The New Robber Barons

The New Robber Barons

income-inequality-usa-06The world and in particular the United   States seems to be moving rapidly into a new age of robber barons.

A recent report from Oxfam International held a shocking stat. The 85 richest people on the planet have cornered as much wealth as the bottom half of all the people on earth. In other words, 85 people now own as much as 3.5 billion people.

Perhaps even more startling is that the richest 1 percent of the world population has about 65 times as much as the 3.5 billion poorest people. The top 1 percent has $110 trillion, compared to only $1.7 trillion shared by the lowest 50 percent of people.

Oxfam found the money was going in the same direction in all 26 countries in the study.

imagesCAT6F4KQThe income inequality trend has actually been accelerating worldwide, and especially gaining momentum in the U.S. Since 1980, the richest 1 percent of people in the U.S. has seen their wealth grow 150 percent, while 90 percent of the overall population has lost income.

More recently, since 2009, of all the wealth created in the U.S., 95 percent has gone to the wealthiest 1 percent.

How are the rich able to snatch more and more of the available resources? The Oxfam reported cited low taxes on the rich and their ability to avoid taxes through tax shelters and loopholes.income-inequality-usa-13

There’s been a lot of talk lately about income inequality, with even President Obama identifying it as a big threat. Most of the talk centers around the problem as an economic issue. But when so much wealth is concentrated among so few individuals, and people die or suffer as a result, it’s actually a moral question: Is this kind of super wealth a form of evil?

America is often labeled a Christian nation, especially by Christians and if you look at the foundation of Christianity, it’s very anti-wealth. The Bible famously states that, “The love of money is the root of all evil,” and Jesus chased the money changers out of the temple and said “It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter heaven.”

So it seems strange that Christians seem to be largely silent against excessive wealth. When was the last time any Christian leader condemned the wealthy?

But forget about condemnation. Actually, just the opposite is going down. Being wealthy enough to have way more than you need to sustain a comfortable lifestyle is not only an acceptable, but widely lauded goal, in our capitalist society. Billionaires in our culture are not looked on with scorn. They are celebrated celebrities who are admired for having achieved the American dream.

One indicator of just how bad things already are is that the super wealthy have now become so powerful that they are virtually beyond the law. The financial crisis that brought down major financial institutions in the U.S. about five years ago caused tremendous loss, but the wealthy financiers who caused it are still unpunished. The government says they are studying ways to prosecute them, but nothing is really happening. Try stealing something from Wal-Mart and see how long the prosecutors study on whether to throw you in jail. The more you steal today, the less likely you are to face any prison time.

No, just like The Wolf of Wall Street, you’re perceived to be a colorful dynamo. If you’re one of those hoarders on a TV reality show, people think you’re weird. But if you hoard money, you’re viewed as a leader.

The nasty downside of monumental wealth is that there is a finite amount of resources on the planet, and when some people have far more than they can ever use, it leaves many others with less than enough to live on or, even more radically, people die because they can’t get enough food to eat.

With so much wealth at the top of the pyramid, there’s just not enough to go around. Of the earth’s 7 billion inhabitants, 1.2 billion live on $1.25 or less per day. More than 800 million people struggle daily with hunger. An estimated 2.6 million children die of hunger every year.

And with more money moving into the hands of fewer people, those problems are only goingincomeeq to get worse. Poverty, starvation, and deprival will increase. The middle class, the banner lifestyle of Americans for generations, is disappearing. If the trend toward concentration of wealth continues, the U.S. will devolve into a two-class society.

The view of the wealthy needs to change, and they need to be reined in. The old term robber barons is a pretty good description of what the wealthy are doing. The truth is that many wealthy individuals are obsessed with acquiring as much wealth as they can. Their whole life is about piling up lucre, and they don’t care what it does to the masses. Their attitude is, get your own.

Let’s stop admiring the super wealthy. Many of them are dangerous freaks. Don’t believe me? Ask yourself this: If you won $50 million dollars in the lottery tomorrow, what would you do? You’d probably quit your job and retire to a life of luxury for the rest of your life. That’s what most everyone would do.

Except for the types who can never have enough, those who aspire to be super wealthy. If they have $50 million, they’re striving to turn it into $100 million. If they have $100 million, they want to have $1 billion. And it never ends. They can never get enough, because they are fixated only on acquiring wealth.

And it’s become obvious that it doesn’t take that many of these types to create a worldwide crisis, with less than 100 people hoarding as much as 3.5 billion. Things are way out of balance.

What’s the answer? Remember when you were a child and you were taught the importance of sharing? The rich must be forced to share. Sure, most of them do some philanthropy to make themselves look good. But, at the same time, they’re hanging on to most of what they have and plotting to get more.

So someone needs to act to reverse the money flow downward instead of upward.

If that doesn’t happen the risks are enormous, and inevitable, and when people finally get enough of the rich not sharing the resources of the planet, the problem will be resolved by force. But we don’t have to get to that point. One of the dictates of our all cultures should be that society strives for the greatest good for the most people, not for the excesses of a few.

Recipe For Murder – Flash Fiction For 2/14/14

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Photo Copyright Janet Webb

Photo Copyright Janet Webb

Want to avoid the hassle of Valentine’s Day with someone you no longer love? Want to be free of an unwanted relationship? Maybe you’ve found a new valentine and are ready to move on? Concoct this appealing, but deadly beverage. Start with eight ounces of hearty sangria. Jazz it up by adding chunks of fresh strawberries, peach and pineapple. Add one tablespoon of anti-freeze and stir in thoroughly. Serve chilled. Repeat daily for about a week. After a few days, you’ll notice redness around the eyes and blue patches on the face. Get ready for the best Valentine’s Day ever!

Shame On NBC

Jay Leno saying goodbye.

Jay Leno saying goodbye.

Shame On NBC

 Last night Jay Leno said a tearful farewell to his audience of 22 years. Though I don’t usually watch late night talk shows because they’re mainly a forum to hype somebody’s movie, music, book or career, I watched Jay’s last show and my reaction was that the executives at NBC are idiots.

Though not a big fan, I’ve always thought Jay Leno was a class act in a world of lesser lights. The American public thought so too. They made the Tonight Show the top-rated show in its time slot for more than two decades.

So being booted from the boob tube, even though you’re number one, makes no sense to me. NBC is going with the younger, but largely unproven, Jimmy Fallon to replace Leno and attract a more youthful audience. I have nothing against Fallon, but I can state that he’s no Jay Leno or Johnny Carson.

So who are the winners and losers in this late-night shake-up?

The biggest loser, and I can’t help but feel sorry for him, is Leno himself. He obviously would have liked to continue doing his show, and it seems highly unfair that you would headline the most popular show in late night and be unceremoniously dumped. Jay Leno is fabulously wealthy, famous, known by everyone, but what really mattered to him was doing his show, and taking it away was a chickenshit move.

I predict NBC will also be a big loser. I doubt that the network will be able to retain its standing as having the most popular late night talk show for much longer. I might be wrong about this, and I suspect more young people will tune in to Fallon, but I think a lot of young people won’t, because they’re just not into watching much network TV, so I think the risks of NBC’s rash decision far outweigh the benefits.

The winner in all this is David Letterman and CBS. He’s been busting his butt for many years to try to take over the top position in late night. Now, NBC’s stupidity will probably hand him the dominance he’s strived for so long.

Another objection I have is that the show is moving to New York. Why? Can’t Fallon host the show in California where it’s been for decades? There was a certain balance before, with Letterman in New York City and Leno in Burbank.

And the big picture is that capitalism, or simple money grubbing, may be the evil force behind this change. It’s easier to sell stuff to a younger audience. They’re more open to new products and less resistant than older folks and once you get them as your customers, they have more years ahead of them to buy your products. So the TV networks worship youth, and are ready to toss away successful shows not because of the numbers, but because their demographics are too old and stodgy.

It’s a shame what NBC did to Jay Leno. Loyal service and excellence should be rewarded, not tossed on the scrap heap. I hope it backfires on NBC and some of their top executives soon join Jay in the ranks of the unemployed.

A House Divided – Flash Fiction For 2/7/14

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Photo copyright Dawn M. Miller

Photo copyright Dawn M. Miller

A House Divided

A serious young guy was running the yard sale. I asked him about a table of old lamps.
“I collected those, but my ex liked modern. I like antique.”
“Is that why you broke up,” I joked. He didn’t smile.
“It was a lot more than that. She liked carpet. I like wood floors. She liked granite counter tops and stainless steel appliances. I like retro. She liked uncluttered. I like clutter. Now that she’s gone, I’m selling everything and moving away.”
“That’s too bad. So you divorced over home decor?”
“We didn’t divorce. She liked knives. I like guns.”