the world through rainbow eyes

Leave a comment

We Lost

When I was a kid I used to be told about the evils of Mexican Prisons. How if you went to Mexico you had to mind your freaking Ps and Qs or else end up in a jail for years, forgotten, due to their crooked law system of bribes and payoffs.

I was also told regularly about the evils of communism. About the millions in gulags in the USSR, rotting. How we, as “free Americans” must fight this, for freedom.

Welcome to the USA. Where we have 6 million people incarcerated. More than ever were in Stalin’s gulags. Of those 6 million, more than half are there for drug convictions. Of those convictions, 80% are for simple possession. If you’re unaware, “possession” is typically less than an ounce of, say pot, and a similarly small personal use amount of any other illegal drug. Any more than that, or any paraphernalia caught in conjunction, any underage person (say, a 17 year old) is around, and it often becomes far more than possession. Trafficking. Endangering a minor. Intent to sell. All of these are often heaped on top of people who aren’t even selling drugs.

Even if they were, these are not cartels running drugs and selling people on the side. They’re just people getting high. Sort of like you might if you stopped by the corner store and picked up a 12 pack of beer on the way home.

Except that you’re legally allowed to do that.

Except that around 80 years ago we decided that the just-over-a-decade prohibition of alcohol sales was actually destructive to civilized society in that it gave a strong black market stream for crime to build on, and that the laws were nearly uniformly enforced only on the poor.

Sound familiar?

In fact the whole Temperance movement as a whole sounds like a play by play of the drug war manifesto.

Except the drug war has been wildly successful, and we lost.

Less people do drugs? No, not really. Again, about half of the population has admitted to trying pot at least once. So it hasn’t really kept drugs off the street. It’s been successful at imprisoning US citizens and creating a massive profit system, though.

Sounds like reason enough to end this.


Let Them Eat Cake

The bottom 80% of the US owns 7% of the wealth*.  That’s a fact that I’ve been sitting with for a couple years now.

Michael I. Norton an Associate Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School published this study in 2011 which said that as bad as wealth inequality is in the US,  the vast majority of Americans actually did not know how overwhelmingly bad it was. It wasn’t just a matter of it being different from what they thought would be ideal, it was that it was staggeringly different from what they even thought it actually was.

“Wealth inequality” does not simply mean how much income a person has. It’s made up of what you own minus what you owe. Income and assets, in other words.

That sentence I started this out with about what the bottom 80% owns? Here’s a worse one. The bottom 90% owe 73% of consumer debt**.

That’s pretty grim. I’m still working those numbers, and if you find errors, pop them up.

So, that this video is now making the rounds and surprising people:

had me sort of stumped.

Oh. I thought we knew that already. I thought that was understood. You still weren’t there? Oh. Fine. Then we obviously need an awareness campaign. So, there it is. There’s that video. A pretty good layout of the disparity, along with a slant of Socialism that people are losing their minds over.

But, guys. You better wake up. If that is making you lose your mind? The reality of those numbers better scare the hell out of you. Numbers like that don’t work themselves out.

That speaks of a system that has amassed so much at the top that the top are now giants. Do you understand what giants do? They pass laws. They deregulate and loosen the laws so they can amass more. They redistribute more upwards. Then when there isn’t all that much left over, they start passing laws to force more from below and push it higher.

In case you’re lost in what I’m saying, basically everything that’s happened in the last decade and a half.
To make it even more clear, what this means is that it is costing more and more money to live a middle class lifestyle in the United States. To be able to maybe send the kids to school, or save for retirement, or purchase good healthcare that actually meets needs, to not live in a neighborhood where you and your children are being poisoned by fracking or lead or what have you, to buy clothes that don’t fall apart on your body, to buy foods that are not simply prepackaged carbs with some cheap fat, salt and sugar loaded on to make it at least taste good, to have safe and reliable transportation, to live, again a Middle Class Lifestyle, is now something that is slowly growing out of reach for those who even in the top quintile (but not in the 1%).

And so, as people become further and further into debt just to get by, they stop buying anything but the most needed of necessities and the occasional luxury on say a Black Friday sale (because at this point they’re never getting out of debt, so they might as well amass just a little bit more or else why are they working, and hey, they really are working, the vast majority of them really are working). Then that debt slowly takes over until they can’t buy anything. Not anything at all. Not clothes, not school for the kids, not retirement, not food, not a home. At that point, they’re on the street.

But the beast at the top marches on, and it’s still hungry. The 1% is still investing while this is happening. Their money is making more money. It’s what happens when it gets that big. It’s a Katamari Damacy ball that has grown to the size of the universe and it really can’t help but roll up more wealth just by being there.

So more is squeezed out. And if you look at those numbers you can see the squeezing, you can watch the ball grow. More of the 99% are  starting to become indistinguishable from the desperately poor.

And then two things start happening.

The first one is kind of funny.

Commercials stop being aimed at the majority. They start being aimed at the Luxe market. Almost exclusively. The only lifestyle that seems on offer in the marketplace is one that is so far out of reach to the common person that it is ludicrous to even suggest that it is aimed at the common person.

Before we get to the second part, understand that when that happens it will eat those top two quintiles that were squeezing by. It will eat them because they can not afford this lifestyle that is being marketed, but it is the only lifestyle being marketed, so it is the one that will be purchased. Further debt will amass, and those quintiles will flatten out faster and faster.

But then.

Then there is nothing left for the giant to eat. The Katamari Damacy ball sits still while all around lay the desperate poor.

And do you know what happens to the man who sits eating at a buffet bigger than he can ever possibly eat when he is in a room of 99 other people starving to eat?

That’s what we need to think about. It doesn’t really matter, at this point, whether it is fair or right. It doesn’t matter. We are on an edge, and things are going to get very, very, very bad if we do not change things.

If the 1% thinks that they can build a wall high enough that the 99% will not tear down that wall to take their heads… they better start reading their history.

*this figure has actually gotten worse since the original publication, as shown here.

** Hurst, Charles E. (2007), Social Inequality: Forms, Causes, and Consequences, Pearson Education, Inc., pp. 36, ISBN 0-205-69829-8