Paul Buchheit

How right-wing conservatives laid waste to America for 50 years

What is a conservative? We've seen a lot of them in 2020, refusing to respect the needs of society.

The Heritage Foundation says: "Foremost among [conservatism's] transcendent values is the individual's use of his God-given free will, whence derives his right to be free from the restrictions of arbitrary force." Stanford University adds: "For conservatives, individuals and local communities are better assessors of their own needs and problems than distant bureaucrats." A 2003 study for the American Psychological Association stated: "The core ideology of conservatism stresses resistance to change and justification of inequality." There are many other forms and definitions of conservatism as political, economic, and social philosophies. The usage here may best be understood as the evolving marriage of individualism and neoliberalism (privatization, deregulation, low taxes, austerity) since the 1970s.

Conservatism has made 'social' a dirty word. Here are some of the details of fifty years of damage inflicted on America.

The Disastrous Effect of Placing Individuals Over Society

The anti-government, "all about freedom" individuality of conservatives has failed terribly in a time of national emergency. How did the misdirected mindset get its start? With Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman, who are commonly referenced with connection to neoliberalism. Friedman is the author of some remarkable quotes: "The free market system distributes the fruits of economic progress among all people." And, according to The Guardian: "There is evidence that a democratic society, once established, destroys a free economy."

Then came Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher. The former UK Prime Minister said about society: "There is no such thing! There are individual men and women and there are families."Reagan, whose campaign slogan was, familiarly, "Let's make America great again," famously stated that "Government is not the solution to our problem; government IS the problem."

So now, at a time when we need to work together as a society rather than as a crowd of individuals, we've been betrayed by conservatism. As historian Neil J. Young puts it, "Now, 40 years later amid a global pandemic, that unbridled individualism has shown its deadly dimensions in Trump and the Republicans' lack of response to COVID-19...it's evident in the millions of Americans who—in refusing to wear masks, practice social distance, and momentarily deny their self-gratification—have selfishly exploited the language of 'individual responsibility' as license for their own recklessness."

Just as frightening is the recent conservative Supreme Court church-gathering decision that "placed religious freedom before pandemic precautions."

Deregulation and Subsidies: Corporations Running Rampant


The euphemistically-named Citizens United (CU) is an example of the deceptive measures used by conservatives. CU refers to an initiative that "seeks to reassert the traditional American values of limited government, freedom of enterprise, strong families, and national sovereignty and security." But it helps corporations, not citizens, by allowing unlimited funding for corporate-friendly candidates.

Conservatives argue for less government intervention—except when it comes to subsidies. Leading the pack of favor-seeking lobbyist groups is the pharmaceutical industry. Few companies have benefited more than Pfizer, whose former CEO Ian Read once complained that U.S. taxes had his company fighting "with one hand tied behind our back." In 2019 Pfizer made nearly half of its $17.7 billion in profits in the U.S., yet the company claimed $1.8 billion in federal and state tax refunds. And it takes from America in another way. In recent years Pfizer has increased the prices of dozens of prescription drugs at over ten times the rate of inflation.

Now Pfizer is basking in the glow of media coverage for the so-called "Pfizer Vaccine." The company deserves credit for its all-out efforts to distribute the medication to millions of people. But the vaccine was created by the Turkish/German founders of BioNTech, Ugur Sahin and Ozlem Tureci, who guided the development of the messenger RNA process that triggers an immune reaction against Covid. The groundwork for the relatively rapid production of the vaccine was laid in place at the National Institutes of Health and the University of Pennsylvania by research on the prior SARS and MERS outbreaks. More expertise came from the taxpayer-funded Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Centers for Disease Control (CDC). According to Dr. Anthony Fauci, "The speed is a reflection of years of work that went before." Indeed, a successful vaccine is the product of long-term social cooperation, not individualism.

Inequality: Going Viral

Thanks to the insidious conservative-minded 50-year-old "trickle-down" philosophy—which astoundingly continues to be preached by many of the super-rich—inequality has stretched our nation nearly to the breaking point.

At one end, the 25 million adults who make up the richest 10% of America increased their wealth in this pandemic year by an average of $200,000 each.

At the other end: it is estimated by Moody's Analytics that nearly 12 million American renters will owe an average of $5,850 in back rent and utilities by the beginning of 2021. Little of America's surging income and wealth since the 1970s has gone to the poorest 50%.

Some Hope?

Philosopher and political economist John Stuart Mill once said, "Conservatives are not necessarily stupid, but most stupid people are conservatives."

As Mill made clear, smart people have also gravitated to the conservative side. Among them were the aforementioned anti-government crusaders Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman, who expressed support for a Universal Basic Income. In fact, the UBI concept has been promoted by both political parties over the years. But it will take the will and fortitude of Congress to make it a reality. And Congress is overflowing with John Stuart Mill's conservatives.

Paul Buchheit is an advocate for social and economic justice, and the author of numerous papers on economic inequality and cognitive science. He was recently named one of 300 Living Peace and Justice Leaders and Models. He is the author of "American Wars: Illusions and Realities" (2008) and "Disposable Americans: Extreme Capitalism and the Case for a Guaranteed Income" (2017). Contact email: paul (at) youdeservefacts.org.

How right-wing conservatives and their insidious 'trickle-down' philosophy inflicted 50 years of damage on the US

What is a conservative? We've seen a lot of them in 2020, refusing to respect the needs of society.

The Heritage Foundation says: "Foremost among [conservatism's] transcendent values is the individual's use of his God-given free will, whence derives his right to be free from the restrictions of arbitrary force." Stanford University adds: "For conservatives, individuals and local communities are better assessors of their own needs and problems than distant bureaucrats." A 2003 study for the American Psychological Association stated: "The core ideology of conservatism stresses resistance to change and justification of inequality." There are many other forms and definitions of conservatism as political, economic, and social philosophies. The usage here may best be understood as the evolving marriage of individualism and neoliberalism (privatization, deregulation, low taxes, austerity) since the 1970s.

Conservatism has made 'social' a dirty word. Here are some of the details of fifty years of damage inflicted on America.

The Disastrous Effect of Placing Individuals Over Society

The anti-government, "all about freedom" individuality of conservatives has failed terribly in a time of national emergency. How did the misdirected mindset get its start? With Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman, who are commonly referenced with connection to neoliberalism. Friedman is the author of some remarkable quotes: "The free market system distributes the fruits of economic progress among all people." And, according to The Guardian: "There is evidence that a democratic society, once established, destroys a free economy."

Then came Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher. The former UK Prime Minister said about society: "There is no such thing! There are individual men and women and there are families."Reagan, whose campaign slogan was, familiarly, "Let's make America great again," famously stated that "Government is not the solution to our problem; government IS the problem."

So now, at a time when we need to work together as a society rather than as a crowd of individuals, we've been betrayed by conservatism. As historian Neil J. Young puts it, "Now, 40 years later amid a global pandemic, that unbridled individualism has shown its deadly dimensions in Trump and the Republicans' lack of response to COVID-19...it's evident in the millions of Americans who—in refusing to wear masks, practice social distance, and momentarily deny their self-gratification—have selfishly exploited the language of 'individual responsibility' as license for their own recklessness."

Just as frightening is the recent conservative Supreme Court church-gathering decision that "placed religious freedom before pandemic precautions."

Deregulation and Subsidies: Corporations Running Rampant

The euphemistically-named Citizens United (CU) is an example of the deceptive measures used by conservatives. CU refers to an initiative that "seeks to reassert the traditional American values of limited government, freedom of enterprise, strong families, and national sovereignty and security." But it helps corporations, not citizens, by allowing unlimited funding for corporate-friendly candidates.

Conservatives argue for less government intervention—except when it comes to subsidies. Leading the pack of favor-seeking lobbyist groups is the pharmaceutical industry. Few companies have benefited more than Pfizer, whose former CEO Ian Read once complained that U.S. taxes had his company fighting "with one hand tied behind our back." In 2019 Pfizer made nearly half of its $17.7 billion in profits in the U.S., yet the company claimed $1.8 billion in federal and state tax refunds. And it takes from America in another way. In recent years Pfizer has increased the prices of dozens of prescription drugs at over ten times the rate of inflation.

Now Pfizer is basking in the glow of media coverage for the so-called "Pfizer Vaccine." The company deserves credit for its all-out efforts to distribute the medication to millions of people. But the vaccine was created by the Turkish/German founders of BioNTech, Ugur Sahin and Ozlem Tureci, who guided the development of the messenger RNA process that triggers an immune reaction against Covid. The groundwork for the relatively rapid production of the vaccine was laid in place at the National Institutes of Health and the University of Pennsylvania by research on the prior SARS and MERS outbreaks. More expertise came from the taxpayer-funded Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Centers for Disease Control (CDC). According to Dr. Anthony Fauci, "The speed is a reflection of years of work that went before." Indeed, a successful vaccine is the product of long-term social cooperation, not individualism.

Inequality: Going Viral

Thanks to the insidious conservative-minded 50-year-old "trickle-down" philosophy—which astoundingly continues to be preached by many of the super-rich—inequality has stretched our nation nearly to the breaking point.

At one end, the 25 million adults who make up the richest 10% of America increased their wealth in this pandemic year by an average of $200,000 each.

At the other end: it is estimated by Moody's Analytics that nearly 12 million American renters will owe an average of $5,850 in back rent and utilities by the beginning of 2021. Little of America's surging income and wealth since the 1970s has gone to the poorest 50%.

Some Hope?

Philosopher and political economist John Stuart Mill once said, "Conservatives are not necessarily stupid, but most stupid people are conservatives."

As Mill made clear, smart people have also gravitated to the conservative side. Among them were the aforementioned anti-government crusaders Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman, who expressed support for a Universal Basic Income. In fact, the UBI concept has been promoted by both political parties over the years. But it will take the will and fortitude of Congress to make it a reality. And Congress is overflowing with John Stuart Mill's conservatives.

Inequality gone viral: Here are the shocking numbers behind America's economic illness

In a distressing analogy to the relentless surge of Covid-19, which has disproportionately impacted low-income communities and people of color, there has been an unstoppable transfer of wealth from desperate Americans to the people who already had most of our nation's financial assets.

While the great majority of us have been focusing on the health and well-being — and the very survival — of loved ones, the super-rich have become "pandemic profiteers," isolating themselves from Covid while riding the stock market to its highest-ever level. At the same time we are seeing a dramatic demonstration of Naomi Klein's Shock Doctrine, with the "perfect conditions for governments and the global elite to implement political agendas that would otherwise be met with great opposition if we weren't all so disoriented."

We need to ask ourselves: In a year of disease and death and destroyed families, should a massive, inexplicable increase in new American financial wealth go to billionaires or to health care workers? Should unearned gains go to the few hundred richest Americans or to the millions of American households who have lost their means of support?

The numbers are shocking. Here's what happened in the year 2020:

An Average of $200,000 Each to the Richest 10% of Americans. In November of 2019 the Wilshire Total Market stood at about $32 trillion. After plunging at the start of the pandemic, by November of 2020 it had risen to $38 trillion. That's a $6 TRILLION overall increase for stockholders. The richest 10% of Americans (about 25 million adults, most of them millionaires (Table 5-8)) own 84 percent (Table 10) of ALL stocks.

An Average of $1.5 Billion Each to the Richest 650 Individuals. Since the onset of Covid-19 in early 2020, the combined wealth of the 650 American billionaires has increased by nearly $1 trillion. A trillion dollars is enough to provide every U.S. household with a survival stipend of nearly $8,000.

An Average of $25 Billion Each to the Richest 15 Individuals. Bezos, Musk, Gates, Zuckerberg, and the eleven other richest Americans had $922 billion around this time last year. As of Thanksgiving Day this year, their wealth had increased by another $375 billion. That's $25 billion more, on average, for each multi-billionaire, although Elon Musk alone has added about $80 billion to his fortune.

An Average of $600 Billion Each to the 5 Richest Tech Companies.
In March, 2020 the market capitalization for Big Tech (Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, Google, Facebook) was $4.1 trillion. By November it was over $7 trillion. A 75 percent increase in under nine months! No one has profited more from 70 years of taxpayer input than these massive technology companies.

At the Other End of Inequality

While the pandemic profits roll in for the millionaires and billionaires, the plight of low-income Americans is growing more life-threatening every day. Just in the past three months, according to research at the University of Chicago and Notre Dame, six million people have been added to the ranks of the poverty-stricken, with the most dire effects on Black people and children.

Many Americans can't even feed themselves and their children. Nearly 26 million adults -- one in nine -- have reported that their households sometimes or often lacked food.

"Pandemics should be the great equalizer," says political analyst Fareed Zakaria. But instead "the virus is ushering in the greatest rise in economic inequality in decades, both globally and in the United States." Brookings agrees, adding that "the costs of the pandemic are being borne disproportionately by poorer segments of society."

What Can We Do?

We won't end the accumulation of wealth. As Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez says, "No one ever makes a billion dollars. You take a billion dollars."

And we won't end corporate welfare. While we laud the work of the pharmaceutical companies in developing a vaccine, and that of the tech companies for providing us ways to communicate with each other during quarantine, everything they've done stems from decades of research and development paid for by U.S. taxpayers, and supplemented by government subsidies. But the CEOs and stockholders get all the benefits.

The only solution may be an implementation of Modern Monetary Theory, the pumping of money into the general population through a Guaranteed Income, so that the ever-expanding disparities in wealth can be countered by a surge in middle- and lower-class wealth.

Something has to be done to heal the rupture in the sickened body of our nation.

Here are 4 numbers that show America's stunning disdain for its most vulnerable people

Hundreds of thousands of Americans have suffered "deaths of despair" from alcohol and drug abuse and suicides because they could no longer provide for their families. Even before the COVID-19 crisis, during a post-recession period when the economy and stock market were booming, the poorest 50% of Americans lost wealth. And now many of them have lost their jobs, their income, their livelihoods.

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No, we're not all in this together — the super-rich are cheating America

Media outlets keep telling us that we're all together in this pandemic. But we're not. The super-rich have separated themselves from the rest of us, with concierge medicine, private travel accommodations, isolated but well-stocked resort homes, and a variety of other advantages that allow them to look beyond the hardships endured by average Americans.

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Here are 3 dark and disturbing reasons why Trump could win again

It seems absurd to believe that America could make the same mistake again, to elect an ignorant and vulgar narcissist to the most powerful position in the world. But we can't underestimate the ability of the self-serving super-rich to convince millions of Americans that a surging stock market and a powerful military are essential to their livelihoods. All at the expense of jobs and health care and education.

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How a failing capitalist system is allowing Amazon to cripple America

Capitalism is failing in America, and Amazon is both the cause and beneficiary of much of the breakdown. Jeff Bezos said, "We've had three big ideas at Amazon that we've stuck with for 18 years, and they're the reason we're successful: Put the customer first. Invent. And be patient." He might have added three capitalist practices familiar to his company: (1) Pay no taxes; (2) Drive competitors out of business; and (3) Exploit workers.

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Here are 3 reasons the super-rich should embrace a 70% tax rate

Senator Lindsey Graham once said, "It's really American to avoid paying taxes...It's a game we play."

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The Taking of Millennial Wealth By Rich White Boomers

Ten years after the recession, most Americans, including Baby Boomers, are still struggling with finances. The Wall Street Journal, cheerleader for capitalist-driven recoveries, noted that Millennials, Gen-Xers, and Boomers are all still poorer than in 2007. But the incredible prosperity of about 10% of the Boomers is beyond dispute, as the numbers below will show. Most of those lucky people are older whitemales

Booming Economy? Yes, for the Richest 10%, Who Took 85 Percent of the New Wealth

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A Vile Act of Inhumanity: Splitting Up Families Like the Slave Traders Did

Jeff Sessions said, "[Your] child will be separated from you as required by law. If you don't like that, then don't smuggle children over our border." John Kelly, White House chief of staff, added, "The children will be taken care of — put into foster care or whatever." Yes, he said "whatever." 

This isn't much different from slave-trading days. People then were forced INTO the country and families separated; now they're forced OUT OF the country and families separated. In both cases families have done whatever is necessary, in their own personal worlds, to survive and stay together and find happiness. And in both cases an institution of authority has made rules on behalf of the better-positioned segment of society, rules which impact the lives of those deemed somehow less valuable. 

This may not be the deadliest act committed by American leaders, but it's incomparably vile in its cruelty toward human beings who have been living among us, sometimes for many years. For conservatives who are always preaching the importance of stable families, it's shocking to see the little opposition to breaking up and turning out so many loving mothers and fathers and children. 


Destroying a Family 175 Years Ago 

In 12 Years a Slave, Solomon Northup tells us about Eliza, a slave woman with two young children, 10-year-old Randall and 7-year-old Emily, all three of them owned by a slave trader with the ironical name Freeman. When Randall was taken from her in a slave auction, Eliza, in a "paroxysm of grief," begged and beseeched the buyer to take all three of them, promising to be the most faithful slave that ever lived. But he couldn't afford them all. Eliza embraced her son passionately for the last time, kissing him again and again, until the threat of a whip on her back forced her to release him. His last words were "Don’t cry, mama. I will be a good boy. Don’t cry." 

Then another man came to buy Eliza herself, and this prompted Northup to narrate: "[N]ever have I seen such an exhibition of intense, unmeasured, and unbounded grief, as when Eliza was parted from her child. She broke from her place in the line of women, and rushing down where Emily was standing, caught her in her arms. The child, sensible of some impending danger, instinctively fastened her hands around her mother’s neck, and nestled her little head upon her bosom. Freeman sternly ordered her to be quiet...Then, with a volley of great oaths, he struck her such a heartless blow, that she staggered backward, and was like to fall. Oh! how piteously then did she beseech and beg and pray that they might not be separated. Why could they not be purchased together? Why not let her have one of her dear children? 'Mercy, mercy, master!' she cried, falling on her knees. 'Please, master, buy Emily. I can never work any if she is taken from me: I will die.'" 

The purchaser, taking pity on her, offered to buy both of them, but Freeman refused, as Northup recounts: "'I won’t sell her. She’s not for sale.' There were heaps and piles of money to be made of her, he said, when she was a few years older. There were men enough in New-Orleans who would give five thousand dollars for such an extra, handsome, fancy piece as Emily would be.." 

As Eliza cried out in anguish, Freeman "tore Emily from her mother by main force, the two clinging to each other with all their might. 'Don’t leave me, mama--don’t leave me,' screamed the child...stretching forth her little arms imploringly. But she cried in vain. Out of the door and into the street we were quickly hurried. Still we could hear her calling to her mother, 'Come back--don’t leave me--come back, mama,' until her infant voice grew faint and still more faint, and gradually died away.." 


Destroying a Family Today 

The Time story "No One Is Safe" tells about the family of Alejandro and Maria and their two young daughters, Isabella, who was just starting to talk, and Estefania, who was beginning to take her first steps. A third child was on the way. 

Early on a Friday morning, as he drove to his job of picking grapes, pistachios and oranges in California’s Central Valley, immigration agents scrambled out of two cars at a stop sign and arrested him as a "fugitive alien" for overstaying his visa. When Maria got his call from the police station she immediately feared the worst. Despite having no criminal record, not even a speeding ticket, and for ten years doing the punishing but essential field labor that most Americans avoid, and while just beginning a family that dearly depended on him for income, he was subject to immediate deportation to Mexico. He was gone in a month. 

Word of Alejandro's fate quickly spread through the neighborhood. Immigration agents were seen near the park. At times like this, people in a besieged community, some of them desperately poor, are afraidto even apply for food stamps for fear of being raided by government agents. And it terrifies the children. Six-year-old Angel Ortiz was getting ready for school when he saw immigration agents take away his father. Now when he sees DEA agents on TV, he yells out, "Those guys kidnapped my daddy!" It's reminiscent of another U.S. policy that targets people unwanted by American leaders, that of the drone wars, which caused a 13-year-old Pakistani boy to say, "I no longer love blue skies...The drones do not fly when the skies are gray." 

Alejandro's wife Maria now has three little daughters, all citizens, but she herself is undocumented, so she's in constant fear of being deported herself. "It’s a cruel way to live," she says. One effect of the family split-up is that Maria herself has to work in the fields to support her three children. She talks about her little girls growing up without their father: "It’s the worst thing that you can do to a family." When Alejandro calls on FaceTime from 1,000 miles away, Isabella, who is 2-1/2, tells her father that she loves him. She may not see him for years. 

Counting the Ways this is Inhumane 

These are human beings, part of a sacred bond of parents and children united together as a family. Conservatives blame broken families for society's dysfunction, but they just sit by as families are broken up. 

More than 90 percent of deportation attempts in the first two months of the Trump administration were against people who had committed no crime other than to be living in the country without required documents. 

Further, as Juan Cole suggests, it is inexcusably wrong-minded to "take US citizen children away from their mothers and fathers all of a sudden, giving them no time to make alternate arrangements. As for foster homes, with all due respect to the dedicated people who often run them, social science has proven that they are the biggest producer of a criminal class in the US." 

And as for John Kelly's detestably dismissive "foster care or whatever" comment, many parents, according to Jorge-Mario Cabrera, the communications director at the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA), don’t have a trusted friend or relative available to take care of their children. 

Worst of all, many studies show the devastating effects on disrupted families, including higher rates of poverty, along with the psychological, educational, economic, and social damage suffered by children, and even stress-related physiological changes in unborn children. 


Immigrants Are Not the Problem.. 

Immigrants have proven to be entrepreneurs, job creators, neighborhood boosters, and generally law-abiding citizens. Immigrants are not the problem. The massive 30-year transfer of wealth to the richest 2%to 5% of the American people is a big part of the problem. Immigrants are an easy scapegoat for a deteriorating society. Stripping them from their children is the vilest act of inhumanity. 

Big Pharma, Big Oil and Big Banks' Ongoing Assault on Us Meets the Definition of 'Terrorism'

Various definitions of terrorism have been proposed in recent years, by organizations such as the FBI, the State DepartmentHomeland Security, and the ACLU. Some common threads persist throughout the definitions: violence, injury or death, intimidation, intentionality, multiple targets, political motivation. All the criteria are met by pharmaceutical and oil and financial companies. They have all injured and intimidated the American public, and caused people to die, with intentionality shown by their refusal to acknowledge evidence of their misdeeds, and political motives clear in their lobbying efforts, where among all U.S. industries Big Pharma is #1, Big Oil is #5, and Securities/Investment #8. 

The terror inflicted on Americans is real, and is documented by the facts to follow. 


Big Pharma: Qualifying for Trump's Call for Capital Punishment for Drug Dealers 

In a Time Magazine article a young man named Chad Colwell says "I got prescribed painkillers, Percocet and Oxycontin, and then it just kind of took off from there." Time adds: "Prescriptions gave way to cheaper, stronger alternatives. Why scrounge for a $50 pill of Percocet when a tab of heroin can be had for $5?" About 75% of heroin addicts used prescription opioids before turning to heroin. 

Any questions about Big Pharma's role in violence and death in America have been answered by the Centers for Disease Control and the American Journal of Public Health. Any doubts about Big Pharma's intentions to intimidate the public have been put to rest by the many occasions of outrageous price gouging. And any uncertainty about political pressure is removed by its #1 lobbying ranking

As for malicious intentions, Bernie Sanders noted, "We know that pharmaceutical companies lied about the addictive impacts of opioids they manufactured." Purdue Pharma knew all about the devastating addictive effects of its painkiller Oxycontin, and even pleaded guilty in 2007 to misleading regulators, doctors, and patients about the drug’s risk. Now Purdue and other drug companies are facing a lawsuitfor "deceptively marketing opioids" and ignoring the misuse of their drugs. 

No jail for the opioid pushers, though, just slap-on-the-wrist fines that can be made up with a few price increases. But partly as a result of Pharma-related violence, Americans are suffering "deaths of despair"-- death by drugs, alcohol and suicide. Suicide is at its highest level in 30 years


Big Oil: Decades of Terror 

Any doubts about the ecological terror caused by fossil fuel companies have been dispelled by the World Health Organization, the American Lung Association, the United Nations, the Pentagon, cooperating governments, and independent research groups, all of whom agree that human-induced climate change is killing people. 

The oil industry's intentionality and political motives have been demonstrated by their refusal to admit the known truth, starting with Exxon, which has covered up its own climate research for 40 years, and continuing through multi-million dollar lobbying efforts by Amoco, the US Chamber of Commerce, General Motors, Koch Industries, and other corporations in their effort to dismantle the Kyoto Protocol against global warming. 


Big Banks: Leaving Suicidal Former Homeowners Behind 

Any doubts about the violence stemming from the 2008 mortgage crisis have been resolved by studies of recession-caused suicides. Both the British Journal of Psychiatry and the National Institutes of Healthfound definite links between the recession and the rate of suicides. 

As with Big Pharma and Big Oil, intentionality and political motives are evident in the banking industry's lobbying efforts on behalf of deregulation -- leading to the same conditions that threatened American homeowners in 2008. There has also been a surge in the number of non-bank lenders, who are less subject to regulation. 

Making it all worse are private developers, who make most of their profits by building fancy homes for the rich. And by avoiding affordable housing. Since the recession, Blackstone and other private equity firms -- with government subsidies -- have been buying up foreclosed houses, holding them till prices appreciate, and in the interim renting them back at exorbitant prices. 

This is leaving more and more Americans out in the cold -- literally. A head of household in the U.S. needs to make $21.21 an hour to afford a two-bedroom apartment at HUD standards, much more than the $16.38 they actually earn. Since the recession, the situation has continually worsened. From 2010 to 2016 the number of housing units priced for very low-income families plummeted 60 percent. 

Here's the big picture: Since the 1980s there's been a massive redistribution of wealth from middle-class housing to the investment portfolios of people with an average net worth of $75 million. It's not hard to understand the "deaths of despair" caused by the terror inflicted on people losing their homes. 

Three More Reasons for Wealth-Deprived Americans to Take to the Streets

It's starting to happen, as teachers around the country are fighting back against income and wealth inequality. At least 3 of every 4 Americans have been cheated out of a share of U.S. productivity since the 1980s. The approximately one of four Americans who have prospered, especially those in the top 5%, generally don't seem to care much about inequality, and instead hang onto delusions about their own self-worth and the struggles of people who "don't work hard enough." 

From various trusted sources come maddening facts about the relentlessly expanding wealth divide. Inequality is a perversion of human conduct, as most of society's new benefits have derived from automation, and thus from decades of public input, taxpayer funding, and government research. But the beneficiaries are those who are well-connected to the corporate and financial processes exploiting that growth, mainly through stock ownership. 

The rest of America has been left behind, but their voices are getting louder. 

(1) In Just the Last 3 Years, the Richest 5% Gained an Average of $800,000 While the Poorest 50% LOST Wealth 

This information comes from the 2017 Global Wealth Databook, and is summarized here. Incredibly, the richest 5% of Americans increased their average wealth from about $4 million to nearly $5 million since the end of 2014. 

Meanwhile, the average household wealth of the poorest 50% actually went DOWN by about $200. The middle class (50-90%) increased their wealth by anywhere from $6,000 to $26,000 during that financially productive time. 


(2) The Wealth Owned by 90% of Us in the 1980s Has Been Redistributed to the Richest .1% 

The charts below from the World Inequality Lab reveal this terrible truth about the past 35 years: 

-----The richest 125,000 households owned 7 percent of the wealth then, 22 percent now 
-----The poorest 112,000,000 households owned 37 percent of the wealth then, 23 percent now 

So nearly 15 percent of our nation's total household wealth -- $14 trillion! -- has been transfered from middle-class America to people with an average net worth of $75 million

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A 2% Financial Wealth Tax Would Provide a $12,000 Annual Stipend to Every American Household

It's not hard to envision the benefits in work opportunities, stress reduction, child care, entrepreneurial activity, and artistic pursuits for American households given an extra $1,000 per month. It's also very easy to justify a financial wealth tax, given that the dramatic stock market surge in recent years is largely due to an unprecedented degree of technological and financial productivity that derives from the work efforts and taxes of all Americans. A 2% annual tax on financial wealth is a small price to pay for the great fortunes bestowed on the most fortunate Americans.

The reasons? Careful analysis reveals a number of excellent arguments for the implementation of a universal basic income (UBI).

1. Our jobs are disappearing.

A 2013 Oxford study determined that nearly half of American jobs are at risk of being replaced by computers, AI and robots. Society simply can't keep up with technology. As for the skeptics who cite the Industrial Revolution and its job-enhancing aftermath (which actually took 60 years to develop), the McKinsey Global Institute says that society is being transformed at a pace "ten times faster and at 300 times the scale" of the radical changes of 200 years ago.

2. Half of America is stressed out or sick.

Half of all Americans are in or near poverty, unable to meet emergency expenses, living from paycheck to paycheck, and getting physically and emotionally ill because of it. Numerous UBI experiments have led to increased well-being for their participants. A guaranteed income reduces the debilitating effects of inequality. As one recipient put it, "It takes me out of depression...I feel more sociable."

3. Children need our help.

This could be the best reason for monthly household stipends. Parents, especially mothers, are unable to work outside the home because of the need to care for their children. Because we currently lack a UBI, more and more children are facing hunger and health problems and educational disadvantages.

4. We need more entrepreneurs.

A sudden influx of $12,000 per year for 126 million households would greatly stimulate the economy, potentially allowing millions of Americans to take risks that could lead to new forms of innovation and productivity.

Perhaps most significantly, a guaranteed income could relieve some of the pressure on our newest generation of young adults, who are deep in debt, underemployed, increasingly unable to live on their own, and ill-positioned to take the entrepreneurial chances that are needed to spur innovative business growth. No other group of Americans could make more productive use of an immediate boost in income.

5. We need the arts and sciences.

A recent Gallup poll found that nearly 70% of workers don't feel "engaged" (enthusiastic and committed) in their jobs. The work chosen by UBI recipients could unleash artistic talents and creative impulses that have been suppressed by personal financial concerns, leading, very possibly, to a repeat of the 1930s, when the Works Progress Administration hired thousands of artists and actors and musicians to help sustain the cultural needs of the nation.

Arguments Against

The usual uninformed and condescending opposing argument is that UBI recipients will waste the money, spending it on alcohol and drugs and other "temptation" goods. Not true. Studies from the World Bank and the Brooks World Poverty Institute found that money going to poor families is used primarily for essential needs, and that the recipients experience greater physical and mental well-being as a result of their increased incomes.

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America's Richest 2% Made More Money in 2017 Than the Cost of the Entire Safety Net

How was their money made? Almost entirely by passively waiting for the stock market to go up. The data sources for this report are Forbes and Credit Suisse, both of which provide precise numbers for the worsening surge in America's wealth inequality. 

U.S. wealth increased by $8.5 trillion in 2017, with the richest 2% getting about $1.15 trillion (details here), which is more than the total cost of Medicaid (federal and state) and the complete safety net, both mandatory and discretionary, including the low-income programs that make up the social support package derisively referred to as 'welfare.' 

Surprisingly, the richest 1% did not increase their wealth by much in 2017 (although they took nearly $4 trillion in 2016). That means the second half of the richest 2%, Americans with an average net worth of approximately $10 million, outgained the safety net all by themselves in the past year. 

Another stunner: The richest 2-5%, those Americans with an average net worth of about $2.5 million, accumulated enough wealth in 2017 to pay for the safety net four times. 

Two Men Made More Money than the Total Cost of Food Stamps 

Food stamps provide about $1.50 per meal for 42 million Americans, mostly children, the elderly, and the disabled, at a cost in 2017 of $64 billion. In the past year Jeff Bezos and Mark Zuckerberg have together accumulated over $64 billion in new wealth. 

Jeff Bezos has used tax havens and high-priced lobbyists to avoid the taxes owed by his company. Mark Zuckerberg created a 'charitable' foundation, which in reality is a tax-exempt limited liability company, leaving him free to make political donations or sell his holdings, all without paying taxes. But in one year the two of them made enough from their investments to feed most of America's hungry. 

And Republicans Are Cutting Food Stamps? 

The Republicans think the food stamp program is too costly and ridden with fraud. Apparently, $1.50 per meal for children and seniors is too costly for them. As for fraud, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has estimated that only 1 penny of every food stamp dollar is used fraudulently. To complete the insult and the injury, Republicans want to drop care packages on millions of Americans, as if they were third-world aid recipients, unable to make their own decisions. 

American inequality is extreme, shameful, perverse, and growing. While over 100 million (2 out of 5) American adults are among the world's richest 10%, up to 50 million (1 out of 5) American adults are among the world's poorest 10%. 

Yet by some unfathomable measure of ignorance or malice, Republicans cheer on the millionaire-making stock market while telling the most vulnerable Americans that they're spending too much on food. 

Millions of Americans Are Among the Poorest People in the World

In 2015 it was reported that up to 50 million American adults had negative wealth and thus numbered among the poorest 10 percent of the world's adults. This was disputed by Vox writer Matthew Yglesias, who said, "...that's absurd. The poorest people in the world are the people with rock-bottom material living standards."

It's difficult for many Americans to admit the truth about extreme poverty in our country. Our poorest citizens may not be living in a farming village where they eat millet soup and walk a mile for water. But they have to deal with homelessness, alcoholism, mental health disease, opioid addiction, stress-inducing indebtedness and inequality, and pollution levels that are the highest in the developed world. All of that makes for rock-bottom living standards.

According to Credit Suisse data over the past three years, anywhere from 4 to 10 percent of the world's poorest decile are Americans. That's 20 to 50 million adults. It's likely that many of them are only temporarily in debt, and that they have a much better chance than a third-world villager to climb out of poverty. But it's just as likely that they'll be replaced by other impoverished Americans, especially with an aging population woefully unprepared for retirement, and with the great majority of new job prospects temporary or contract-based, without security or benefits.

A Second Denial

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3 Reasons Why Millions Still Support Trump

It's incomprehensible to many of us that people could support a president who, in Bernie Sanders' words, "is compulsively dishonest, who is a bully, who actively represents the interests of the billionaire class, who is anti-science, and who is trying to divide us up based on the color of our skin, our nation of origin, our religion, our gender, or our sexual orientation." 

Based on various trusted sources and a dab of cognitive science, it's fair to conclude that there are three main reasons for this unlikely phenomenon. 

1. Trump's Followers Believe They're Better Than Other People 

Nationalism, exceptionalism, narcissism, racism. They're all part of the big picture, although it's unfair to simply dismiss Trump people as ignorant racists. Many of them are well-educated and wealthy. But well-to-do individuals tend to feel entitledsuperioruninterested in the people they consider beneath them, and less willing to support the needs of society. Thus many wealthy white Americans are just fine with Trump's disdain for the general population. 

Poorer whites also feel superior, in the sense that they're reluctant to give up their long-time self-assigned position at the top of the racial hierarchy. 

Trump and the Republicans don't seem to care at all about poor people, especially people of color. It's nearly beyond belief that they'd allow a father to be torn away from his family after living in the U.S. for 30 years; that they'd allow tens of thousands of Americans to sleep outside in subzero weather; or that they'd ignore the women and children being blown up by our bombs in Yemen

2. They're Driven by Hatred for Their Perceived Enemies 

According to an ancient proverb, the enemy of my enemy is my friend. For many besieged Americans, the friend is Donald Trump, the enemy of his followers' enemies, based on his belligerent put-downs of so many target groups that have been recklessly blamed for America's problems. He's been against a 'lying' media, 'job-stealing' immigrants, 'business-stifling' environmentalists, 'elites' like Hillary Clinton who are thought to look down on struggling middle-class whites, and the LGBTQ community and pro-abortion groups, which threaten the religious right's 'traditional' values to a point they consider much worse than Trump's moral depravity. 

Their greatest enemy may be the traditional politician, who has allowed the middle class to falter. Trump is unconventional, different from anyone before him. As long as their president is disrupting the status quo, change is happening, and any change, his supporters believe, is likely to defeat one or more of their enemies. 

3. They Refuse to Admit They Were Wrong 

In fact, the more they're proven wrong, the stronger their resolve. This is called cognitive dissonance. It's common for conservatives to construct their personal beliefs on a moral basis, to adhere to them in the face of any controversy, and if necessary to reshape the evidence to fit these beliefs. Many conservatives continue to fall for Trump's hyperbole about a "booming" economy and new jobs and better times to come. 

Conservatives even tend to believe that inequality is part of the natural order, and that any attempt to change it is senseless. Cognitive dissonance kicks in for them when they are confronted with the overwhelming evidence for a collapsing middle class. Rather than re-evaluating their beliefs, they go to the other extreme and defend the widening fracture in U.S. society as a natural consequence of an imagined meritocracy. Incredibly, according to one poll, in 2014 only 5 percent of the U.S. population believed that the government should be addressing inequality. 

So Now What? 

In his rebuttal to Donald Trump's State of the Union address, Rep. Joe Kennedy (D-MA) said, "This administration isn't just targeting the laws that protect us; they are targeting the very idea that we are all worthy of protection." 

...that we are all worthy of protection. That will only happen with a progressive candidate who believes that a strong society makes successful individuals, not the other way around. 

Six Big Losers in Our 'Booming' Economy

The Dow Jones Industrial Average skyrocketed from 25,000 to 26,000 in just seven trading days, prompting Donald Trump to bluster, "Our economy is booming, investments and jobs are pouring back into the country...We ARE Making America Great Again." Certainly the richest 1% are feeling great. But the stock market is feeding the nation's runaway inequality, boosting the financial wealth of a privileged few while doing NOTHING for the middle and lower classes. The biggest losers are among the MOST VULNERABLE Americans, the people who seem to be reviled by the Republicans in Congress. 

Children: While Stocks Doubled, 18% More Kids Fell Into Poverty 

This is shocking and shameful. The U.S. has taken nearly half of the world's new wealth since the 2008 recession, and the stock market more than doubled from 2008 to 2014 (and tripled by 2017), but the number of children living below the federal poverty threshold increased by 18 percent from 2008 to 2014. 

Mothers: Highest Death Rate in the Developed World 

The U.S. maternal mortality rate is booming right along with the economy -- out of control and in the wrong direction, as all the other major developed countries have seen a decrease in maternal deaths. 

The mistreatment of women is sure to worsen as millions of Americans become newly uninsured, reversing the health benefits of the Affordable Care Act. We're approaching third-world status in parts of our nation. As writer Alex Henderson puts it, "The Lone Star state, where Medicaid and family planning services have been severely defunded by the GOP, [is] one of the deadliest places for women to give birth in the developed world." 


The 1 out of 5 American Adults in the World's Lowest Wealth Decile 

That's 50 million American adults with, on average, negative wealth! According to the 2017 Global Wealth Databook (Table 3-4), they fall into the world's bottom 10% of wealth ownership. These are the households with more debt than savings -- more U.S. households today than at anytime since 1962. Their wages have been FLAT for almost 40 years while health and housing and education have climbed nearly out of reach. 

That's in stark contrast to America's top 5% -- all millionaires; and to the world's richest 1%, which took an incredible 82 percent of new global wealth in 2017. 

Families Desperate for Affordable Housing 

As the richest Americans keep accumulating more and more wealth, they need to diversify their fattening portfolios, and that means real estate to supplement all the stocks and bonds. In major U.S. cities -- the only source of jobs for many low-income workers -- high-priced luxury homes and apartments are pricing most people out of the housing market. Most insidious is the Blackstone method: buy up rental properties and foreclosed houses (sometimes with taxpayer subsidies), rent them back at exorbitant prices, skip out on the maintenance, hold the properties till prices appreciate, and then cash in for a big profit. The renters are of little concern to the corporate landlords. The money-making firms carry out their manipulative housing schemes, according to Rana Foroohar "with as little capital or risk to themselves as possible." 

Victims of Mental Health Issues: 20 Beds Cut to 1 

While 1 in 5 children lives in poverty, 1 in 5 adult Americans have experienced mental illness. Yet since the 2008 recession states have been cutting billions of dollars in mental health services. Incredibly, over 96 percent of public mental health beds have been eliminated since the 1950s. Over half of U.S. counties don't have a single psychiatrist or social worker. 

So in this age of soaring stocks and new millionaires, where do we put our mental health patients? JAIL. According to the Treatment Advocacy Center, individuals with severe psychiatric diseases are 10 times more likely to be in prison than in a hospital bed. 

Retirees 

story about McDonnell-Douglas captures the injustice of America's lost pensions. This is a company that morphed into Boeing, using taxpayer money to help build the world's most powerful air force, but then shredded its employees' most vital safety net. A study of almost 1,000 former McDonnell-Douglas workers found that 1 in 7 had to file for bankruptcy in their retirement years. 

The market solution of individual retirement accounts is absurd in a world where wages have stagnated for 40 years. In our 'booming' economy most American workers nearing retirement age have little or no savings, and Social Security pays an average of only $14,000 per year, which is less than the poverty threshold for an adult with one child. 

Many 75-year-olds consider themselves lucky to have jobs at Walmart. 

The Republican Solution 

Even though the economy is 'booming,' we still hear cruel and insensitive and uninformed calls for "entitlement reform," when we should be hearing calls for "tax break reform": 

----The entire safety net costs between $740 billion and $940 billion per year. 

----Tax subsidies, mostly for the rich, cost between $1.15 trillion and $1.5 trillion per year. 

But the people in power let the rich grow richer while the poor keep suffering. 

Incentive for Terrorism: America Has Taken Nearly 70% of the World's Wealth Gains Since 2012

America's super-rich are taking not just from their own nation, but from the rest of the world. Data from the 2017 Global Wealth Databook and various war reports help to explain why U.S. citizens are alienating people outside our borders.

From 2012 to 2017, global wealth increased by $37.7 trillion, and U.S. wealth increased by $26 trillion. Largely because of a surging stock market, our nation took nearly 70 percent of the entire global wealth gain over the past five years. Based on their dominant share of U.S. wealth, America's richest 10 percent—much less than 1 percent of the world's adult population—took over half the world's wealth gain in the past five years.

Wealth in the Volatile Middle East Has Declined

It's not surprising that young men in the Middle East and Africa would harbor resentment against a country that takes the great majority of the wealth—especially considering that the most troubled areas of the world have collectively lost wealth between 2012 and 2017. That's both average wealth and median wealth.

Although the GWD has limited data about individual nations in the Middle East and Africa, some is available. Median wealth has plummeted in Syria and Iran and Yemen. It has gone down by almost half in all of Africa. Wealth levels are crashing in the areas of the world where we wage war.

We're Bombing Nations That Aren't Terrorist Threats

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Inequality Out of Control: The Average 1% Household Is Over $2.5 Million Richer in the Past Year

Inequality, like a malignant tumor, is growing out of control, and the only response from Congress is to make it even worse. Those at the richest end of the nation seem to have lost all capacity for understanding the meaning and values of an interdependent society. They've convinced themselves that they deserve their passively accumulated windfalls, and that poorer people have only themselves to blame for their own misfortunes.

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Extreme Poverty Cut in Half? Only in the Minds of the Capitalists

"Take a bow, capitalism." That's from the Economist, a business-happy publication that has every reason to perpetuate the myth that a world run by free enterprise is improving people's lives. Its story continues with an astounding claim: "The world now knows how to reduce poverty." Perhaps by presenting questionable data that seems to support what the business community wants us to believe. 

Other super-capitalists are similarly exuding hyperbole in defense of their shaky beliefs. Said a spokesman for the American Enterprise Institute: "It was the American free-enterprise system that started to spread around the world. They looked at you and said, 'I want to have their life, their freedom, and their stuff, and they threw off their chains of poverty and tyranny.'" But it's clear, when the facts are checked, that the chains of poverty are being wrapped around more and more human beings. 

Extreme Poverty Has Increased, in Terms of Wealth 

According to the Credit Suisse Global Wealth Databook 2016, the median wealth of the world's adults is $2,222, down from $3,248 at the end of 2007. While the rich people of the world have taken more than their share of the $35 trillion wealth gain since the recession, the world median has dropped by over $1,000!

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3 Greedy Ways Corporations Are Cheating America

Corporate cheating goes well beyond federal tax reporting, as big companies have used various forms of deception to keep taking from America, especially with a complicit corporate media unwilling to report the facts about their behavior. 

1. Give Us Your Technology, Infrastructure, Security, Patent Law...But Sorry, Our Profits Were Made in Another Country

Microsoft: Rediscovering its soul while skipping out on its taxes.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella writes about the "Quest to Rediscover Microsoft's Soul and Imagine a Better Future for Everyone," and the company's commitment to "humans and the unique quality we call empathy."

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Why Privatization Is a Disaster for Any Democratic Society

Most people looking to make big money are eager to disparage public systems as inefficient, wasteful, inferior. Many of those people are in a position to starve the public systems of funding, thereby making them less functional, and making the private options look more appealing. 

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Our Collective Response to the Houston Tragedy Is Proof That Greed and Capitalism Aren't the Only Ways to Run Society

In the worst moments of the tragedy in Houston, something remarkable about America burst into view, as government, business, military, and especially ordinary citizens put aside thoughts of personal gain and dedicated themselves to the needs of their fellow human beings and their animals.  

People in Texas and around the nation pitched in, through their labors and donations: neighbors and first responders saved lives; the Red Cross and other charitable organizations, including local churches, brought food, supplies and medicine to hurricane victims; many GoFundMe initiatives were set up; the business community (especially furniture man Jim McIngvale) donated their goods and services; government officials remained focused on the people they were elected to represent; and even the military contributed with rescue helicopters. No one seemed to care about the skin color, religion or politics of those in need. 

The empathy and cooperative spirit—some might call it socialism—that gripped America was delightful to behold. But soon, we return to reality. 

Capitalism Has No Incentive to Help the Poor, the Victims of Disaster, or Even Children 

The New York Times summarized, "The free market often does a terrible job of providing basic services to the poor — see, for instance, the lack of grocery stores and banks in many low-income neighborhoods."

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Huge Companies Are Already Bleeding the Middle Class Dry - So Why Do We Want to Give Them Tax Cuts?

It could be argued that the greatest American pillaging is the transfer of taxpayer funds into the bloated military, or a greed-driven private health care system that deprives human beings of essential medical care. But the conversion of American technologies into low-taxed plutocratic profit may be the most flagrant attack on the middle class. 

It can also be argued that the products of the technological companies have enriched and energized our lives in numerous ways, and that the high-tech job market has never been better. But the rest of us pay dearly for all the technological benefits, much more than just the hundreds of dollars for phones and phone service. We have lost middle-class jobs and middle-class wealth. We have lost our share of the national productivity that is the direct result of 70 years of taxpayer input into the technologies that have enriched fewer and fewer people. 

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How the Food and Drug Companies Ensure That We Get Sick and They Make Money

Another reason for single-payer health care: The documentary What the Health shows how the lives and health of human beings are considered insignificant, and in many ways threatened, by the pursuit of profits in the meat and dairy and drug industries.

The corporate disdain revealed by this film is nearly beyond belief. And our trusted watchdog agencies, both non-profit and government, are beholden to the biggest companies, accepting money in return for their silence about the dangers of animal and pharmaceutical products. 

Some of the contentions in the documentary have been disputed, most notably the implication that sugar is not a major factor in diabetes, and that dairy is. Indeed, there may be flaws in the documentary. But it clearly reveals the damaging behavior of the businesses and organizations that are contributing to human and animal suffering. 

Despicable: Corporate Profits at the Expense of Our Health

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3 of the Most Outrageous Ways the Richest 1% Avoids Paying Taxes

The entire 2017 safety net is about $850 billion, compared to over $1.5 trillion for tax expenditures, most of which are for rich Americans

The Unrelenting Wealth Grab by the 1% 

The average 1% household increased its wealth by $3 million in 2016. Since much of that was in the form of stock gains, they paid tax on only a small part of their incomes, and then took an average of about $200,000 per household in tax subsidies. When all forms of taxes and income and capital gains are considered, the richest 1% pay lower tax rates than the poorest 20% of Americans. 

The Rich Old White Guy's Safety Net: Retirement and Health Care 

Wealthy people are living longer, so they're getting much more of the late-life benefits. A Brookings report estimates that lowest-quintile Americans born in 1960 will receive "only 78 percent of the lifetime Medicare benefits received by the top income quintile."

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Now Five Men Own Almost as Much Wealth as Half the World's Population

Last year it was eight men, then down to six, and now almost five.

While Americans fixate on Trump, the super-rich are absconding with our wealth, and the plague of inequality continues to grow. An analysis of 2016 data found that the poorest five deciles of the world population own about $410 billion in total wealth. As of June 8, 2017, the world's richest five men owned over $400 billion in wealth. Thus, on average, each man owns nearly as much as 750 million people.

Why Do We Let a Few People Shift Great Portions of the World's Wealth to Themselves?

Most of the super-super-rich are Americans. We the American people created the internet, developed and funded artificial intelligence, and built a massive transportation infrastructure, yet we let just a few individuals take almost all the credit, along with hundreds of billions of dollars.

Defenders of the out-of-control wealth gap insist that all is OK, because after all, America is a meritocracy in which the super-wealthy have earned all they have. They heed the words of Warren Buffett: "The genius of the American economy, our emphasis on a meritocracy and a market system and a rule of law has enabled generation after generation to live better than their parents did."

But it's not a meritocracy. Children are no longer living better than their parents did. In the eight years since the recession the Wilshire Total Market valuation has more than tripled, rising from a little over $8 trillion to nearly $25 trillion. The great majority of it has gone to the very richest Americans. In 2016 alone, the richest 1% effectively shifted nearly $4 trillion in wealth away from the rest of the nation to themselves, with nearly half of the wealth transfer ($1.94 trillion) coming from the nation's poorest 90% -- the middle and lower classes. That's over $17,000 in housing and savings per lower-to-middle-class household lost to the super-rich.

A meritocracy? Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and Jeff Bezos have done little that wouldn't have happened anyway. All modern U.S. technology started with, and to a great extent continues with, our tax dollars and our research institutes and our subsidies to corporations.

Why Do We Let Unqualified Rich People Tell Us How To Live? 

In 1975, at the age of 20, Bill Gates founded Microsoft with high school buddy Paul Allen. At the time, Gary Kildall's CP/M operating system was the industry standard. Even Gates' company used it. But Kildall was an innovator, not a businessman, and when IBM came calling for an OS for the new IBM PC, his delays drove the big mainframe company to Gates. Even though the newly established Microsoft company couldn't fill IBM's needs, Gates and Allen saw an opportunity, and so they hurriedly bought the rights to another local company's OS -- which was based on Kildall's CP/M system. Kildall wanted to sue, but intellectual property law for software had not yet been established. Kildall was a maker who got taken.

So Bill Gates took from others to become the richest man in the world. And now, because of his great wealth and the meritocracy myth, many people look to him for solutions in vital areas of human need, such as education and global food production.

Gates on Education: He has promoted galvanic skin response monitors to measure the biological reactions of students, and the videotaping of teachers to evaluate their performances. About schools he said, "The best results have come in cities where the mayor is in charge of the school system. So you have one executive, and the school board isn’t as powerful."

Gates on Africa: With investments in or deals with Monsanto, Cargill and Merck, Gates has demonstrated his preference for corporate control over poor countries deemed unable to help themselves. But no problem: according to Gates, "By 2035, there will be almost no poor countries left in the world."

Warren Buffett: Demanding To Be Taxed at a Higher Rate (As Long As His Own Company Doesn't Have To Pay)

Warren Buffett has advocated for higher taxes on the rich and a reasonable estate tax. But his company Berkshire Hathaway has used "hypothetical amounts" to pay its taxes while actually deferring $77 billion in real taxes.

Jeff Bezos: $50 Billion in Less Than Two Years, and Fighting Taxes All the Way

Since the end of 2015 Jeff Bezos has accumulated enough wealth to cover the entire $50 billion U.S. housing budget, which serves five million Americans. Bezos, who has profited greatly from the internet and the infrastructure built up over many years by many people with many of our tax dollars, has used tax havens and high-priced lobbyists to avoid the taxes owed by his company.

Mark Zuckerberg (6th Richest in World, 4th Richest in America)

While Zuckerberg was developing his version of social networking at Harvard, Columbia University students Adam Goldberg and Wayne Ting built a system called Campus Network, which was much more sophisticated than the early versions of Facebook. But Zuckerberg had the Harvard name and better financial support.

Now with his billions he has created a charitable foundation, which in reality is a tax-exempt limited liability company, leaving him free to make political donations or sell his holdings, all without paying taxes.

The False Promise of Philanthropy

Many super-rich individuals have pledged the majority of their fortunes to philanthropic causes. That's very generous, if they keep their promises. But that's not really the point.

American billionaires all made their money because of the research and innovation and infrastructure that make up the foundation of our modern technologies. They have taken credit, along with their massive fortunes, for successes that derive from society rather than from a few individuals. It should not be any one person's decision about the proper use of that wealth. Instead a significant portion of annual national wealth gains should be promised to education, housing, health research, and infrastructure. That is what Americans and their parents and grandparents have earned after a half-century of hard work and productivity.

This Is How the Biggest Companies Cheated on Taxes in 2016

Donald Trump wants to cut what some call the "highest corporate tax rate in the world." The tax cut will, according to Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, "pay for itself with economic growth." 

Two delusions in one. The realities are far different for anyone who actually considers the facts. And some of the facts about 2016 tax avoidance are shocking and depressing. For example, two of the big banks (JP Morgan and Bank of America) together underpaid their taxes by more than Trump's proposed $10.6 billion education cuts, which would eliminate or reduce after-school programs, work-study programs, state grants, teacher training, arts programs, and physical education.

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The Shocking Reality of a Future of Shrinking Jobs

The jobs reports would have us believe our rebound from the recession is almost complete. The reality is very different. The Economist has some fancy words for it: "Job polarization," in which middle-skill jobs decline while low-skill and high-skill jobs increase and the workforce "bifurcates" into two extremes of income. 

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U.S. Health Care System Is Condemning Thousands of Americans to an Early Death

In his report, "This is how American health care kills people," Ryan Cooper tells the story of 29-year-old Matthew Stewart, who required emergency surgery for hepatitis-induced liver damage, but learned that only about $10,000 of his $74,000 bill was covered by his "gold plan" insurance policy, partly because of out-of-network rules even in emergencies.

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The Rich Pay Fewer Taxes Than the Poor, and Get More Services

When all forms of taxes and income are considered, poor Americans pay higher tax rates than the richest 1%. 

The analysis starts with state and local taxes, which are often ignored by apologists for big-income tax cuts. According to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, the state and local tax rate for the poorest 20 percent of individuals is double that of the top 1 percent (10.9 percent vs. 5.4 percent). New data from Thomas Piketty, Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman allows us to go further: When unrealized capital gains are included in the wealth-building of the richest 1%, the overall tax rates plunge for the super-rich, causing the poorest Americans to pay the highest rates. 

What is the justification for adding unrealized capital gains to one's income? The 16th Amendment gives Congress the power "to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived." Thus, under an original definition of income developed by the American economists Robert M. Haig and Henry C. Simons in the 1920s and still utilized by financial economists, an increase in the value of a stock or other asset would be subject to taxation even if it's not sold. 

With this more accurate guide to income measurement, the real tax rates paid by the 1% can be calculated. The bottom line is that poor Americans pay about 25 percent in total taxes, while the 1% pays anywhere from 18 to 23 percent. 

Piketty, Saez and Zucman calculate government transfers to three groups: the richest 10%, the middle 40%, and the poorest 50%. Each group is evaluated for total transfers, including Social Security, as a percent of average national income. 

Surprisingly, the middle 40% receives more government assistance than the bottom 50%, with a benefit equivalent to 23 percent of national income (see Figure S.13 in the report). 

More surprisingly, the richest 10% as a group receives almost as much government assistance as the poorest 50%. 

The critics of poor Americans should be informed that even after transfers, income for the working-age bottom 50% has not improved since 1979. And they should be reminded that the cost of the entire safety net is only about one-sixth of the $2.2 trillion in tax breaks and tax avoidance that primarily benefit the rich. 

Most of society's benefits go to the super-rich and their businesses: 

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