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Steven Flax: The Conscience of a Genocidal Maniac
Last night, I attended the vote of the New York City Rent Guidelines Board, which determines how much that landlords of rent stabilized apartments can legally raise the rent. The New York Post, being a right-wing rag, has portrayed the vote as a tenant victory, since the 1% rent increase is the lowest tenants have received in history. The representatives for the owners insisted that the idea of a rent freeze was politically motivated and unrealistic. I cackled with laughter and slapped the empty seat in front of me, finding it hilarious that they could expect anyone to believe such idiocy, and had to be shushed so that the reading of the statement could proceed (I thought this woman forfeited the floor entirely when she claimed that the Rent Guidelines Board’s charter included a mandate to ensure a profit to the landlord, which is a brazen and easily checked lie for which the moderator should have formally silenced her). Conservatives are experts at externalizing. A member who voted against the 1% rent increase stated that the average rent for a rent stabilized tenant in the Bronx is $995 per month, and the average monthly income of a rent stabilized tenant is only $1,058 per month. All the while, landlord profits have gone up 8.9%, so the idea that landlords’ expenses have gone up is moot. The mandate of the Rent Guidelines board is to be equitable between landlord and tenants. They are essentially saying, “It is equitable for tenants who have $63 a month after paying for their rent to pay one percent more for their rent in order to increase the profits of the landlords,” a statement with which only an extremely diseased mind could agree. This, of course, also ignores the fact that most, if not all, of that money would go to the electric bill, and forget about having an air conditioner. It is yet another example of rich people living off a government subsidy by redistributing the wealth of the poor up to themselves so that the poor would effectively die if they did not accept SNAP benefits, and the rich keep voting for politicians who cut off those benefits and attempt to eliminate them altogether, which is genocide.
Steven Flax, the deciding vote, insisted that he had to “vote with his conscience.” Clearly, he has no conscience if he thinks rich people need more of that $63 to make their stock portfolio more impressive to their peers while the poor scramble for jobs on which no person can survive of which there aren’t enough for all people to have even one, let alone the two or three which one would need in order to pay the exorbitant rents. As one activist’s sign read, “How can you call it ‘stabilized’ if it keeps going up?” It would be just as conscionable and equitable to string Flax up from his ankles from the sculpture in Liberty Park and have anyone who wants to do so use him as a punching bag. If your mind is as twisted and perverse as the members of the Rent Guidelines Board who represent the owners, you probably think that’s even more “radical” than a one year rent freeze in order for the tenants to catch up just a little bit. I ask you, however, how that is any different from the way the rich profiteer by forcing people to live in homeless shelters with exorbitantly high rent for money that you’re so rich that you won’t ever spend.
Yesterday morning, I began reading Mary Shelley’s final novel, Falkner (1837), written at the age of 40, which I bought with my Christmas money last year. The old school of thought is that the very progressive Shelley became more conservative in her later years, but this à propos quote to this situation seems to belie that assumption:
It contained a sad, but too common story of the hard-heartedness of the wealthy, and the misery endured by the children of the highborn. Blood is not water, it is said, but gold with them is dearer far than the ties of nature; to keep and augment their possessions being the aim and end of their lives, the existence, and, more especially, the happiness of their children, appears to them a consideration at once trivial and impertinent, when it would compete with family views and family greatness. To this common and and iniquitous feeling these luckless beings were sacrificed; they had endured the worst, and could be injured no more; but their orphan child was a living victim, less thought of than the progeny of the meanest animal which might serve to augment their possessions.
Mrs. Baker felt some complacency on reading this letter; with the common English respect for wealth and rank, she was glad to find that her humble roof had sheltered a man who was the son — she did not exactly know of whom, but of somebody, who had younger sons and elder sons, and possessed, through wealth, the power of behaving frightfully ill to a vast number of persons.
That is exactly what Steven Flax’s so-called “conscience” did to an enormous number of people last night with that vote cast, and it is he common English/American respect for wealth and rank that allows him to get away with it, and the notion that any kind of running him out of his home or stringing him up would be barbaric and wrong to do toward him. Little or no attention will be paid to the people who become evicted and live in homeless shelters — most will erroneously regard it as a personal problem rather than a systemic one, and the right-wing House of Representatives will probably vote to make more cuts SNAP and public assistance. I began reading Falkner while waiting for public assistance to call me from the waiting area and accept my request to pay my July storage invoice. They used to pay two months at a time, but now they are paying only one, which seems to me an ill omen that they are going to phase out paying for the storage of homeless people. The people who destroyed the job market have all become richer, but the victims of the crisis are losing all that they own. I know someone who has not only lost her storage, but had her credit rating destroyed because her storage was put up for auction. The warped collective consciousness of our society treats the billionaires as having earned their wealth, but the homeless trying to hold onto their storage as beggars wanting a handout. This point of view is not legitimate, and is reflective of the aforementioned genocidal attitude toward the poor by so many people, even those who are a paycheck away from homelessness themselves.
The one hope is that Steven Banks, the attorney who won the right of shelter for homeless people in New York State, is the new commissioner in charge of HRA. Hopefully, the reason we learned today that the SET program is being phased out is because he realized it was a scam in which HRA was paying half the measly paycheck for the jobs, so once the four months of the program were up, the people in the program will be let go to allow in new people on the program, so they can keep paying their $4.25 an hour wages and reap obscene profits at the approval of filth like Steven Flax.
The armbands of the trombonist for the Rude Mechanical Orchestra, present at the event, put it best: “Fuck the Profit Motive” and “Profit=Theft.”