The Looting of America
By Andre Damon
Clearing House -
Two reports issued
this week—the US Census Bureau’s report on poverty and the
Forbes 400 list of the wealthiest Americans—together provide a
vivid exposure of a society in which the privileged few
parasitically enrich themselves through the impoverishment of
the great majority of the population.
While the Census report showed poverty at the highest level in
decades and median household income falling sharply, the Forbes
report shows an enormous growth in the wealth of the corporate
and financial aristocracy.
The 400 richest people in America increased their wealth by 17
percent in 2013, with their collective hoard rising from $1.7
trillion to just over $2 trillion. The wealth of these 400
individuals is more than twice the amount necessary to cover the
federal budget deficit, which is being used as the occasion for
slashing Food Stamps, education, housing assistance, and health
The wealth of Bill Gates, once again the world’s richest man,
grew by $6 billion last year, to $72 billion. Financier Warren
Buffett's wealth grew by $12.5 billion, to $58.5 billion, while
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg got another $6 billion, hitting
$31 billion. Gambling mogul Sheldon Adelson, worth $28.5
billion, had his fortune grow by nearly a third.
The list of new additions to the Forbes 400 includes figures
such as William Erbey, who built up his net worth of $2.3
billion by servicing subprime mortgages, and Don Hankey, worth
$1.6 billion. Forbes writes that Hankey “made his fortune the
old-fashioned way—by selling auto loans (subprime ones, at
Forbes sums up the pastimes of Larry Ellison, third on the list,
by noting that he “collects houses on Malibu’s Carbon Beach and
also owns of 98% of Hawaii’s Lanai island.” Forbes ran a
separate story on the extracurricular activities of 67-year-old
billionaire Stewart Rahr, in a piece entitled, “Guns, Girls And
Sex Tapes: The Unhinged, Hedonistic Saga Of Billionaire Stewart
Rahr, ‘Number One King Of All Fun.’”
These individuals represent a social type. The saying of Balzac,
“Behind every great fortune there is a great crime,” was never
truer than for the American ruling class. The list is full of
people who made their money not through any contribution to the
productive process, but through various forms of financial
swindling, speculation and the impoverishment of working people
“Accumulation of wealth at one pole is at the same time
accumulation of misery, agony of toil, slavery, ignorance,
brutality, mental degradation, at the opposite pole,” wrote
Marx. And so it is. The Census Bureau report, “Income, Poverty
and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2012,”
showed that the income of a typical household in the US has
fallen to the lowest level since 1989, while poverty remains at
the highest levels in decades.
The report notes that there are 48 million people in the US
without health insurance, and that in four US
states—Mississippi, Louisiana, New Mexico, and Arkansas—more
than one in five people live in poverty. Nearly one third of the
US population experienced some period of impoverishment during
the years 2009-2011, according to the report.
These figures add to the earlier report from economist Emmanuel
Saez, which found that between 2009 and 2012, the top 1 percent
captured a staggering 95 percent of all income growth.
With every passing year, it becomes increasingly clear that the
so-called economic “recovery” is nothing but the transfer of
wealth upwards, from the great majority of the working
population to a handful of financial oligarchs who gorge
themselves at society’s expense.
The redistribution of wealth is the product of a quite
deliberate class policy, undertaken at the highest levels of the
state, and spearheaded by the Obama administration. The
financial elite has been given virtually unlimited sums of
money, while wages and benefits for workers have been slashed
and budget deficits have served as the occasion for demanding
the closure of schools, mass layoffs of government workers and
cuts in social services.
The government’s commitment to providing cash to the financial
oligarchy was once more reemphasized Wednesday with the
announcement by the Federal Reserve that it would continue to
pump $85 billion into the US economy, despite widespread
expectations that the Fed would slow down its asset purchases.
Stock markets once again hit record highs at the news.
The trillions of dollars that have been printed by the
government and handed over to the financial oligarchy have not
been used for productive investments—to build roads, bridges,
and schools—but have rather been used to finance the speculative
activities of Wall Street. These public funds, which in any
rational social order would be used to address mass unemployment
and poverty through public works, are being drained away and
siphoned into the coffers of the financial aristocracy.
The cancerous growth of social inequality is the greatest
possible indictment of the capitalist system, in which the needs
of society are subordinated to the selfish enrichment of a small
handful of financial speculators. This system is irrational and
incapable of meeting the needs of humanity. It must be done away
with and replaced with socialism, based on production for social
need, not private profit.
Copyright © 1998-2013
World Socialist Web
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