2024-07-24 11:19 AM

Richest Get Richer, At Their Peril

Buried on the bottom of the graph- and chart-thick “Markets” page of yesterday’s Washington Post was Michael A. Fletcher’s article on the Pew Research Group’s latest report on the growing wealth inequality between the top seven percent in the U.S., and the rest of us, the 93 percent that constitute the unwashed masses.

This study shows that, since the Great Recession, while the wealthiest seven percent have enjoyed an increase in their net wealth of a whopping 28 percent, the rest of us have experienced an actual drop of four percent.

While the economic injustice in these numbers is galling, the implications have yet to be appreciated, especially when coupled with the warning Monday from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York that ballooning student loan debt, at $1.1 trillion exceeded only by home mortgages as a classification of debt, threatens the entire economy.

But simply, the differential between the 28 percent growth of the wealthiest seven percent and the four percent decline of the 93 percent – that 32 percent differential – adds up to a giant bubble of fictitious value, of wealth that is not built upon meaningful uses that benefit the entire economy. Therefore, the bubble points only to the next crash.

The contraction of wealth among the vast majority makes the ballooning wealth of the top seven percent only more grotesque and out of touch with reality. Few among the privileged will be willing to see the signposts of the coming next crash, and certainly will not be inclined to take preemptive measures against it.

So, Fletcher’s report concludes, despite Obama’s re-election, “many of the (promised) tax and other policies aimed at addressing the complex causes of inequality have not been passed by Congress. Those that have become law so far have done little to close the gap.”

Regrettably, this is because our society has become defined by “debt slavery,” baked so wholly into our cultural cake that to “call it out” anymore seems like the ravings of a lunatic. Systemic indebtedness begins in college, proceeds to home purchases, and grows to consumer goods and family rearing, all the while strangling the creative potential of its victims, forcing them to concede to whatever level of mediocrity will pay the growing stack of bills. Meanwhile, cultural sophomorism in sports and entertainment keep the victims at a mental age before all this debt slavery began, a nostalgic age of simplicity and stupidity.

Nothing speaks more to its reality than the monthly credit card, student loan and mortgage debts that besiege the 93 percent of us as a daily fact of life.

It remains the burden of debt that is the primary deterrent to the growth of net wealth of the 93 percent. All that cash that the Federal Reserve is unleashing on the U.S. economy to deter another immediate downturn is clearly not finding it to the 93 percent of us, most of whom still do not qualify for loan and credit refinancing on terms meted out by the banks. It is being put only to growing that bubble of fictitious value among the wealthiest seven percent.

If you think the gun lobby has an obscene level of influence on the halls of Congress in the U.S., then imagine what it’s like in the case of the credit lobby, the banking lobby, the Wall Street lobby.

Our society is caught in the grip of the age-old Biblical sin of usury. In the 22nd chapter of the Old Testament book of Ezekiel, verses 12 and 13, the Almighty is quoted saying, “Thou hast taken usury and thou hast greedily gained of thy neighbors by extortion and hast forgotten me, saith Lord God. Behold, therefore, I have smitten my hand at thy dishonest gain which thou hast made, and at thy blood which has been in the midst of thee.”

That was a popular Biblical quote during the last Great Depression, especially in the depths of places like the Dust Bowl. It is only a matter of time before the compelling correlation between injustice and exploitation, on the one hand, and consequential social and natural chaos and escalating decay will resemble another smiting by the Almighty.





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