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Thursday, January 05, 2006

The Raw Story | The new Gilded Age

Nancy Goldstein - Raw Story Columnist
In the summer of 1863, Lincoln's enactment of the draft--the first federal conscription in America--set off widespread rioting in the streets of New York City. The mandate's most reviled feature was a "commutation" rule that allowed sons of privilege to buy their way out of enlistment for the 21st century equivalent of $6,000. For the northern European immigrants who comprised over half of the city's population, starving cheek-to-jowl in the corroding tenements of the Lower East Side, the rule proved that Lincoln's "rich man's war" against the South had become a fight for poor, and thereby expendable, men to resolve.
Nearly a century and a half later, the wealthy don't even have to pay for the privilege of sending less well connected sons and daughters off to war to die in their stead. The draft has been rendered unnecessary by the tens of thousands of young men and women--disproportionately low income or working-class, over a third of them people of color--who "choose" to enlist while the children of better-off folk, who have other viable options for educational and professional advancement, are able to choose lines of work where they're less likely to be killed.
Welcome to the new Gilded Age. Once more, a small number of individuals have exploited the latest technology and their powerful personal connections to amass incredible wealth at the expense of an exploited majority.


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