Every morning, I make an attempt to read the Bennington Banner, Rutland Herald, and the Wall Street Journal – print media publications that couldn't be more opposite in size, news content, and editorial slant.
A January article, which appeared in the Banner/Herald and another in the WSJ, only reinforced my observation of the three newspapers.
In the Vermont papers, Thomas Smyth, Kate Martin, and their two year-old son were the focus of a tragic story. The Pownal, Vermont couple, most likely, never met Irene and Ken Rabinowitz of New York City, the couple noted in the WSJ story. (Names have been changed.)
Smyth and Martin were arrested on January 24, 2016, by the Vermont State Police for allegedly committing cruelty to a child under the age of 10. It was reported that their son was living in a trailer without heat, running water, or toilet facilities.
Two-hundred and fifty miles away, the Rabinowitz's home was featured in the Mansion section of the WSJ. Their Upper East Side home was being listed for sale by a prominent New York City real estate brokerage firm.
According to the VSP, upon their arrival at the Martin/Smyth Pownal home, which came about from an anonymous tip, they were confronted with an awful site. It was reported that the two year-old boy was standing with bare feet in animal feces, was cold, and smelled of urine. The interior of the home appeared as if "a grenade had gone off," an observation from one of the three VSP troopers.
The Rabinowitz's listing was nothing short of spectacular – located on six levels, including a billiards room, along with six bedrooms, 14 bathrooms, his/her dressing rooms, wine cellar, gym, and a spa. Located in Ms. Rabinowitz's dressing room, is a temperature controlled storage area for furs.
On January 25, Smyth and Martin pled not guilty in court. It was reported that Martin is seven months pregnant. Her two year-old, at the time of her arrest, was placed under the jurisdiction of the Vermont Department of Children and Families. What lies ahead for her little boy and his soon to be brother/sister is not encouraging.
The Rabinowitzs are looking to sell their 15,000 square foot home – which also comes with a 2,500 square foot outdoor kitchen, bath, and rock garden – because their youngest child will be leaving for college.
The Pownal couple do not have the residential environment of the NYC Rabinowitzs. They do, however, have available to them and their child, the safety net of Vermont's 42 programs designed for families caught up in similar economic hardships. Several of these programs that could have been drawn upon (it is not known if they were) are: Healthy Vermonters Program (HVP), 3 SquaresVT (SNAP), Emergency Assistance (EA), Fuel Assistance (LIHEAP).
Senator Bernie Sanders may shrill away at the so-called rich. America's billionaires did not fail the Pownal family – we did – along with our government, their families, friends, relatives, and the continued lack of substantive mental health treatment. Not to be left out are the poor choices that the two 25 year-olds have made.
To tax the income of billionaires at 90 plus percent will not help a two year-old from Pownal, Vermont, nor will it help the thousands of other youngsters crying out for help. The tax scheme will only enlarge the bureaucracy – a failing bureaucracy at that. Days after the Pownal incident, the Banner reported that a DCF worker pled guilty to selling drugs outside the Bennington state office building, necessitated to help support her drug habit.
Pownal and the Upper East Side are four hours in distance. To a Pownal two year-old, they are "worlds apart." I wish the Rabinowitzs well with the sale of their NYC home. Their asking price is $84.5 million.
Don Keelan writes a bi-weekly column and lives in Arlington.