15 Aug 2011

One law for the rich and another for the poor?

Over the weekend, Governor Rick Perry of Texas announced his candidacy for the Republican nomination for President of the United States. Besides his faith, Perry’s other notable credential is that according to the News York Times, he is the most successful fund raiser in the history of Texas. And when it comes to fund raising that is some history.

Perry’s most remarkable claim, according to non-profit organisation Texans for Public Justice, is to have raised $17m in campaign funding from the 921 people (and their spouses) whom he has appointed to state jobs.

Texas Governor Rick Perry who has announced he will run for the Republican party's presidential nomination

It all has a whiff of power to the powerful, rather than to the people. And Texas is not alone. In China there is growing concern about the widening gap between the elite and the people. One hundred families closely entwined with the Chinese Communist Party are said to control a vast proportion of the burgeoning economy.

As quarter of a million people demonstrating in Israeli cities and towns have protested the same widening gap in which just 18 families are said to control 50 per cent of the Israeli economy.

There is a sense in Britain too of a widening gap in both wealth and law – that there is a that there is one law for the elite and one for the poor. Take the MPs’ and Peers’ expenses scandal. A tiny handful of the expenses abusers have gone to jail. The vast majority have been allowed to pay stuff back or retreat to the political undergrowth. How many of the looters will be allowed to bring their plasma screens and running shoes back in return for their freedom? And yet it is the very unpunished abuse of the state by its elected and unelected elite which many argue is part of the landscape that the recent riots played out across.

We are told over two and a half thousand rioters and looters have been arrested. Hundreds have been charged, some have already been punished – many cases are still in train.

Many have pointed to the reality that an even smaller handful of bankers have faced the law even than those  politicians who have been prosecuted. No British banker is in jail for what happened in 2008. And as financial upheaval cascades before us all over again, almost no serious measures have been taken to stop the same people from doing it to the people all over again.

When I stood in Tahrir Square in January, the then peaceful protesters complained that they were excluded from the Egypt they wanted their country to be.

Disconnect is the order of our massively interconnected day. Condemning and jailing the looters is one thing. Trying to identify the nature of their disconnect is another. Damning and punishing the faceless hoody comes a lot easier than seriously challenging the faceless banker who broke our economy, or the politician who thieved in our own Houses of Parliament.

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