Terrorism: The Political use of terror and intimidation. So goes the definition of something that can consist of much more than just the use of violence to control others. In Marc Levin’s 2012 documentary Hard Times: Lost on Long Island we see a close-up of assorted victims of economic terrorism perpetrated by this Military Industrial Empire. Levin interviews and follows a group of mostly 40 and 50 somethings ( and one 60 something ) who lost their white collar jobs in the aftermath of the 2008 Wall Street financial debacle. With the exception of a chiropractor and his school teacher wife, the rest of those in the film had worked around the financial industries based in Manhattan. To watch them subsist on extended unemployment benefits while living in homes that were all underwater in mortgage is like viewing slow death. The people Levin focused on all searched for employment… to no avail for two to three years… as they juggled their food bills and utility payments. Their only income was from what the government doled out to them each week, obviously never enough to satisfy their debts and obligations. Sad to watch those who once apparently ( to them ) ‘found the American dream’ with a $ 400,000 home in the suburbs, good schools for their kids, nice upscale SUVs etc… now awaiting final eviction by a Sheriff’s department that many times got bonuses by the banks! One can be sure that many low and low middle income folks from the inner cities who too faced such unemployment or underemployment had to smirk a bit at the lot of their suburban cousins. That in itself is the real undertone of this tale: How divided working stiffs have become due to the facade of false class consciousness. The lesson needed to be learned is when you have nothing much left to claim as your own, it no longer matters what demographic you come from… down and out is just that!
What saddens this writer is how no one in that film ever connected the dots about this empire and its terribly evil machinations. They all still were loyal citizens of this corporate capitalistic empire who did not dare question the why of our society having so few ‘safety nets’ . The only protests some of them attended were those demanding jobs when the 99 weeks of unemployment were over. No one focused on the fact that because over 50% of all federal taxes are going down the toilet for military spending, and both Congress, Bush Jr. and Obama continued to bail out the corrupt Wall Street banksters, working stiffs are getting just that: Stiffed!
Imagine if these nice folks, and millions of others who support the Two Party ‘One Party’ con job, would demand drastic cuts in the War economy and bank bailouts being returned to states and cities to help working stiffs. Imagine if instead of spending $52 million on one Apache helicopter, and over $ 1,000,000.00 on keeping a single GI in Afghanistan for a year, Uncle Sam created viable job programs similar to those during the Great Depression. Imagine if instead of the nearly one trillion dollars bailing out the banksters Uncle Sam bought the toxic assets of those crook and scoundrel firms for fire sale prices, maybe 10 or 20 cents on the dollar… and then owned all that underwater mortgage paper. Those folks in that documentary could have seen their mortgages modified enough so as to keep them in those homes, just taking them longer to finally pay off the mortgage. With other revenue saved by Uncle Sam through the aforementioned bold actions, we could have seen perhaps the Feds subsidizing Community owned and run nonprofit mortgage banks that charged only overhead. Imagine how many of we working stiffs could afford a home with mortgage rates 1/4 of what they are now. The only ones hurt by this would be the private for profit ‘bandit banks’ and of course the residential renting industry.
The Levin documentary ends with the former VP of a Wall Street bank , aged 50 and looking 70, with no job in sight and ready to be evicted. Ironically, another in the film finally secured a job in his field of expertise as a financial trainer. He will go to India to train the person who will then replace him… Isn’t this empire great?
Philip A Farruggio is a semi retired baby boomer born and bred in blue collar Brooklyn NYC. He is the son and grandson of Brooklyn longshoremen, and educated at ‘ free tuition ‘ Brooklyn College, class of ‘ 74. Philip has written over 300 columns since 2001 and his work is found on many fine progressive sites like World News Trust, Nation of Change, Information Clearinghouse, Intrepid Report, Sleuth Journal, Dandelion Salad, Counterpunch and Dissident Voice. He can be reached at email@example.com