SYNDICATED COLUMN: You Want a Job, Right?

Herman Cain and the Criminalization of Poverty

Pizza baron Herman Cain leads in the polls. Yet nobody believes he can win the Republican nomination. The fact that the #1 candidate doesn’t stand a chance is an improbable truism emblematic of our broken-down political system.

Partly it’s that he’s black. Republicans are racists.

Partly it’s that the nomination was promised to Mitt Romney. He’s been waiting. It’s Willard’s turn.

It’s not the accusations of sexual harassment. Republicans are sexists. For the GOP touching the hired help (or wannabe hired help) is the droit du CEO.

The reason Cain isn’t allowed to be president is money. Romney is spectacularly wealthy. Cain is merely rich. As of October Romney had used his white-male Wall Street connections to raise $14 million. Cain had a paltry $700,000.

After reports surfaced that Cain had groped Susan Bialek, a woman who asked him for help landing a job, Cain received $250,000 in contributions in a single day. Attempted rape—she says he tried to force her head into his special place—pays.

Unsurprisingly, the Cain campaign went to work smearing the credibility of his accusers. One of his proxies, right-wing radio talker Rush Limbaugh, took to pronouncing Bialek’s surname “buy-a-lick.”

Cain’s main attack, however, is focusing on the women’s finances. “Who Is Sharon Bialek?” asked a Cain campaign email to reporters.

It was a perfect illustration of what’s wrong with the media.

“The fact is that Ms. Bialek has had a long and troubled history, from the courts to personal finances—which may help explain why she has come forward 14 years after an alleged incident with Mr. Cain, powered by celebrity attorney and long term Democrat donor Gloria Allred,” said the Cain camp.

Well, sure, Bialek’s past-due bills “might” explain why Cain waited so long to speak out. For that matter, she “might” be a delusional space alien who prefers Domino’s. Heck, she “might” even have vomited at the thought of her groper becoming president.

Who knows anything, really?

Not Cain—he’s never heard of neoconservatism. But I digress.

Back to Cain’s smear campaign. The narrative is simple: this bitch is poor. I’m rich. She’s lying about me to pay her bills.

The fact that the media plays along with such reasoning shows how elites wage class war against the 99 percent of us who work for a living.

“Ms. Bialek was also sued in 1999 over a paternity matter,” spat the Cain campaign. “In personal finances, PACER (Federal Court) records show that Ms. Bialek has filed for bankruptcy in the Northern District of Illinois bankruptcy court in 1991 and 2001…Ms. Bialek has worked for nine employers over the past 17 years.”

The New York Times added some context.

“Saddled with $17,200 in legal fees related to a paternity fight with the father of her infant son, Ms. Bialek filed for bankruptcy protection in 2001. Her income had dropped to $19,000 in 2000 from $38,000 the year before, court records show, and she had only a few thousand dollars in assets. Court records show that Ms. Bialek has continued to experience money troubles in recent years. The Internal Revenue Service in 2009 filed a lien against her for $5,176 in unpaid taxes, and an Illinois lending company won a judgment last year for $3,539.”

Bialek and her attorney anticipated attacks that she was planning to profit from her account, announcing that she would not sell her story. That should have done the trick, but no. Cain’s smear tactics appear to be working so far.

No one but Bialek and Cain know what happened that night back in 1997. Regardless of the truth, the implications of Cain’s approach should be troubling. To follow Cain’s argument to its logical conclusion, anyone who has ever had money problems can’t be trusted to tell the truth.

Poor people are liars.

Rich people are not.

Which no doubt comes as news to former clients of Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC.

Bear in mind, there is no evidence that Bialek or the other women committed perjury, or fraud, or embezzlement. Their characters are not at issue. Bialek’s sin, if you agree with Cain, is that she’s broke.

These days, who isn’t?

Over a million Americans a year file bankruptcy. One in nine Americans have seriously considered it since the economy died in 2008. According to Cain, they are all—to a man, or is it just women?—lying sacks.

The I.R.S. filed liens against over a million Americans in 2010, a 60 percent increase from the year before. Are they inherently untrustworthy?

I’ve gone to court. I’ve had judgments against me. I don’t think I was more honest before those things happened.

The Tories of Great Britain widened the gap between rich and poor, then cast the poor into debtors’ prisons. Like their ideological forebears, Cain and his fellow Republicans want to criminalize poverty. Thanks to their pro-corporate policies, which have dominated the U.S. for 40 years, the economy is dead. The ranks of the poor, the dispossessed, the bankrupt and the tax non-payers like Susan Bialek have grown and continue to expand.

To be poor, Cain and the GOP argue, is for your word to be worthless.

Bialek may or may not be lying. Either way, her veracity has nothing to do with her income. “It’s not about me,” she told an interviewer. “I’m not the one running for president.”

(Ted Rall is the author of “The Anti-American Manifesto.” His website is



  • […] Rich people are not. Got it? Bookmark It […]

  • So basically he’s Bill Clinton, the more he takes advantage of the help the more popular he becomes. Face it men AND women apparently get off on sexually deviant, sexually aggressive politicians.

  • In the GOP’s eyes, for you to be poor is for YOU to be worthless, not merely your word.

    It’s been that way since Ronnie Raygun sat atop the throne, and it gets worse every year.

  • Ted,

    None of this is new. It’s the whole Protestant Saved/Damned notion.

    If you’re one of the Elect, well, God will let you know by making sure you prosper. And if you’re one of the damned, well, you won’t prosper. So, if you’re poor, it’s because God has already condemned you to hell. And if God has already condemned you to hell, anything that gets done to you on this Earth really won’t matter, will it?

    • @Exkio: Just nitpicking here, but the Penn State rioters were probably not left-leaning people who otherwise would have rioted over income inequality. Football fans are often right-wing mooks and as such representative of the violence of the system rather than the wannabe violence of its opponents.

  • @Ted: You responded to the wrong thread (this is the Herm Cain is a dick thread), but I’ll respond here anyway.

    Yes, I agree with you. My point is that something as pathetic as a football coach being justly fired mobilized a violent offensive by his supporters. Not defense, offense. I understand that these are probably conservative moron football fans, and drunk college kids – but they clearly went on offense.

    When is OWS going to accept that violence is not a matter of defense, but offense. Surely if offensive violence is justified to defend a pedophile enabler, it’s justified to enact justice against criminal Wall Street executives.

  • @Alex,

    Ah, yes, the “Protestant Ethic”, or the so-called “prosperity gospel”. A totally unbiblical concept if there ever was one. Jesus “Blessed are the Poor” Christ would not recognize it. But it was a perfect justification for emerging capitalism, so it stayed.

  • Justly fired? He didn’t break any laws… It seems like a guy “liberals” should support, he was fired based on some imaginary idea of morality which is non-specific and based on the idea that he could do “more.” Conservatives would seem more likely to support the guy being canned, seeing as some abstract view of morality was used to determine he was wrong.

  • @patron002: “He didn’t break any laws”.

    Maybe you haven’t heard, but you don’t get fired for breaking laws. Usually, you go to jail. You get fired for not doing your job to the satisfaction of the entity you work for, at will. At best, Paterno was morally bankrupt. He protected his institution instead of calling the authorities after one of his coaches saw Sandusky buttfucking a 10-yr old boy in the Penn St. showers. That fact is in the sworn testimony.

    Now, I know this is all a-ok with you, since you say we liberals are moralizing. It’s clear you’re ok with people covering up for a man buttfucking a 10-yr old boy. Most people aren’t, which is why Paterno was justly fired.

    At worst Paterno is complicit which is why he’s hired a criminal defense attorney. If he did cover up, he should go to jail.

  • I’ve become old. I say that because my morality has fallen behind the times. If I were a 6′ 5″ former football player who walked into a shower room and saw a middle-aged man pronging a 10-year-old, the only reason I would leave the room would be to come back immediately with a baseball bat, chair, or something big and heavy. And then I would have beaten the middle-aged man as severely as I could.

    Then I would have grabbed the kid, locked him in the office with me, and called the police. And THEN I would have called someone else to tell them what had happened, just to be sure that the 911 tape didn’t “disappear.” (At some point along the way, I’d take 30 seconds to actually tell the kid that he didn’t do anything wrong, and that he needed to remember that he must tell the authorities everything that happened, but ONLY what happened. No embellishments, no jazzing it up. Just tell it like it really happened.)

    I would not have walked away and called my father and then gone to “coach” the next day like I was a 12-year-old wondering why these hairs were coming out of my body.

    Like I said, I’ve become old.

    I wonder if it’s like this in Canada.

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