The 1 Percent who own half the world’s wealth

As a Libertarian, I hate faux Republican and Democratic government programs equally.

Given the “war on poverty” has been going for 50 years and we have more poor people than ever, while spending trillions of dollars on it, we can see that it is a failure.  Has it helped people to eat? Yes. Has it eliminated poverty? No.

So, what’s the solution? Many would have us double down on the program, spending twice as much.  The reality is, the more we do, the more people end up dropping below the poverty line.

Except for the rich. They are doing much better than ever. How is that? Most Americans have not had a real pay raise in 6 years, yet the rich are doing amazingly well.

How can that be?

Government, as it grows, throws scraps to the poor and middle class, but the rich end up eating the main feast at the table! (Matthew 15:26-27). In this instance, the Federal Reserve and government regulations have printed cheap money for big banks and Wall Street. This cheap money is the key reason the stock market has hit new record highs. It is also the reason why your grocery bill has sky-rocketed, as the cheap money makes your dollar do less.  It is a hidden tax on the poor and middle-class, so the rich can pad their pockets.

Tax the rich?  That’s the word we hear from the Democrats, who are outraged that the rich are getting richer! Yet, their government policies do not increase taxes on the rich, who can always find a loop hole, or move their money overseas.  For example, Apple had a record breaking quarter for profits, but 89 percent of their money is overseas, where the US government cannot tax or control it.  How many middle class people can hide money overseas?

One of the taxes for the “rich”, which Pres Obama has proposed will actually tax those who have college savings accounts.  How many rich people do college savings accounts? Oh, that’s right. Those are for the middle class.  I guess the same thing happened with Obamacare, which has created new hidden taxes for the middle class, while the wealthy found loopholes.

Pres Reagan’s OMB head now warns us that the rich are getting richer because of the Federal Reserve. But it will not last. Eventually, we’ll have another economic bubble burst, and when it does, we’ll see more people leave the middle class and end up struggling along the poverty line.

The solution? Take the power away from government, which is in bed with the ultra rich. Get rid of corporate welfare. Get rid of most government regulations that protect the rich and bring burdens upon small business and individuals. Reduce government to 1/2 its current size (or less), and force it to live within its means. Term limits for Congress, so they are less likely to end up being bribed and corrupted by the wealthy. Let states handle their own safety nets for the poor. Replace the excessive security net, which is causing malaise and poverty, with freedom and opportunity.

Are there risks? With freedom there is always a risk. However, freedom tends to correct its own problems. Big government just takes more power from the people, and leave it in the hands of an oligarchy. Before the rich and government destroy our nation, let’s take it back at the ballot box. Otherwise, if we wait until it is too late, violence will be the only action left, and it will be done by mobs and terrorists.

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About rameumptom

Gerald (Rameumptom) Smith is a student of the gospel. Joining the Church of Jesus Christ when he was 16, he served a mission in Santa Cruz Bolivia (1978=1980). He is married to Ramona, has 3 stepchildren and 7 grandchildren. Retired Air Force (Aim High!). He has been on the Internet since 1986 when only colleges and military were online. Gerald has defended the gospel since the 1980s, and was on the first Latter-Day Saint email lists, including the late Bill Hamblin's Morm-Ant. Gerald has worked with FairMormon, More Good Foundation, LDS.Net and other pro-LDS online groups. He has blogged on the scriptures for over a decade at his site: Joel's Monastery ( He has the following degrees: AAS Computer Management, BS Resource Mgmt, MA Teaching/History. Gerald was the leader for the Tuskegee Alabama group, prior to it becoming a branch. He opened the door for missionary work to African Americans in Montgomery Alabama in the 1980s. He's served in two bishoprics, stake clerk, high council, HP group leader and several other callings over the years. While on his mission, he served as a counselor in a branch Relief Society presidency.

44 thoughts on “The 1 Percent who own half the world’s wealth

  1. One of the few things president Reagan did that I liked was his tax reform effort during his second term in office. The basic economic principle was that the tax system should not cause distortions in behavior and to do that the reformed system attempted to count every type of income as being equal. Meaning a dollar of capital gains, or carried income, or real estate appreciation, or inheritance, or wages, or whatever was all counted as a “dollar is a dollar” and taxed under the same rate schedule. Meaning no matter how one moved their money around the effective tax rate at the marginal for them was the same. This one change would go a long ways to evening out the income disparities we see in society today.

    Of course it would not do anything at all about the rich hiding money overseas – that’s a much tougher nut to crack.

    In the end people have to be convinced that it is worth it to participate in society, the tax code only “works” if the majority of people think it treats most fairly. Currently that is not case.

  2. The only way to really eliminate poverty is either to provide a minimum income or to grow the economy in such a way that people on the low skill level are able to get good paying jobs.

    That said while the war on poverty might not have achieved its fairly overstated aims, I’m not sure I’d call it a failure in that as you note it mitigated many problems. I think it a horrible inefficient way to do this which created far too many bad incentives. But that seems a different matter.

    While I think there’s a lot of corporate welfare out there (don’t get me started on sugar subsidies which the GOP inexplicably passed last year) I think the biggest issue is globalism such that markets are much bigger. That means companies that are most successful in a market simply have numerous times the same sales that companies would have 40 years ago. (Apple’s a great example of this) I don’t think you can really change that aspect too much. At best you can change taxes so more money is redistributed. However as you note, the rich are the ones most able to avoid this through creative means. (For instance the rich avoid death taxes by buying expensive insurance policies – thus death taxes mainly penalize smaller family businesses where upon the death of the owner taxes that can’t be afforded are charged)

    What I do think is a huge problem are a lot of regulations and incentives that make startups harder (Sarbanes-Oxley being a great example) I think that should be fixed but it will really get us only so far.

  3. HOw did the rich get rich? They thought up ideas, put plans into motion. Why do we insist on villifying the rich?

  4. The tired old “cut government in half” argument doesn’t hold much water. Corporations are really ruling the world. And they are authoritarian institutions, not democratic ones. Gasp! Guess what? Corporations are not people (sorry Mitt), so they don’t really deserve constitutional protections that people have. The Supreme Court may have told that whopper, but that doesn’t mean it’s true. Government happens to be the only power on earth with the ability to rein in these out-of-control entities, so gutting government isn’t the answer. That would just further entrench corporate power, the greatest authoritarian power on earth (sorry Putin). Corporations are actually a legal creation of government, which means that we the people ought to have the ability, through our elected representatives (who actually represent their corporate masters) to change the way corporations operate. We can change ownership requirements, for starters, so that the people who design, create, and sell the products get a fair stake in the ownership of their own work. And that’s just a beginning.

    As for Libertarian ideas, let me just point out that no country on earth has ever made Libertarianism work. Ever wondered why? Well, you ought to.

  5. winifred:

    How did the rich get rich? By setting up a dual pay system. They pay themselves as much as possible, while paying the people who work for them as little as possible. Labor is treated as a factor in the production equation, and minimizing labor costs is a goal of all corporations. This is treating people as things, resources. Do you enjoy being treated as a human resource? We have swallowed the corporate version of society hook, line, and sinker. A century and a half ago, most Americans felt that wage labor was inconsistent with democracy. Hmm. Now we don’t even question it. We have a political system and an economic system that operate on incompatible values and assumptions. And we don’t even notice it anymore.

  6. Corporations aren’t the same as people although the state frequently accords them some of the same rights. The problem is that you say a business doesn’t have free speech it’s hard to see how that isn’t abrogating the free speech of the individuals within that corporation.

    I’m completely open to changing the structure of corporations as we’ve set them up. I think we’ve given them too many protections and privileges. However let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater.

  7. I suggest that wealth and poverty need to be defined, in order for such discussions to be meaningful. From the perspective of a native subsisting in the jungle in South America, all North Americans are wealthy beyond imagining.

    This discussion seems to lean toward using the somewhat arbitrary standards established by the US Government to define poverty. My suspicion is that these definitions are generally established to further some kind of political agenda, and have little to do with prosperity or happiness.

  8. Under Reagan, trickle down economics was designed to float all boats. However, today’s giant government is in bed with corporations. They scratch each others’ backsides. Government creates laws that minimize competition for corporations and incentives to help their favorites (Obama giving billions to solar companies, for example). In return, there are great jobs waiting for them when they leave office, or for their family members now.
    So, Nancy Pelosi passes laws that benefit her husband Paul’s company, enriching herself indirectly.

    Same thing happens on the both sides of the aisle, such as the Keating Five.

    For some reason, many Americans believe that the Congress that creates all of these laws and regulations that benefit the rich, should be given more power to regulate those same corporations and rich people.

    I have no problem with someone becoming rich. I just don’t like government helping them at the expense of others. Nor do I like them being subsidized. The difference between a corporation and government, is that government can force others by the point of a gun (or fines, jail, etc). Corporations and wealthy people can hold power over others, but it is usually temporary and not complete.

    Remember, a century ago, the baron robbers used government troops to break up strikes and stop unions.

    I would rather leave corporations to do their own thing, and to compete in the truly free market, without government creating rules that end up hurting small business or the individual. This also opens the door for small businesses to succeed without government imposing harsh rules. A big corporation already has the money to manage Obamacare. A small business may choose to stop hiring at 49 people, so it doesn’t get hit with big financial requirements from Obamacare.

    Better to cut government in half, and have it do only the very necessary things of government, and leave the economy to the market.

  9. “As for Libertarian ideas, let me just point out that no country on earth has ever made Libertarianism work. Ever wondered why?”

    Because there has never been a libertarian government. Therefore, there has never been a success or failure of something that has never been tested. For the record I am a conservative who doesn’t like libertarianism, so this isn’t some kind of defensive statement.

  10. I was quite upset about the plan to tax college savings accounts. What is next? I agree with you on the points you’ve made. I also fear another bubble bursting. Because the government has not let us just hit rock bottom and learn from our mistakes (enter the crony capitalists and friends of government getting special favors). My husband and I work so hard to live below our means, save, pay tithing, pay fast offerings … I just wonder how much we’re going to be screwed when it all comes crashing down.

  11. First, I am a conservative libertarian, not an anarchist. I believe in minimal government. And there have been countries that successfully had minimal government for long periods of time, including the USA.

    Joyce, I agree that many of us strive to live within our means. All we can do is prepare and be ready. I like what Pres Packer said about the Y2K danger (with people anticipating a big crash): he said we’ll just pick up our scriptures and go and preach the gospel.

  12. Rame, you have a point. For some liberals, like myself, the existence of a super-rich elite who control most of the world’s wealth is more than just an unfortunate drawback of some socialist programs. Plutocracy can sometimes be a positive thing. Pure democracy is imperfect because majorities cannot always be expected to be as thoughtful and wise. You might sometimes be able to trust plutocracies more. Yes, they are self-interested, but that can be a good thing.

    So I think our government, a mix of plutocracy and democracy, socialism and capitalism, is probably better than a pure democracy, or a purely capitalist or socialist government. Extremes are bad, compromises are good. I don’t know if 1% controlling half of the world’s wealth is too much, but it should definitely be more than 1%.

  13. We should note that government was always in bed with corporations. Ever hear of robber barons? Guess how they managed to make so much money from railways? By coopting government. When Reagan took office corporate welfare and corruption (both the overt kind and the more broad structural kind) was probably at an all time level. While it’s clearly still bad, especially in the Finance industry, it’s hardly a constant and I’m rather skeptical it’s as bad as in the past. (Look at how much earmarks have been reduced, for instance)

    There’s a lot to rage about but I think we should stop, take a breath, and look around. Realize that while there’s still a lot corrupt in government that we are getting better. That doesn’t mean complacency. It’s hard to look at the Finance Industry over the past decade and not get angry. But let’s not go into over the top apocalyptism.

  14. Clark,
    In the last 14 years, two presidents have increased the deficit 14 Trillion dollars. Most of the benefit of that spending went to corporations on Wall Street, Defense, Insurance companies, Auto industry, etc.

    Government is picking winners on a grander scale than at any other time. There is more corruption now than ever before. We just are not finding out about the corruption, or if we do, it is swept quickly under the rug. Remember Whitewater? Pretty much swept under the rug, as the Clintons still have great power and influence. George HW Bush’s “no new taxes” and rejection of Reaganomics (which he ran on for president)? Swept under the rug to the point we’re possibly going to elect the 3d Bush into the presidency, even after W lied about Iraq’s MWDs, and brought our economy to its knees!

    Apocalypse? Perhaps not. Another Great Depression/Recession? Probably. Sadly, each ensuing crisis gives government the excuse to spend more money and fill the coffers of the rich, at the expense of everyone else.

    As I said, I have no problem with rich people and corporations. I just want to separate them from government. And the only way to effectively do that is to reduce government’s power.

    Nate, the problem with government that we do not have with rich people, is the power of the gun. Rich people can make life difficult by monkeying around the edges of the economy (like the Hunt brothers in the 1980s trying to corner the silver market). However, it is temporary.

    Government, OTOH, has the power of the gun. Apple computer cannot force me to purchase their IPhone. Government can force me to purchase health insurance and other things that I do not need nor want. McDonald’s cannot force me to eat Big Macs twice a week. The IRS, NSA and other gov organizations can keep me from flying commercially, getting a driver’s license, or can take away my kids if they feel I’m not a good parent.

    Whether a democracy, plutocracy, or whatever, all big governments are authoritarian. Freedom and individual rights are subsumed to the goals of the government. Look what FDR did to tens of thousands of Japanese-American citizens, who had not broken any laws. He took away their due process rights and interred them in camps. For a century, federal and state governments authorized Jim Crow laws, ignored lynchings, and promoted segregation. Today, government snoops on everyone, kills American citizens and others with drones, and incarcerates millions of Americans for taxes, drugs, and other non-violent acts.

    You can have a benevolent dictator, but he’s still a dictator. And inspiring people can evolve into Hitlers very quickly. Such power can change good people, such as what happened with the Stanford Prison Experiment with Dr Zimbardo (see here: ). The whole German nation chose to look the other way when it came to the holocaust, because Hitler was feeding them, giving them a good life, and the people were convinced by Hitler that the Jews were their problem. It didn’t happen at once, but over a decade, the people were brainwashed into believing the government spiel. The same thing happened with Americans after 9/11 in believing Iraq was part of the war on terror.

    The solution is less government.

  15. “Nate, the problem with government that we do not have with rich people…”

    I’m not sure you can separate the two. The rich have the power of the gun inasmuch as they buy and exercise executive power subversively. Lobbyists are writing the legislation and funding the political processes they favor. Of course plutocratic power is balanced with democratic ideals, which politicians must dish out to the public in order to stay in office. Politicians need both money (from plutocrats), and time (in office, from the public.)

    I think the libertarian argument forgets that government is not some independent and parasitic evil. Government is us. It’s size and effectiveness are the results of compromises and wars between Democratic and Plutocratic forces in society. Politicians are just puppets. Democracies and plutocracies, no matter how big and beurocratic they become, are fundamentally different than dictatorial regimes like the ones you site. They have nothing in common. Power is not in the individual. It is in huge collective forces that are insulated from the any one person’s individual aspirations. Even Obamacare is a hopelessly cobbled and compromised amalgamation of diverse democratic and plutocratic interests.

  16. Nate, so you are a fatalist, who has accepted the idea that the rich will rule over us and occasionally throw us a bone?

    I am not a fatalist. Instead, I believe, as did the Founding Fathers, that we must always be on guard for enemies foreign and domestic. Government is not evil. It is like a loaded pistol. In and of itself, it is neither good nor bad. What determines good and evil is what people do with the pistol. It can be used for self defense and getting food, or it can be used to rob others. So is government. And the larger the government, the larger the gun and more imposing it is.

    To reduce the power of the rich, we must reduce the power of government. The concept of pushing government down to the lowest level possible is one of the strengths of the Constitution. It is difficult for the rich to buy votes in every community across the nation. However, with one centralized government, it is easy for them to buy just 535 votes (or a majority thereof) and a president.

    The voice of the people requires knowledge of Constitutional issues. A nationalized education system can pick and choose what the rich want us to know. They want us to learn how to manufacture things for them. They seek to keep us by entertaining us (1000 channels of stupid, selfies, porn, sports, etc). But they do not want us thinking about freedom.

  17. While there may be 1 percent who own half the world’s wealth, the more compelling question (in my mind) is the 15% who are at or below the extreme poverty line.

    Most of us who are concerned about the concentration of wealth are not in any danger of being part of the 15% in the world who are suffering from extreme poverty.

    Hans Rosling has been talking about what the world’s data actually shows us about the rich and the poor. I enjoyed reviewing a recent piece featuring him that aired on BBC back in November 2013, the documentary Don’t Panic.

    He starts off talking about the population boom that occurred starting with the industrial revolution and medical modernization. He then spends a fair amount of time talking about the statistics showing national lifespans and fertility rates. The traditional view of the “third world” was that it was filled with people who lived short lives and had lots of babies. For better or worse, the way Hans Rosling presents this, it seems as though fewer babies is correlated with low fertility (babies born to a woman during her lifetime). I argue that isn’t the case. But he does make a good point about how population increased only slowly up to 1800 because for every N babies a woman bore, typically N-2 would die in infancy (on average). (around minute 20).

    At minute 23, he gives a very nice explanation of the rationale for claiming that the world population will top off around 11 million. Effectively, he states that we are now living in a world that is reproducing to replacement on average (~2.0 births per woman during her lifetime), something Rosling terms “peak child” in an amusing nod to peak oil. However we are relatively young. So as those who are now bearing children age (and don’t die), we will fill up the “missing” 3-4 billion that are not currently in the 30+ age brackets (plus the extra billion we may expect to see in the 75+ age bracket due to longer lifespans).

    We have typically considered this to be the aging of society, and worried about the extreme burden caring for our elderly will place on the proportionately smaller youthful and working population.

    At minue 26, he talks about where the population lives now and where it will live in the future. The Americas and Europe already have relatively stable populations (at roughly 1 billion each). It is therefore Asia and Africa where we will see significant population increases (speaking in rounded integer multiples of 1 billion).

    Asia is currently at 4 billion, and Rosling projects Asia will increase to 5 billion by 2100, at which point he expects Asia will have “filled out” the extra capacity in the elderly, presuming a replacement birth rate and slightly longer lifespan.

    Africa is currently at 1 billion, but by Rosling’s logic it will double by 2050 and double again by 2100. This is because Africa is currently very young with relatively low lifespans, so if children born continue to be at roughly 2.0 per fertile woman (again, on average), then longer life will result in 3 billion more Africans by 2100, given the assumption of lower mortality.

    So in 2100, by this logic, more than 80% of the world’s population will be in Asia and Africa. Whites/Hispanics will become a tiny minority in the world.

    At minute 36 Rosling clarifies the huge difference the extreme poor see between where they are and where the would be with what we westerners would consider a minor change in circumstance. I loved this part of the documentary. It has to do with transportation, and how that transportation makes it possible to do so much more than one can do when limited to walking alone.

    Throughout the documentary, Rosling brings in the “Great British Ignorance Survey,” showing how not only are “educated” moderns very wrong about the world we live in, but the more educated the modern, the more likely they are to have been schooled in the wrong things.

    At minute 45 Rosling gets to the topic we are discussing in this post – the distribution of income across nations and individuals in the world. In this context, we can see how it is possible to raise everyone out of extreme poverty.

    The last portion of the documentary talks about resource consumption, specifically carbon footprint. And Rosling makes the (to me, perfectly valid point) that it is not appropriate for those who have and continue to consume the most resources and produce the largest carbon footprint to then turn around and keep the poorest individuals in the world in inescapable poverty merely because they might need to create a stepping-stone facility (e.g., power plant) that uses fossil fuel.

    I don’t agree with all the presumptions Rosling makes, but I do find that this documentary provided a lot of interesting food for thought.

  18. ” And Rosling makes the (to me, perfectly valid point) that it is not appropriate for those who have and continue to consume the most resources and produce the largest carbon footprint to then turn around and keep the poorest individuals in the world in inescapable poverty merely because they might need to create a stepping-stone facility (e.g., power plant) that uses fossil fuel.”

    Meg, yes.

  19. Nice points, Meg. I agree that we need to help the poorest of the poor. Most Americans have no idea what true poverty is about. The average house size in Europe is about 600-800 square feet, and Americans complain about a home being too small, if it is under 2500 sq ft.

    Our priorities are mixed up.

    We are so focused on consumption that we ignore the huge deficits we have, both private and public. Materialism is the god of this world, and most Americans, including many Mormons, spend most of their lives chasing after it.

    Imagine if we were to spend one trillion dollars in helping the poorest in the world rise out of abject poverty. Instead, we spend that amount on more trivial things in this country. We believe we must fuel our economy by bribing it along, giving corporations and Americans bribes, which do not work as well as we would like.

    The housing bubble burst, and we spent trillions in bailing out big banks and Wall Street. The entire housing market is worth about 10 trillion. We could have bought most first mortgages that were in trouble for less than 2 trillion dollars, kept people in their homes, etc. Instead, we spent over 8 trillion in deficit spending, with most of it going to big corporations and banks, while many Americans still are losing their homes.

    Why fix a problem, when you can juice it for everything you can, and then just put a band-aid on it? If we always have the poor, then there always is a group we can bribe with a few scraps from the Master’s table, while the real food is eaten by the rich.

    It would be best if we reduced the Fed down, and gave the tax breaks to the people, where they could then have the money and incentives to send billions to the poorest, to lift them out of abject poverty.

  20. While I agree welfare is as presently constituted is harmful, you have to also recognize that if we ended it, we would be worse off, economically and socially.

    Similar to the invasion of Iraq, which most at this point say was wrong, even acknowledging it was wrong, it would be and was a mistake to pick up and leave, creating a power vacuum for terrible things to happen under Isis and the like.

    Welfare, speaking broadly, has destroyed the work ethic of generations of Americans. Ending welfare with no work ethic in place among so many people would be far worse. It would be more wise to gradually retool our society and as a manufacturer might say, implement a running change in our work ethic rather than try to start over fresh. Look at the Occupy types who freak out at literally nothing. The state is as big as ever and people protest at even the mention of changes. Cut back on all the changes and its rioting, mixed with increasing domestic forms of terrorism.

    No thanks, I’d rather keep kicking the can down the road until the rest of the world collapses. But even better would be for some real leadership to transform the spiritual and physical work ethic.

  21. Rameumpton a main reason for the deficit increasing was first 9/11 and war and then the recession. While I’m critical of a lot of what went on, playing the corruption charge out the gate seems misleading.

    While we can be critical of what went on with the government picking “winners” or at least preventing “losers” during the recession, even if you disagree with them the context seems to make it more difficult to call corruption. I think the context meant most were sincere. That’s not to say that as a practical matter the rich got off easy. I think that Obama clearly should have punished people in these companies. It’s not holding the heads of these companies who made the mistakes accountable where I think he went wrong and where I think the close relationships verge towards corruption. But it’s really not remotely the same as what went on in the early railways or even what went on in the 50’s or 60’s here if only because of the context.

    While I’m very sympathetic to reducing government power and generally think a small government is best, the reality is that with weak governments strong corporations can have a lot of de facto power. So reducing government isn’t enough.

    Finally the problem I have with some “reduce government” (not necessarily you) is that there’s a “cut, cut, cut” mentality without really being smart about it. I wish conservatives would get a tad more wonkish and worry about how they cut.

  22. As a member of that 1%–at least if the city’s recent estimate of the market value of my house is correct–let me tell you: it’s not that great. I still have to save up to take a vacation, and I still fly coach. There are no servants in sight, and if I had a lawn I suppose I’d have to mow it (if it grew, which it didn’t, so I dug it up). Food still comes from the grocery store, and my wife or I cook it ourselves, and we don’t eat out (or order in) all that often.

    And if housing prices drop from the ridiculously high point they’ve reached, then I’ll happily take my place back in the 99%.

  23. Firstly, all of your political heroes do nothing to help or hurt the economy as much as you’d like to think that.

    We are a consumption economy. The more people spend, the better off we are. Spending creates jobs, even if that spending is deficit spending. The middle class and lower class are the true job creators! But consumer debt is as high as it’s ever been and a good portion of the overall deficit we run as a country. Why? Because the middle and lower class cannot spend freely on just their wages alone. That’s because jobs have been flying out of this country for many years now. Because the jobs that are left are not high wage jobs. They are mostly service-oriented minimum wage jobs. Even kids who graduate with a 4 year or higher degree cannot find good, high wage jobs. Moving jobs overseas has helped the bottom line of many corporations and made many of the 1% richer, but does zero to help grow our economy. The 1% spend less of a percentage of their income than any other economic group in this country. Why? Because frankly, you cannot spend that much money each and ever year. So their money is non-productive and does not help drive the economy. And the reward that Congress has given them for that: a lower actual tax rate than the real people that drive the economy forward.

    It makes no sense.

  24. If you go by annual salary, to be in the top 1% would mean making at least $344,000 per year (not including investments, retirement funds, etc).

    If you go by net worth/wealth, it is about $9 million. If you have a home worth 9 million, and you do not owe anything on it, then yes, you are in the top 1 percent.

  25. Jeff, we are a consumer society. This was designed by the wealthy, so as to make them richer. If they can get us and government to go into debt to buy more stuff, then they receive the benefits of higher stock prices, etc. Meanwhile, it is only time before those who have consumed excessively find that they cannot continue doing so at the levels they would like.
    It used to be that the average family would work for many years to be able to purchase a modest house. An automobile would last ten to twenty years (or more), sometimes being passed down from generation to generation. Older parents stayed with their kids, who would take care of them.
    Since WW2, television and production have enticed and convinced Americans that debt is not a problem. The average retiree today has less than $25K in savings! Private College debt, is currently in the trillions of dollars. Credit card debt is also in the trillions, with the average American owing over 10K. It is difficult to find a new home with less than 1500 sq ft.
    We would be better off if we were not into rampant consumerism. It breeds corruption and selfishness throughout society. Eventually, bankruptcy and other difficulties will occur, on the individual as well as the national level. Just look at the past recessions we’ve had, due to economic bubbles: the Internet bubble of the 90s, the housing bubble of the 00s, and now we’re heading for a Wall Street bubble. Each one getting bigger and more difficult to crawl out of. And only the rich come out ahead.
    We need to replace our crony capitalist system with a free market system. I agree with Meg Stout that we cannot take away the safety net for the poor quickly, but will have to reduce it slowly, so they get used to the idea of working in order to receive assistance. We definitely need to reduce government, though.
    We can replace Obamacare with a voucher system for families, that they can use to buy insurance or place in a HSA. Get the Feds out of education, with the possible exception of vouchers to allow poor kids to attend the school of their choice. Bring our troops home to protect our own borders, giving nations time to build up their own defenses first (Japan, Korea, Europe, etc). Replace our tax system with either a flat tax or a Fair tax, reducing the IRS’ size and scope. Get rid of the Homeland Security, and demilitarize FEMA and other agencies that currently are under it. Gut the NSA snooping on America program. Term limits for Congress, reducing the ability of the rich to taint or buy legislators. Push most activity back to the States and Local governments, and let them decide what they need most to spend money on.

    Only in doing these things can we reduce the influence of the rich, and get rid of the trillion dollar bloat and bribery system we have now.

  26. rame, I admit I zone out when conservatives talk spending. Because 1. Defense 2. Social Security 3. Medicare

    In fact, these 3 money suckers seem to be hugely popular as well, among all demographics. *That’s why Republicans keep supporting them. I laughed back when Paul Ryan (wanna-be-Randian) was attacking Obama for cutting Medicare as part of the ACA’s *attempt* to make the program more efficient. And you know what, it kind of worked for a while – which is why he did it.

    I also can’t really listen to anyone who claims to support the 99%, but isn’t outraged by all the money in politics. Essentially, the corporatists will win again and again, until we pass a constitutional amendment that destroys Citizens United and any ability that the wealthy have of buying elections. Libertarians should be the first in line on this issue.

  27. Ram,
    I guess we actually agree more than not. I am not totally sour on the capitalist system only the manipulation of it by those in power for their own gain. I do not begrudge an entrepreneur who builds the better mousetrap.

    I am of the opinion that we have one of the most corrupt governments on the face of the earth and its people are lulled into a false sense of security by the ready availability of goods and services, freedom of speech and association, and by the fact that our consumerism is the real “opiate of the masses.”

    The fact that we willingly elect and re-elect corrupt politicians into a corrupt system is proof to me.

  28. It amuses me how government (annual expenditures of $3-$4 trillion, forcibly taken; and run by a 535-member assembly and president selected by 146 million registered voters and whose decisions are inescapable) is merely “something we all do together” whereas Wal-Mart (annual expenditures of $400 billion, all given freely by consumers; and run by a 15-member board of directors and CEO selected by the collective holders of some 3 billion voting shares) is a “corporation” and therefore evil incarnate.

  29. The earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein.

    It disappoints me somewhat to see the direction of such discussion here. The Marxist/Socialist ideal ever looms – how can we discard this pernicious “natural man” philosopy? Class envy is truly not a concern of a truly charitable person. Inequity has always been a fact of life. The parable of the talents is most relevant.

    The idea that seems to present the most merit is not complaining that some have more resources than others. A better way is to promote that personal wealth affords us the opportunity to bless the lives of others. Almost all of us have something beneficial to offer.

    I am encouraged by the success of humanitarian efforts by the Church, especially supported by wealthy individuals. There are some who have been blessed with extraordinary means and talents. These either choose to be selfish and self-serving, or they choose to use their talents to lift others. Recognizing that it all represents blessings from the Lord puts us in the right frame of mind to help in loving all our brothers and sisters, and blessing the lives of others with charity and service.

  30. Frankly, I am quite amused when the preaching of idealism with respect to gaining of perfection in this life ignores the simple fact of having to live in this world with all the failings, challenges and struggles that this earth life brings. All in the name of making us into the ideal, Christ-like person.

    The fact that some wealthy individuals use their God-given wealth to help others is an endorsement of the character of this people, not an endorsement of the acquisition of wealth for the sake of wealth alone. The world view promotes and supports it.

    With all the rap on socialism, many fail to realize that the Church’s Fast Offering and Welfare program is exactly that. While contribution to Fast Offering is voluntary, the distribution of those funds are based on need and not in control of those who give it. Just sayin’

  31. There is a big difference between socialism and communitarianism, which the gospel is based on. One is forced upon the individual and teaches reliance on the government, and the other is voluntary and encourages individual responsibility and charity.
    I am not opposed to people being rich. I wouldn’t mind being rich myself. I am opposed to the rich getting government largesse at the expense of the regular person.

  32. Yes, forced government redistribution is not a substitute for freedom or charity. Satan’s approach has always been to mimic a similar form but subvert the spirit. He ever seeks to degrade and enslave, not to empower and enoble.

  33. Yeah, I don’t like that the government takes from the poor and middle class and gives to the rich.

    Socialism is not necessarily forced. There a number of highly functioning democratically elected socialist governments where the people enjoy a very high standard of living, freedom and the appropriate levels of social justice.

  34. But even in a democratically elected government, when that government taxes, it is taking those taxes by force. Taxes are not voluntary. And if that government imposes a regulation, it is not something that members of that community can accept or reject. They are forced by the government to comply, or receive fines and/or prison. That is even true in Sweden, France or other socialist/democratic nations today (and the USA, also).

  35. Harry Reid said I am a Democrat because I am a Mormon. I am grateful for the safety net provided by the government for those in need. I am grateful for Government/private partnerships that stimulate our economy. Social Security (retirement, disability, supplemental income), SNAP (food stamps) , low income housing, Medicaid, Medicare including the Part D (thanks to Orin Hatch), the federal reserve and the progressive tax structure are all ways to bless the lives of Americans. I am grateful for a representative which has voted for leaders who have instituted these programs.

  36. Medicare Part D is unfunded, and has added over 1 trillion dollars to our deficit. Medicare and Medicaid are on the verge of bankruptcy, and fewer doctors are accepting them anymore for payment.

    While a safety net can be important to have, our mishmash of giant programs are no longer working properly, or will soon go belly up.

    Not only that, but government largesse means the people end up losing their ability to be charitable. Those nations that are very socialist in Europe have few people that donate toward charity of their own accord. Most leave it to the government to handle everything, even when government cannot or will not do it all.

    I fear that people lose their faith, religion, and ability to have Christ-like love, when they turn everything over to government to do it for them.

  37. Hi.
    I recommend someone comment on
    The Price of Loyalty By Ron Suskind (NY times reprter)
    It is the story of Paul O’Neil secretary of treasury for first term of George W. Bush and dismissed at the second term not long before the collapse of the economy.
    Paul was retired president of Alcoa who offered his talent to help the US an was untimately rebuffed.
    I think that there still are good, rich people and this is about as dramatic an account of how good intentions and opportunities for decency and prosperity are thrown away as one can expect to read.

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