Sunday, February 2, 2014

Income Inequality Is a Slow-Moving Kristallnacht-Like Event

Richmond, CA: Concentrated poverty, confined by lack of opportunity, not unlike a camp.

I went to Auschwitz and Birkenau last fall and Dachau in 1971, so I've long had a sense of the utter catastrophe and heinous crime against humanity that the German nation perpetrated against the Jews, aided and abetted by many other European countries, which, at the time, were historically anti-Semitic to their core (I studied historical anti-Semitism while getting a degree in History). So I don't reference the term Kristallnacht lightly.

But it can be used to describe the slow-moving effects of income inequality over time on its victims. American citizens who are poor or of lesser means are held in a form of captivity that at times can be likened to torture. Because of generational poverty -- poverty begets poverty and so the cycle continues -- this imprisonment is known to be, like anti-Semitism, generational and maintained over long swaths of time.

The stress of poverty leads many of the poor to bad health and lower IQs, which limit both opportunity and longevity. Poverty, quite simply, kills. Many of our ghettos, whether they are urban or rural, Latino, African-American, or white, are prisons without hope or opportunity. Starved of opportunity, the poor and lower classes are forced to work at miserable jobs at substandard wages, and so the stress and strain continues and self-perpetuates.

In the case of the Jewish Holocaust, what was done to them was unforgivable, though I believe many of us are driven to forgive, but never forget, just as the Germans have to a great extent cleansed themselves of guilt and have been forgiven as they have bared their souls as a nation and have striven, too, to never forget, thus earning forgiveness from the world. Though, as any Christian and, possibly, Jew would believe (I'm unsure of the Jewish tradition on this), it is an act of grace to forgive without reward or expectation.

There have been, and continue to be, many holocausts. Sierra Leone, Congo, Somalia, Rwanda come to mind. Argentina, during the time of the Disappeared, must qualify. China and the Soviet Union have had their own holocausts. Chile might, for a time, have qualified, and so on.

Atherton, CA: Concentrated wealth long before Silicon Valley,
but the old money didn't flee when the tech wealth arrived.

Who doesn't deserve to qualify and has the least right to invoke visions of Kristallnacht is that newly and rightfully despised capitalist tool, Thomas Perkins and his ilk. In fact, I hold no animus toward Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, even the less than charitable late Steve Jobs. People like Thomas Perkins are rightfully disparaged as being tools and are rightfully despised and derided for even imagining for a second that progressive ire put upon the 1% is in any way, shape, or form oppressive.

Thomas Perkins and other reprehensible characters that support him -- include the entire editorial board of the Wall Street Journal -- deserve both our derision and our open hostility. How dare they invoke images of the Holocaust while defending their lawlessness? (For some reason, the WSJ has pulled the link to the original Perkins letter but you can read it in this linked article.)

Read this hosted blog post on Digby's Hullabaloo to get a humane capitalist's view of what could save America from the likes of Thomas Perkins.
The growing resentment that Mr. Perkins and many other wealthy investors in Silicon Valley and Wall Street are now feeling has its real roots not in envy or class warfare, but in the emerging realization by the majority of taxpayers that they are being forced to shoulder an unequal share of the burden that is required to preserve our countries most fundamental institutions.

If wealthy commentators like Mr. Perkins would like to be taken seriously on these issues, they can start by advocating for the repeal of the carried interest tax break, permanently eliminating offshore tax structures like the Double Irish, and encouraging corporate CEO’s to pay a living wage that doesn’t force people into state and federal welfare programs that have to be paid for by the American taxpayer.

We can be sure that we will see continued attempts to hide these facts from the American public, and we can anticipate that the stakeholders in the current system will mount increasingly sophisticated marketing campaigns designed to convince the American public that these unbalanced policies favoring the wealthy are key to our shared success. In fact, nothing could be farther from the truth, and Americans from all economic classes need to join together and apply their best efforts to reform the regressive economic and tax policies that are currently doing so much damage to our country.
More like this, rich people, more like this. Remember, too, that Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, and other of the mega-rich have welcomed higher taxes.

Yes, I believe that the income inequality exemplified in the Bay Area, home to Silicon Valley, demonstrates the slow-rolling Holocaust that is poverty. It's not imaginary. People die:
Draper’s response reveals an insidious aspect of the tension between the rich and the poor, in Silicon Valley and elsewhere. Some seem to believe that the fuss over the wealth gap can be boiled down to a childish resentment on the part of the less fortunate—schadenfreude, envy. Certainly, that’s part of it: Who can deny that the piƱata-hitting episode was a little babyish? But it’s about more than that. The American Human Development Project, part of the Social Science Research Council, has tracked the life expectancy of California residents based on where they live. Since the tech boom, many of San Francisco’s poor have been pushed to surrounding areas, like Oakland and Richmond, in the East Bay. People living in parts of San Francisco can expect to live, on average, up to ten years longer than people in parts of the East Bay—just a bus ride away.
Parts of Oakland and Richmond and many low-income ghettos sprinkled throughout the Bay Area are, at least morally, like the concentration camps of an earlier, more oppressive, more violent era. People who are born there or end up there endure their own concentration of hopelessness amid the disease and distress of poverty.

Extrapolate this to all of America, and we're not talking thousands or hundreds of thousands. We're talking millions, tens of millions, inexorably headed toward generations of misery and early death. We can pretend that this is not the harvest we reap, exacerbated by growing income gaps, but let's not pretend we don't know from where the wrath should spring and upon whom it should be visited.

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