The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Book Review:
The Divide:
American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap

May 12, 2014

Matt Taibbi’s new book, The Divide, vividly shows the gap between the poor, who can be jailed for anything or nothing, and the rich, who cannot be jailed, no matter how much money they steal, and no matter how blatantly they lie. By comparing the criminal bankers with the ordinary “criminals” who fill the jails, Taibbi shows how the American “justice” system is a cynical, brutal, and well-organized setup for perpetuating the wealth of the rich and the poverty of the poor.

Taibbi describes how the giant bank HSBC paid a fine for laundering tens of billions of dollars in Mexican drug money, but no one went to jail. He shows how the top executives of the investment bank Lehman Brothers stole billions of dollars from creditors and handed it to the British bank Barclays as Lehman Brothers went bankrupt. These execs got multi-million dollar payoffs for themselves, in an elaborate scheme that cost pension funds and other investors across the country – and they got away with it. He explains how the Obama administration has developed an almost official policy of not jailing bankers, and of instead going after fines that are just slaps on the wrist for these enormous banks.

On the other side of town, Taibbi shows how tens of thousands of mostly black and Latino New Yorkers go to jail every year for possession of tiny quantities of marijuana, a story which could be repeated in every city in the country. He shows how police arrest thousands of young men in poor neighborhoods, mostly for suspicion, and charge them with crimes as petty as blocking the sidewalk, often over and over again.

He sheds a light on the “gulag” of detention centers around the country for working class undocumented immigrants. These immigrants are then ripped off again and again in the centers, from high charges for phone cards, to being deported into the hands of Mexican cartels that kidnap many and extort money from their families.

One of the most striking parts is Taibbi’s comparison of welfare fraud and bank fraud. J.P. Morgan Chase, Citigroup, and the other big banks forged millions of mortgage documents, helping to spark the economic collapse and allowing them to steal more billions of dollars. But not one person from any of those banks went to jail. Meanwhile, a woman receiving public aid in Riverside County, California, can get her name in the newspaper as a welfare fraud thief, and be thrown in jail, for not reporting that she has a boyfriend who helps her with groceries.

They say there’s one law in this country that applies equally to everyone. This book shows just how much that statement is a cynical lie. There is one law for the rich, and one for the poor. And that’s a big part of how the rich keep control over the population.