Weegee. "The Critic", November 22, 1943. The war was on. We were still in the Depression. Look familiar?
The sheer Audacity of Greed. This is why the architects of Christianity invented Hell. There has to be some place where justice is finally meted out to evil monsters who steal from us and run organized crime machines like Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch, Lehman, Bank of America, and on and on. The People need some assurance that sooner or later these revolting worms will get what the United States government is absolutely unwilling to do. Thus Heaven for the poor, Hell for the leaches who make us poor. (1)
What am I raving about? The Boneses for Wall Street execs. Bloomberg news has a report on the BILLIONS being set aside by Goldman Sachs and others to kick back to their financial charlatans this holiday season.
My guess is that Michael Bloomberg, if he says anything, will support these kickbacks. First, these thieves are his friends. Second, for years it has been their obscene pay — and theirs alone — that has sustained the broader obscenity of New York City real estate prices.
Things were already bad. Over a year ago, reports flashed across the journalistic radar of the multimillion dollar party that Blackstone head Stephen Schwarzman had thrown for himself. But now We the People are pulling their asses out of the fire. We get laid off. We lose our homes. And they get bonuses totalling billions and billions of dollars. Perhaps Andrew Cuomo or someone with a comparable sense of decency will go after these beasts. We can be sure it will not be anyone in Washington, DC, including, I suspect, Barack Obama if elected.
The Schwarzman 60th birthday bash in 2007 included $1 million for Rod Stewart. Schwarzman, a Republicon, has said, "I don’t feel like a wealthy person."I'm trying to imagine some historical or fictional representation of the poor or regular people coming upon the trappings of wealth.
Perhaps A Night To Remember — the classic 50s film about the sinking of the Titanic — when the steerage passengers, initially barred from reaching lifeboats (fact), finally break through the gates and pass through the first class areas of the ship.
Or perhaps the experience of the French peasants on overthrowing Louis XVI and seeing, however briefly the staggering wealth of the monarchy (before the Reign of Terror and Robespierre et al. tried to make themselves monarchs in all but name) .
It should bring tears to our eyes. Or rage. But most Americans seem unmoved. Rather, people lionize, idolize — American Idolize — the rich. "Future, Heaven of the poor" said poet W. S. Merwin. "In the Future, I'll win the lottery, become a star baseball player, an actor. I'll be rich, so they are my peers." Needless to say, the rich do not agree. Years ago, when I lived in Boston, a report emerged during a surge of public opposition to a very modest tax increase: Of those who bought lottery tickets, most spent more on lottery tickets than they paid in taxes each year. Such is the state of our delusions.
For a moment, we were moved by the bailout, moved to flood Congress with calls and emails. So the first pass at a bailout bombed. But now it's old news. And people like "Joe the Plumber" — middle class people — can still seriously fret over 'tax and spend' Democrats, as if a lottery win were just around the corner, just about to make us millionaires and catapult us into the party with Michael Bloomberg, Stephen Schwarzman, Henry Paulson.
Where are our tears? If We the People have no sense of decency, how can we condemn the self-appointed UberVölk of Congress and Wall Street?
1. I don't know much about the intellectual history of Western religion, but it has always seemed to me that religion played a terribly important role in mollifying a possibly restless serfdom. "Things suck now, and the Lords live off the fat of our labour, but someday we will be rewarded for our suffering." Thus the religious class taught the poor while, of course, allowing the rich to buy their 'indulgences' for entry to Heaven.
Today, the religious class roughly parallels the politically powerful. (Not quite right, because we worship before the feet of the corporate elite, too.) The rich corporate Titans buy their indulgences in the form of bribes (called campaign contributions) to politicians.
I don't think it's any coincidence that, as times have gotten worse in recent years and particularly as disparities in the distribution of wealth of grown ever more extreme, people are turning more to religion. Increasingly, Americans are abandoning any hope of a good life and praying instead for a good life after.
2. New York Times essayist and conservative idiot Ben Stein has some vaguely relevant blather about a year ago. It should surprise none that he was dead wrong on very nearly every point. But he has a cool Ivy degree and that annoying delivery, so he must have been right even though he was wrong. That's religion, folks.
3. The Bride Wore Ritzy. New York Times, 22 April 2008