The Wire creator David Simon on "America as a Horror Show"


#1

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Am I the only one
#2

Thanks, good words indeed. Hopefully backed up by David Simon in deeds.

Either there's an America, or there isn't.

I guess he didn't hear Maggie Thatcher when she said there is no such thing as society. (sarcasm)


#3

I agree that how we allocate our resources is an interesting/thorny question. In a capitalist system there is no incentive whatsoever (beyond our own morality) to help our fellow human beings. The system is designed from the ground up as dog-eat-dog. Obviously this isn't the best model for a sustainable society. Capitalism is never sated, it eats and eats and eats and shits wherever it walks. In real terms this means that capitalists don't care about the environment or human welfare. If they're making money, people can suffer and die and they just don't give a shit. Why should they? The rules say they don't have to.

I get that capitalism is the system we live under, and I get that I participate in and perpetuate it just by being my middle-class internet-commenting self. I certainly don't have any answers to questions like "What does permaculture look like" or "How can socialism work given there will always be bad actors"

My comment was originally designed simply to needle the now-departed Antinous. A while back I saw a Boing Boing post talking in glowing terms about a $25,000 watch from Watchismo (a Boing Boing sponsor, don't know if that's still true) and commented that I thought this indicated a certain disconnect between Boing Boing's editorial politics and its financial politics. I may have used the words "Boing Boing - sponsored by Watchismo - proudly serving the outlandishly priced accessory needs of the 1%" or something like that. I also said that it offended me on a personal level that a dollar amount which to me represents years of careful budgeting and saving would be to another person nothing more than a casual purchase of a neat toy.

Antinous took issue with my snark and we had a little comment war in which he told me that my thoughts about this were not welcome in BB comments, and that I was clearly wrong that a $25,000 watch was an obscenity because there's opulent art in The Louvre.

I don't know where the lines should be drawn, and I don't know how, if we were to redistribute the planet's wealth, that would be done, but I do feel there's just something fundamentally unfair and horrible and gross about a guy buying a wristwatch with an amount of money someone more needy could use to make a downpayment on a house.

Anyway, it was funny to me that the original post I commented on was singing the praises of an obscenely expensive watch and THIS post was criticizing, so I tried to get Antinous to come out and play. smile


#4

“I don’t regret the message at all,” [Tom Perkins] said. “Anytime the majority starts to demonize the minority, no matter what it is, it’s wrong and dangerous and no good comes from it.”

Ah, so like the French Revolution. Gotcha.


#5

I think in the big picture, we CAN have it both ways.
IMO, not using your wealth (I mean this to apply to anyone, not just the 1 percent) at all to help make the world a better place is morally wrong. I guess there is some definite obscenity to overly-conspicuous consumption, but everyone loves nice stuff. One should temper that by spreading some love, though..


#6

That "no matter what it is" part is what makes that statement so insane. Serial rapists are a minority in this country, are we allowed to demonize them or would it be unfair to generalize?


#7

Well yeah, I mean how much am I allowed to spend on a watch before the mob strings me up?

Assuming this guy pays taxes fairly and earns his money honestly, shouldn't he be able to buy whatever he wants? Do we hear this kind of outrage over rich media/tech stars like Jobs, Gates, Oprah, Jay Z, etc?

It just comes across as a tedious, lopsided argument. Any "solution" to this assumed problem would only entail taking assets by force or making it impossible to attain any sort of financial success. And who exactly gets to set the yardstick on what being "rich" means?

Not trolling, just trying to figure out the rhetorical sides in this debate...


#8

I don't think David Simon is actually suggesting that police should take Perkins' watch by force and give the money to drug addicts. He's using the watch as one example of how people at the top are now so many orders of magnitude better off than people at the bottom that they might as well be living in a completely different plane of existence.

A couple of generations ago a "financially successful" CEO might have made ten times as much as the average worker. Now the number is somewhere north of 300 times as much as the average worker. Just because people want to push that ratio back toward where it was for most of our country's history doesn't mean they want to "make it impossible to attain any sort of financial success."

You may not understand why the vast and ever-growing chasm between the rich and the poor is a problem, but wealth is a very real measure of power. The means to influence this country's economy or political process is falling to an ever-shrinking number of ultra-rich people: even if the bottom 50% of all Americans rallied together for a common goal they could be outspent by a handful of Wal-Mart heirs. That's bad for Democracy and it's bad for the long-term prospects of our country.


#9

Yes we do hear this kind of outrage over rich media/tech stars when it is warranted and the single uncharitable person you mentioned has been criticized extensively for it.

I don't want to make it look like you are out of touch, but Jobs took a lot of criticism due to being perceived as not a very charitable person. On the other hand both Gates and Oprah are known for there philanthropy. There has been much media coverage of their philanthropic efforts. Jay Z also has a track record of being philanthropic. A few simple searches of Google should bring you much enlightenment on this subject.


#10

When I was a small boy my mom got tired of me not cleaning up my room, and finally took all the toys off the floor and put them in garbage bags in the basement. If only I had known that saying "this is like when the Nazis invaded Poland!" was a trump card I could use against her in my temper tantrum.


#11

The moment someone with a net worth of > $100 million is actually murdered by a mentally stable person whose net worth is < $500 and who declares the reason for the murder to be class-based, I'll take this class warfare bullshit seriously. Until then, I'm pretty sure you and your watch and your big house can handle it. Fuckin' crybaby.


#12

The whole argument can be boiled down to this: either A.) the super wealthy are perfectly OK and moral and not doing anything wrong, and critiques of their wealth and how they got it are completely inappropriate. Or B.) their immense wealth and power are in fact immoral and are actually hurting our society, in which case critiques of them are completely appropriate and necessary.

I can understand how they may not be able to look at themselves as being in the wrong, the ego usually won't allow that, but they should at least understand that asking to change their tax rates so we can pay for programs that help the poor is not in any way comparable to the Holocaust, especially since those changes in the tax code are NOT going to make them destitute, or even drop them from wealthy to middle class. Could they at least agree that that is reasonable?


#13

Well, yeah, I think you are finding the "rhetorical sides in this debate" ... but that's always the game, isn't it? Creating a false dichotomy for people to argue over so that common sense can be ignored and nothing can get done...

There are solutions in the middle that the majority of people could get behind, and that would do far more good than harm.

Also, I don't know about "earns his money honestly." Is it honest to earn $5,000,00 instead of $4,000,000 (just for example) by keeping your employees and vendors in poverty?


#14

I hear that ratio bandied about but I've also heard it's unfounded. Either way, what does it matter how much more he earns? If he's spent 65 years working, studying and devoting himself to his company or super-specialized craft/skill then that's what he's able to get paid.

It's not like there's some trite little formula that we can use to making everything fair and honest, no matter what you think.

But by all means, if you've got a simple, easy, un-corruptible solution, by all means, share it with the rest of the class.


#15

Agreed. This guy is a dolt for Godwinning the discussion right out of the gate.

I guess the question is - where's the line drawn for requisitioning wealth for the needy? And if it's taken forcibly VS charitably, does that make it right?


#16

We've had this figured out for a while:

"Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor
and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me."

Okay, only "easy" in the sense that it isn't technically hard to do. It is hard to CONVINCE yourself to do, I guess. It's wildly impractical, but if you want practical, you're looking at something that is not simple or easy. If you want realistic, lets talk realistic.


#17

Tell you what, why don't you spend a few scant seconds on the Google machine before you say stuff like that. Even the Washington Post, hardly known for being a liberal rag, puts the ratio around 300-to-one.

As I've already stated, it matters because wealth is power and it's dangerous to concentrate too much power in the hands of too few people. When half a dozen ultra-rich people have as much power and influence as half the rest of the country put together, you're not living in a democracy anymore. You're living in a Plutocracy.

Oh, you think wealth is strongly correlated to effort/merit/productivity. How adorable.

So riddle me this: why has the gap grown so precipitously over the last few decades? CEO compensation has shot up over 700% since the 1970s while average worker pay has been virtually stagnant. Have the peons at the bottom been getting lazier or do you really believe the guys at the top are working 7-10 times harder than their daddies did?

No solution is ever completely un-corruptable, but there's no reason we couldn't have the same effective tax rates today that we did in the 1950s. You know, the era Conservatives like the wax nostalgic about as America's "Golden Age."


#18

Saying you're not trolling, while using trolling language doesn't mean you're not trolling. Specifically, I'm referring to the strawman of the "fair businessman vs the mobs that forcibly take wealth and 'make it impossible to attain any sort of financial success.'"

Please, Perkins couldn't have put it better himself.


#19

Dunno.
If he hypothetically treats the workforce like crap, then there's probably not many people who stick around for long stretches. Unless he somehow forces them to stay employed at his factory.

You can get a little enlightenment yourself: there's also plenty of coverage of uber-rich people abusing their influence. Jay-Z was a partner in seizing homes and businesses for the Barclay Center; Jobs went to court for years to build his mansion in oppostion to zoning laws; Oprah amasses tons of land in Hawaii to buy seclusion, etc, etc. Does tossing a few shekels into a charity (valid or no) get a person a pass?


#20

Watching this, the longer first bit of Moyers program and his talk (particularly the Q&A) in Sydney drove home a very interesting point, to me:

The 0.1%ers (or their mouthpieces) who are complaining about others inciting "class warfare" are simply annoyed that somebody else noticed their game and is now putting up a fight.

So far, they had simply been beating up people below them, rigging the system against the have-less as they went along. But they were used to beating up people who don't notice, can't or won't defend themselves and are never heard.

Now the white middle class is waking up to the realization that they have been dragged straight into that theater of war, that they have already lost most of the battles (well, other, even less fortunate groups have lost them in their stead - "first they came for the" drug addicts, criminals, people of color, immigrants etc.) and when the mere notion inequality, of warfare is voiced, they are then being blamed for trying to start something that has been ongoing for decades.

So now we have arrived at a point where saying: I have (through direct action, blissfull inaction or indefensible ignorance) been systematically pushing people down the ladder, leaving them utterly desparate. Then brutally beating up and incarcarating people, destroying their lives, the lives of their families, tearing down communities or entire cities with them. Been profiting from that in such an order of magnitude that I could never hope to spend and in fact probably will never spend those profits in my lifetime, While at the same time suggesting that this is actually the best way to invigorate the economy as a whole. And all this while blaming "the government" (that I have either paid to be elected and/or paid to make laws that benefit me and to not make laws that benefit others) is actually not doing enough to make things better, because for some weird reason, everything just continues to get shittier and shittier for most of the population.

Correctly identifying my anti-social behavior as one of the root causes of what is destroying the fabric of our society makes you a Nazi.

How can you be so cruel? Have you no decency?