SEF News-Views Digest No. 169 (5-10-17)
Clifton Ware, Editor-Publisher
My original commentary-rant (enclosed at the bottom) is longer than usual, but worth reading—if you share my deep concern about the egregious wealth chasm that separates the super rich from the rest of us.
Many experts agree that the super rich are largely using their wealth and power to transform our democracy into a plutocracy-oligarchy. I suspect most readers deplore the rapid gains in income by the super rich, far outpacing gains made by most hard-working citizens. For an elite faction of citizens, annual incomes in several fields—business, entertainment, sports, etc.—have skyrocketed obscenely. Meanwhile, most people in these fields struggle desperately to make ends meet.
For certain, this ominous trend is not sustainable—for anyone, including the super rich. I suspect that, somewhere in the near-to-long term, life for the masses will grow so stressful that society will be overwhelmed by a series of converging crises, mostly driven by the accumulating negative effects of worldwide overpopulation.
It’s possible that the super rich might eventually reap the disastrous results of what they’ve sown—at the unfortunate expense of everyone else. At such time, they will probably migrate to presumably safe havens, including fortified, well-stocked underground bunkers. But isolation and fear of the outside world will not create an optimistic outlook or pleasant lifestyle.
Some lavish, degenerate illustrations of super-rich individuals’ affluence are found in the first article in News (also, read the second article), and a deplorable example of extravagant luxury is portrayed by two prosperity-gospel evangelistic preachers discussing why God approves of their private jet-setting travel: Kenneth Copeland, Jesse Duplantis, Defending Their Private Jets.
If humanity has a chance of creating sustainability, it might require the catalyst of a grassroots uprising to bring it about. Establishing a true democracy, one in which all citizens are treated justly and equitably, may require taking robust measures—NOW! Revolt, anyone?
Finally, if you’re up for it, please read my full commentary, located at the bottom of this newsletter. Thanks for caring—and acting!
> Bloomberg: A Look At The Ugly Side Of Getting Rich (James Tarmy). Dozens of lavish and disconcerting vignettes fill Generation Wealth (2017), a 504-page monograph by Lauren Greenfield, and due out on May 15. A photographer who has spent the last 25 years documenting wealth, class, and status symbols, she offers a glimpse into the spending habits of ultra-wealthy tribes. Through Greenfield’s lens, the accumulation of wealth comes off more as a destructive addiction than a path to self-improvement. “The trajectory of the last 25 years isn’t sustainable on a lot of levels—environmentally, morally, spiritually, or within communities and families.” Greenfield is not particularly anti-materialist or anti-capitalist, but a photo documentarian. David Siegel [the time-share king] said that money doesn’t make you happy—it makes you unhappy in a better part of town. [I agree!]
> Independent: US Has Regressed To Developing Nation Status, MIT Economist Warns (Chloe Farand). In his new book, The Vanishing Middle Class: Prejudice and Power in a Dual Economy, reviewed by the Institute for New Economic Thinking, Peter Temin says the fracture of US society is leading the middle class to disappear. The economist describes a two-track economy with on the one hand 20 per cent of the population that is educated and enjoys good jobs and supportive social networks. On the other hand, the remaining 80 percent, he said, are part of the US’ low-wage sector, where the world of possibility has shrunk and people are burdened with debts and anxious about job security. He found that the high-income sector was keeping wages down to provide cheap labor, and social control was used to prevent subsistence workers from challenging existing policies and social mobility was low. Temin says that education is the solution, and calls for investments in public schools and public universities. [See also: America Is Regressing Into A Developing Nation For Most People]
> Think Progress: The Earth Just Reached A CO2 Level Not Seen In 3 Million Years (Natasha Geiling). Recent measurements taken from the same observatory show that yet another marker has been passed: Carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere, for the first time in modern record-keeping, has surpassed 410 parts per million. Since the 1950s at Mauna Loa, atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide have increased 42 percent increase from pre-industrial levels. Children born today will likely never live in a world with levels below 400 parts per million. The last time Earth had comparable levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide was about three million years ago, during the mid-Pliocene. Back then, global average temperature was about 3.6-5.2°F warmer than it is today. Sea levels were also higher, by about 15–25 meters. Hitting a high of 410 parts per million won’t trigger any immediate climate consequences, but it is a stark reminder of the profound influence human activity is having on the planet.
> World Wildlife Magazine: A Changing Arctic (Isabelle Groc). In September 2012, the extent of sea ice hit a record low after a particularly hot summer: 1.32 million square miles, 44% below the 1981–2010 average. And from mid-October to late November 2016, the extent of Arctic sea ice was the lowest since the satellite record began in 1979. Ice sheets on land are melting at an accelerating pace, as well, contributing directly to sea-level rise, a growing threat for coastal cities and communities worldwide. In fact, changes occurring in the Arctic are affecting the entire planet in a profound way. As sea ice retreats and land ice melts, sunlight that would have been reflected back to space by the bright ice is instead absorbed by the ocean, warming the water and melting even more ice. Moreover, at least 1,500 billion tons of organic carbon have been safely locked away in the frozen soils of the Arctic for thousands of years—almost twice as much as is currently in the atmosphere. As this permafrost thaws, the carbon breaks down, releasing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and amplifying global warming.
> The Guardian: Medical Scientists Report On The Impact Climate Change Is Having On Health (John Abraham). The fact that climate change is already affecting personal human health around the world was the focus of a summary report just published by the Medical Society Consortium. The report is limited to the USA, with key impacts by regions, but the general conclusions and trends can be applied to worldwide conditions. Most importantly they find that climate change is already affecting our health, especially children, student athletes, pregnant women, elderly, people with chronic health conditions, and the impoverished. With respect to extreme weather, the report correctly notes that the frequency and severity of some weather events such as heavy downpours, floods, droughts, and major storms are increasing. The nutritional value of food is also a concern, because increases in carbon dioxide actually result in a lowered nutritional value of grown food such as wheat, rice, barley, and potatoes.
> Think Progress: The Climate Denier Caucus In Trump’s Washington (Claire Moser& Ryan Koronowski). There are 180 members of Congress [plus Trump] who deny the science behind climate change and have received more than $82 million from fossil fuel industries, according to new analysis from the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Of the 180 climate science deniers in the 115th Congress, 142 are in the House and 38 are in the Senate. That’s more than 59 percent of the Republican House caucus and 73 percent of Republicans in the Senate that deny the scientific consensus that climate change is happening, human activity is the main cause, and it is a serious threat. No Democrats publicly deny the science behind climate change. The majority of Republican members of Congress are still ignoring public opinion, but as members of Congress increasingly face resistance in their districts with constituents calling for climate action, some deniers are starting to shift their tone.
> New York Times: 23 Environmental Rules Rolled Back In Trump’s First 100 Days (Kadja Popovich & Tatania Schlossberg). President Trump, with help from his administration and Republicans in Congress, has reversed course on more than a dozen environmental rules, regulations and other Obama-era policies during his first 100 days in office. Citing federal over reach and burdensome regulations, Mr. Trump has prioritized domestic fossil fuel interests and undone measures aimed at protecting the environment and limiting global warming. Nine rules have been overturned, 7 are under review, and 7 are in limbo. In most cases, lobbyists representing major industries and corporations are responsible for encouraging rollbacks on existing rules and regulations. [All rules and regulations are listed, with brief explanations about who wanted them changed.]
> Alpha News Minnesota: Minnesota Ranked One Of Nation’s Greenest States (Preya Samsundar). Wallethub has named Minnesota the 7th Greenest State in the country. The report, released on April 18, looked at three main categories: environmental quality, eco-friendly behaviors, and climate-change contributions. The study examined different environmental factors like air, water, and soil quality, and also looked at the number of green buildings, energy consumption from renewable sources, gas, water, and energy consumption. Tied for first with Michigan, South Dakota, Washington state, and Wisconsin, Minnesota was also ranked highest in the nation for soil quality, based on the pH level of the soil. The study did find that Minnesota (ranked 31st) could improve on climate-change contribution. The category looked at per-capita emissions when it comes to carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and fluorinated greenhouse-gas. Moreover, blue states were found more likely to be eco-friendly than red states.
> World Population Balance: Technological Progress Is Slowing?! What Every Overpopulation Activist Needs To Know (Alan Ware). Today, much of the media and our most influential thought leaders have a blind faith that as-yet-undiscovered technologies can save us from overpopulation and ecological overshoot. But there is now mounting evidence—and hugely underreported evidence—that technological progress has actually been slowing in recent decades compared to earlier decades and centuries, with the “low-hanging fruit” principle also applying in the realm of human technical innovation. The fact is that technological advancement of the past 40 years or so has occurred primarily in the realm of electronic bits. Now, even in the realm of digital technologies, we are seeing diminishing returns in innovation. Some researchers conclude that, “just to sustain constant growth in GDP per person, the U.S. must double the amount of research effort searching for new ideas every 13 years to offset the increased difficulty of finding new ideas.”
> St. Cloud Times: Despite Constitution, Legislators Attack Environment (Editorial Board). Minnesotans have been asked five times through constitutional amendments if and how much they value the state’s natural resources, and the answer has always been: Yes, a lot! The collective message to legislators is crystal clear: Preserving and protecting Mother Nature is a—perhaps even the—top Minnesota priority. That’s why it’s both puzzling and stunning that so many legislative proposals rooted solidly in Republican House and Senate majorities undoubtedly aim to weaken, even remove, scores of rules, regulations, public-input processes and funding put in place to uphold the very values Minnesotans have placed through the state Constitution on the state’s natural resources. Among the easy-to-see examples: 1) weaken water quality standards; 2) use courts, not science; 3) repeal the buffer law; 4) mess with legacy amendment funds; 5) place profits above protections; and 6) other indirect attacks.
> VOX: How Republicans Came To Embrace Anti-Environmentalism (Christopher Sellers). [Sellers, a professor of history at Stony Brook University, provides a general overview of this issue, beginning with the strongest environmental support that appeared in the 1960s and 1970s, followed by describing two major anti-environmentalism strands of rebellions, one in western states among ranchers, miners, and other larger property owners, and another early strand ran through the South, where traditional Democratic dominance was in flux, and eventually helped elect Georgian Newt Gingrich into congress. in 1978. The early Reagan administration undertook a frontal assault on environmental agencies and regulation much like what we are now seeing. Conservative think tanks, like the Heritage Foundation enjoyed a heyday as an idea factory for tugging the administration to the right. Gingrich’s Contract with America embodied the new stealth strategy of attack, by calling for a variety of restraints on “regulation.” Newly sophisticated ways of attacking environmental sciences publicly arose that appealed to doubt and uncertainty, and were promoted via conservative media. Trump’s 2016 victory was a testimony their successes.]
> Weathering The Storm: Eight Megatrends That Are Reshaping The World (Mike Conley). Conley’s latest book-in-progress–-“Mortgaging the American Dream: What Were We Thinking?”–-focuses on eight megatrends that are reshaping the world. In this sneak preview, the abbreviated megatrends are listed, along with a “looking ahead” commentary on potential implications of each. The 8 megatrends are: 1) climate change; 2) overpopulation; 3) energy; 4) ecological footprint; 5) global economy; 6) geopolitical instability; 7) technology; and 8) the American dream.
> Peak Prosperity: The Relentless Push Towards War (Chris Martenson). The push to war includes a series of carefully crafted talking points being endlessly repeated over the print and airwaves. It’s an ever-present condition of living in our manufactured reality, where what we are told to care about is beamed at us around the clock in a rather tediously but emotionally-manipulative way on the “news.” Meanwhile, the actual things that are deteriorating alarmingly are not even talked about in the main news outfits: alarming species extinction rates, the loss of phytoplankton in the oceans, the loss of terrestrial soil fertility into oceanic dead zones, and the largest wealth gap in all of history created on purpose by central banks. These very dangerous crises aren’t talked about because doing so won’t sell more weapons, advance any political careers, or goose banking profits next quarter. Any outbreak of war is going to be a very bad thing for the globe at this particular moment in history. Debt levels are stretched to the limit, GDP is weak, and it won’t take much to upset the economic and financial market apple carts.
> Organic Consumers Association: Modern Agriculture Drives Hunger, Obesity And Disease While Simultaneously Threatening Food Chain And Worsening Water Crisis (Dr. Joseph Mercola). A century ago farmers believed that agriculture was necessary for food production, and that farming the land or raising cattle was not going to unduly harm anything or anyone. However, such an impossible scenario is precisely what we’re facing today. Virtually every growing environmental and health problem can be traced back to modern food production. This includes but is not limited to: 1) food insecurity and malnutrition amid mounting food waste; 2) rising obesity and chronic disease rates despite growing health care outlays; 3) diminishing fresh water supplies; 4) toxic agricultural chemicals polluting air, soil and waterways, thereby threatening the entire food chain from top to bottom; and 5) disruption of normal climate and rainfall patterns. The good news is there are viable answers to all of these problems that do not merely scratch at the surface, and the answers hinge on the widespread implementation of regenerative agriculture and decentralized food distribution.
> Peak Prosperity: Sympathy For The Devil? (Adam Taggart). In our recent report, Banks Are Evil, we pulled no punches in making the accusation that the financial system is the root cause of injustice in today’s society. Their influence and reach has metastasized to the point where we now live under a captive system. From our retirement accounts, to our homes, to the laws we live under—the banks control it all; and they run the system for their benefit, not ours. For decades, more and more sharks found their way into the financial industry, and there was plenty of prey for them all to feast and fatten on. But now there’s much less to prey on, so the biggest sharks are now turning on the smaller ones. The edifice of central planning omnipotence is crumbling and when it finally breaks down in earnest, the financial markets will implode, the central banks will be overrun and discredited, and investors will discover that overly-long parties come with massive hangovers.
> The Conversation: More People Than Ever Before Are Single – And That’s A Good Thing (Bella DePaulo). Today, the number of single adults in the U.S and worldwide is unprecedented, and more are staying single for life. As a researcher, DePaulo has found that the rise of single living is a boon to our cities and towns and communities, our relatives and friends and neighbors. This trend has the chance to redefine the traditional meaning—and confines—of home, family and community. People who live alone tend to participate in more civic groups and public events, enroll in more art and music classes, and go out to dinner more often than people who live with others. They also volunteer more for social service organizations, educational groups, hospitals and organizations devoted to the arts than people who are married. Those who remain single also develop more confidence in their own opinions and undergo more personal growth and development than people who marry. [And they also help reduce overpopulation!]
> Tufts Nutrition: Waste By Design (Clare Leschin-Hoar & Julie Flaherty). Nearly a third of the food that we produce each year winds up getting thrown away or lost somewhere along the supply chain. According to the United Nations, that amounts to about 1.3 billion tons of food that’s squandered annually. The energy used on wasted food would make it the world’s third-largest producer of greenhouse gases. Waste also carries a hefty economic price tag for food producers—about $750 billion annually, says the U.N. In 2013, when the Natural Resources Defense Council released a report showing that a substantial portion of America’s $160 billion food-waste problem could be traced to those “use by” and “sell by” dates on food containers. The findings imply that the way foods are packaged can enable waste. Tweaking package sizes may keep consumers from buying more than they’ll eat. But one wide-reaching change would be to standardize date labels—currently unregulated at the federal level—so that they have a consistent meaning.
> Truthout: Americans Need To Stop Trashing 15 Million Tons Of Clothing Every Year (Judy Molland). More than 15 million tons of textile waste is generated every year the US, an amount that has doubled over the last 20 years. On average, each American throws out approximately 80 pounds of used clothing a year. Nationally, it costs cities around $45 per ton to dispose of old clothing. Even worse, synthetic clothing can take hundreds of years to decompose. Most clothing companies seem unconcerned by the environmental impacts of their business. But there are a few exceptions, such as H&M, Nike, and Patagonia. An exciting new development is the emergence of Evrnu, a startup that’s been working with Levi to turn recycled T-shirts into jeans. Buying recycled clothing could be the way of the future, but it may take a while to get established. Meanwhile, there are three key ways consumers can immediately lessen clothing waste: recycling, repairing, and reducing consumption.
> Reuters: Cities Best Armed To Fight Climate Change: U.N. Climate Chief (Reuters). According to Patricia Espinosa, executive secretary of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), cities can have most impact in fighting climate change because they are engines for innovation and also highly vulnerable to a warming planet. More than 140 countries have ratified the Paris agreement on climate change and they are looking for leadership from cities to help them implement commitments their national governments made. Climate change risks will become even more pressing as around two-thirds of people are predicted to live in cities by 2050, with developing countries in particular poised to see their urban populations soar. Data show that more than two thirds of the world’s largest cities are in coastal regions, making their citizens vulnerable to sea level rises, flooding and other extreme weather.
> Yes! Magazine: Crowdfunding Real Estate Isn’t Just For Millionaires Anymore. Could It Be For You? (Alizah Salario). The real estate crowdfunding portal Small Change provides a way for communities to both preserve history and add much-needed housing units in a thriving area, as it did in a Pittsburgh neighborhood with an historic building. Potential investors are attracted to the Small Change website, where they find a thorough description of the property and proposed project. This type of funding is known as “equity crowdfunding.” It differs from sites like GoFundMe and Kickstarter in that the people who contribute are investors seeking a return, not donors supporting a project. Equity crowdfunding is relatively new, and came about in 2012 thanks to the Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act (the JOBS Act) signed into law by President Obama. Anyone over the age of 18 can participate, as long as the offerings are capped at a $1 million raising amount over a 12-month period.
> Common Dreams: For First Time Ever, Majority Of House Dems Support ‘Medicare-For-All’ Bill (Nila Knight). As President Donald Trump and the GOP attempt once again to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA) with a much crueler bill, House Democrats are pushing in the total opposite direction: as of Thursday, a record 104 have signed on to co-sponsor a Medicare-for-All bill. The bill, H.R. 676, known as the “Expanded & Improved Medicare for All Act,” has been introduced into Congress repeatedly by Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.). It has now received support from more than half of the Democratic caucus, a record for the party. Multiple polls in recent years have shown that most Americans support a single-payer system.
> Resilience: What Keeps Me Going (Rob Hopkins). There are a few things that keep me going through these difficult times and which keep me focused on what I can do to help. The first is that you never know where the tipping points are. You never know who will be inspirited to act by what you’ve done or you’re doing. Another is that we have no idea how things are going to turn out, considering remarkable things we’ve done, and what we’re capable of doing. The third is that things are moving so fast that, many of the doors that were thought to be closed are beginning to swing open. I try very hard to put firebreaks into my life. I’ve also come to deeply respect the need for developing a healthy group culture in shared projects. Ultimately what sustains me is a rather heady cocktail of stubbornness, optimism, a strong faith in the human spirit and in other people, rage, a deep wish to live a life of service to others, the thrill of seeing people step up and take their lives into their own hands, all coupled with a deep sense of urgency.
- > Citizens For Sustainability: Monthly Meeting-Forum, Sat., May 20th, 10 a.m.-noon, St. Anthony Village Community Center, 3301 Silver Lake Rd.
- > Transition Twin Cities: Events: Northern Spark Transition Message—May, June; 1st National Gathering of Transition Towns US—July 27-31, Macalester College, St. Paul. For info: (http://transitiontwincities.org/).
- > Citizen’s Climate Lobby: Regular Meetings And Events (www.citizensclimatelobby-mn.org); Meetings in 18 MN locations on the 2nd Saturday of each month to focus on bi partisan Carbon Fee and Dividend Legislation; 36 members of the US House on the Climate Solutions Caucus are involved.
- > Clean Energy Resources Teams (CERTS). MN Energy Stories & Upcoming Events; Calendar.MnCERTs.org
> MN Environmental Partnership (MEP) Upcoming Environmental Events. See website: http://www.mepartnership.org/events/ (search by month)
- > MN350: Climate Campaigns And Projects. For a listing of campaigns, projects, and events, see: http://www.mn350.org/campaigns-projects/
- > Alliance For Sustainability: Linking Citizens, Congregations And Cities For Sustainable Communities. See Projects: http://www.afors.org/
- > Resilience: Think Resilience – Preparing For The Rest Of The 21st Century. This course, consisting of 22 video lectures by Post Carbon Institute Senior Fellow Richard Heinberg, totaling about 4 hours), may be taken at your own leisure ($20). View the video.
- > World Population Balance: The Overpopulation Podcast: Small Family Campaigns & Incentives (Ethicists Colin Hickey & Jake Earl, with Director Dave Gardner); Listen here; One Planet, One Child (worldpopulationbalance.org); Preview: https://youtu.be/T4bed-He-Zk
- > WTS: Weathering The Storm, Michael Conley, Founder-Speaker-Author, Seminars & Presentations; Several offerings: News Flash; Newsletter; Information Services; OLLI Course Hand-outs; Best Practices; Buy The Book (Lethal Trajectories)
- > Conversation Earth: Conversation Earth–Exploring Our Place on the Planet (Dave Gardner, Interviewer). This weekly Radio Series & Podcast provides surprising perspectives from leading thinkers on the most important issues of our time. The latest: Cultural Metamorphosis and What Keeps Us Stuck? with Mike Nickerson; Avoiding Thought Traps: Frances Moore Lappé; and Collision Course: Kerryn Higgs.
- > Population Growth: Population Clock – Poodwaddle World Clock. Watch the population increase minute by minute.
- > Bloomberg News: Bloomberg Carbon Clock. A real-time estimate of the global monthly atmospheric CO2 level.
- > US Debt Clock: U.S. National Debt Clock: Real Time. Every aspect of the economy is documented.
- > Happy Planet Index. The HPI Index measures what matters: sustainable wellbeing, life expectancy, inequality of outcomes, and ecological footprint. America limps in at a thoroughly miserable 108th. About the HPI
Kingdom of the Super Rich? (Original version)
An elite faction of super-rich individuals (and corporations) is exerting increasing negative socio-economic-political effects on American life. Understandably, a majority of citizens are understandably alarmed, including me. The growth of inequality and inequity is undermining democracy, and creating unsustainable long-term living conditions.
Before expressing how much I disrespect the extravagantly wealthy lifestyles of the super rich, I readily acknowledge that we are rich enough, materially and otherwise. Bettye and I are fortunate to enjoy a comfortable lifestyle, one that provides essential needs, as well as some personal wants, including occasional travel, supporting favorite charities, and giving time and energy to worthwhile artistic and sustainability initiatives. Admittedly, we are not exemplars of a super-green, minimalistic lifestyle, only a moderate one. But this doesn’t deter me from expressing some strong biases.
For example, I hold a positive bias for citizens who live moderate lifestyles guided by minimum consumption (having “enough”), green practices (reducing, reusing, recycling), and willingly provide essential goods and services for their fellow citizens. Would that such citizens could inherit the earth—forever!
Conversely, I hold a negative bias for citizens who live extravagant, high-consumption lifestyles, the affluent faction that produces the highest rates of per-capita pollution and waste. It seems justifiable to criticize the super-rich, because their economic aspirations lead to accumulating enormous financial assets (legitimately or not) that are used to exert inordinate power and control over others.
Experts inform us that the ancient evolutionary survival mechanism of gathering and hoarding essential items is ingrained in human DNA. Ergo, those who accumulate the most goods improve their chances of surviving, even prospering aplenty. Yet, as civilization has progressed in achieving higher enlightenment, shouldn’t humanity have developed a more enlightened coping mechanism? Must we continue to be manipulated by egocentric drives and psycho-emotionally addictions that morph into disproportionate wealth and power?
One reason given for why the super rich are driven to accumulate vast amounts of material goods and services is to enhance their self-image and social-image. Their social status is further enhanced with gaining impressive titles, associations with prestigious organizations, influential contacts, and material possessions.
Insularity is common among all strata of society, but the super rich are super segregated from the rest of society. They appear to live in a metaphorical alternative universe, in which they enjoy special privileges, cushy comforts, and pampering by minions (most working folk) who serve their expected needs and wants.
Lest it appear that I’m singling out rich conservatives, I hasten to add that rich liberals are also a part of this self-indulgent phenomenon. A host of Democratic political leaders have demonstrated their appreciation of the high life, including the Kennedys, the Gores, the Clintons, and, more recently, the Obamas. How shocked and disappointed I was to learn that Obama recently received a $400,000 fee for a speech sponsored by a Wall Street firm. But I’ve since learned the Obamas have donated two million dollars to Chicago summer youth programs.
It’s true that many super-rich people donate to worthy causes, some a lot, but the percentage amount of their total income is less than the percentages donated by poor or middle class citizens. Moreover, those intentionally choosing to live moderate lifestyles are very rare. It seems that people living excessively consumptive lifestyles acquire a false sense of reality, the result of living inside a growing protective bubble of affluence that isolates them from the types of problems experienced by less economically fortunate folk.
Our democracy is threatened by a governing system that’s increasingly leaning toward a plutocracy-oligarchy. When an elite group of billionaires and multi-millionaires are in power, attention given to the wellbeing of most Americans, the 90-99%, decreases. The Trump administration is rife with super-rich political appointees, and we’re learning that they care more about enhancing the coffers of the rich than providing sustenance and opportunities for the lower and middle classes. As Timothy Eagan of the New York Times wrote recently: “Wealth gives them [Trump family} the patina of respectability —the American reflex of deference to the rich. But make no mistake: The Trump family and assorted cronies are using the highest office in the land to stuff their pockets” (as further illustrated with the Trump-GOP proposed tax plan).
One eye-opening video I viewed recently on Facebook, thanks to a friend’s posting, is a discussion between two evangelists about why God approves of their private jet-setting travel. Watch it and weep: Kenneth Copeland, Jesse Duplantis, Defending Their Private Jets. And they aren’t the only evangelists with private jets. Do these so-called Christians really believe they have earned and deserve special godly treatment? If so, I think they need to heed this biblical report of Jesus using a hyperbolic figure of speech to emphasize the dangers of being rich (Matthew 19:24): “Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”
Generally speaking, anyone earning millions of dollars annually—entertainers, athletes, and many others in a variety of fields—are actually victims in the existing imbalanced socio-economic-political system, which can distort one’s sense of reality and promote a neurotic dependency on extravagant materialism. The unjustified escalation in incomes of the rich over the past few decades has created a bloated sense of self-worth and importance among the super rich. In addressing the equality-inequality and equity-disparity chasm that separates the super-duper rich from the rest of us, Senator Bernie Sanders reminds us: “You’ve got the top 400 Americans owning more wealth than the bottom 150 million Americans. Most folks do not think that is right.” Agreed!
If you’re wondering what can be done to rectify the growing inequality and equity gap, one of several options is a grassroots activism proposal by Truthdig columnist, Chris Hedges: “The only route left is revolt. If this revolt is to succeed it must be expressed in the language of economic justice. The oligarchs and corporations, many of them proponents of political correctness, are our enemy.” So, yes, down with the kingdom of the super rich!
For ongoing, up-to-date information about inequality, please refer to Inequality.org.