The Twenty-First Century Criminal-Class

February 7, 2010 at 8:40 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , )

I miss my stepfather. But there have been many times during this past decade when I’ve been grateful he died back in 1999. Because, if he weren’t already dead, the new millennium would have probably killed him. I mean from the sheer aggravation of it all.

The 1990’s were tough enough on him. By then he had retired from his workaholic life as a plumber. That gave him time to finally read the newspaper and watch tv shows like “60 Minutes” and “20/20” and they’d get him all stirred-up. I’d stop by to visit him & mom and he’d be gritting his teeth and swearing at the “scum,” his term for politicians and business moguls who were crooked.

He was born on a farm in Greenville, Ohio, in 1921. He’d slogged through the Great Depression and World War II and seen the difference it made when working people had finally got a piece of the economic pie. He would turn red-in-the-face and rant mightily at the thought of ordinary folks being cheated, lied to, or otherwise kept-down. Good gosh, what would he think about today’s America. We no longer seem to know any other way of life!

Here in the 2000’s the average American is so inundated by double-dealers, con-artists, and crooks of every size that it is impossible to fight against all of it. The phone company deliberately bills customers for services they don’t have and credit card companies put phony fees on their bills, figuring that a few customers will notice and demand removal but most customers won’t notice and just pay. Doctors & hospitals send bills to patients in hopes of getting paid twice, by said patients & the insurers. Speaking of insurers, nowadays the insurance companies expect to only collect premiums without paying claims. Employers fiddle with employee time cards to screw them out of wages and gasoline giants openly gouge the motorists. If you watch closely next time you go through the supermarket checkout, you might find that the sale items are ringing-up full-price on your bill (it’s happened to me often enough that I no longer believe it’s just a mistake).

True stories: in the past few years I’ve received three notices that I could join in class-action lawsuits against the following thieves:
My life insurance company was chiseling its policy holders.
The stock broker I used was shaving a little bit off each of its clients’ transactions.
Until recently, I owned a convenience store/gas station (for that sad tale see my essay, “And Then the Financial Tsunami Hit.” One of the items I sold was propane tanks. Well, it turns out that the major oil company that supplied propane to thousands of stores was padding its costs.

Last night, a friend of mine was late to our dinner appointment. Seems he was online entering a contest held by a popular magazine he subscribes to. When he got to the end of the form, he told me, he clicked “submit” and was informed that he’d thereby signed-up for a subscription to an additional magazine, which would be charged to his credit card. He spent the next half-hour phoning the company demanding to cancel the new subscription.

My real point is that our casino economy is hooked on this sort of crumb-bummery. It seems to have become the lifeblood of Capitalism, along with endless war and the reverse-socialism of taxing the poor to subsidize banksters and Wall Street wheeler-dealers.

The problem is so widespread that one could spend one’s entire life doing nothing else but guarding against being ripped-off. It’s like being out in the woods and beset by a huge swarm of hungry mosquitoes: while you’re slapping at one bloodsucker another dozen put the bite on you. Up until a few years ago, I believed we could count on the authorities to make an effort to catch and punish those who prey upon the innocent. Unfortunately, the authorities now line their pockets in exchange for looking the other way and increasingly they even cook-up schemes of their own.

So keep your eyes open and your wits about you. Defend yourself. But try not to get too angry while you’re doing it; otherwise you might blow a gasket, die, and then the Twenty-First Century criminal-class wins.

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