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Starving vs. Splurging in the Big Apple

Published time: December 07, 2011 17:30
Edited time: December 07, 2011 21:30

Starving vs. Splurging in the Big Apple

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New York is home to the poorest and richest districts in the US, with 380 thousand millionaires and 3 million people on food stamps. RT takes a look at reality for the rich and the poor in the Big Apple.

­Diamonds worth millions of dollars apiece, and cheaper deals at pawn shops for those “slightly” less well off. Shoppers with big wallets lured in by the most glamorous items,
and 99 cent stores where customers count pennies.

The state of New York is home to around 19 million people. It’s where over 380 thousand millionaires and 70 billionaires live. Meanwhile, 3 million people are on food stamps. New York City is split into two different worlds – the richest and poorest districts in the United States are right here.

Prosperity and poverty brush by each other on a daily basis, although many seem to be blissfully unaware.

“It’s being promulgated by our new leader, Obama. I think it’s a tragedy that he is making it an issue in an election this year," said businessman David Moore.

Economic inequality in the Big Apple has reached crisis levels.

“The gap used to be between the rich and the poor. It’s now between the super-rich and increasingly the super poor. People who are just not making it in our society, and nobody is trying to help them," said film maker and blogger Danny Schechter.

Luxury for those who can afford it is aplenty. New York social clubs display hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of art, the finest interiors, and one of a kind cosmetic services. Auction houses tempt the rich with the most exquisite jewelry.

“It’s a 33 carat Elizabeth Taylor diamond. The estimate is from 2 and a half million to 3 and a half million, and we do expect it to achieve at least that. We do expect everything to sell, but to speculate on a final price is next to impossible,” said Thomas W. Burstein, senior vice president of the jewelry department at Christie’s, showing the diamond collection to RT.

Just across town – money is only dreamed of.

A 75-year-old grandmother of seven fixes her old car with her own bare hands.

“Folks seem to think that everybody can go get and a job. There are no jobs available. These days, the poor people… you can’t even get a job cleaning,” said Chaplin Mother Snipes.

Mother Snipes works at a church and knows the face of poverty all too well.

“People are still hungry, and some people are even ashamed to accept help when you are trying to give it. We give out food and clothing on Saturdays here,” said the woman.

Although very visible in New York, the extreme gap between those well off and those struggling is a trend all across the US.

“Thirty years ago, the United States had less inequality than most other advances industrial countries. Today, 30 years later, we are the number one, we have the most extreme inequality between rich and poor and it’s scattered all over the country,” said economist Richard Wolff.

This is what made Occupy Wall Street protests spill out and stick around on the streets of America.

“Things are really bad. Our society is broken. To face those things is to face a huge challenge, and I think people are afraid of change,” said Occupy Wall Street activist Katie Davison.

Big change would be needed to improve the disparity.

“Make those who’ve done real well over the last 30 years give some of that back. That’s why some of us argue for taxes on rich people in this country,” said economist Richard Wolff.

But this is not happening any time soon.

“More than half of the members of Congress are millionaires, they are very wealthy people, and all of their campaigns are funded by big corporations, by the wealthy. They know that if they want to get re-elected, they are going to have to be good to the people who’ve given money to their campaigns,” said Michael Snyder, editor of the economiccollapseblog.com

This leaves behind those in need, with nothing left but to hope for a miracle this holiday season.