Saturday, March 21, 2015

Class Warfare does exist

Barbara's Blog

 Nickel & Dimed, updated

For the not-yet-homeless, there are two main paths to
criminalization, and one is debt. Anyone can fall into debt, and
although we pride ourselves on the abolition of debtors’ prison, in at
least one state, Texas, people who can’t pay fines for things like
expired inspection stickers may be made to “sit out their tickets” in

More commonly, the path to prison begins when one of your creditors
has a court summons issued for you, which you fail to honor for one
reason or another, such as that your address has changed and you never
received it. Okay, now you’re in “contempt of the court.”

Or suppose you miss a payment and your car insurance lapses, and then
you’re stopped for something like a broken headlight (about $130 for
the bulb alone). Now, depending on the state, you may have your car
impounded and/or face a steep fine -- again, exposing you to a possible
court summons. “There’s just no end to it once the cycle starts,” says
Robert Solomon of Yale Law School. “It just keeps accelerating.”

The second -- and by far the most reliable -- way to be criminalized
by poverty is to have the wrong color skin. Indignation runs high when a
celebrity professor succumbs to racial profiling, but whole
communities are effectively “profiled” for the suspicious combination
of being both dark-skinned and poor. Flick a cigarette and you’re
“littering”; wear the wrong color T-shirt and you’re displaying gang
allegiance. Just strolling around in a dodgy neighborhood can mark you
as a potential suspect. And don’t get grumpy about it or you could be
“resisting arrest.”

In what has become a familiar pattern, the government defunds services that might help the poor while ramping up law enforcement.  Shut down public housing, then make it a crime to be homeless. Generate no public-sector jobs, then penalize people for falling into debt. The experience of the poor, and especially poor people of color, comes to resemble that of a rat in a cage scrambling to avoid erratically administered electric shocks. And if you should try to escape this nightmare reality into a brief, drug-induced high, it’s “gotcha” all over again, because that of course is illegal too.

One result is our staggering level of incarceration, the
highest in the world.  Today, exactly the same number of Americans --
2.3 million -- reside in prison as in public housing. And what public
housing remains has become ever more prison-like, with random police sweeps and, in a growing number of cities, proposed drug tests for residents. The safety net, or what remains of it, has been transformed into a dragnet.

And it's the war being conducted by the "Haves" against the "Have nots".

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