Matt Taibbi Talks About Criminalized Poverty and Why Wall St. Is Above the Law
It’s not exactly breaking news that the American criminal justice system is wildly unfair. Thewar on drugs sends thousands of black and Hispanic kids to prison for using the same illegal substances that their white peers can more often get away with smoking or snorting; meanwhile, the Wall Street bankers responsible for the financial crisis get off with zero punishment and huge bonuses. These gross disparities in how the rich and poor are treated by the police and courts are the subject of The Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap, a book illustrated by VICE columnist Molly Crabapple and written by Matt Taibbi, the former Rolling Stone investigative journalist who has made a career of lampooning our entitled upper class (and just left that magazine to start a new website about political corruption).
I called Taibbi to chat about how America got to this terrible, dystopian place and where we should go from here.
VICE: The core theme of the book is that we’ve seen two parallel, and very different, systems of criminal justice emerge in this country—one for the wealthy and powerful, another for the poor and brown. That concept in and of itself might not totally shock people, but the timeframe—just how novel that phenomenon is in our democracy—should, right?
Matt Taibbi: Obviously it’s not a new story that the rich get off and poor people get screwed. I think that’s a narrative that probably couldn’t be more obvious, but there are some new developments that have made this situation worse. There are these parallel policy and political developments that happened in the early 90s that mirrored each other, with the Democrats coming over on the issue of welfare reform and also deciding to follow the Republicans in terms of courting money from the financial services and hopping on board with deregulation. I think what both of those decisions meant was that, basically, poor people no longer had a lobby in Washington consistently, and the very wealthy now had a consensus behind them. So we started to have this phenomenon of much more aggressive law enforcement against the poor. On the other side, it begins with deregulation of white-collar commerce, and then it kind of ends in non-enforcement of white-collar crime. That also seems to be a political consensus. It’s not just the same old story that has gone back to the beginning of time… This is also a new political development that has to do with the alignment of the two political parties in this country and how they’ve changed recently.
awkward - san cisco
forest room 5, denver, colorado
I think it can be shown that the law makes ten criminals where it restrains one.
Voltairine de Cleyre
They see me sagin’
Our latest cover story is online:
New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez is petty, vindictive, and weak on policy. Sound familiar?
Here’s the article that’s made Gov. Martinez of New Mexico blow a gasket.
You can’t give a latina woman the dignity of actually being featured on a cover that is about her in a negative light? Fuck mother jones, they can’t be respectful enough to pick at Susanna Martinez herself, they have to go ahead and equate her to Sarah Palin, a white woman, so they don’t have to fully discuss the policies of a brown woman in charge, brown women in charge are nothing but copies of white women in charge??? Fuck mother jones. I disagree with Susanna Martinez, she might be an awful person, but she’s accomplished a lot for a dark-skinned Latina woman, and the nerve of this fucking magazine to write her off as the clone of a white woman. This is erasure. Coincidentally they literally erase Palin’s face for the cover, i guess it’s symbolic of the way in which they’re erasing Susanna’s face. Fuck this magazine, fuck you people.