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Greed Is Good? Where Will America’s Sick Obsession With Wealth And Money End?


By Michael Snyder

Greed - Photo by J. Solana from Madrid, Spain

Everywhere you look, Americans appear to be extremely obsessed with wealth and money.  These days, networks such as CNN endlessly run “news stories” with titles such as “Best cars for the super rich“.  We have television shows where people proudly show off how wealthy they are, and it seems like Hollywood is putting out an endless parade of movies that glorify the lifestyles of the elite.  We have hordes of motivational speakers and “life coaches” that will teach you how to be “more successful” in life, and every small movement in the stock market is carefully monitored by the mainstream news media.  Even in the world of faith, we have an entire class of ministers known as “prosperity preachers”, and many of those ministers wear that label quite proudly.  Yes, those that grew up in the 1980s may have been the “greed is good” generation, but the truth is that they didn’t have anything on us.  As a society we love money, and we are not ashamed to admit it.  In fact, there are times we absolutely revel in it.  For example, Time Magazine published an article this year entitled “Science Proves It: Greed Is Good” and hardly anyone even raised an eyebrow.  But where will America’s sick obsession with wealth and money end?  Could it end up destroying us?

I got the idea for this article when I was browsing through CNN’s website.  The following are eight “news stories” about wealth that were featured on CNN just on Thursday alone…

#1 “The richest Americans in history

#2 “How much do you need to be happy?

#3 “Where are the super rich?

#4 “From broke to billionaire

#5 “Homes: What $25 million buys around the world

#6 “Best cars for the super rich

#7 “America’s homes are bigger than ever

#8 “Mega yacht with a movie theater

This is what passes for news these days?

It has been said that we tend to talk about the things that we are obsessed with.

And CNN is clearly obsessed with wealth.

Not that there is anything wrong with having money.

If none of us had any money, we would all be homeless and starving.  So the truth is that money can be very useful.  But when it becomes an idol, that is when it becomes a problem.

And because we have taught entire generations of Americans that becoming wealthy is one of the primary goals in life, it is creating a tremendous amount of envy, jealousy, frustration and anger among those that have not been able to become wealthy.

In recent years, the level of bitterness and resentment that the rest of the nation has toward the very wealthy has risen to an unprecedented level.  It has become exceedingly apparent that the system is designed to funnel wealth to the very top of the food chain, and many of those at the bottom of the food chain are starting to become extremely upset about this.

Since the last financial crisis, almost all of the income gains have gone to the top one percent of all income earners.  The following comes from a recent Huffington Post article

Economic statistics show that incomes for the top 1 percent of U.S. households soared 31 percent from 2009 through 2012, after adjusting for inflation, yet inched up an average of 0.4 percent for those making less. Many economists are sounding alarms that the income gap, greater now than at any time since the Depression, is hurting the economy by limiting growth in consumer spending.

And income inequality has become such a hot topic that it has even produced a New York Times bestseller by a French economist named Thomas Piketty.  This is what CBS News recently had to say about his book…

His book has landed on that debate like a bomb. Piketty’s thesis: that the rate of return on capital, such as real estate, dividends and other financial assets, is racing away from the rate of growth required to maintain a healthy economy. If that trend continues for an extended period of time — if wealth becomes ever more concentrated in the hands of a few — then inequality is likely to get worse, says Piketty, 43, who started his academic career as an assistant professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and who now teaches at the Paris School of Economics.

Another reason “Capital” has caught the public’s attention is that inequality is evident in what are by now a host of familiar symptoms. Stagnant pay, except among the super-rich. Soaring health care and education costs. The diminished expectations commonly found in young, especially those lacking college degrees, and old alike, as retirement becomes something to endure rather than to enjoy.

It would be foolish to deny that the gap between the rich and the poor is growing.  Even as the stock market reaches unprecedented heights, the middle class is dying and one out of every five children in America is living in poverty.

On a global scale, the wealthiest one percent now have 65 times more wealth than the entire poorest half of the global population does.

That is an astounding figure.

Most people don’t realize this, but the ultra-wealthy have approximately 32 trillion dollars (that we know about) stashed in offshore banks around the planet.  That amount of money would almost be about enough to pay off the entire U.S. national debt and buy every good and service produced in the United States for an entire year.

Meanwhile, the poorest half of the world’s population only owns about 1 percent of all global wealth, and about a billion people throughout the world go to bed hungry every night.

If greed was going to save the world, it would have done it by now.  At this point, the wealthy have accumulated more wealth than they ever have before.  For example, according to Zero Hedge the total amount of wealth in the U.S. has just hit a brand new record high…

Earlier today the Fed released its latest Flow of Funds report, which showed that in the first quarter household net worth rose from last quarter’s $80.3 trillion to a new record high of $81.8 trillion, driven by a $1.5 trillion increase in total assets while household liabilities were virtually unchanged in the quarter. And since the Fed is onboarding all the liabilities why should households bother with debt: that’s what the central bank balance sheet is for.

As for the proceeds, they go to the mega rich: of the $81.8 trillion in net worth, 70.4% of the total amount or $67.2 trillion, was in financial assets: the higest it has ever been courtesy of just one person: Ben Bernanke, and to a far lesser extent Janet Yellen who however is tasked with picking up Bernanke’s pieces.

But of course most people who are rich are only rich on paper.

As noted above, 67.2 trillion dollars of the total of 81.8 trillion dollars of wealth in this nation is made up of financial assets.

So what happens if there is a major financial crisis (such as the derivatives bubble bursting) which causes the total amount of financial wealth in the United States to drop by 50% or more?

What would such an event do to our country?

We are so obsessed with wealth and money that it is truly frightening to think about how we would react as a society if it was taken away.

But this current financial bubble will not last forever.

At some point it will come to an end.

When it does, will our society throw a massive temper tantrum?

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  • easy2stop

    To end all the greed and all the fraud takes one easy step and it ends forever. Money is a means of control, you are controlled because you have to have money to get the goods you need, but money is just paper that is used to make you comply and produce. As soon as you get it then it is taken away so yo have to produce again and if you do not then you are threatened with losing the paper access.
    Dump it. Give them all the money and refuse to accept any more, use any more for any reason. And this will kill their game right away. And you will be free.
    Sure they will threaten and try to keep the control game going but it will not work. Once all their paper becomes worthless and no one will take it any longer then we start fresh from a truthful and useful point.
    Destroy the crony game.

    • mldavis254

      This is where the Zeitgeist Movement and the Venus Project are way ahead of the curve. Humanity will never reach its full potential unless we adopt a Resource Based Economy.

      Capitalism was an interesting experiment that produced erratic benefits to society along with extreme deprivation. It has fostered a return to feudalism and rendered nations captive to the whims of an elite whose only claim to lead is based on accumulation of money, which is itself an artificial construct created by the elite. Capitalism, expressed as a desire for individual wealth accumulation, is the source of the vast majority of crime, wars over resources (camouflaged as humanitarian intervention), crushing poverty, relentless pollution of the only planet we have, and the denial of basic rights to those who “can’t afford them”.

      We do have choices. Many in the RBE community are quietly withdrawing from the current system as best they can and simply waiting for the inevitable collapse, hoping to construct a working equitable society from the ruins of our current attempt at civilization. Many like myself are presenting this option now as something that we can adopt before a total catastrophic collapse.

  • Shannon Perley

    It is important that the Communists keep up their charade, by masquerading as the capitalist rich, when in actuality they are the Communist elite. I tend to live in places where the elite play and live. I have lived in Aspen Colorado, Honolulu, Lahaina Maui, Coconut Grove Miami, Palm Springs, Boulder Colorado, just to name a few. And in all these places, I don’t recall meeting any class of rich people hanging out anywhere. When I would go out to the bars and restaurants, I would see the elite listing to hip-hop or other trashy forms of culture. You don’t see the glamour and the wealth that was exhibited in early Hollywood movies, before the Communist took full control and destroyed that class Americans during the great compression that actually had capital. Today, there is no capitalism, and there are no rich. There is only collective communism financed by international banks that print money out of nothing. And with this funny money, they manipulate the stock market, they manipulate gold and silver, they even buy up all the foreclosed homes their fraud was responsible for, and then print more funny money to buy up all these foreclosed homes with front companies like Blackwater. The elite Communist in the United States, are no different than the elite Communist and Communist China. What exactly is a billionaire? Does that mean they have 1 billion pieces of paper somewhere? Very unlikely, if you look at the balance sheet of any of these billionaires you will find very little liquidity. A CEO of a corporation receiving $10 million a year in salary might appear to be rich, but he or her is actually a manager in the Communist economic apparatus. They don’t own their homes, they don’t own their cars, they don’t own their companies, the banks and everything, and the banks financed the Bolsheviks. After 9/11 coup d’état, the Communist establish the Patriot Act, indefinite tension, and a host of other surveillance organizations to build electronic iron wall like in the Soviet Union. Do any of you think you are really well off? Then try getting your money out of the country.