Saturday, August 30, 2008

Shame On America Sunday: Housing Edition

As I said last week, I don't like to get too serious or too political on my blogs. But the people who are supposed to be serious and political and take on weighty issues are too busy debating... nothing. Fiddling while Rome burns. So until America lives up to its promise and takes care of everyone and makes sure that everyone enjoys basic human dignity and comfort, I am devoting every Sunday to Shame On America Sunday.

I may have erred slightly in taking on Barack Obama in the first Shame On America Sunday, as people thought it was a political attack.

It was not; it was an attack on a rich man who was using money to do rich man things while poor people suffered. My point about Same Ol' Obama is that he spent millions to have a fancy party for his supporters, while people like the Shaws have to pay for medical care for their kids out of their own pockets.

I stand by that; if Same Ol' Obama really wanted to make a difference, he'd have invited Ryan and Angie Shaw onto that stage, and promised the world that they and everyone like them, within four years, would never ever have to wonder whether they should take their babies to the doctor or buy them groceries.

But it was not a political attack; Obama at least has a plan to provide health insurance -- necessary to secure health care, which is a basic human right on par with "life" and "liberty"-- to the country. We'll see if he can do it. I hope he can.

In the meanwhile, Shame On America Sunday will continue my mission to point out the awful inequities of American life, where for some reason most people (not me) celebrate the rich and enjoy the way the rich waste money while the rest of us must struggle to pay school fees and put food on the table. America is the richest, best country in the history of the world, but it is failing and people are letting it fail, and that should not be.

We should not allow people to have more than they ever need in their life. We should not allow people to thoughtlessly squander, on excessive boorish luxuries, money, spending on one tiny item enough money to support someone for their whole life.

We should, in short, not allow someone like David Saperstein or Susan Saperstein to behave the way David Saperstein and Susan Saperstein do.

David and Susan Saperstein are rich people who want you to know who rich they are; they are rich people who will waste more money in a day than I will make in a year.

Let's take Susan first: Susan Saperstein was described once, by Vanity Fair -- and if you read Vanity Fair you are part of the problem I'm trying to fight -- as "probably the world's No 1 consumer of haute couture and 18th century furniture." (Source)

As though that were a good thing. For those of you wondering what haute couture is, it means "things that cost more than most people make in a year and which will be worn once, if at all, by a foolish and selfish person."

Susan Saperstein married a rich man. She didn't do anything to help him earn that wealth, but she sure knew how to spend it: while they were married Susan (whose name is spelled Suzanne in some reports) owned several horses and would fly to Europe on the couple's private jet for "shows and fittings." (Source.) She flew a private jet to Europe to try on clothing.

It seems fitting that she was served with divorce papers on that private jet. It didn't matter; when she was divorced, she got a staggering sum of money -- including an obscenely gauche house that is an insult to anyone who goes to work every day, a house that she put on the market for $125,000,000.

David Saperstein is no better: when he was still living in the $125,000,000 house with his then-wife and the nanny he left her for (according to some reports), he said he and his family were just like anyone else, trying to put bread on the table. That's not just disingenous; that's rude to people who really do try to put bread on the table. David Saperstein started out with not much and grew it to a great deal. That's to his credit. He then not only forgot what he came from, he decided to actively insult the type of people he used to be by claiming that, as someone with a $125,000,000 house, he was "trying" to put bread on the table.

The table that David Saperstein was trying to put bread on was a table located in a 45,000 square foot house. That is roughly twenty times the size of the average house in my community. David Saperstein is so (self) important that he needs 20 times the space you or I do.

That's a lot of space, you're thinking, and you're right. But he needs more, because the $125,000,000 house is not his only house; he also built the "Hummingbird Nest Ranch," which has 140 acres of extreme disdain for other people and excessive displays of wealth spread across the Simi Valley.

Want to know more about the kinds of tables David Saperstein was just trying to put bread on? I'd like to tell you, but there's precious little information on the kinds of tables the Sapersteins bought as a furniture-based substitute for just spitting on people; buying furniture is a good substitute for spitting on people because society would frown on them if they actually thumbed their noses at us, but applauds them for garish displays of excess that are the functional equivalent of that. Remember that: physically spitting on people = bad. Metaphorically spitting on people by spending obscene amounts of money = good.

So while we don't know much about the tables, there are other details you can get about the Sapersteins' life and how they metaphorically are spitting on you.

One blog describes the $125,000,000 home, incorrectly, as "extravagant" and "sumptuous." The actual words you are looking for, blogger, is "insulting" and "wasteful." (We would also have accepted "deserving of a special circle of Hell, if there is justice in the universe.")

Here are those details:

It has Italian marble walls, Saperstein_mansionFrench limestone floors, gold-embossed leather wall coverings, and gold-leaf crowned moldings, according to the property listing. Rooms include a ballroom with ceiling frescoes, a library with a first-edition book collection, two kitchens and a screening room with seating for 50. A pool house has a full kitchen, a massage room and a gym. Also on the property: a three-bedroom manager’s house, staff quarters for 10, a nine-car garage and a ¾-mile jogging track


I am glad to know that the Sapersteins, whose disdain for the rest of us knows no bounds, did not have to actually walk all the way from their pool house to the main house to get a meal. I would wonder how I survived without a kitchen in my pool house, except that I don't have a pool house. If I want to swim, I have to go to the community pool or the one at my health club. We take one of the cars from our two-car garage. Sometimes we also drive them to the library, where I check out books. I'm not sure if they are first edition books; I take them to read them, not to flaunt them in people's faces like the Sapersteins.

Flaunt they do. Do you know why you have marble imported from Italy? So you can say "That marble is imported from Italy." So that you can be a smug, overspending loser with no concept of value. Marble is marble. Nobody even knows it's marble, let alone that it's from Italy, until you tell them, right, David Saperstein? And you do tell them, don't you, David Saperstein. Jerk.

One person who won't be touring David Saperstein's monument to his own lack of concern or compassion about the human race is Debbie Aurelio. Debbie Aurelio lives in Hawaii, a state that I usually use as a synonym for paradise. It's not paradise for Debbie Aurelio, though. Debbie was trying to refinance her house and got taken by a scam artist. She learned, too late, that she no longer owned her own home.

Debbie's home shares something in common with David Sapersteins: both houses have a carport. Debbie doesn't have a massage room, which is too bad because she could probably use a break from the stress of trying to fight to save her house. After realizing that she'd been bamboozled and no longer owned her house, that con artists had the title to her house and her equity, Debbie tried to hire a lawyer.

And failed.

Debbie couldn't come up with the thousands that lawyers wanted to represent her to try to save their house.

She finally had to turn to her local Legal Aid Society for help; they were able to represent her and have so far kept her from being evicted. They're suing, but Legal Aid Societies are stretched thin because they rely on funding from the government -- the government that is made up of the people, the government of the people, by the people, and for the people-- and the government of the people doesn't give the people much help.

The Legal Aid Society helping Debbie gets annual funding of $810,000 -- down 47% since 1992 -- from the State. Funding has dropped by more than 1/2 since 1980. So as wealth increases and profits increase and the Gross Domestic Product increases, we the people reduce legal aid to poor people like Debbie.

That $810,000 had to go to handle more than 8000 cases in a single year. That means Legal Aid gets about a hundred bucks a case to handle each claim.

The Sapersteins main house was marketed for $125,000,000. Let's do some math here. Since nobody should ever have a home worth more than $500,000 (I'll adjust that for inflation as time goes on) that means the Sapersteins had $124,500,000 in excess money tied up in their home. They were squandering $124,500,000 in money, just sitting on it with their Italian marble and theater and kitchen in their pool house. Sitting on it and believing they were better than you or me, or anyone else.

Debbie had equity of $160,000 in her house at the time of the scam. That means the Sapersteins, had they bought a $500,000 house, could have bought Debbie Aurelio her entire house and given it to her, as a gift, and left themselves with $124,340,000.

They would never have missed the $160,000.

They in fact could have bought themselves a $500,000 house, and then bought $160,000 houses for 778 Debbie Aurelios. Seven hundred and seventy eight families could have had houses, leaving the Sapersteins living in a house worth a half-million, and with money left over.

The Sapersteins, of course, did not buy 778 families a house. They bought themselves several houses, instead, houses with Italian marble and kitchens in the pool house and guest quarters to invite all their wealthy friends over to enjoy the finer things in life, people they would no doubt invite over and say "See that? It's Italian marble."

Debbie Aurelio's family, in their far more modest house, likes to have people over, too. They had a party for her youngest son to celebrate his first birthday. One of the people who showed up wasn't invited. He was a sheriff, serving them an eviction notice.

Shame on you, Sapersteins, and Shame on America, for letting you live in a $125,000,000 house while Debbie Saperstein has to take time out from baking a cake for her son on his birthday to be handed an eviction notice. Shame on you.

The Trouble With Roy firmly believes that no adult should be allowed to earn more than $200,000 per year; that a $500,000 house is more than enough for anyone, and that health care is a basic human right. And if you believe otherwise, you are part of the problem.


Anonymous said...

Did you, in your sanctimonious rant, consider that the Sapersteins luxurious house took man power to build? If more wealthy people would go on building sprees like they did we would have more jobs to go around, that would create more wealth for a larger amount of people.

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