Colson: Headlines tell the tale, but offer no solution
Sunday’s New York Times (Feb. 8, 2015) came out with a front page that illustrates the debate over the U.S. “wealth gap,” or the implications represented by that debate, a situation that according to one of the stories has angered some 67 percent of the citizenry in the richest nation on Earth.
In one story, specifically, the reporter took aim at Hillary Clinton’s position on the subject, and proclaimed that she is building a campaign platform around the idea that in the U.S., anyone who works hard and follows the rules should be able to do well.
Naturally, Clinton is caught in a “quandary,” as the headline put it, over how to promote this idea while at the same time not alienating her wealthy patrons or admitting that she, herself, is part of the problem.
The reporter recalled that Clinton has come under fire for her private speaking engagements, many of them delivered to gatherings of the self-same class of wealthy power brokers of one sort or another, and many of them earning her $200,000 or more per speaking date.
The story only hinted at a subtext highlighting Clinton’s status as a very wealthy woman herself, a status she shares with the current president, Barack Obama.
This disparity — between calling for a solution to the wealth gap while being a beneficiary of that same gap — leads to questions about what that kind of status might mean to an increasingly impoverished electorate that is forced to choose between wealthy candidates in election after election. The voters must make these choices while being browbeaten into submission by misleading advertising salvos funded by those wealthy patrons of the political class, which brings up images of a monied snake eating its own tail.
In a seeming nod to the difficulty faced by Clinton and other politicians, the lead of the story refers to them seeking ways “to address the anger about income inequality without overly vilifying the wealthy.”
The companion story on the front page of the Times, I should point out, was not thematically in rhythm with the story mentioned above, but gets at the same issues tangentially. It was about the unsurprising trend of shady “shell companies” buying up blocks of hyper-expensive real estate in New York in the form of high-priced condo projects that only the very rich can buy into.
The article picked out a few such purchases — a condo bought for $15.65 million by some secretive company linked to a former Russian senator and banker suspected of links to organized crime, a condo down the hall going for $21 million to a Greek businessman with similar corruption problems, and a trio of condos sold to a Chinese magnate found guilty of building housing for New Jersey workers that turned out to be marred by “hazardous, unsanitary conditions” — to make its point.
The message behind the headline was that the U.S., and New York in particular, has become a haven for foreigners interested in hiding wealth accumulated through nefarious business dealings, as well as for the native-born wealthy who may or may not be guilty of similar dealings in their shady past but who have an equal interest in hiding just how wealthy they are.
And so we are once again confronted with the inherent hypocrisy and inequality of the U.S. economic system. We claim to live in a fabled land of opportunity, and have a rising number of billionaires looking for ways to hide their money as proof of that opportunity.
But at the same time that the ranks of millionaires and billionaires continue to grow, the middle class shrinks and the lower class expands, with all the problems such disparity entails.
The plain fact is that anyone can get rich in this country if they are willing to park their morality at the curb and dive into the seedy, seamy swamp of high-dollar shenanigans.
But if all you want is to do a job and do it well, live a life that is not tinged by poverty and want and maybe raise a family of children with the same chances, you’re too often out of luck in today’s America.
Because the deck is stacked in favor of the hustlers, speculators and robber barons and against those who either don’t want or can’t find a way to be part of that hustling class.
And electing politicians culled from the hustling class clearly is not going to do much to fix things.
I believe the very existence of the hustling class has spawned a perpetual-motion machine at the top of our economic heap, the main goal of which is to maintain the status quo at all costs, regardless of any negative effects on our national economic and political health.
And as long as the wealthy and their lawyers are writing the rules that govern all of us, this will not change no matter who claims to be looking for a solution to this problem.
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