We are seeing an accumulation of “wealth” by the super-rich to shame the Gilded Age. The richest “400 people have more wealth than half of the more than 100 million U.S. households,” Politifact was grudgingly forced to agree that Michael Moore’s statement was correct.
I don’t think this is disconnected from the question I raised 2 years ago, “Is the global economy a Ponzi scheme?” As Tom Friedman reported:
“We created a way of raising standards of living that we can’t possibly pass on to our children,” said Joe Romm, a physicist and climate expert who writes the indispensable blog climateprogress.org. We have been getting rich by depleting all our natural stocks — water, hydrocarbons, forests, rivers, fish and arable land — and not by generating renewable flows.
“You can get this burst of wealth that we have created from this rapacious behavior,” added Romm. “But it has to collapse, unless adults stand up and say, ‘This is a Ponzi scheme. We have not generated real wealth, and we are destroying a livable climate …’ Real wealth is something you can pass on in a way that others can enjoy.”
But I suppose it isn’t a full Ponzi scheme in one respect. The super-rich have so much wealth that they can insulate themselves from the collapse far longer than everyone else, with their gated and moated communities, multiple homes in multiple climates, security guards, private jets and general insensitivity to the price of anything — and hence insensitivity to the value of everything.
If you have $1 billion, well, even if you lost half of everything, even if you lost 90%, you’d still have an incredible standard of living to pass on to your children, assuming you could stomach the misery of billions.
The other 99% of Americans and indeed the other 99% of all of humanity cannot buy ourselves out of the multiple, simultaneous, ever-worsening catastrophes that are inevitable if we don’t figure out how to use a small fraction of our staggering wealth to stop it (see “An Illustrated Guide to the Science of Global Warming Impacts: How We Know Inaction Is the Gravest Threat Humanity Faces”).
And so while in theory we could have the political power, the 1% have the equivalent economic power — and perhaps more, since, of course, when you are that wealthy, a considerably larger fraction of your income and wealth are “disposable.” And so we have the phenomenon that the pollutocrats get richer and richer — and use that money to maintain their wealth (see “Denier Cash Machine Swells: Pollutocrat Koch Brothers Now Worth $50 Billion, Poised to Become Richest Men in America”).
The Kochs spend a lot of their money to ensure the destruction of a livable climate (see “Report: Koch Industries outspends Exxon Mobil on climate and clean energy disinformation“). They also spend on the Tea Party keep duping that movement into maintaining low taxes for the rich and ensuring that clean air and other regulations will be kept to a minimum if not gutted entirely.
And here is where I disagree with Todd Gitlin, professor of journalism and communications at Columbia, who wrote a piece on the Occupy Wall Street movement in the NY Times Saturday, “The Left Declares Its Independence”:
The Tea Party, for all its apparent populism, revolves around a vision of power and how to attain it. Tea Partiers tend to be white, male, Republican, graying, married and comfortable; the political system once worked for them, and they think it can be made to do so again. They revile government, but they adore hierarchy and order….
In contrast, what should we make of Occupy Wall Street? … And yet it remains true that the core of the movement, the (mostly young and white, skilled but jobless) people who started the “occupation” three weeks ago, consists of what right-wing critics call anarchists. Indeed, some occupiers take the point as a compliment — because that is precisely the quality that sets them apart from the Tea Party. Anarchism has been the reigning spirit of left-wing protest movements for nearly the past half century, as it is in Zuccotti Park.
It is true that the OWS folks don’t have much organization or demands, but while they may act in a superficially anarchical manner, fundamentally they require government to redress the grotesque imbalance in wealth, because there is no other institution that can stand up to the power and wealth of the plutocrats and pollutocrats.
The Tea Party doesn’t merely revile government. If it were up to them, they would they would terminate most of its activities at almost every level. They would be willing to destroy a livable climate — and all science-based environmental standards — if that meant the triumph of their anti-government ideology (see “Michele Bachmann: Let’s repeal clean air and clean water for our children”).
If that wasn’t clear from the climate and EPA debates, it was certainly clear from the debt ceiling debate (see “What if the CO2 Ceiling Debate Were Like the Debt Ceiling Debate”). The Tea Party would let the government default before it agreed to any rational debt reduction strategy (i.e. one that involves even the slightest increase in taxation for the 1%).
And, indeed, the ultimate goal of the Tea Party, however unintentional, is anarchy, since that is the inevitable result of the unsustainable accumulation of wealth by the richest few at the expense of the many, the unsustainable abandonment of the many crucial activities of government, and the unsustainable energy policy we are stuck on (see “Memorial Day, 2030”).
The only way we could avoid collapse is if the 99% can stop the pollutocrat-driven Tea Party. So far, the 1% are “winning.”