Matt Taibbi: The US is criminalizing poverty while letting Wall Street run amok.
"Obviously it’s not a new story that the rich get off and poor people get screwed," says journalist Taibbi, who’s promoting a new book: The Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap.
"but there are some new developments that have made this situation worse. "
> [T]he problem with being broke or being broke and being undocumented is it puts you in a situation where any false move will result in a negative consequence, whereas if you’re working at JPMorgan Chase, there almost can’t be an individual consequence for you anymore, no matter what you do [in the course of doing your job]. Your company may end up paying the fine, but you won’t personally pay at all. In a way, we’ve made it incredibly easy for people to become criminals when they’re in that situation.
Rich people can pay phalanxes of lawyers to get individual attention if they’re accused of a crime, but the poor are just raw materials in a machine. Nobody even listens to what they have to say.
And once you’ve been convicted of a crime, it’s hard to do anything other than become a career criminal. You’re blocked from professional licenses.
> In New York, if you have a certain kind of criminal conviction, you can’t even work in a pet cemetery. There’s hundreds of things you can’t do anymore if you have a criminal conviction; it might mean being evicted from your home if you have Section 8 housing. It’s already hard to get ahead—if you’re trying to do it in the context of working in fast-food restaurants, you’re tired, you’re raising kids, you have a couple hours a day to sleep or relax. If you start adding complications, if you can’t get 200 different professional licenses, you can’t drive a car, you can’t get public assistance, you can’t get credit [because of a criminal record], you start adding all those things up, then it becomes impossible.