The Crazy of the 1% is Killing Us

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That the insane rich are killing us is not poetry or hyperbole, it is a fact supported by scientific research and our subjective experience; inequality results in lower life expectancy and higher rates of violence. The wealth gap murders us as the 1% slowly tighten a noose around our necks. To reverse the unsustainable trend to greater inequality we need to dramatically increase taxes on the 1% (some economists suggest 80% taxation - that’s going a bit easy on them), remove the ability for them to avoid these taxes, and set a cap on wealth so that any gains over a certain limit would be used for the common good. Once the wealth gap begins to subside, the broad range of social ills caused by it will heal, to the benefit of all of society.


Instead of concerning ourselves with the answer to each individual problem plaguing society, we simply have to end inequality and allow the solutions to find themselves. By reducing inequality:

These potential results show clearly the incredible benefit society stands to gain. However, the 1% prevent these amazing social benefits. By standing in the way of a better world, the 1% needs to be seen as a social problem similar to crime, teen pregnancy or poor education, and a social problem with the most far reaching and consequential impact.

Because the 1% stand in the way of such incredible gains for society, powerful social guidelines for wealth need to be established immediately. Let’s recognize that every moment we waste indulging the pathology of the 1% we extend the world's suffering. Preventing greed in a country where greed is considered to be a virtue requires some explanation since we've been taught the thing that kills us is what sets us free. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Why Are Rich People Cray Cray?

The psychology of sickness of the rich can be explained.

As more resources become available to an individual their need to share public resources and commonly held space is reduced. For example, an affluent person can hire personal tutors for their children instead of sending them to public school. If a rich person can hire their own private doctor they have no need for a public hospital. This actual distance from public resources results in an emotional distance from public concerns.

This lack of concern the Rich have for the resources and services we all need can be seen reflected in our woefully underfunded infrastructure. The 1% literally don't care about the same things we care about.

Recent psychological studies at UC Berkeley have shown us that people who are rich or even who think they're rich behave differently (see the previous video). They're less concerned with others, feel more entitled, are more demanding - the 1%ers are more likely to be assholes, we already knew it and science proves it!

We're all at risk of the disease of the superrich

But the crazy of the Rich isn't an issue of individual flaws, it is one of human psychology.

Most of us have come to believe that the bad guys are the bad guys because of some fundamental character flaw; we think to ourselves “I’m not Darth Vader! I’d be different if it was me”. We'll be good. We'll give our money to the poor and not be oppressive douchebags. But if you accept my premise - that too much wealth decreases concern for community resources (a premise supported by the science, [link] [link]) it becomes clear that  we need to establish regulations to protect ourselves and move the wealth of the 1% to where it can actually benefit society.

Sad Money

Before you blow this off as a proposal for the government to prevent your pursuit of happiness, hold on - being rich doesn’t make you happy!

You might be thinking: "it would be awesome to have that much money! Maybe we shouldn't put restrictions on everyone...". Well, science just rained on your parade once again. Researchers studying the psychology of happiness have found - once you get over a certain amount of wealth (~75k) happiness doesn't increase. Even if you are a selfish bastard, getting super rich isn't going to make you happier. It turns out that once folks have their basic needs met increasing wealth has zero to do with their happiness. There's no personal gain and there is clearly societal harm to having a class of super rich people.

Enough is not Enough

inequality has devastating health consequences

The 1% have become more active in their attempts to subvert what little political self-determination we may still have; another reason immediate action needs to be taken. It is already anti-democratic to have people as rich as they are today - a 2013 study shows Electeds ignore the interests of our poorest citizens.

According to Josh Israel at Think Progress, having effective control of our government isn’t enough. The world’s richest couple, the Koch brothers, plan on buying the upcoming 2016 elections with almost a billion in campaign funds while at the same time lying to the public about what they actually stand for; they pretend to support social liberalism while almost exclusively putting extreme right wingers into office. The 1% don't see government as an institution needed to oversee the public good but another resource to be exploited; a commodity to be bought and sold for profit.

This full frontal assault on democracy is one more reason we need to take immediate and effective action to rein in the reign of the 1%.

What Do We Do?

The crazy of the 1% is ruining us. According to the World Economic Forum, inequality is one of the greatest destabilizing forces of our time. Among other social ills such as teen pregnancy, inequality can be shown to be responsible for increased violence, poor education, and decreased health. Hoarding massive wealth produces selfish, short-sighted oligarchs who perpetuate and increase their already obscene and unsustainable profits. By paying us starvation wages, hijacking our government, and rewriting our laws to serve their greed, the class war against the 99% continues to be waged by greedy sociopaths. We have to aggressively tax the richest, abolish the ability to transfer estates after death, and establish a cap on wealth. There is every reason to take the wealth back from the 1% who have stolen it from us -  and to do it now.

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Reading list:

Thomas Piketty Capital in the Twenty-First Century

Richard G. Wilkinson + Kate Pickett The Spirit Level