Last week the U.S. Congress made headlines when it quickly adjusted the sequester cuts that affected air traffic control. How quickly? Parts of it were hand-written (via The Daily Show):
The move was interpreted as one meant to a certain class of voters, but it was also as a purely self-interested move, since Congress members fly quite frequently.
Riffing on this, Bloomberg Businessweek put together a short video about a little-known congressional perk: free and convenient parking at Reagan National Airport.
This little perk, saving congress members time and $22-a-day parking fees, is a great example of the way that privilege translates into being “above society.” The more power, connections, and money you have, the more likely you are to be able to break both the legal and social contract with impunity. Sometimes this just means getting away with breaking the law (e.g., the fact that, compared to the crimes of the poor and working classes, we do relatively little to identify and prosecute so-called “white collar” criminals and tend to give them lighter or suspended sentences when we do). But these perks are also often above board; they’re built into the system. And who builds the system again?
In other words, some of the richest people in the world get free parking at the airport because they’re the ones making the rules. I like this as a concrete example, but be assured that there is a whole universe of such rules and, like this sudden revelation about free parking, most of them go entirely unnoticed by most of us most of the time.Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.