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The Poisons of Extreme Wealth and Inequality 

(Photo: Adam Gessaman / Flickr)

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Giant Mansion.(Photo: Adam Gessaman / Flickr)Excess wealth, widespread poverty and inequality are all poisonous to our nation. These poisons threaten our economy, our democratic process, academic integrity, our justice system and our culture.

Wealth, poverty, and inequality are all – in excess – poisonous to our nation. They poison our economy, political system, education system, justice system and our culture.

As demonstrated over and over, those with excess wealth are keen to protect that wealth and to add more. One of their favored investments is real estate, but available and suitable properties are limited. Excess wealth chasing limited supplies drives up prices so the average young family must scrimp and save for years before they can buy their own home. For many, the American dream will fizzle out.

If you rent, know your rent is being jacked up in proportion to increased real estate prices. The wealthy do not buy real estate except to speculate or to get a good return on investment.

The wealthy elite can and will gamble by, for example, investing in derivatives. According to The Economist magazine as of June 2011 the OTC and exchange derivatives market was about $783 trillion. By comparison, the world annual gross domestic product is about $65 trillion. The resulting volatility, as we saw in 2008, creates a serious risk to the world economy. We may be at risk for another “too big to fail” bailout.

The wealthy elite also poison our democratic process using massive spending to overwhelm messages from the opposition. For example, groups funded by conservative donors Charles and David Koch alone raised more than $400 million for the 2012 campaign. This was more than both Democrats and Republicans spent in the 2000 election.

In their obsession to control our public life, the wealthy have bid up the cost of being elected to public office. From 1974 to 2006, winning campaigns for the US Senate have gone from about $500,000 to about 16 times that amount, to $8 million. In the same time period, the cost of a Congressional seat went from about $56,500 to about $1.3 million, or about a 23-fold increase. Americans for Prosperity (a Koch-backed organization) already has spent more than $8 million on the North Carolina Senate election (November 4, 2013) to defeat Democratic candidate Kay Hagan.

The wealthy poison the legislative process with massive lobbying efforts that often come close and sometimes do cross the line to bribery. A look at one year, 2012, is revealing. According to US Senate records, 11,935 lobbyists distributed $3.31 billion to influence policies and to mold legislation. Of the total spent for lobbying in 2012, more than 88 percent was from business and commercial interests.

Those with excess wealth could help us but more often seem intent on bending our culture to serve their greed. They are not above undermining academic integrity to push their conservative ideology.

In 2008, the Charles G. Koch (billionaire) Charitable Foundation agreed to give millions of dollars to the economic department of Florida State University. In exchange, the university agreed to allow an advisory committee, appointed by Koch, to decide which candidates for the faculty to consider.

Massive inequality in wealth has so poisoned our justice system that few respect this realm of judges and lawyers. The criminal justice system often is described as a weapon the state uses against the poor, and the civil justice system is a weapon the wealthy use against the poor.

Spreading poverty is driving the United States to look more and more like an impoverished country. The process has been gradual, but what was exceedingly rare in the 1950s has today become a common sight: homeless, beggars, dumpster divers.

Excess wealth and spreading poverty – inequality – have coarsened our culture. Young women are increasingly making financial agreements with sugar daddies. One firm brokering these arrangements,, boasts of about 800,000 members. In these arrangements, wealthy men pay an average of $3,000 per month for time with the young women. Web sites brokering such arrangements claim that sex is not involved, but one of the young women made the observation that, “A guy is a guy, and guys want sex.”

For each wealthy male seeking a match, there are more than 10 women. The arrangements are increasingly tempting to young college women accumulating burdensome student loans. For the number of students registered with, New York University, as of July 2011, ranked first with 498 “sugar babies.”

More and more it seems as though a wealthy powerful amoral elite has hijacked our nation, but we have within the strength to fight for a new direction, and we must do so.

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