By Ed Raymond
A Shock to the Best Congress Money Can Buy: Money Eliminates Poverty!
An amazing revelation shocked conservative politicians of both political parties when COVID-19 virtually tanked the U.S. economy in 2020.
When the government agreed to increase and extend unemployment payments and prevent evictions and foreclosures for a period of time for poor people, the poverty rate went down! Who would believe such heresy, if you gave poor people money to keep them out of breadlines and tents?
Some Republicans and Trumplicans rebelled. Why should we spend money on those slackers who don’t want to work, that have too many kids, too many broken homes, bad personal judgments, and did not educate themselves so they could move up all those career ladders?
The Census Bureau has estimated that the money provided stopped 5.5 million people from falling into poverty and lifted 12 million out of poverty for a time.
Recent research on U.S. inequality has revealed that the racial wealth gap between families has become so wide in the past forty years that “the future prospects of children from lower wealth groups are likely to be grossly compromised.” In other words, their chances of moving out of poverty are practically zero.
In 2019, prior to the virus attack, the median wealth level for a White family with children was $63,838, for a Black family with children $808, and Hispanic families with children $1,175. Wealth is calculated by adding up assets (homes, investments, savings, and inheritances) and subtracting their debt from assets. Blacks and Hispanics own fewer homes in poverty-stricken ZIP Codes, and rarely have savings, investments, and inheritances.
Wealth inequality is so extreme now that 1% of parents control 44% of all wealth held by households with children while the top 10% control 82%! Duke University Professor Christina Gibson-Davis, the co-director of the research, concludes: “Wealth is so stratified by race and ethnicity that it perpetuates that racial inequality into the next generation.”
Gee, we can’t seem to understand why Black and Hispanic children without boots can’t lift themselves with their bare feet to a ladder filled with spiked steps. Could it be because a tiny group of White parents who control the Best Congress Money Can Buy don’t want to share their wealth so the spikes can be removed?
Pandora’s Box Is Filled With Good and Evil
In Greek mythology, Zeus, the king of all the gods (and there were plenty of them), told Hephaestus, god of fire and craftsmen, to make the first woman out of earth, upon which all the other Greek gods bestowed choice gifts. One god gave her a jar filled with all measures of good, misery, and evil. Eventually, curiosity made her open the jar, and all the evil escaped to harass the human race. The good stuff stayed in the jar.
Some pissed-off god of transparency dumped 11.9 million documents out of Pandora’s jar onto the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists two years ago, where 600 journalists from 150 news outlets are studying documents that reveal how thousands of the rich stay rich and get richer.
It’s an exciting get even, get mad, and expose-the-bastards time. A gift of GOOD. It’s a perfect Pandora’s jar of good stuff opened for everybody to see. It’s the best thing that happened to expose the greed and the worst thing to happen to those who hide their wealth in tax havens, corrupt islands, U.S. states, trusts, fake corporate structures, and in dark shell companies. Some billionaires, millionaires, political leaders, and powerful plutocrats are already being roasted in the hell of economic fires for greed addiction.
We are bedeviled by thousands of diseases, hundreds of thousands of viruses, and other death-dealing addictions coming out of Pandora’s jar. We now classify alcohol, drug, gambling, and sex addictions as diseases. Let’s add greed to the list of addictions and also call it a disease.
Greed is much more destructive than all of the other addictions put together. The Sackler family alone killed 500,000 OxyContin addicts. Having socked away $13 billion by doing it, they will not see a day in jail or the loss of billions. Kill one guy and go to jail for life. Kill a half million and your name stays on the Metropolitan Museum of Art and its nine galleries.
We will lose 87,000 this year to drug addiction. Since 1991 we have suffered 841,000 deaths just by overdose. An estimated 95,000 Americans will die of alcoholism this year. I would guess some addicts commit suicide over gambling and sex. Opening Pandora’s jar and letting the wealth inequality documents escape will perhaps reveal how many millions or billions of humans on earth are killed by the greeddisease.
The Pandora Papers are the best prescription for democratic capitalism and the common good ever written to fight tax evaders, bankrupt tax havens, and catch liars and thieves. After all the greedy are revealed by the Pandora Papers, I wonder if King Henry VIII of England will remain world’s champion of mansion owners. He had 63 palaces he traveled between, along with his security, entourage, and 50 trunks filled with familiar items so he would always “feel at home” wherever he was.
What Does Money Power Mean? ‘Another Dumbass Gets Elected to Congress!’
Journalists representing 150 major news outlets have not had the time to reveal all of the subjects represented in the Pandora Papers. Although few American names have appeared in the news, we can guess that hundreds of American rich will be exposed and castigated for using shell games and unethical schemes to avoid paying their fair share of taxes. It’s hard to wait for the revelations.
In the meantime let’s use King Abdullah II of Jordan as a prime example of a rich person suffering from greed disease. Abdullah is often seen in our Oval Office pleading for money—and we often provide him with some. Over the last few decades we have quadrupled our military and economic aid to Jordan while the king subjected his subjects to extreme austerity measures. During some of the time unemployment doubled. During the same time, Abdullah secretly used offshore countries, tax havens, and shell companies in an attempt to hide collecting properties worth more $100 million on California’s Malibu Beach and mansions in the most expensive areas of London. No one seems to know how much property he actually owns in Jordan because it is considered too sensitive for the suffering common people to know. His net worth is a state secret.
Meanwhile, about one in four Jordanians are unemployed while taxes have skyrocketed and state subsidies on bread, electricity, and fuel have had severe cuts. Of course, King Abdullah pays no taxes. During the “Arab Spring“ of 2011, he and his wife were openly accused of stealing from international loans. His critics were arrested. He may have stacked his fortune outside of Jordan for a reason.
Welcome to the “good stuff” revealed by the Pandora Papers. The next few months should make the tax avoiders very nervous. The rich better start constructing more safe rooms and adding more security. Of course, they all say: “We are just following the laws!” We need to remember they bought those laws by purchasing the Best Congress Money Can Buy. The 400 richest Americans added $4.5 trillion to their wealth in 2020, a 40% rise. Some will pay no federal income taxes.
We Lead the World in a Lot of Stuff—Including Income and Wealth Inequality
We are often called the richest country in the world. It’s probably true. But the Top Ten percent have almost all of the assets, investments, stocks, mansions, and money. First, let’s understand that the federal definitions of poverty are terribly low. A family of four making slightly more than $24,000 is comfortable and thriving? Certainly, you’re kidding.
Photographer Matt Black has spent the last six years and 100,000 miles visiting hundreds of places where more than one in five Americans live below the terribly low federal poverty line. All of them were separated only by less than a two-hour drive. He did not visit the areas of the country where the well-off live 30 years longer with incomes many zeroes larger.
His book of photographs, American Geography, reminds one of John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, his epic about the Great Depression. Black pictures people living in shacks and run-down trailer parks who survive by selling their blood. He shows people living without clean running water and toilets. He talks to many people who survive on food stamps.
Black ended up being depressed after his long journey. He said: “All these diverse communities are connected, not least in their powerlessness. In the mainstream media, poverty is often looked at in isolation, but it is an American problem. It seems to me it does not fit the way America sees itself. My trip challenged my faith in my country and my own role.” He includes many photos of Lindsay, California, where 35.8% of the residents live in poverty.
We currently have about 140 million people in poverty, and about 700 a day are dying from it. The rich live an average of 30 more years. Here’s what the poor need to get out of poverty: (1) a living wage so they can have usable bank accounts, (2) universal healthcare and home care support, (3) child care support, and (4) protection from eviction and homelessness. While the rich are buying $500 million super-yachts and $60 million private jets to visit their many mansions, almost half of American households live paycheck-to-paycheck and don’t have enough savings to buy a set of tires.
This Is America, Land of Milk, Honey, and Millions of Poor Without Bank Accounts
We have half a million American households that do not have running water and indoor plumbing, many of them in the wealthiest and fastest growing cities. They are not part of the 600,000 homeless living on the street, in tents, or old RVs. San Francisco, which has the third most billionaires of any city in the world, is filled with mansions, but has 15,000 families living in homes without proper plumbing and 8,000 homeless who are forced to use the streets as toilets.
Ever wonder why the poor don’t keep bank accounts? In 2020 banks made more than $12 billion charging the poor with overdraft and other fees. Forty-three percent of vulnerable poor households with checking accounts had 9.6 overdrafts on average. Tis said that the CEO of Minneapolis Twin City Federal made so much money over fees he called his small yacht “Overdraft.”
In order to have an orderly life and household in a modern society, one must possess a bank account, cellphone, access to fast broadband, and a computer. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau found that only 9% of checking accounts are considered frequent overdrafters but suffer 80% of all overdraft fees. Finland, named the country with the happiest people in the world, has only six billionaires, but it provides and maintains a computer in every household---which enables the government and the people to conduct 50% of their business on fast broadband. How come we are so damn dumb?
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