Posted by: JanF | February 3, 2014

The Plight of the Affluent-Americans

On Saturday morning, I read a sobering first person account at Think Progress about “The Bone-Chilling, Heart-Wrenching Process Of Counting The Nation’s Homeless”:

It was 1 a.m., three hours since I’d last felt my toes, and the four of us stood over a man who may have been dead.

“Are you okay under there?” Catherine asked the pile of blankets tucked away in a building alcove on the corner of 23rd and I St. NW in Washington, D.C. It was the type of spot where most pedestrians wouldn’t even know a homeless person was there.

He didn’t move. She asked again. No answer. She repeated a third time. Nothing.

The three of us held our breath, looking to her for some simple explanation why this wasn’t what it seemed. Maybe he was ignoring us. After all, we were uninvited guests to his makeshift home in the middle of the night.

Maybe he had some secret way of handling five-degree temperatures, even when others might freeze to death.

I wondered, along with the author, about what kind of nation we were that 610,042 people are homeless on any given night in America, some in the worst possible physical conditions.

But nothing prepared me for my reaction to an Op-Ed piece in the Miami Herald by Leonard Pitts, the reminder of those who have, perhaps, too many homes.

Grab a tissue …

From Mr. Pitts, “Letter on Behalf of the 99%”:

Dear Tom Perkins:

I’m writing to apologize. I do this on behalf of the 99 percent of us who are not multimillionaires. […]

I admit, I’d have thought a guy like you had little to complain about. But that was before you wrote that tear-jerking Jan. 24 letter to The Wall Street Journal revealing the pain, the oppression, the abject sense of vulnerability and fear, that go with having a net worth equal to the GNP of some developing nations.

Tom Perkins, if you recall, spoke of the rudeness of the unwashed masses questioning income inequality in America and compared that to how the Jews were oppressed in Nazi Germany.

Mr. Pitts continues:

You’ve been criticized for what you wrote, but we both know the only thing wrong with it is, you didn’t go far enough. You didn’t mention how one day the rich may be forced to stitch yellow dollar signs to their clothing or have their net worth tattooed on their forearms.

He sympathizes with the “constant fear of metaphorical beatings and rhetorical lynchings” that may greet the obscenely wealthy, those he called “the Affluent-American community”, if they were to complain.

You are as human as anyone else. Your manservant puts your pants on one leg at a time just like the rest of us. So I apologize to you on behalf of the 40-year-old man with a college degree struggling to raise his son on a McSalary, the little girl trying to concentrate on algebra while her stomach growls with missed-meal cramps, the Walmart employees collecting food for co-workers, the homeless family praying the social worker will find them shelter for the night as temperature and snow fall steadily.

You know, until I read your letter, I thought they were the ones most deserving of my empathy and concern, these victims of wealth inequality, a tilted playing field and the sheer greed of rapacious money pigs.

What’s this? “The sheer greed of rapacious money pigs”. I wonder why that caught my eye.

Apologies certainly are in order.



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