The mantra: All boats rise in a rising tide.
But that’s not the way things are working out, eh? The wealthy get wealthier and the poor get poorer. Certainly on a planetary scale, with human population increasing globally at about 1.11% annually, there is a rapidly swelling underclass who have no concept, much less any chance of sharing in the vast quantities of goods, services, opportunities, and resources churned out by our great engines of economic and technological development.
The same is also becoming more and more true here in America, with wealth inequality increasing astronomically over the past several decades, vastly accelerating after the crash of 2008 crippled the middle class, further sunk the lower class, decimated savings and home equity, destroyed jobs and job security, and plunged already indebted average citizens into even greater debt. True, the rich did same somewhat of a hit as a result of the 2008 financial crisis, but predictably bounced back with a vengeance. 95% of the wealth generated in the slow but steady economic recovery over the past eight years went to the top 1%. In 2016 alone, the world’s rich elite increased their wealth by $237 billion.
In terms of our boat analogy . . .
I suggest we regular folks buy life jackets.
Because as the luxury liners supported by the subservient ship of state rise to even greater heights of opulence for the already wealthy and privileged, our fragile boats will be swamped in the wake of their showy extravagance and wasteful wanton affluence.
The rich and powerful have never made much of a secret of their disdain for regular folks. But as long as America citizens remain incurably detached from the reality of their lot, when the ravenous kleptocrats of the Trump administration rev up their feeding frenzy beyond anything ever before witnessed in the history of the world, everyday Americans probably won’t have to worry about being put in cages or internment camps — of course, the prisons will be kept bulging in our for-profit prison system but that’s business as usual. In their callous indifference and Machiavellian marginalization of the less fortunate, the wealthy if nothing else are coldly efficient. Extermination by war or disease or relentless grinding poverty are the time-honored and road-tested methods for effortlessly “draining the swamp” of unwanted creatures like you and I. The wealthy don’t need to ponder and won’t even flinch at the inevitable carnage. They won’t even notice. Their evening wear won’t even get soiled or their reputations sullied by the noxious clouds of incinerated souls and destroyed lives, families, communities, and even whole nations, as poverty, war, chaos and human neglect on every front stampedes the unprivileged — the slobbering masses — into the abyss of sociopathic excess.
There are no pangs of conscience for those who don’t have one.
Wealth is a zero-sum game. That’s true regardless of how much wealth exists in the world. If someone has something, then everyone else does not have it. We can make more of that something but capitalism — especially its grotesquely virulent current iteration, neoliberal capitalism — is built on want and shortage, thus quite by design there will never be enough of that something for everyone to benefit equitably. Recent history is all the evidence we need for this: while it’s true that since the dawn of the industrial revolution the engines of progress have mounted bigger piles of everything, it is also apparent that those piles have ended up in fewer hands.
In what may be the most astonishing, outrageous and incomprehensible economic statistic I’ve experienced in my lifetime, Oxfam just released a study of global wealth distribution which offered this gem: Eight individuals now own as much wealth as the bottom 3.7 billion people on the planet. Or presented another way: The top .000000107% of the world population have as much wealth as the bottom 50%.
Under these conditions, as the tide rises a handful of luxurious and unsinkable yachts inch closer to God and millions of sunken hulls rot at even greater depths in the dark void at the bottom.
Does any sane person really think it can continue to go on like this?
Are there enough sane people around to make a difference?