One of the more bizarre and pathetic aspects of capitalism is the self-congratulatory coverage of free meals given to the homeless and poor on holidays like Christmas, presented as though people don’t need to eat, or live inside, 365 days out of the year. Meanwhile, millions of homes are abandoned, wasted vacation homes or warehoused as investments.
Yes, Virginia, the Republicans are running someone against California governor Jerry Brown. His name is Neel Kashkari.
Kashkari has been virtually invisible throughout what has passed for the campaign. (Not literally. There is no evidence that he has mastered the ability to bend light around himself so as to render his physical form undetectable to the human eye. Just in the media, which has decided that he isn’t worth covering because he probably won’t win. Which is true, since the media won’t cover him. Funny how that works.)
What do you do when the struggle for visibility gets tough?
In what his supporters would likely say was an earnest attempt to showcase the ongoing problem of un- and underemployment in California despite the economic “recovery” — if anyone bothered to ask his supporters — and what everyone else, including pundits, would call a cheap ploy, Kashkari says he spent the last week playacting as a homeless person in search of work.
Seema Mehta of the Times reports:
“Kashkari wrote that he took a Greyhound bus from Los Angeles to Fresno on July 21 with ‘only $40 in my pocket (and no credit cards), a backpack, a change of clothes and a toothbrush.’ He said he planned to find a job. “I am an able-bodied 41-year-old. Surely I could find some work. ‘Kashkari was accompanied by two videographers, who produced a 10-minute video. The footage shows a scruffy Kashkari saying, ‘This has been one of the hardest weeks of my life.'”
All Gen X smirkery aside, I think it’s admirable that any politician, especially a Republican — the difference between Democrats and Republicans is that Republicans don’t even pretend to care about poor people — is drawing attention to the misery experienced by millions of Californians suffering through grinding poverty with no foreseeable end in sight. Sure, Kashkari is a multi-millionaire who could, and did, go home whenever he wanted. But when’s the last time you slept outside to see what it was like? Hell, I don’t even like camping.
So, good on Kashkari.
Still, I have some logistical and logical questions for him.
Like, why Fresno? The economy isn’t that bad there, relatively.
Why forty bucks? Why not $20 or $100?
Did the $5 bus fare come out of the $40?
Did he panhandle? Steal? I would.
Why was a toothbrush deemed essential, but not floss? Was there even toothpaste, and if not, why not, and if so, why wasn’t it mentioned? How about mouthwash? (Note to Gov. Brown’s opposition research team: Kashkari’s commitment to oral hygiene halfhearted at best. 92% of voters say ‘ewww.’)
When the Man Who Would Be Governor approached foremen at Fresno area construction sites, how eager for work did he appear? After all, this was an experiment that would have failed mightily had his able-bodied 41-year-old self been scooped off the mean streets of the Raisin Capital and offered a zillion bucks to run a hedge fund. Did he, full of honesty and integrity, pledge to work hard at low wages with little concern for his personal safety? Or was he all Little Lord Fauntleroy about it: “I don’t do sweat, dude”?
So many questions. I’d ask them all, too. But that would be against the rules. He’s a long-shot gubernatorial candidate and I’m a pundit.
President Obama and the Democrats have finally decided, five years after his election, to begin talking about the issue of income inequality, which has been increasing since the early 1970s. But their rhetoric makes it sound like inequality is a weird byproduct of capitalism when, in fact, it is a key feature of an economic system that relies on poverty and exploitation. This is the best system ever conceived?
I draw cartoons for The Los Angeles Times about issues related to California and the Southland (metro Los Angeles).
“In 2005 and 2006, patient dumping on L.A.’s skid row grabbed national headlines with images of mentally ill patients in hospital gowns, one holding a colostomy bag, being dropped off in ambulances, taxis and vans,” Richard Winton of The Times remembers. Major hospitals, including Kaiser Permanente, were forced to admit routinely driving indigent patients downtown, dumping them on the sidewalk and speeding off. “Hospitals don’t like dealing with homeless patients, who are often uninsured and sometimes unpleasant to treat. So they literally dump them on the streets of Skid Row, even if the patients come from other places in Los Angeles, and are in no condition to fend for themselves,” “60 Minutes” reported in 2007.
Most people thought the problem had abated since hospitals got slapped with major fines.
Alas, we were wrong.
“In a settlement announced Friday, the 224-bed Beverly Hospital in Montebello agreed to pay $250,000 in civil penalties and legal fees after it was accused of taking a patient by taxi to skid row and leaving her there without making any arrangements with a shelter,” Winton reports.
So Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer says he’s going after this miscreants.
Which brings me into the picture. I want to help!
For a hospital like Beverly, a quarter million bucks is a drop in the bucket. It’s cheaper for them to pay the occasional penalty than to give proper care to every patient who walks or rolls through the ER doors. From now on, therefore, I humbly suggest that when cops and homeless shelters come across a case of patient dumping, they take the person to the hospital’s CEO. In Beverly Hospital’s case, that would be Gary Kipp.
I’m guessing that Kipp, with an annual salary of $400,000 that safely ensconces him in the top 1%, has a sweet crib with lots of spare room for sofa surfers. Maybe CEO Kipp can take in some of the nurses he is underpaying and refusing to let unionize, as well.
In the fiscal cliff deal, congressional Republicans and Democrats agreed not to raise taxes on all Americans earning under $400,000 a year – in other words, everyone gets a tax cut except the top 0.5% of income earners. Even if you are an unmarried couple earning $800,000 a year, you qualify for a so-called “middle class tax cut.” In what country could someone earning that kind of money he considered middle-class? Only in the United States in the year 2013. Everybody is middle-class, from the homeless to the middle classy. As for those who earn over $800,000 a year as an unmarried couple or $400,000 as an individual, well, hell, we never see them anyway.
A wag in the New York Times pointed out that the current ARM mortgage crisis owes at least as much to predatory borrowing as it does to predatory lending (which is admittedly a huge problem). I own a home now, but I can’t help wondering why renters–people who can’t afford to buy a home–should pay higher taxes to support those who own? It’s already pretty crazy that the Army Corps of Engineers spends millions to shore up beaches to save homes owned by multimillionaires.