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On November 14th the series, Independent Lens on PBS aired an incisive program on economic inequality in the US as a function of unregulated Capitalism. Their symbol for all that is wrong with our current system was carefully chosen, for if Wall Street is where money lives, then Park Avenue is where the people who have the money live. And of all  the buildings along Park Avenue, one stood out, 740 Park Avenue.

740 Park Avenue is where the richest of the rich live and was chosen as the subject of a book by Michael Gross. The infamous John Thain who decorated while Merrill Lynch burned lives there in an unbelievably palatial suite paid for with the tears of ruined investors (well, at least the money they shed tears over). Ezra Merkin, a feeder to Bernie Madoff, Steve Schwarzman and David Koch are all tenants of this luxurious real estate.

A former doorman for the building says that the job requires a thick skin as the people he worked for were, "detestable" and demanding. Even the slightest error regarding a tenants preferences could mean dismissal. And one of the most demanding and least generous is David Koch according to the source.

The film contrasts the lifestyles of the richest of the rich on Park Avenue to the poorest of the poor, the poorest congressional district in the US, the Park Avenue on the other side of the Harlem River in the Bronx. There the poverty rate has been as high as 19% and food pantries are overtaxed.

The film uses a study by a Berkeley sociologist involving the game of Monopoly to show what economic privilege does to the human mind. In the study one player is given a 2 to one advantage over the other. The "rich" player begins to display a sense of privilege taking more than half the snack made available to them. This seems to illustrate the sense of privilege and the demanding behaviors of 740 Park Avenue's tenants.

I'm not sure how widely aired this film was, but I only happened to stumble on it myself. If you are having trouble explaining the difficulties inherent in unregulated capitalism, then this film could do it for you. I found it powerful and compelling.

You can follow this link to view the video of Park Avenue: Money, Power and the American Dream, by Independent Lens.

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