$5. That is all it took for a man to end up in prison. During the middle of winter in 2016, Rozzie Scott of New Orleans, Louisiana was faced with a decision that is heart breaking and reduces all but the most jaded people to tears. Running low on cash and worried how he was going to feed his hungry children at home, Rozzie decided to steal $5 worth of ground beef and pizza in order to feed his family. He was arrested and charged with theft. Last June, Rozzie was found guilty in the Bogalusa courthouse by Judge Robert J. Black and ordered to pay $450 plus court cost by June 13th or face the consequences.
Rozzie was already a man who was scrapping bottom and struggling to provide for his children even before he was given burden he could not bear. He returned to the Bogalusa courthouse and told the judge that he did not have the ability to pay the court assessed penalties. Instead of giving Rozzie grace for showing up to court and face consequences, Judge Black decided to throw the book and the library at the down on his luck father who was having keeping his head above water to begin with. Rozzie was thrown in a modern day equivalent of “debtor’s prison” where he was held in sequestration until his cousin was able to pay a $50 extension fee.
Let us pause here for a second and think about what transpired. A man who was destitute already and was reduced to theft to feed his family was assessed a fee he could not pay. When he could not pay because he did not have the means to do so, he was thrown in prison and assessed yet another fee in order to secure his release. I’m not here to make excuses for theft, but there is a vast difference between someone who steals because he is hungry or because he wants to feed his children and someone who steals cars, jewelry or people’s life savings.
We like to make a show of saying we are a Christian nation, yet our system of governance and corporate avarice is the polar opposite of charity and love towards the least among us. The story of Rozzie Scott is not an outlier as much as it is an every day fact. For too many, hunger is a way of life and trying to figure out where the next meal is coming from is a daily struggle. Poverty could be wiped out if we redirected just a fraction of the hundreds of billions of dollars we give away to defense contractors to purchase weaponry that our military is not even asking for.
Now let us pivot for a minute to 2008 when degenerate gamblers on Wall Street played Russian roulette with the savings of tens of millions of Americans. Chief among these depraved speculators were AIG, JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs. They spent years packaging and repackaging bad debt into derivatives and mortgage backed securities in order to reap all the profits and take none of the risks. What they did over a decade made the crimes of Bernie Madoff and Enron look like toddler’s play; they were basically laundering money and embezzling investors and did so with impunity. Let us name these shysters and Wall Street bilkers; Martin J. Sullivan of AIG, James Dimon of JP Morgan Chase and Lloyd Blankfein of Goldman Sachs were the three kings who were at the forefront of the spading of America in 2008.
Not one of these larcenists and bank robber barons got as much as one day in jail. Hell they did not even get so much as a slap on the wrist; the little fines that were assessed were levied at the banks and not against the thieves who stole hundreds of billions of dollars from Americans. The financial crash of 2008/2008 was the biggest heist in the history of mankind; trillions of dollars of wealth was embezzled from everyday Americans and not one of the Wall Street CEOs served jail time for a crime committed against humanity. Calling what happened during the financial implosion of 2008 a crime against humanity is not hyperbole; tens of millions of Americans lost their homes, many times more were given life sentences of poverty and struggles and countless lives were lost as many turned to suicide because their life savings were made non-existence in a fell swoop.
Rozzie Scott got jail time for stealing $5 worth of food in order to feed his children; Martin J. Sullivan, James Dimon, Lloyd Blankfein and their soulless counterparts on Wall Street got over trillions of dollars in bailouts. Upon his forced resignation from AIG, Sullivan received a multi-million dollar golden parachute for running one of the biggest corporations in the world to the ground. James Dimon and Lloyd Blankfein continue to be celebrated as Wall Street gods even as they perpetuate legalized extortion and gambling to this day knowing that if another financial implosion comes, we the tax payers will be left on the hook as they get bailouts and golden parachutes.
Just yesterday, the corporate owned Federal Reserve (breaking news, the Federal Reserve is not a government entity, it is a conglomeration of multinational bank interests) raised the interest rates by a quarter point while leaving the rate that banks are charged to borrow money largely untouched. They let banks borrow money for free from tax payers so that the banks can charge tax payers interest to borrow their own money back—please read that again to understand how underhanded and criminal this system of crony capitalism is. This is the equivalent of highway robbery yet our Corporate State Media and vacuous politicians have nothing to say other than to distract us with divisive politics. In 1857, the Supreme Court, in a supreme miscarriage of justice, took away the rights and freedoms of a former slave and returned Dred Scott to a life of bondage in what is now referred to as the Dred Scott Decision. Debt is the 21st Century form of slavery and cases like the Rozzie Scott Decision are the new means by which our courts, congress and presidents, irrespective of political party, are sentencing us to a life of economic bondage.
When the least among us are punished for trying to feed themselves and their children while billionaires who pillage society in order to feed their greed and their bank accounts are given accolades, it’s an indication of a nation that is spiritually bankrupt and a country that is being led by morally insolvent leaders. America has been reduced to the biggest pyramid scheme in the world where the rich keep getting richer by building their wealth and their opulence on the back of the rest of us. Sadly, we are too busy fighting about politics, race and the endless ways the rich and powerful pit us against each other to notice how we are all getting gouged by this culture of corporate gluttony. We will all wake up one day when we have to face a Rozzie Scott decision. #RozzieScottDecision
“Ignorance, hatred and greed are killing nature.” ~ Masanobu Fukuoka
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Check out the Ghion Cast below where I discuss the utter greed and duplicity that has hijacked our Democracy and is killing our nation and bleeding our planet.
Originally from Ethiopia with roots to Atse Tewodros II, Teodrose is a former community organizer whose writing was incorporated into Barack Obama's South Carolina primary victory speech in 2008. He pivoted away from politics and decided to stand for collective justice after experiencing the reality of the forgotten masses. His writing defies conventional wisdom and challenges readers to look outside the constraints of labels and ideologies that serve to splinter the people. Teodrose uses his pen to give a voice to the voiceless and to speak truth to power.