Dear America: 5 Better Places to Target the Next Time You Go Rioting

Gun Rights

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PHOTO BY NICK SWARTSELL

  • Photo by Nick Swartsell

American police kill an average of three people a day.

Though they constitute just 13 percent of the population, black people are three times more likely than whites to be among the dead.

In 99 percent of these cases, no charges are filed against officers, showing how little interest prosecutors have in sorting the justified from the unjust.

This is the math that led to nationwide rioting over the latest police killing in Minneapolis, the death of George Floyd.

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The rage won’t be quelled anytime soon. Despite years of studies, protests, and calls for reform, police killings remain on the rise. Riots will surely erupt again the next time someone’s murdered for the high crimes of Driving or Jogging While Black.

But if we’re going to riot, we need to improve on our rioting skills. Unless you seek revenge over the price of transmission fluid, or have an ill-advised beef with the delicious American-made brewski industry, there’s not much upside to torching AutoZone or your neighborhood bar. You’re deprived of their services, and everyday workers are deprived of their paychecks.

Instead, consider these targets actively working to Make America Not Very Great Anymore:

The NRA

No one’s done more to stoke our culture of violence than the gun industry, led by its lobbying arm, the National Rifle Association. They’re the guys who think slaughtered school kids are a small price to pay for “freedom,” but storm the nearest state capitol if they’re asked to wear a mask.

The NRA’s principal achievement: Giving America a murder rate five times that of any other country in the industrialized world. It’s blocked everything from a ban on assault rifles to universal background checks to red flag laws allowing police to temporarily take guns from the mentally unstable.

Fortunately, the group’s been diminished by its own circular firing squad and a president who burns through his members’ dues like a Palm Beach trophy wife.
But if you want to turn your rage into something more productive than burning down a restaurant or a sporting goods store, torch the nearest gun shop.

The University of Phoenix

A college degree has long been the avenue to equality for those who start on unequal footing. There to prey upon your journey will be the University of Phoenix.

The alleged school has a long history of defrauding students. Its specialty is convincing people unsuited for college – or unable to pay for it – into loading up with unmanageable debt in exchange for the elusive promise of a subpar degree.

It’s been caught deceiving students about programs and job placement rates. Its recruiters were once barred from military bases for signing up soldiers with little chance of graduating, if only gorge from their piles of federal aid.

In December, it paid a $191 million fine and canceled student debt for fraudulently claiming partnerships with companies like Microsoft and Twitter. It’s also been caught violating federal law by paying bonuses to recruiters for the more students they enroll.

Wells Fargo

There is perhaps no greater symbol of unequal justice than the country’s fourth largest bank.

You likely know this fine institution from its massive racketeering case, in which it opened 565,443 credit card accounts without their customers’ knowledge, then quietly racked up fees, interest charges, and overdraft protection payments.

Had this giant swindle been committed by anyone else, it would have meant years in prison. Instead, some 5,000 lower level employees took the fall, and not a single ranking executive was charged. This is American justice in a nutshell.

Wells Fargo has also been caught rigging municipal bond bids, discriminating against black and Hispanic borrowers, and illegally servicing student loans. Again: Not one exec went to jail for these sins.

That’s because within American justice, the mighty are sent to the VIP lane, where criminal charges are rarely considered, and simple fines are the order of the day.

Since 2000, the bank has paid $21 billion for its many, many sins. While this may seem a lot, Wells Fargo generated $86 billion last year, meaning it takes less than six months to pay the penalties for a crime spree running decades.

Amazon warehouses

Meet the world’s leading company in weaponizing technology against its own workers. With apologies to meatpacking plants and Walmart, Amazon warehouses are the closest we come to recreating a plantation economy.
From the moment they clock in, to the moment they clock out, workers are tracked their entire shifts to ensure a grueling pace on behalf of the world’s richest man. One employee said she was required to scan 1,800 packages an hour.

The upside – at least from Amazon’s perspective – is that workers are disposable. Which is why the company doesn’t seem to much care that its employees are injured at twice the national average for warehouse work.
As The Atlantic so bluntly put it in a headline, “Ruthless Quotas at Amazon are Maiming Employees.” It’s delivery drivers have also been known to smash into both cars and pedestrians to maintain the speed of algorithmically-generated routes.

None of this is personal. It’s just business, 2020-style. If you can’t keep up, you won’t face counseling from a human manager. “You get written up by an algorithm,” says one worker.

JP Morgan Chase

Introducing America’s largest bank – and our most rapacious criminal enterprise. Consider it the depraved poster child for not only our justice system, but the economy at large.

Since 2000, JP Morgan has faced a whopping 139 investigations for everything from bid rigging to foreclosure abuses to illegal credit card practices to currency manipulation. How is it still operating?

Beginning with George W. Bush, accelerating under Obama, and reaching a finality with The Donald, the federal government has largely decided that corporate crime, regardless of magnitude, isn’t really crime at all. The practice is to simply reach a settlement in which the company rarely admits to wrongdoing, then everyone repairs to Ruth’s Chris for a porterhouse and pomegranate martinis.

The scheme is abetted by that other wonderful feature of U.S. law: Legalized bribery. In the last two years, company execs have sent $2 million in protection payments to not just the Republican National Committee, but to the likes of Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders and Pete Buttigieg.

It’s the kind of money that ensures you never have to say you’re sorry. Or spend a night in jail. For those 139 cases, JP Morgan paid $30.5 billion in fines – equal to less than three months’ worth of revenues.

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