Newsflash:
Wayne Powell End Mass Criminalization How Wall Street Turned America Into Incarceration Nation
Tuesday, 26 November 2013 21:17

How Wall Street Turned America Into Incarceration Nation

Written by  Les Leopold | AlterNet

Transforming poorer neighborhoods into desirable real estate for the new elites often requires getting rid of the poor: jail becomes the new home for many.

The U.S. leads the world in prisoners with 2.27 million in jail and more than 4.8 million on parole. Minorities have been especially hard hit, forming 39.4% of the prison population, with one in three black men expected to serve time during their lifetimes.

How is it that our land, supposedly the beacon of freedom and democracy for the rest of the world, puts so many of its own people into prison?

We usually attribute the prisoner increase to a combination of overt racism and Nixon's war on drugs, followed by Rockefeller's "three strikes" legislation in New York, and then the 1984 Sentencing Reform Act with its mandatory sentences. While racism and these laws certainly provide ample opportunity to incarcerate millions for violating senseless prohibition laws, they do not tell the whole story.

Racism was just as virulent, if not more so, long before the dramatic rise in prisoners set in during the 1980s and 1990s. Just because there are draconian laws on the books, it doesn't explain why they are so dutifully enforced. It also doesn't explain why so many are willing to risk prison, knowing the increasing odds of getting caught.  

If we dig deeper, we'll see that the rise in incarceration corresponds with the rise of financialization and the dramatic increase in Wall Street incomes. Of course, just because trend lines on charts rise and fall together doesn't mean one causes the other. But this correspondence is much more than coincidence.

In fact, we could show you a dozen other trends lines about financialization, wealth and the rising incomes of America's elites that follow the same patterns over similar years as the incarceration rate. What is the connection?

'Unleashing' Wall Street destroys manufacturing, older urban areas and black America's upward mobility
By the end of the 1970s, our policy establishment embarked upon a new experiment to shock the nation out of stagflation (the crushing combination of high unemployment and high inflation). To do so, neo-liberal economists successfully argued that Wall Street should be deregulated and that taxes on the wealthy should be cut to spur new entrepreneurial activity that would enrich us all.

Entrepreneurial activity certainly increased, and with a vengeance. Rather than create new jobs and industries that would promote shared prosperity, a new and invigorated Wall Street set about to devastate American manufacturing. Its goal was, and still is, to make money from money, not to make money by producing tangible goods and services. Wall Street's main product for America is debt. And its profits derive from loading up the country with it, and then collecting compound interest.

Wave after wave of financial corporate raiders (now politely called private equity firms) swooped in to suck the cash flow out of healthy manufacturing facilities. Wall Street, freed from its New Deal shackles, loaded companies up with debt, cut R&D, raided pension funds, slashed wages and benefits, and decimated well-paying jobs in the U.S. while shipping many abroad. The released cash flow was used to pay back the financiers, buy up stock to drive up its price, and pay out dividends. Nearly half the raided companies failed as America's heartland in a few short years turned into the Rust Belt.

But Wall Street prospered as its profits rose to account for nearly 40% of all corporate profits by 2003, up from less than 10 percent in 1982  (It would take more space than we have here to explain why this had little to do with "unfair" foreign competition. We could also show that so called free-trade agreements were designed by financiers to promote their interests, not ours.)

The catastrophic collapse in manufacturing jobs was particularly tragic for black Americans who during the first two decades after WWII had seen their standard of living rise as they entered higher paying industries. As the Wall Street vultures sucked the life out of these industries, black Americans found themselves in dying urban areas where the next best jobs paid less than half what manufacturing once paid. If lucky, young minority men and women could find work in the public sector which still was unionized. More typically, scarce jobs might be found in fast-food chains, box stores, warehouses, and in the lower ranks of the healthcare system. Overall, however, unemployment rates soared, especially for minority youth. Participation in the underground economy often became the only means of survival.

Financialization, gentrification and the removal of low-income residents
Not only does financialization destroy middle-income manufacturing jobs in urban areas, but the process also removes low-income neighborhoods through gentrification. The rise of high-income financiers (and the desire of banks to loan more money to them) creates upward pressure on housing prices in urban areas that cater to elites, like New York, Chicago and San Francisco. As land values rise rapidly, lower-income residents are squeezed out of their neighborhoods, which are revamped into fashionable townhouses and apartments for the wealthy. (Typically, the children of the well-to-do unconsciously serve as forward troops as they flock into lower-income areas in major cities, seeking to support themselves as artists and young professionals.)

As hundreds of neighborhoods are transformed, higher income residents require more protection from the alternative low-income economy, called "crime in the streets." As mayors cater to these new elites, police patrols increase and incarceration rises through "stop and frisk" programs which invariably target minorities.  

Simply put, for financial interests to transform poorer neighborhoods into desirable real estate for the new elites, it is necessary to get rid of the poor. Jail becomes the new home for many.

The housing bubble and bust further destroyed lower income neighborhoods and decent-paying public sector jobs. Not only did financial interests feast upon productive firms, but they thrived on consumer debt (yet another chart that mirrors the incarceration rate).

The housing bubble, which was entirely engineered by Wall Street, created enormous demand for junk mortgages to package into securities which then turned toxic. When the bubble burst, the biggest losers were lower-income homeowners who thought they had finally gotten a piece of the American dream. With declining housing prices they found themselves underwater and/or living in neighborhoods with hundreds of abandoned homes. Their debts, remained, while, as we all know, the richest of the rich were bailed out.  

Because of the Wall Street crash, revenue-starved urban areas in the Rust Belt were hit once again. With unemployment higher than anytime since the Great Depression, business and worker tax revenues fell, leading to cuts in public employee jobs and benefits—the very jobs middle-income minorities were fortunate to find as manufacturing declined over the previous decades.  

Detroit became the poster child for the ravages brought about by financialization. First corporate raiders and private equity firms squeezed the life out of manufacturing all over Michigan. Then the Wall Street crash destroyed more jobs and undermined the tax base, leading to urban bankruptcy and more job loss in the public sector.   

Wall Street's Jobs Program: Incarceration
What will happen to all those unemployed, given the massive shortfall in jobs? What will happen to those trapped in neighborhoods crammed with foreclosed homes? Where is the jobs program for the millions who need it?

High finance has the answer that is now the de-facto government policy—put the dislocated, the unemployed, the "surplus" youth in jail.

That's because financial interests and their crony politicians have no interest at all in traditional jobs programs that could put millions of young people to work. Instead, they are doing all they can to bring austerity policies to America. The less government spends on public services and safety net programs, the more money it has to support Wall Street. As government services are cut, state and local governments must turn even more to Wall Street in order to finance infrastructure projects (where the total cost including interest payments is usually several times the initial costs of construction).

Wall Street's super-profits can only continue if public and consumer funds are transferred to high finance via interest payments on loans. So public jobs programs are out of the question, and both parties have been "convinced" (with campaign contributions) that we can't afford them.

So that leaves us with one and only one jobs program—incarceration—which is also a growth opportunity for Wall Street. As public revenues falter, pressure will mount to privatize more and more correctional facilities and law enforcement functions, opening up lucrative opportunities for more privatization and more Wall Street loans to make it happen.

So by all means, let's legalize drugs, get rid of mandatory sentencing and prohibit "stop and frisk." But until we tackle financialization and its destruction of neighborhoods and jobs, we will channel another generation into the underground economy—and into jail.

These four graphs tell the tale visually -- click to enlarge each:

1. The soaring American prison population since 1920:

Click to enlarge.

2. Where the money is going: financial sector vs. non-financial sector yearly compensation:

Click to enlarge.

3. The total collapse of manufacturing jobs in America since 1960: 

Click to enlarge.

4. Unemployment levels since 2007:

Click to enlarge.

5. The staggering rise of household debt -- home mortgages and credit debt:  

Click to enlarge.

Link to original article from AlterNet

Read 5827 times

ERA Legislation in your State

Unratified states Gold - Ratified States Purple

Latest News from the Powell Campaign

  • Virginia's Wayne Powell Is An Environmental Profile In Courage
    Virginia's Wayne Powell Is An Environmental Profile In Courage

    Virginia is now being mentioned as a crucial swing state. This Congressional race is certainly one to watch. Perhaps that was why I was so impressed to hear candidate Wayne Powell, (who is challenging incumbent Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor for the seat he has held in the 7th District of Virginia since 2001) speak boldly and openly about the environment showdown with Cantor.

    Written on Sunday, 04 November 2012 00:17 Read more...
  • O’ Brother — Dr. Ralph Stanley to stump for Powell
    O’ Brother — Dr. Ralph Stanley to stump for Powell

    Running against incumbent Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in Virginia’s GOP-heavy 7th District is enough to give any Democrat the blues. So Bluegrass legend Dr. Ralph Stanley will headline a two-day campaign swing for Powell next week.

    Written on Saturday, 20 October 2012 14:52 Read more...
  • Can This Guy Defeat Eric Cantor?
    Can This Guy Defeat Eric Cantor?

    Dream on. But Democratic long shot Wayne Powell might put a few dents in the House majority leader's armor. That Powell and Zerban were in LA raising money for what seemed like increasingly less quixotic quests—Powell is the first challenger Cantor has agreed to debate in 10 years, and Zerban's internal polling in September put him within single digits of Ryan—could underscore America's waning infatuation with tea-party-style politics.

    Written on Tuesday, 16 October 2012 10:04 Read more...
  • VIDEO: Powell/Cantor Debate Post Mortem
    VIDEO: Powell/Cantor Debate Post Mortem

    Perhaps you should give it a look, post-mortem.  After all, this is the first debate Eric Cantor has agreed to in TEN YEARS.

    Written on Friday, 12 October 2012 00:17 Read more...
  • Cantor camp turns down invitation to free public forum
    Cantor camp turns down invitation to free public forum

    A top aide to House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said the Republican will not accept a challenge from Chesterfield County’s Democratic Party to meet its own candidate, Wayne Powell, in a free public forum before the Nov. 6 elections.

    Written on Wednesday, 26 September 2012 20:17 Read more...
  • Eric Cantor is not particularly popular in his Republican-leaning district.
    Eric Cantor is not particularly popular in his Republican-leaning district.

    Eric Cantor is not particularly popular in his Republican-leaning district. His personal popularity is 37% favorable, 31% unfavorable. Strongly unfavorable views outnumber strongly favorable ones, 25%- 21%. Cantor’s “re-elect” number is weak: 41% want to re-elect Cantor, while 43% want to replace him.

    Written on Saturday, 22 September 2012 17:13 Read more...
  • Powell TV ad targets Cantor supporters
    Powell TV ad targets Cantor supporters

    Democratic 7th District congressional candidate Wayne Powell is taking his campaign to unseat longterm incumbent Republican Eric Cantor right into the living rooms of central Virginia Republicans. The ad will run district-wide approximately once an hour on Fox News for the entire Convention. The ad buy is indicative of Powell’s strategy of reaching out to all voters regardless of their political affiliation.

    Written on Monday, 27 August 2012 17:44 Read more...
  • Powell slams Cantor at open town hall meeting
    Powell slams Cantor at open town hall meeting

    A Richmond native and attorney like his opponent, Powell is otherwise very different from 49-year-old Cantor, Majority Leader in the U.S. House since 2011, and Culpeper County’s congressional representative since 2000.

    Cantor’s name came up a lot during Thursday’s “Open Town Hall Meeting” hosted by Powell, who was articulate and well received by local constituents in attendance.

    Written on Thursday, 23 August 2012 13:39 Read more...
  • Cantor faces Powell in Sept. 28 debate
    Cantor faces Powell in Sept. 28 debate

    House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-7th, will debate Democratic challenger Wayne Powell on Friday, Sept. 28.

    Cantor, who declined to debate Democratic challenger Rick Waugh in 2010, has not debated a Democrat in a general election since 2002, when he squared off with former Georgia congressman and "Dukes of Hazzard" star Ben L. "Cooter" Jones.

    Written on Tuesday, 21 August 2012 15:05 Read more...
  • Look Out, Cantor, Mudcat is Helping Wayne Powell!
    Look Out, Cantor, Mudcat is Helping Wayne Powell!

    It takes courage to look at a roomful of Democrats and confess that you were a consultant on John Edwards’ presidential campaign.

    But that is exactly what Dave “Mudcat” Saunders did at the June 6 Chesterfield Democratic Committee meeting.  Saunders just put it right out there while telling members how he thinks Wayne Powell can beat 7th District Congressman Eric Cantor.

    Written on Friday, 08 June 2012 01:03 Read more...
  • Powell Wins Democratic Bid to Face Cantor in VA 7th (Video Interview)
    Powell Wins Democratic Bid to Face Cantor in VA 7th (Video Interview)

    Wayne Powell, Veteran, Small Business Owner and Local Attorney Is the Democratic Nominee to Oppose Eric Cantor. Says Cantor is “epitome of what is wrong in Washington…a career political operator who is the poster child for Washington gridlock and dysfunction”

    Written on Friday, 13 April 2012 19:21 Read more...
  • Cantor challenger Powell speaks in Culpeper
    Cantor challenger Powell speaks in Culpeper

    “We take care of our own.” That was the major theme of Wayne Powell’s speech Friday at the Raven’s Nest in Culpeper.

    Powell is a Democratic candidate for the 7th District, the seat currently held by House Majority Leader Eric I. Cantor.

    Written on Monday, 09 April 2012 15:51 Read more...
  • Democratic lawyer challenges Representative Cantor
    Democratic lawyer challenges Representative Cantor

    For Wayne Powell, Virginia’s 7th Congressional District “isn’t personal, it’s Cantor.”

    Powell, 62, is challenging Republican incumbent Eric Cantor of Henrico County for his seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. Powell is one of the three candidates running for the spot on the Democratic ballot this fall.

    Written on Thursday, 22 March 2012 10:33 Read more...
  • Democratic hopeful supports Obama
    Democratic hopeful supports Obama

    Wayne Powell wants to be the Democratic Party nominee to challenge House Majority Leader Rep. Eric I. Cantor, R-Henrico, for the 7th District seat in the House of Representatives in November.

    Written on Thursday, 08 March 2012 18:47 Read more...
  • Cantor opponent Wayne Powell to serve as pro bono counsel for some of "Capitol Square 31"

    Earlier this evening I spoke with Wayne Powell, one of three 7th Congressional District Democrats seeking the Democratic Party's nomination to face off against Eric Cantor this November. Powell told me that when he heard what had happened at Virginia's Capitol Square, he hurried downtown to offer his legal services to the protesters that had been arrested.

    Written on Monday, 05 March 2012 02:38 Read more...
  • Wayne Powell reacts to Police Overreaction at Demonstration
    Wayne Powell reacts to Police Overreaction at Demonstration

    E. Wayne Powell, candidate for the Democratic nomination against Eric cantor in the Seventh Congressional District, today released this statement about the incidents at the Capitol.

    Written on Sunday, 04 March 2012 22:51 Read more...
  • Wayne Powell Has an Amazing Week
    Wayne Powell Has an Amazing Week

    E. Wayne Powell, a candidate for the Democratic nomination to take on Eric Cantor in Virginia's 7th Congressional District, has had a really amazing week. It all started last Thursday when Powell received the endorsement of the Progressive Democrats of America's chapter in Virginia's 7th CD.  Powell's education and experience—especially his service in the military—make him exceptionally well equipped to face Cantor. 

    Written on Thursday, 20 October 2011 00:00 Read more...
  • Wayne Powell Receives PDA 7th District Endorsement
    Wayne Powell Receives PDA 7th District Endorsement

    On October 13th members of the PDA 7th District Chapter endorsed candidate E. Wayne Powell.

    Written on Friday, 14 October 2011 00:00 Read more...
  • OWS: The Basis of All That Is Good and Right About Our Country
    OWS: The Basis of All That Is Good and Right About Our Country

    Occasionally I take a long weekend. It’s a chance to take a break from the profession, and the campaign. Last weekend I travelled to New York City. What started as a getaway ended in an exhilarating glimpse of democracy in action.

    Written on Thursday, 06 October 2011 00:00 Read more...
  • "Eric Cantor's War on American Jobs" by E. Wayne Powell
    "Eric Cantor's War on American Jobs" by E. Wayne Powell

    My name is Wayne Powell, and I'm a Democrat running for Congress in Virginia's 7th Congressional District to replace Eric Cantor. Americans need good jobs now.  Let's face it, as a nation we tend to define ourselves by what we do.  I am an attorney and a retired military officer.  When you deny Americans an opportunity to do meaningful work and contribute to their community by providing services, you are attacking a key part of their individual identities.

    Written on Monday, 19 September 2011 00:00 Read more...

Sign the Petition - Sen. Sanders Run as a Democrat in 2016

Button-SandersPetition

VA Endorsed Candidate

WaynePowellGreat

VA-07 E. Wayne Powell
http://www.powellforva.com

Lori Wallach on the TPP from PDA Progressive Roundtable

Progressive Roundtable with Reps. Ellison and Pocan and Lori Wallach on TPP

TPP: The Biggest Threat to the Internet You've Probably Never Heard Of