Nick Turse
$80 billion
The amount of money the U.S. spends a year to keep 2 million prisoners behind bars.  Get the full story. (via centerforinvestigativereporting)
Nowadays, the conservative media inundate us with warnings about debt from the Founding Fathers, and it’s true that some of them like Jefferson — himself an inveterate, often near-bankrupt debtor — did moralize on the subject. However, Alexander Hamilton, an idol of the conservative movement, was the architect of the country’s first national debt, insisting that “if it is not excessive, [it] will be to us a national blessing.”
Imprisonment for debt was a commonplace in colonial America and the early republic, and wasn’t abolished in most states until the 1830s or 1840s… Debtors in these prisons frequently found themselves quite literally dying of debt. And you could end up in such circumstances for trivial sums. Of the 1,162 jailed debtors in New York City in 1787, 716 owed less than twenty shillings or one pound. A third of Philadelphia’s inmates in 1817 were there for owing less than $5, and debtors in the city’s prisons outnumbered violent criminals by 5:1. In Boston, 15% of them were women. Shaming was more the point of punishment than anything else.
Imprisonment for debt was a commonplace in colonial America and the early republic, and wasn’t abolished in most states until the 1830s or 1840s, in some cases not until after the Civil War. Today, we think of it as a peculiar and heartless way of punishing the poor — and it was. But it was more than that.
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Some of the richest, most esteemed members of society also ended up there, men like Robert Morris, who helped finance the American Revolution and ran the Treasury under the Articles of Confederation…
Believe it or not, a version of debtor’s prison, that relic of early American commercial barbarism, is back. In 2013, you can’t actually be jailed for not paying your bills, but ingenious corporations, collection agencies, cops, courts, and lawyers have devised ways to insure that debt “delinquents” will end up in jail anyway. With one-third of the states now allowing the jailing of debtors (without necessarily calling it that), it looks ever more like a trend in the making.
Debt remains, as it long has been, the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde of capitalism. For a small minority, it’s a blessing; for others a curse. For some the moral burden of carrying debt is a heavy one, and no one lets them forget it. For privileged others, debt bears no moral baggage at all, presents itself as an opportunity to prosper, and if things go wrong can be dumped without a qualm.
motherjones:

Millions of taxpayer dollars were wasted beefing up Afghanistan’s power grid. Here’s the breakdown. 

motherjones:

Millions of taxpayer dollars were wasted beefing up Afghanistan’s power grid. Here’s the breakdown. 

newyorker:

Cartoon by Amy Hwang. For more from this week’s issue: http://nyr.kr/RAiBlz

newyorker:

Cartoon by Amy Hwang. For more from this week’s issue: http://nyr.kr/RAiBlz

Obesity is an American plague — and no, I’m not talking about overweight Americans. I’m talking about our overweight, supersized presidential campaign. I’m talking about Big Election, the thing that’s moved into our homes and, especially if you live in a “swing state,” is now hogging your television almost 24/7.

There’s a wonderful old American postcard tradition of gigantism, a mixture of (and gentle mocking of) a national, but especially Western, urge toward bravado, braggadocio, and pride when it comes to this country. The imagery on those cards once ranged from giant navel oranges on railroad flatcars to saddled jackalopes (rabbits with antlers) mounted by cowboy riders on the range. Think of the 2012 election season as just such a postcard — without the charm.

Obesity is an American plague — and no, I’m not talking about overweight Americans. I’m talking about our overweight, supersized presidential campaign. I’m talking about Big Election, the thing that’s moved into our homes and, especially if you live in a “swing state,” is now hogging your television almost 24/7.

There’s a wonderful old American postcard tradition of gigantism, a mixture of (and gentle mocking of) a national, but especially Western, urge toward bravado, braggadocio, and pride when it comes to this country. The imagery on those cards once ranged from giant navel oranges on railroad flatcars to saddled jackalopes (rabbits with antlers) mounted by cowboy riders on the range. Think of the 2012 election season as just such a postcard — without the charm.