American Anomie

The economic disparity and political dysfunction have been exacerbated by the collapse of the judicial system, as Matt Taibbi writes in his book “The Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap.” There is aggressive criminalization of the poor while the ruling elites are protected by high-priced lawyers and non-enforcement or rewriting of laws. Amid selective enforcement of laws in the ruleless society, the high rollers on Wall Street and in wealthy enclaves are not prosecuted for possessing and ingesting illegal drugs but the poor are thrown into prison and must forfeit all their property for being caught with small amounts of the same drugs. HSBC, the world’s seventh largest bank by total assets, after admitting to laundering $800 million for Central and South American drug cartels, was slapped with largely symbolic fines and a deferred prosecution agreement, which is the legal equivalent of a get-out-of-jail-free card. The poor, meanwhile, are hounded, arrested and fined for absurdly criminalized activities such as not mowing their lawns, loitering, selling loose cigarettes, carrying open containers of alcohol or “obstructing pedestrian traffic”—which means standing on a sidewalk. These fines are used to fill state and county budget shortfalls resulting from corporations and the wealthy fixing the rules to avoid paying meaningful taxes, if they pay taxes at all. This virtual tax boycott by the rich has broken yet another social bond, the idea that everyone contributes a significant portion of his or her income to make the society function.

via American Anomie