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Affluenza: a justified defense?

Is affluence a justified excuse for poor behavior?
Is affluence a justified excuse for poor behavior?
Ruth McCabe

Dear LA Teacher,

I just read about a Texas teen getting probation for drunk driving after killing four pedestrians. His defense: affluenza. What is this world coming to? That kid should be thrown in jail. Is this fair?

Outraged Parent

Dear Outraged Parent,

No, it’s not fair. Ethan Couch, age 16, a child of affluence, was not sent to prison for drunk driving. While intoxicated, he murdered four defenseless pedestrians. His defense attorney claimed the child was a victim of “affluenza”. The judge bought the ploy sentencing the youth to ten years probation. This means that the boy will not have to face any prison time, but be under court supervision for a decade. The youth will have to report to a special officer, probably on a weekly basis.

Jessie O’Neil coined “affluenza” in her book The Golden Ghetto: The Psychology of Affluence. O’Neil defined affluenza as a condition in which children of the wealthy have a sense of entitlement, are irresponsible, make excuses for poor behavior, and dabble in drugs and alcohol.

In a more just world, Ethan Couch would spend the next 10 years in a prison cell with his parents. It was due to their lazy parenting that brought Ethan to those deadly crossroads, not some half-baked excuse by a slick lawyer.

Kids from wealthy homes too often believe daddy and mommy will pay for their mistakes, so they do as they please. But if those same parents ended up in a jail cell with their kids, the voluminous amount of spoiled brats in this society would magically dissipate.

Let’s face it. If an African-American child growing up in a crime infested neighborhood killed four pedestrians with his car, could he profess “poorfluenza”? The judge would laugh in his face throwing him in jail for twenty years.

Where’s the justice?

Best wishes,
LA Teacher

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