Privite Club

Monday night I was watching Republibabes Laura Ingraham and South Carolina Guv. Nikki Haley defend the Augusta National Golf Club’s “no women” rule on the O’Reilly Factor. I kind of got the feeling that they didn’t really approve of the famous club’s exclusionary policies, but because the loathsome press was making a big deal out of it they had to defend their male superiors. Laura keep going on about “the rights of a private organization to choose its own members.” It reminded me that I was once a privileged patron of such an establishment. 

It was back in 1975. I was dating a woman named Linda, and one day she called and offered to take me to lunch, an invitation I rarely refuse. She picked me up and we headed into East Point, an older suburb of Atlanta, Georgia. It’s easy to get lost in East Point, there are endless tree-lined avenues of red brick homes that all look pretty much the same. Linda was a local, but even she was having problems finding our destination.

Finally, we drove into a gravel parking lot in front of one of the anonymous houses. The only thing that distinguished it from the others was a white picket fence with an arbor. Above the arbor was a hand lettered sign that said “PRIVITE CLUB.”

We entered the house and to my surprise, there was a full-on restaurant inside, with a counter, booths and tables. A smiling beehived waitress led us to one of the tables and took our order. Perplexed, I asked Linda what a restaurant was doing out here in this residential backwater?

“They used to have a restaurant downtown, but when businesses were forced to comply with the Civil Rights Act, they closed up shop and moved everything out here. It became a private club.”

“And what do you have to do to become a member?” I asked.

“Be white.”

The boys at Augusta used to have such a policy, and they could even spell it right. They did discriminate against whites, though. You could only be a caddy if you were black. In 1990, bowing to public pressure, they finally rescinded the whites-only rule for membership and even allowed women to join the ranks of the caddies, but stubbornly held on to the penis-only requirement for members.

And even so, there are no applications there. You can join only if invited, and the invitation is only extended to the rich and powerful. The rolls at Augusta are a who’s who of the corporate elite. Names like Coors, Buffet, Gates, Welch and others more anonymous but still well-connected grace the gated greens. When advertisers were reluctant to have their products connected to the annual Masters Tournament, Augusta shrugged and ponied up the money themselves. Money talks.

Hardcore libertarians will argue that such clubs are perfectly legal, and point to the boy and girl scouts, ladies clubs and other gender-specific organizations that are found from coast to coast. This is true, but there’s something about the attitude of Augusta that is particularly offensive. It’s an attitude we see on the smug faces of the Wall Street financial wizards who gamed us into insolvency, of the energy traders who laughed at Californians as they cut off the power in 2001, and the politicians of both parties who crafted the policies that allowed it to happen.

I’ve been one of the voices calling for less regulation for struggling businesses during these trying times, but there does come a point where business needs to be constrained when it becomes so powerful that it can buy and sell the government we rely on to keep us safe and provide a level playing field. The progressive movement of the early 20th century didn’t happen because the workers and consumers were bored. It was because of attitudes like those in Augusta who see themselves as a privileged class that doesn’t have to answer to anyone.

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32 Responses to Privite Club

  1. Ryan Mount says:

    IBM is sponsoring The Masters at Augusta. The four previous IBM CEOs where invited to join. They were all men. The current IBM is a brilliant women, Ginni Rometty. She won’t be invited. It is 2012, in case anyone is paying attention.

    Governor Haley seems to be saying that she wants women in/at Augusta, but that the media is, in her words, “trying to drum this up.” In other words, they’re making a mountain out of a mole hill; that they are, again in her words, “all about distractions.”

    http://www.foxnews.com/on-air/oreilly/2012/04/10/gov-nikki-haley-no-spin-zone

    Well for Pete’s sake Ms. Haley! Are those pesky journalists causing trouble again? Are they ignoring the real problems of “of jobs, the economy and his[Obama’s] record”? Not sure what media outlets she’s referring to, but most of the mainstream ones follow these issues pretty closely. In fact, they’re obsessed with them. Just check out the NY Times today (or any other day) for goodness sake. [queue right wing conspiracy theorists: maybe upon hearing Ms. Haley’s criticisms, mainstream media decided to let the hounds out for a few days. Where’s Alex Jones when you need him? Don’t answer that.]

    Does anyone have any amount of integrity anymore? Ms Haley? [I’m metaphorically tapping her on the forehead like Biff did to McFly in the first Back to the Future film.] Or is integrity the last consideration in getting one’s agenda through? Of course that’s a rhetorical question. The answer is the election of Obama part II, also known as Mitt Romney.

    It’s yet another “blow it” moment for the GOP. Ms. Haley could have come out as a champion for Women’s rights here, but instead she marginalized the issue as yet another [presumably liberal] media distraction. And how does that read to the middle Right to Left wing American woman voter? You tell me, but it seems obvious.

    Maybe they just need to put in more Ladies Restrooms around the country club, with timers I guess. Pee and get out in 30 minutes. That includes you Ms. Rometty. Reminds me of this:

    http://www.theonion.com/articles/augusta-national-honors-tiger-woods-with-own-drink,811/

  2. Todd juvinall says:

    I have been waiting to see a white person admitted to the Congressional Black Caucus but those folks won’t even let a conservative black Congressperson in I think?

    • Steve Frisch says:

      Yeah, we all know whites suffered a 250 year history of slavery, 100 years of Jim Crow, and a system riddled with racial biases that limited their access to education, hoping, jobs, and investment capital. seems to me that one of the wonderful things about living in America is that we actually try to correct the folly of our past.

      • Todd juvinall says:

        So you support the Congressional Black Caucus’s exclusive club (taxpayers money)? Explain in depth why you think it is OK for them to do that and not OK for a whites only private country club.

  3. rlcrabb says:

    Both sides have proven to be insatiable. Repubs want to give the rich more tax cuts. The left, Like Reich, want more, more, more… http://www.huffingtonpost.com/robert-reich/buffett-rule_b_1415706.html With the cut the state wants, millionaies would be paying close to 70% of their income to the Government. How long would they stay in sunny California, or the U.S. for that matter?

    • Tony Waters says:

      RL:
      What millionaires are actually paying 70% in taxes? Mitt Romney and Warren Buffett pay in the neighborhood of 13-15% to the feds, don’t pay social security taxes on income over $106 k, and state taxes top out at the 10-12% range, assuming they don’t get write-offs there, too. How does such math reach 70%?

      Tony

      • rl Crabb says:

        If you read Reich’s article, he suggests restoring the tax rates to pre-nineteen eighty, which he calculates at 58%. He wants the same rate on capital gains. Add the proposed hike in CA. taxes to 11-12% and you get roughly 70% of the one percent’s income. Like I said, I don’t think a return to Clinton era rates would be that bad. The nineties were rather prosperous for those folks. But if you’re going to take three quarters of a person’s income for the crime of being successful, is that fair?

      • Tony Waters says:

        Ok, I read it as you suggested, and I see your point.

        The funny thing though is that the really prosperous times (e.g. the 1950s and 1990s) seem to have higher tax rates than today.

        • Ryan Mount says:

          Our prosperity post World War 2 probably had more to do with the fact that we clobbered the bejesus out of the enemy. Or was Mel Brooks once noted in History of the World part 1, “It’s good to be the King.”

          Our standing as a super power post WWII is based on the fact that we had virtually no competition for 15-20 years, and we had a huge nuclear arsenal that we were not afraid to use. Sorry folks, tax policy had little to do with it as since WWII we have collected about 18% of the GDP in taxes REGARDLESS of what tax policy has been in place. Get it? Probably not. It’s not about taxation. It’s about the USA’s global hegemony. Ta Dah!

          So even though the taxes were much higher, there were significant tax shelters to hid money away. Ever heard of the the AMT? Well, why do you think that was created? For fun? Answer: the get into the middle classes pocket books even more.

          Whoops. Sorry. That’s what it’s used for *now.* What it was intended for back in the day, was to get to that magic 18% number by accessing a tax on the wealth who buried their money in trusts and elsewhere.

          • Ben Emery says:

            Ryan,
            It does have something to do with taxation and the result of the lowering of taxes for the super rich has been more hegemony. How is that you ask? They have more money to invest/ bribe our government officials to rig the system in their favor and to increase the ultimate profit maker- global military intervention.

            Here is the funny thing if we would protect ourselves/ government from being corrupted a.k.a. strict revolving door laws between corporate and government sectors along with public financing of campaigns the tax rates wouldn’t be much of an issue but since we don’t the biggest threat to Freedom and Liberty in the United States of America is a domestic threat called accumulated wealth, which translates into power.

          • Ryan Mount says:

            Ben-

            I think you’re mixing your policies up, and missing my two core points:

            1) Regardless of who’s in power, the collection rate has been a steady 18% of GDP since we bombed our competition back into the middle ages. It was highest under Clinton, and lowest under Obama. Raise the marginal rates all you want, it will have no effect on revenue.

            2) Our prosperity more than likely had nothing to do with our taxation models, but more to the fact that we were more de facto productive because we had ostensibly no global competition until the late 1960s/early 1970s.

            Now, if you want to have a taxation discussion, my recommendation would be to set targets on spending, then have a simplified (progressive-lite) code with no deductions. I am in favor of a Consumption Tax, which would guarantee we get money from the wealthy, but I am under no illusion that we have the courage to pull our collective mouths of the government tax deduction teet.

            Also, I’ve always maintained that the Progressive Tax system violates the 14th Amendment with specious arguments. But no one listens to me. But Liberals, like Conservatives don’t really believe in Equal Protection when it interferes with their agenda.

    • Steve Frisch says:

      Bob, I think Reich’s proposal is to increase the top MARGINAL tax rates. There is a difference between a marginal rate and the actual rate. The marginal rate is the tax paid on the portion of your income above the threshold. I am not supporting Reich’s proposal, merely attempting to clarify.

      By the way, as these security question climb into the double digits I think a few posters are going to have trouble qualifying.

    • Ben Emery says:

      RL,
      Just as with my position on taxation either you don’t understand or misrepresent the actual position. Both Mr Reich and myself advocate progressive taxation.

      Here is how it would work for someone making $15 million annually. The rate of taxation would be at the designated income levels. So the first $150k would be taxed at a rate of 8% because there was no taxation for the first $50k for everyone. The first $250k would be taxed at the rate of 17%. This level is greater than 98% of incomes in the US. So we are talking about a very small few citizens of the United States not the Divided States of America who would have a higher tax rate.

      $0-50k federal income tax 0%
      $50- 90k federal income tax 10%
      $90- 150k federal income tax 20%

      We are now heading into the top 2% of income earners in the US, up until now these have all been tax breaks when compared to current taxes on labor

      $150 – 250k federal income tax 30%
      $250 – 500k federal income tax 40%
      $500 – 5 million federal income tax 50%
      $5 – 15 million federal income tax 60%
      And here is the number you cite 70% tax rate applies after $15 million has been made.

  4. Todd juvinall says:

    Actually the Republicans want to give every American taxpayer a tax cut. We also want to cut spending. My response to the phony “Buffett” rule proposal is the reverse. Give the secretary a tax cut.

    • rl Crabb says:

      Yeah, Toddster, we all know the mantra. Personally, I don’t think a modest tax hike would be the end of the world, be it letting the Bush cuts expire, a Buffet rule, or closing loopholes. Then cut the bureaucracy, get rid of useless redundant fed programs and let more money go back to the states. I know it goes against both ideologies, but hey, that’s why I’m in the muddy middle.

      • Todd juvinall says:

        Well golly. You have me on 50% of your ideas.

        • TD Pittsford says:

          Golf= “Gentlemen Only Ladies Forbidden”? I suggest that the biggest elitists in the US are right there in Congress. They may bump heads like sparring mountain goats…OLD mountain goats, but they all enjoy a status to which most of us will never be entitled. They are exempt from their own rules, have unparalleled healthcare packages, retirement benefits over and above anything a middle class worker could hope to enjoy. They also, despite anything you hear to the contrary, are making millions from insider information which by the way, Martha Stewart did “time”. But as much as these people may consider themselves as royalty, the real privileged class consists of the multi-natural uber-rich who are above all laws (and morality) except their own. In the long run it doesn’t make a damn bit of difference if the democrats or the republicans are in charge, the real monarchs are pulling all the strings everywhere. We the People, and indeed the entire Constitution, has little or no meaning any longer, except perhaps to a waning number of red, white & blue romantics. I’m one of them but my hopes fade daily with each new diversion provided by a government who has not been telling us all they know.

          • Judith Lowry says:

            Right on TD,

            “The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.”
            ― George Orwell, Animal Farm

      • Ben Emery says:

        RL,
        You are right on the mark with this last comment.

  5. Mary Folck says:

    So glad you have this blog and you said what you said. I so agree.

  6. Barry Pruett says:

    Back to the topic of the post…

    It is a matter of “must” versus “should.” Augusta can legally choose their private members in any manner they choose, but it is stupid to not accept women. I mean really…it is 2012…not 1867?! Geez. I was completely shocked to read that non-whites were not allowed until 1990. Is that right? Again, it’s not 1867 anymore. I have never understood racism and sexism, but apparently it is going to take a little longer than a couple decades for Dr. King’s vision to be reality. You know…judging people by the content of their character…

    • Ryan Mount says:

      My money is on “must,” but it may not be worth the effort. Frankly I’m surprised that IBM didn’t pull the sponsorship, which of course simply enables and gives approval to all of this nonsense.

      Let’s not send the National Guard there (are there any of them left after we sent them overseas to fight for equality and freedom? apparently Augusta missed that jingoistic message), but rather let’s create an incentive to change their behavior, like a ridiculously high Private Club tax, or Ooooo! I know! Let’s have (force) them run public service ads about civil rights. Or maybe require Barney the Dinosaur’s music to be piped over the loud speakers 24/7. You know, like how we flushed out once Bush I friend, then mortal enemy Manuel Noriega and his horrible skin condition, but with more annoying music.

  7. Brad Croul says:

    Yes, here is where to make your “residence” to lower your overall tax rate,

    http://www.irs.gov/efile/article/0,,id=130684,00.html

    Maybe the time is coming to get an REO condo and PO Box in Income, I mean, Incline Village.

    I could not find a Mailboxes Etc. franchise in Incline: new business opportunity?

  8. Is it really a mortal sin to craft a private organization (seeking no public monies) that is non-inclusive, that discriminates on the basis of whatever attributes, and that serves the defined interests of only a small minority?

    • Steve Frisch says:

      What defined interest of a small minority, golf? Last time I looked women played golf?

      • Ryan Mount says:

        It’s always easier to move the goal posts when you’re on the losing end of an argument.

        This is not about “sin,” even though I acknowledge the overstatement, it’s about discrimination based on, I dunno pick something. In this case it’s because someone is a woman. A decade or so ago, it was because someone is Black.

        Now I get the point here, this is a “private property” issue, right? I think I understand it. So let’s discuss it on those terms with an opened ended question:

        Q: Does the civil rights of a a class of people trump the civil rights of private property owners.

        My answer will surprisingly be in favor of the despicable (I wish I could leverage a more forceful word of condemnation) property owners. But Buyer beware. This issue really pisses me and other people off and it only takes a couple of “bad eggs” as Conservatives like to point out to raise their the ire of the electorate. If I were a manager at Augusta, I certainly wouldn’t dig my heals in on this issue.

        It’s funny how people forgotten how Augusta didn’t allow African-American men just a few years ago. The Masters, and Augusta is rotten to the core.

  9. “Is it really a mortal sin to craft a private organization (seeking no public monies) that is non-inclusive, that discriminates on the basis of whatever attributes, and that serves the defined interests of only a small minority?”

    You mean like a pot club?

  10. Brad Croul says:

    They can do whatever they want but my moniker for the likes of Augusta members is A-Holes!

  11. Todd juvinall says:

    It must be Sunday, the story is now dead. Could it be it didn’t work for the outraged exploiters? Augusta is a private club. My my, how did we let the government tell us who we are to be around under the threat of a gun?

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