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FROM MY CORNER: America’s Denial

Howell Hurst Corporate Avarice, Economy & Finance, Homelessness, Humans, People, People Politics, Poverty, Racism

FROM MY CORNERAmerica’s Denial”:

Distribution: To all my U.S. Readers

 [A bit longer commentary this time than usual, I admit. But, since I’ve been silent a couple of weeks, I believe you’ll find it’s worth the reading.]

DATELINE: Carmel, CA, USA . . .

August 15, 2020

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 In The Atlantic magazine’s September edition a Professor in the Humanities at Boston University and director of the BU Center for Antiracist Research, Ibram Kindl, proposes that: “The American people give policy makers an ultimatum: Use your power to radically reduce inequality and injustice, or be voted out.”

Fine and good. However, the issue goes much farther in my opinion than racism and inequality. America’s present historical moment more closely reflects the arguments that Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren stressed in their campaigns. They proposed that America’s predatory economic culture has come about because our financial and political leaders have ethically corrupted both democracy and capitalism.

Carrying that thought one step farther: I contend this responsibility applies also to the owners and publishers of America’s profit-making news journals. Why? Because they are definitely not motivated by any ideological concept of practically enhancing Democracy for economically-deprived Americans. Rather, since most all journals are dependent on corporate advertising, they are only secondarily loyal to their more common readers. This is certainly the case where I live on the Monterey Peninsula. Here much, if not most, of the newspapers’ incomes are further dependent on the spending of many local, extremely-wealthy people. It is to them they are most loyal.

My assertion is based on generalized national conditions in our society, but further supported by events I have personally experienced here. Monterey is allegedly liberal politically. However, an unspoken undercurrent of Trumpian-inspired capitalist conservatism also thrives. Hear my case and make up your own mind.

Two months ago, I began what I thought was a rational campaign to awaken local community leaders to the potential plight not only of racial minorities, but more broadly to our unemployed in general. Motivated by the nationally-reported millions of Americans now unemployed several months due to the Corona Virus, I queried the owner of our local weekly newspaper if he would help me. I requested he write an article inviting our several hundreds of local unemployed to reveal if any of them were facing eviction from their rentals, or foreclosure on the mortgages of their homes. I thought this information, if published, might entice our many local wealthy corporate stockholders to assist the unemployed in their probable housing dilemmas.

The newspaper owner and I communicated by email and phone for a couple of weeks. His final response was negative; he would not undertake this task. He begged off, saying that he and his staff were far too busy with other matters and it was not his or their job to deal with unemployed. He further suggested that I contact local Homeless non-profits; they should have the answer. I allowed him this diversion and attempted to contact the local non-profits supposedly empowered to help homeless. None of the nonprofits bothered to answer my contact attempts. Next, I approached the president of Monterey’s Chamber of Commerce. He too declined to follow up on my request. He quickly grew silent, refusing further discussion.

I next contacted the majority owner of Monterey’s famous Cannery Row. He ignored the politely written request I made of him. I phoned his secretary and asked for a talk. Finally, and rather grudgingly, the owner agreed. His story was that his focus and that of other community leaders was to reopen businesses, which would help the unemployed. In a surprisingly timely fashion, Federal funding from the Small Business Administration made its eventual way down to the Monterey Peninsula. The weekly newspaper then most efficiently wrote an article about which “businesses” had obtained funding.

The results were intriguing. The top money winners in this Federal SBA program known as the Payroll Protection Plan, PPP, were three of the richest local business owners: a large million dollar local winery, the Cannery Row owner, and our local multimillionaire Hollywood resident star who owns a Monterey resort, luxury golf club, and restaurant. The newspaper apparently received its share of Federal funding too. One other “business,” the local Catholic Church, also obtained a major portion of PPP funds.

Ultimately, in a burst of naïve optimism, I wrote to all of our local Mayors, asking would they talk to me about the issue of our potentially homeless unemployed and the Federal PPP funds? Not a single mayor bothered to acknowledge my letter. My phone messages went unanswered.

Perplexed, I again called the newspaper. This time I talked to the reporter who wrote the PPP story, and asked why three of the richest local business owners got the lion’s share of funds. He demurred any details, saying they had filled out the right Federal forms and, therefore, deserved the money. Regarding the Catholic Church’s share, when I reminded him of America’s separation of church and state, he did not express any appreciation of, let alone loyalty to, this unique notion. My argument that the funds were designated for small and minority businesses did not alter his opinion. He said all of Monterey’s “businesses,” the newspaper too, it seems, had filled in the correct request forms and were, therefore, entitled.

Entitled, I contend, is the relevant point here. The businesses and the church, taking the lion’s share, clearly considered themselves entitled to the Federal funds designated for minority-owned and small businesses. They obviously did not feel entitled enough to ask about potential housing problems of our local unemployed

This, I submit, is the crux of America’s most real fundamental problems today. While bandying about all the well known maxims of patriotism and fidelity to “we the people,” the powers that be, when push comes to shove, are most loyal to one thing: their own dollar bottom line. Politicians, business leaders, and most certainly our business-obsessed newspaper owners do not find the condition of America’s many millions of unemployed of profound interest. The unemployed are primarily eligible as worthy sound bites in politicians’ speeches about the high sounding topic of equality, and as small paragraphs in lengthy, theoretically-written articles by news journals on the same lofty subject.

Certainly, the unemployed are not seen as something either a politician, a business person, or a newspaper mogul has to concern himself about in any down-to-earth, economically-pragmatic manner.

By the way I can assure you that the news journals do not appreciate being asked such questions as I posed. When brushing me off, they suggested I write a Letter to their Editor. When I did so, they never published it.

Unless, their bank accounts are concerned, lip service is quite sufficient, thank you.

Until next time,

Hal

PS: As usual, if you wish to comment on this commentary, you may do so for online publication via my website, www.howellhurst.com at the “Blog” icon; or if you prefer to remain anonymous, by return email.

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