It is not hard to identify the types whose great wealth is more or less stolen either from individuals or the public at large. Some of them run for political office. Wonder why? Big payoffs thereafter?

Romney apparently made his big bucks as a member of a small corporation that buys companies and strips them down before selling them at a profit — the stripping down usually involves, yes, firing a good number. Bush hit it big time by borrowing $600,000 to buy 2% of a ball club. He was awarded 10% of the stock by his new partners which he sold for $17 million — not bad as an investment, but you know that he would not have been in line for these perks without the Bush name on which he has traded since his prep year to get him into Yale.

Lest we only pick on the corporate types, note the massive perks of our college and university heads. My sophomore philosophy teacher — an ugly bully for those of us who did not buy his line — ended up taking away some $600,000 annually as the head of BU. The current Columbia head is up in that neighborhood with free room and board also and is focused on driving residents and businesses from a good slice of lower West Harlem with all the attendant super gentrification which will hit the poorer residents in that locale. My Greek tutor at a college at Oxford handled the bills. We had a principal who lived in a flat in the college. That was it so far as administrators were concerned.

A particular situation came to mind when I heard that with the latest economic bailout food stamps night not be increased for people at the bottom while us wealthier ones would get a generous check in the mail.

A very dear friend of ours died painfully of MS a few months ago. She had become close to our family because as a neighbor she had been a good helper to my mother in her last years when she was widowed and blind. Sadly several years ago our friend’s husband died only in his middle fifties — he had been a deputy sheriff — they lived in one of our rural communities. Although she was unable to work because of her illness, she only received a small portion of her husband’s pension as they had not reached retirement age. Neither was she yet eligible for Social Security, so she was put on disability. She mentioned that they had cut back her food stamps to almost nothing and she was struggling to keep her home. While she had some visiting nurse help, she was expected to pay for extra assistance there — she was fed through a tube into her stomach. We wanted to help financially, but she was a proud person. We live hundreds of miles away, so could not drop by with meals. We did figure some ways that we could help. We paid for some of the extra help and when I realized that her only distraction from the pain was TV, we made arrangements for her monthly fee to be put on our credit card. Sadly, then, before the holiday season had begun we had a call from her daughter who told us she had died — which we all agreed was a blessing.

Personally, I am more directly experienced with urban poverty. Years ago I worked as an intern with West Harlem teens. Most of my little gang of 12 died violently within a few decades — the last a suicide out a window after a long prison term — he was the happy little guy joker of the group. I know there are countless other kids in the same jeopardy a half century later — the greedy have taken far more than their fair share. And lost to public sight are such as our friend and the numerous kids in her town of which she told us — drop outs, jobless, into drugs and alcohol, and with no hope for their futures. One dark night they vandalized all the cars on a village street. I would give our friend’s name, but she was a proud person and I would not want to cause her family any embarrassment. To me she is one of our far too many abandoned American heroes/heroines.

And they want to stay in (and fund) Iraq forever?

“A war is just if there is no alternative, and the resort to arms is legitimate if they represent your last hope.” (Livy cited by Machiavelli)

Ed Kent 212-665-8535 (voice mail only) [blind copies]
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