Monday, July 09, 2012

Saying it as it is

Across America, millions of people are facing foreclosure and being kicked out of their homes. 650,000 Americans sleep in shelters or under highway overpasses. Hotel-heiress Paris Hilton is spending $350,000 of her $100 million fortune in a two-story house for her dogs, a replica of Paris’ own Beverly Hills mansion.

Steven Cohen of SAC Capital is a typical product of the New Gilded Age. He paid $14.8 million for his Greenwich home. Not satisfied, Cohen spent millions renovating and expanding, adding a massage room, exercise and media rooms, a full-size indoor basketball court, an enclosed swimming pool, a hairdressing salon, and a 6,734-square-foot ice-skating rink. The rink, of course, needs a Zamboni ice-resurfacer which Cohen houses in a 720-square-foot shingle cottage. He has a personal art collection that boasts Van Gogh's Peasant Woman Against a Background of Wheat (priced at $100 million); Gauguin's Bathers ($50 million); a Jackson Pollock drip painting (also $50 million); and Andy Warhol's Superman ($75 million). Cost matters little to a man whose net worth is estimated by the Wall Street Journal at $8 billion -- with an income in 2010 of over $1 billion. Cohen’s wealth is impressive, but by no means unique.

Back in 1978 an American labour organizer recognised and understood the reality of capitalist society:
 "I believe leaders of the business community, with few exceptions, have chosen to wage a one-sided class war today in this country—a war against working people, the unemployed, the poor, the minorities, the very young and the very old, and even many in the middle class of our society." Douglas Fraser, president of the UAW, said as reason for resigning form a Labor-Management Group think-tank "Business blames inflation on workers, the poor, the consumer and uses it as a club against them. Price hikes and profit increases are ignored while corporate representatives tell us we can't afford to stop killing and maiming workers in unsafe factories. They tell us we must postpone moderate increases in the minimum wage for those whose labor earns so little they can barely survive...
...The reality is that both are weak and ineffective as parties, with no visible, clear-cut ideological differences between them, because of business domination...
...I have concluded there is no point to continue sitting down at Labor-Management Group meetings and philosophizing about the future of the country and the world when we on the labor side have so little in common with those across the table. I cannot sit there seeking unity with the leaders of American industry, while they try to destroy us and ruin the lives of the people I represent. I would rather sit with the rural poor, the desperate children of urban blight, the victims of racism, and working people seeking a better life than with those whose religion is the status quo, whose goal is profit and whose hearts are cold. We in the UAW intend to reforge the links with those who believe in struggle: the kind of people who sat-down in the factories in the 1930's and who marched in Selma in the 1960's. I cannot assure you that we will be successful in making new alliances and forming new coalitions to help our nation find its way. But I can assure you that we will try."

1 comment:

ajohnstone said...

Another avid art collector is billionaire New York financier Leon Black who was the $119.9m (£74m) buyer of Edvard Munch's masterpiece, The Scream, which last month set a record for a work of art sold at auction.