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Sat, May

The Clooney’s California Fundraisers for Hillary: A Tale of Two Economies

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RULES OF THE RICH AND POWERFUL-The contrast between the upcoming George Clooney-Hillary Clinton $353,000 fundraiser and the fast-growing California homeless population illustrates an overlooked and nasty aspect of the presidential campaign and of current politics. 

 

The event is not actually a $353,000 fundraiser. On April 15, the actor and his wife, Amal, an attorney, will host a gathering in San Francisco for which a couple must raise or contribute $353,400 for two seats at the head table. Annie Karni and Kenneth P. Vogel noted in Politico that this is more than four times the average income in San Francisco.  Crummier tickets cost less, but are the savings worth the diminished prestige? 

The next night, a few hundred miles to the south, the Clooneys will open their Los Angeles mansion for another such event, where guests can dine at the Clooneys’ table for $33,400. B- and C-level seats presumably cost less. 

The money goes, Karni and Vogel reported, to the Hillary Victory Fund. Fund beneficiaries are the Clinton presidential campaign, the Democratic National Committee and 32 state party committees. 

Why exactly do I call all this “nasty”? And why did Bernie Sanders, Clinton’s opponent for the Democratic presidential nomination, denounce it as “obscene”? He’s raising plenty of money the digital way. And the money for the national committees goes to a good cause -- reversing the right-wing tide that has given ultraconservatives control of Congress and a large number of statehouses. 

The latter development is responsible for the wave of laws limiting abortion rights across the country.

The staggering ticket prices are “nasty” and “obscene” because they illustrate the huge gap between the extremely rich Democrats and the very poor -- a gap that will be on display for the rest of the nation if Clinton and Sanders, as expected, fight it out in the June 7 California presidential primary.

The donors will not only get status for their money. They also will get access to political leaders that the poor will never have. 

I know this is a simplistic, unsophisticated question to ask, but it’s one that occurs to me almost every day: With all the wealth in California, along with plenty of smart people and liberal Democrats in control of every level of government, why is extreme poverty, as represented by the homeless, increasing so quickly? 

In the past few days, I drove from Los Angeles to San Francisco, the two cities that best illustrate this situation. 

Despite the promises of liberal Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and a liberal city council and county board of supervisors -- government entities that share power -- homeless encampments continue to multiply on sidewalks, under freeway overpasses and in parks. 

In San Francisco it’s the same, but even more frustrating. There and in nearby Silicon Valley, America’s most technically adept are transforming the economy and eliminating many thousands of jobs -- and enriching themselves while they do, driving rent and housing prices to levels unaffordable by most. 

The luxury of the Clooney-Clinton fundraisers illustrates the gap between the growing number of poor and the indifferent rich, who prosper in this unequal economy. They are obscene symbols of what’s wrong with our politics.

 

(Bill Boyarsky is a columnist for Truthdig, the Jewish Journal, and LA Observed. This piece was posted first at Truthdig.com.)  Photo: Jordan Strauss / Invision / AP. Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

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