It became an American literary legend. In one of his short stories, F. Scott Fitzgerald famously pronounced:

          “Let me tell you about the very rich. They are different from you and me. They possess and enjoy early, and it does something to them, makes them soft where we are hard, and cynical where we are trustful, in a way that, unless you were born rich, it is very difficult to understand. They think, deep in their hearts, that they are better than we are because we had to discover the compensations and refuges of life for ourselves. Even when they enter deep into our world or sink below us, they still think that they are better than we
are. They are different. ”

          Ernest Hemingway, as either the contrarian or realist, had an equally famous reply: “Yes, they have more money.”

          What the rich in America have right now is power, total control of the governments that control the economies which have been designed to make them richer.

          By purchasing state and federal legislators, they have orchestrated favorable tax breaks and other enhancements that apply to them only, leaving us normal folks to pay the freight. Acquisitive at heart, the rich have extended their purchases to Supreme Court justices, who manage to rule to their benefit.

          America’s wealthiest people have assured themselves and their heirs of clear sailing into the future as long as their shadow oligarchy remains in control.

          Two reports from early January highlight how the system benefits the super rich.

          Americans for Tax Fairness examined Federal Reserve data and found that, “America’s billionaires and centi-millionaires (those with at least $100 million of wealth) collectively held at least $8.5 trillion of ‘unrealized capital gains’ in 2022. These profits from unsold investments constitute the largest source of income for the super-rich. This staggering accumulation of ‘quiet’ income may never be taxed unless special taxes on the ultra-wealthy now under consideration in Congress are enacted.”

          (Republicans and corporate Democrats will see that those bills never make it.)

          “The data show that more than one in every six dollars (18%) of the nation’s unrealized gains is held by these roughly 64,000 ultra-wealthy households, who make up less than 0.05% of the population. That is nearly triple the share that billionaires and centi-millionaires held when the Federal Reserve started tracking unrealized gains in 1989.”

          Easy Street – and it keeps getting easier. How?

          The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy released its report which found:

          • In 41 states, high-income families are taxed at lower rates than everyone else.

          • In 34 states, low-income families are taxed at higher rates than everyone else despite having the least ability to pay. 

          • In the 10 states with the most regressive tax structures, the lowest-income 20 percent pay threetimes as much of their income in taxes as the wealthiest 1 percent. 

          Benefiting the rich shifts the burden to the rest of us. ITEP found, “The vast majority of state and local tax systems are regressive, or upside-down. This requires a much greater share of income from low- and middle-income families than from wealthy families. The absence of a graduated personal income tax in many states and a heavy reliance on consumption taxes contribute to this effect.”

          And, as Matthew Stewart chronicled in The Atlantic in 2018, the super-rich, those top .1% richest Americans, are abetted in their endeavors by the next 9.9%, what he calls the “new aristocracy,” which he described as ”a well-behaved, flannel-suited crowd of lawyers, doctors, dentists, mid-level investment bankers, M.B.A.s with opaque job titles, and assorted other professionals—the kind of people you might invite to dinner.”

          Among Stewart’s many findings was that, over the past 40 years, the 9.9 percenters have been maintaining a steady wealth stream while the 0.1 percenters keep getting richer at the expense of the bottom 90%.

          This new aristocracy serve as the shills for the oligarchs. In Oklahoma City they were the ones who convinced voters to dedicate $900 million in tax money to a new basketball arena, with the rich folks who own the team managing to contribute $50 million.

          Taking from the poor; giving to the rich. Where is the Sheriff of Nottingham?

          The oligarch’s shills are also those promoting wars against culture to stir up many of the 90% into voting for the Republicans dedicated to making their masters richer. (And there are way too many corporate Democrats lapping up the same slop.)

          And somehow many of those good folks still support GOPers who promise to cut – if they can’t eliminate – the Social Security and Medicare earnings to which workers have contributed all their lives.

          Special treatment for special people? We give them reasons to think themselves better than the rest of us.

          The collapse of the Texas energy grid during the 2021 deep freeze left more than five million people without power, 11 million dealing with outages and resulted in hundreds of deaths.

          So, Jan. 14, with temperatures and wind chills again threatening North Texas, the Dallas Cowboys hosted a playoff game inside the domed and heated Texas Stadium. People were on edge hoping the grid would hold again, and Jerry’s Death Star was sucking up massive amounts of energy for the benefit of a football game.

          Keep those priorities straight. No wonder Reliant Energy sponsors Cowboys’ broadcasts.

          Ironically, while the wealthiest top 10% justify their predation with their concern for their offspring, they are also in the forefront of making Earth uninhabitable for their heirs.

          Condensing an Oxfam International, the CBC reported, “The lifestyles, investments and influence of wealthy people who make more than $140,000 US a year are destroying the environment….It found that the world’s richest one per cent produced more carbon emissions than the poorest two-thirds of humanity in 2019.”

          And, the people hit hardest by global warming and its corollaries are the poorest. I guess we can really start to worry about what the rich have planned for us once artificial intelligence eliminates any need for our presence.

          They have been committed to their game plan for years and have been successful in enacting it.

          To complain is to get accused of advocating a class war. That war is almost over – and most of us are on the losing side.

          (Gary Edmondson is chair of the Stephens County Democratic Party.)

Rich get richer – according to plan

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