And Justice to the Highest Bidder…

And Justice to the Highest Bidder…

In the US, being poor is one of the worst crimes you can commit.

He is parked by the side of a suburban house with his iPad in hand, frantically taking pictures. He zooms in on a fallen branch and snaps the photo at just the right angle to make it look like the branch is one of many in this otherwise unremarkable yard of this two-story house.
We have, in this country founded on justice and equality, what amounts to a harassment tax – or, a tax to cover the city’s ability to harass you.
Take the City of Coral Springs. There is this code compliance division that can fine you, drag you to court, and put a lien on your home for the most subjective, vague, and arbitrary offenses you can think of. Your trash cans shouldn’t be visible (on trash day when they’re out by the street). Your yard “isn’t neat.” You name it. The code compliance division has authority to harass and threaten you for “non-compliance,” and then fine you whether or not you comply. And for most, the only way out of this is to hire a lawyer.
And why do they do this?
You see, this is how the City of Coral Springs makes its money. It’s in the same vein as those hick towns you drive through at 26 and earn a $350 ticket because the limit was 25. The difference is that I don’t have to visit those towns; I won’t stop to eat, get gas, anything, but slug through at 20 (just in case) and move on with my life. But that’s your home, the dream house your kids were born in and if you can’t afford to move, there’s no escape.
It’s quite ingenious. The affluent buy landscaping service to avoid anyone’s subjective eye, while the rest of us get to play monte, trying to guess what the violation is about. And because everyone is afraid of these fines, we’re all obsessed with the appearance of our yards to the point where we act like hermits and treat each other like crap if they do anything to make our yard look one point less pristine. The city looks great; everywhere you go, property is manicured and green, and best of all, rich people pay less taxes AND keep the riff-raff out. It truly is a win-win situation.
Unless you’re riff-raff. Then, you can go somewhere else. Unless you can’t; then, you’re fucked.
Racket: a criminal enterprise in which the racketeer sells the solution to a problem they create.

Michael Patrick Lewis is a teacher, and bestselling author of Edge Of God, and Preferred Rewards. He also has a cat.

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