Photographers, James and Karla Murray wrote a book showing how over the past twenty years two-thirds of the unique stores in Manhattan have disappeared. They've been replaced by Starbucks, CVS and other mega-chains.

Thomas Bena, a carpenter on Martha's Vineyard has written a book depicting the changes on this island over the past twenty years. In the 1990's the place consisted of small houses and locally owned shops. Recently a 26,000sf "Starter Castle" was built on the island with more to come.

In a conversation with jazz saxophone great, Allan Walker, and American Bluesman, Kenny Neal, we talked about the exorbitant rents and shrinking opportunities for most Americans. Lack of affordable housing was the primary issue. The housing situation is exacerbated in Neal's hometown of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, in the aftermath of a flood that has destroyed 40,000 homes. Louisiana has not yet recovered from Katrina. Once this story is pushed off the front page do we even care about these people? What's the long-term plan for helping our fellow citizens?


Prior to the 1970's we were doing OK. My dad worked as a plumber. He took home $110/week and was able to afford a house; a late-model car and mom stayed home and raised three boys. Think about that. Only one person had to work and if the family was frugal (we were) you could live comfortably in a 1,200sf house on three acres of land. There were some social programs but not many, because most people worked. There were jobs with pensions. There was capital for qualified borrowers. Things were humming right along.

So what the hell happened to us? To over simplify – tax policy. Slowly but surely we allowed Congress to modify tax policy, which resulted in tipping the scales in favor of the rich and mega-corporations. Our policies have made it possible to consolidate wealth for the few and allow for corporations to be unnecessarily subsidized. We see it. We know it's happening, but instead of working to find a way to reverse this trend we're more interested in a private email server and/or a guy's bad hair.

We dwell on issues of minimum importance while turning a blind eye to what is happening to us. We're being overtaken; not by ISIS or Russia or some other boogie man. We're being overtaken by those who have made a lot of money on the backs of American workers and have now decided that there is no such thing as enough. They want it all and care less about the consequences.

If they need to destroy neighborhoods by raising the rents for their own personal gain then that's what's going to happen. If they need tax policy changed for their own benefit then they are prepared to buy Congress to make it happen. If regulations are holding them back then they will buy a candidate who will say that we must get rid of regulations, because regulations are holding us (them) back.

Greed is not isolated to Manhattan or the west coast. Like a virus it knows no boundaries. Like hungry locus greed blows through our land annihilating everything in its path in order to quell its insatiable appetite.

You have a choice. You can watch your reality TV shows and/or faux news and pretend that everything's going to be OK, even though you know in your heart it's not. Or you can do something. The first thing you might consider would be to demand that Congress abolish its pension. It's public service; not a career. We need to take back ownership of our government. We need to go back to "We the People"; not we the wicked-rich-people. We need to decide what tax policies work best for our middleclass and stop worrying about our mega-corporations and top 1 percent. They have it all and will be just fine.

\What have you got to lose?

— Bob Stannard is a regular Banner columnist who lives in Manchester

The opinions expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of the Bennington Banner.