who needs a 401k when there’s prison?

My mother, years ago, worked for a bankruptcy attorney in New Jersey named Mike Busche. As Mike was also a friend of my brilliant, pot-smoking, old mentor, Ed Rutsch, we had opportunity on a few occasions to talk about politics over beers. It’s been about 17 years since we’ve spoken in person, but he still includes me on the occasional group email. Lately, these emails have taken the form of letters to the editor. I haven’t done an internet search yet, but, as they’re quite good, I suspect he’s had pretty good luck having them printed. (Which makes me think that maybe writing letters to the editor might be a better use of my time than blogging.) At any rate, as the one he just sent is on a subject that I’ve been somewhat negligent in reporting on, I thought that I’d run it here (with his permission). Here it is:

President Bush and the Republican Congress can and should take the rap for failed foreign policy and declining respect for America around the globe. However, in the long run, their most significant legacy will be the looming disaster their economic policies have threatened for the average middle income American.

In the last few days the president has pointed with pride to the decline in unemployment rate. What he fails to note is that the rate has not declined because sufficient jobs have been created to provide a job for everyone who wants one. Instead, the unemployment figure has gone down because people who want jobs have given up searching for work. Because of the way in which the employment rate is calculated, these workers have dropped out of the calculation. Nor does Mr. Bush acknowledge that the median income of Americans, adjusted for inflation, has dropped during the years of his presidency. In other words, not only have more people who want work dropped off the rolls, those who remain in the official employment count earn less and less.

The point was driven home poignantly in a newspaper article I read today. It can be found (here). At 63, Timothy J. Bowers lost his job through downsizing. He couldn’t find another job except at minimum wage, and he couldn’t live on that. He became desperate. So he robbed a bank by handing a note to a teller demanding cash. He got $80.00 which he immediately turned over to the bank guard. He then waited to be arrested. He did this so that he would go to prison where he would be fed, clothed and sheltered until he qualified for social security. The judge accommodated him and sent him to jail for three years. The prosecutor who was conflicted about putting Bowers away at public expense said “It’s not the financial plan I would choose, but it’s a financial plan” He decided to proceed against the “charming old man” because if he didn’t get put away, Bowers might do something more reckless to be put behind bars.

Bad economic times are bad enough. What is really sad is when the President tries to sell the steady decline in well being of America’s middle class wage earners as “prosperity”.

Michael G. Busche

I haven’t read it yet, but Mike also mentioned during our exchange that this story of Bower’s is paralleled in O. Henry’s “The Cop and the Anthem.” If you have the time, it might be worth checking out.

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  1. mark
    Posted October 15, 2006 at 11:53 pm | Permalink

    On a somewhat related note, it appears as though our Lord opposes the minimum wage.

  2. ChelseaL
    Posted October 16, 2006 at 6:53 am | Permalink

    I was going to say that very thing–not about minimum wage, but about that man’s actions sounding very much like the O. Henry story I remembered. Although life under W reminds me more of Orwell, in general. Is it 2008 yet?

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