought Down Dag Hammarskjöld?
Jeffrey St. Clair - Joshua Frank
How Tre Arrow Became America’s Most Wanted Environmental “Terrorist”
Andrew Levine
Dealbreakers: The Democrats, Trump and His Wall
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Que Syria, Syria
Dave Lindorff
A Potentially Tectonic Event Shakes up the Mumia Abu-Jamal Case
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail