I love nature shows on TV. They take you into the jungles, the ocean depths, the deserts, the frozen poles and our own backyards to probe the behavior and intellects of our fellow creatures and the cosmic forces that shape them.
However, there's one exotic creature the shows have ignored, and it is crying out for scientific analysis: Humanoid superrichinoids. While some in this rare species act somewhat normal, simpatico with us homo sapiens, as a group, the superrichinoids exhibit aberrant, socially destructive tendencies. In particular, they have an irrational, insatiable desire to accumulate boundless personal wealth. It's beyond greed, a belief that too much is never enough, that one's net worth is one's true worth and that life is a primal competition to be No. 1, the acknowledged richest of all!
Robert Frank, an analyst of plutocracy, points to the insane competitive zealotry of Larry Ellison, the multibillionaire co-founder of the software giant Oracle. Frank writes that when Ellison learned a rival billionaire was having a 400-foot yacht built (a boat one-third bigger than a football field!), Ellison rushed out to get a 450-foot yacht.
Toys are one thing, but the hyperavarice of the uber-rich, from Jeff Bezos of Amazon to Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, tends to make them feel entitled to exploit rank-and-file workers, crush smaller competitors, cheat on their tax bills, rip off consumers, defraud investors, contaminate our environment, buy elections and government favoritism, monopolize markets — and then demand to be publicly celebrated and idolized.
But guess what? The wannabe demigods are wimps! Now that their freakish greed is being denounced by the American majority and directly challenged by such democratic champions as Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, the Wall Street and Silicon Valley royals are squealing like pigs stuck in a fence. Their grossly exaggerated sense of self-worth is being openly mocked. I suspect their whimpering is due to their finally realizing that the mockery is deserved ... and they can't handle the reality.
We've got to quit celebrating and catering to these flighty corporate profiteers and get back to building a real economy based on the productivity and true genius of America's grassroots entrepreneurs and workers. The glue that holds our diverse society together is the egalitarian ethic of the Common Good. As my ol' Texas daddy used to put it to me, "Everybody only does better when everybody does better."
Are you doing better yet? Probably not. Look at what it takes today to be in the top 1 percent. It's the dream of many social climbers to be so rich that they can exit the humdrum bottom 99 percent, rising above us commoners to join the swells whose yearly income ranks them in the top percentile. Maybe you've had a good year, bringing in one, two, three or even four hundred thousand bucks. But, nope ... not there yet. The latest income data shows that it takes a paycheck of $515,000 a year to dwell with the elite at the peak.
Actually, that just makes you sorta rich. To join the richest 1 percent of the 1-percenters, you now need an annual income of $2.4 million. But to rise to the tippy-top of the really richy-rich — the top 0.001 percent — your income has to be above $63 million a year. That's an exclusive club of superrichinoids with only 1,433 members.
Meanwhile, back down here on Earth, it's harder and harder for working families to make ends meet, even with full-time jobs. The corporate chieftains, media and politicians keep citing low joblessness as evidence that the economy is humming, but getting work no longer means getting a decent paycheck. In fact, the fastest-growing job categories today are low-wage, no-benefit service positions, which are a primary cause of raging inequality in America.
Indeed, a whole new job category that's showing meteoric growth is called "wealth work." No, not working on Wall Street but a new underclass of poorly paid personal-service workers who beautify, exercise, deliver to, shop for and otherwise tend to the care, feeding, comforts and desires of the rich. The Atlantic reports that job growth for pedicurists, massage therapists, pet caretakers, private cooks, etc. is at least double the overall growth in jobs. Moreover, there's a surge in demand for gift-wrappers, horse exercisers, oyster preparers, animal therapists, sommeliers and such.
We must stop letting the Powers That Be pretend that all is right in America as long as the stock market is booming, jobs (or jobettes) are being created, and the 1-percenters are prospering.
Populist author, public speaker and radio commentator Jim Hightower writes "The Hightower Lowdown," a monthly newsletter chronicling the ongoing fights by America's ordinary people against rule by plutocratic elites. Sign up at HightowerLowdown.org.
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