Must Be Nice

« December 2010 »

Memo to the wealthy: MUST BE NICE.

It's come to my attention that maybe, just maybe, rich people need to fuck right off. They've spent the last decade thriving at the expense of the lower classes, as evidenced by a level of income inequality that's about to pass the upper limit on "obscene", causing linguists to work on coming up with an entirely new adjective. You'd think, after all that, they'd at least be a bit humble about it. Maybe sit quietly back for a few years and let the status quo ossify before striving for more.

But no. They're about to graciously concede one more year of life-sustaining unemployment benefits, in exchange for at least two more years of deficit-sustaining tax cuts. And if the "deficit commission" had its way, we'd all be working four more years before retiring, just so they could get their taxes slashed even further. They're dicks.

Oh, and as an aside, to those who aren't dicks? Stop making public statements about how you should pay more in taxes. I know you think it helps, but put your money where your mouth is and buy off some fucking congressmen. The wealth-worshippers on the right had a rhetorical counter to that years ago, the old, lame "nothing's stopping you from giving the government money" gambit. It's a fundamental misunderstanding of government and society, but it's pithy, so it works for them.

Anyway, they're taking all the money, which is bad enough, but they've also taken the legal system. And not just in the sense that the civil court system has become the playground for the deep-pocketed. Take, for example, the totally awesome case of Martin Erzinger, from about a month ago. Erzinger allegedly was driving his Mercedes and allegedly ran over a cyclist and allegedly fled the scene. If any of us had done that, we'd be fucked six ways to Sunday. We'd be arrested, charged with felony hit and run, and on the off chance the bike we hit was a Mercedes and our car wasn't, we'd be sued and have our wages garnisheed for the rest of our lives.

Luckily for Erzinger, he's not any of us. He's a fund manager for Morgan Stanley. And when you're a fund manager for Morgan Stanley, you have very little to fear from your lessers, even when your lesser is the Fifth District Attorney of Colorado, Mark "Make Me" Hurlbert. ACTUAL QUOTE TIME!

"Felony convictions have some pretty serious job implications for someone in Mr. Erzinger's profession, and that entered into it. When you're talking about restitution, you don't want to take away his ability to pay." - Hurlbert.

I don't suppose that'll set a precedent. I mean, felony convictions have serious job implications for people who want to get a job at Taco Bell, too. Between the criminal background checks, the credit checks, and the generally shitty economy, even someone who's actually paid their debt to society for, say, a hit-and-run is gonna have a hell of a time finding a job. Yet a nation full of district attorneys have no problem filing felony charges against them. But then, they're not in Martin Erzinger's profession, are they?

Oh, and on the flip side, while the fund managers get let off with misdemeanors by prosecutorial deference, the poor are having to pay more and more for their constitutionally-mandated defense. It's not enough that public defenders' offices are overworked and underfunded, apparently. According to a New York University study, states are charging defendants for the defense that is supposed to be provided for them.

In Virginia, for example, defendants can be charged over $1,200 per felony count. For the public defender. The one who's there for people who cannot afford an attorney. Now, admittedly, $1,200 is less than a real attorney would charge to take your call, but that's beside the point. Coming up with $1,200 is still way beyond the capabilities of a lot of the people who rely on the public defender system.

Oh, by the way? Why are public defenders' offices overworked and underfunded? A shortage of revenue. You know where revenue comes from? Taxes. You know who keeps paying less and less in taxes? Wealthy people, who don't even need lawyers to protect themselves from the criminal justice system, because their bags of money are impervious to law enforcement.

Must be nice.