Indecent wealth, indecent poverty

80% of private wealth in the United States is inherited. The richest 1% now own 41.8% of the wealth, while the poorest 90% hold only 22.8%. When you look at the differences between white and black citizens the gap is stark. For every dollar owned by a white family, a black family of colour earns less than a dime. The median wealth of white households in 2013 was $141,900, while black families had just $11,000 median wealth, Latinos $13,700. The average wealth figures by race would be even more skewed if the vast wealth of the richest minority were included.

Along with busting the budget, Trump and the Republicans in Congress have recently made the situation even worse, while assuredly being able to raise even more election money.

Historically, societies with such extremes of wealth and poverty have not survived. As examples look at France and Russia before their revolutions, Egypt, China and the Maya. One might add others, including ancient Rome. The difference is that the American rich have bought Congress, have persuaded the poor whites that their interests are identical to theirs, and that sensible things like a single-payer health service are “communist” plots. They have also sold the fairy tale that they too could be super-rich with luck (very possible years ago but the odds against it are now humungous). Moreover, the rich have cleverly persuaded the poorly educated that the liberals want to take their guns away. The ubiquitous nature of guns stacks the odds heavily in favour of the status quo, and against any form of serious reform.

Yes, in terms of naked self-interest and consuming greed, the American (Republican) super-rich have done a stunningly good job for themselves. Epicurus would be shocked: his mantra was moderation. He might well ask “What on earth do you need all that money for?”

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