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The Japanese have developed and are selling $1,500 toilets to high-end hotels (no pun intended) and to the rich, famous, and infamous for their homes around the world. It does everything you don’t want to know about while serving you in many perfect ways. The rich will never have doubts about their cleanliness again after leaving these magnificent automatic scrubbing, washing, and drying thrones. They don’t have to even use a single exterior muscle. Absolutely priceless.
In writing about world income inequality, I thought I would try to find something that would mark the extreme difference between the rich and poor besides money. The $1,500 toilet is a perfect “differentiator.”
I got the amount of “toilet” money from an article by William Finnegan titled “The Miner’s Daughter.” The richest woman in the world is Gina Rinehart, an Australian who owns Hancock Prospecting, a company with interests in mining and related businesses in several countries. Her estimated wealth is $30 billion, give or take a few billion. The Walton women of Walmart fame don’t even come close at only $26 billion each. The Walton family owns 14 percent of the U.S. total wealth and as much as the bottom 41 percent own. In that the Australian economy is one-tenth the size of the American economy, Rinehart’s wealth in relation to that would be about $200 billion, or the combined wealth of the four richest Americans—or seven Michael Bloombergs.
Rinehart, a widow with four children, has acquired a reputation as a greedy, brutal, psychopathic capitalist whose father caused hundreds of asbestos-related deaths among thousands of his aboriginal workforce. Her father never assumed any personal or medical responsibility for injuries and deaths. He even suggested at one time that aborigines should be lured to welfare offices so their water could be “doped” to make them all infertile, thus wiping out the entire race.
“You Vs. Gina Rinehart”
This was the headline on the Australian website howrichareyou.com.au. The site has a game people can play. You can enter your annual salary and compare it with Gina’s. A player entering $60,000 will learn that Gina earns that every 1.7 minutes. Then the site pounces: “Guess who made $107,703 sitting on the toilet today?” Aussies do not like her. Her father did not help her national reputation. He once described her as a “slothful, vindictive and devious baby elephant... because you are grossly overweight. I’m glad your mother can’t see you now.” There goes family values. I guess money really isn’t everything.
Americans lost $16 trillion in household equity in the ever-cyclical Wall Street bubble, but we still are one of the richest countries. Our problem is that the money needed to maintain a dominant middle class is now in the wrong hands. It’s in the hands of a few hundred billionaire psychopaths who have no interest in the common good. A psychopath is an aggressive antisocial person lacking empathy for fellow human beings. The welfare of fellow human beings is not on their bucket list.
David and Charles Koch, brothers who inherited third base from daddy, made the equivalent of $3 million an hour from their oil and pipeline business based on a 40-hour work week in 2012. That’s an increase of six billion a year for each Koch. In order to keep the billions rolling in, they poured millions into fake grassroot campaigns opposing 98 percent of the scientific community who believe humans add to the problems of global warming. If they take an hour for lunch, they pocket another $3 million while the waiter serving them is paid $2.13 and must depend on the largesse of customer tips for survival.
Mitt Romney And His
Worthless 47 Percent
Since vulture capitalists like Romney and Wall Street banksters and hedge fund operators took the economy down lover’s lane and raped it, the middle class has been decimated. In 1983 the poorest 47 percent of America averaged $15,000 of wealth per family. When the vultures and banksters really went to work in the Dubya years, they cleaned these families out in a short time, so now the average wealth is zero per family.
To put personal fortunes into perspective, just one of the ten richest Americans with his 2012 income could pay the annual single-room occupancy cost of $558 per month to house the 633,000 homeless sleeping on the streets of American cities. The ten richest also made more in 2012 than the entire housing budget of the U.S.! Out of 141 countries surveyed, the U.S. has the fourth-highest degree of wealth inequality in the world, behind Russia, Ukraine, and Lebanon.
Minority families once had some equity in their homes, but because of the Wall Street housing fraud the median wealth for Hispanic and black families has fallen 66 percent and 53 percent, respectively. Now the average single black or Hispanic woman has about $100 in net worth. For every dollar of assets owned by a black or Hispanic woman, each member of the Forbes 400 has over $40 million.
This Is The Real Ameri-
We still hear the Know-Nothings in the Republican Party pontificate about how exceptional we are. Evidently these are guys and gals who look in the mirror and sing that famous line: “I’m perfect in every way.” The Global Competitiveness Report of 2012-2013 by the World Economic Forum, the latest annual ranking of 144 countries in a comprehensive examination of a wide range of factors, reveals the dark side of the “richest country in the world” with “the finest health care on earth.” American “exceptionalism” is hard to find in this report. We rank #1 in only one category: Gross Domestic Product. That is, we are on top only as a share of the world GDP. We are #136 in Government Debt as a percentage of GDP (not good!), #80 in Soundness of Banks, #37 in Strength of Auditing and Reporting Standards (witness Enron, Tyco, and Countrywide), and #78 in Wastefulness of Government Spending (check the Pentagon’s F-35 budget of the fighter that can’t fight).
In health care we are #34 in Life Expectancy and #41 in Infant Mortality. In education we are #38 in Quality of Primary Education, #47 in Quality of Math and Science Education, and #28 in Quality of the Educational System. Our political system has more than a tinge of corruption. We are #34 in Diversion of Public Funds (due to corruption), #42 in Irregular Payments and Bribes, #54 in Public Trust in Politicians, #38 in Judicial Independence, and #59 in Cronyism Involving Government Officials. We are #103 in Total Tax Rates, #47 in Number of Procedures Required to Start a Business, and #33 in Internet-Broadband Use. Among the nations that stand high on the positive side are Finland, Switzerland, Singapore, New Zealand, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Japan, Canada, and the Netherlands. We are buried in the middle of the second quartile of this significant report—and are gradually sinking to “Third World” status. The most important factor for the disappearing middle class in the U.S. is that we are a less upwardly mobile society than many comparable nations, with Great Britain, Canada, and almost all of Western Europe way ahead of us. This is a bad sign: Foxconn, China’s largest private employer, is considering opening plants in this country. I wonder if Foxconn will put nets around U.S. factories to catch suicidal workers jumping out of windows, as they do in China.
Is David Stockman
A Reliable Authority?
One of Ronald Reagan’s most reliable budget chiefs, David Stockman, dropped an economic bomb on his fellow Republicans a couple of weeks ago by declaring that “the United States is broke—fiscally, morally, intellectually—and the Fed (Federal Reserve) has incited a global currency war (Japan just signed up, the Brazilians and Chinese are angry, and the German-dominated euro zone is crumbling) that will soon overwhelm it. When the latest bubble pops, there will be nothing to stop the collapse. If this sounds like advice to get out of the markets and hide out the cash, it is.” Ouch!
The Decade Of Disaster
While George W. Bush
Was Learning To Paint
Stockman does not mince words about the Bush decade of disaster: “Over the last 13 years (from 2000) the stock market has twice crashed and touched off a recession: American households lost $5 trillion in the 2000 dot-com bust and more than $7 trillion in the 2007 housing crash. Sooner or later... this latest Wall Street bubble, inflated by an egregious flood of phony money from the Federal Reserve rather than real economic gains, will explode, too.”
Economic facts substantiate what Stockman is predicting. During the Bush decade our economy grew at 1.7 percent a year, the lowest since the Civil War. Business investment has averaged a measly 0.8 percent a year, with the payroll job count limping along at 0.1 percent annually. Real median family income growth has dropped 8 percent in this decade, and the number of middle-class jobs has dropped 6 percent. The bottom 90 percent lost 25 percent of their net worth while food stamp and disability aid recipients have doubled to 59 million and one in five Americans.
Stockman “taken to the woodshed” by the great budget balancer Ronald Reagan because he didn’t believe in “trickle-down” economics (it really became tinkled-on or pissed-on economics), which further defined the 30-year period when the middle class didn’t make a dime. He said, “The destruction of fiscal rectitude under Ronald Reagan—one reason I resigned as his budget chief in 1985—was the greatest of his many dramatic acts. Reagan said deficits didn’t matter... and allowed George W. Bush to dive into the deep end, bankrupting the nation through two misbegotten and unfinanced wars.”
The Musings Of An
Old Commie–Karl Marx
Karl Marx is long dead, but the Republicans always keep looking for commies under beds, in beds, in the Democratic Party, in newspaper columns, and in government departments. I have always wondered why they fear and hate Marx so much. Could it be because Marx was right about unfettered capitalism? He trained as a philosopher in the 19th century, concentrating in the areas of economics and politics. He believed that the extraction of surplus value from exploited labor eventually breaks down capitalism. At first capitalism raises everyone to new heights of wealth. But then wealth gets concentrated in a greedy few, causing conflict between the rich and working classes.
Widening inequality in the world is just what Marx predicted, with such inequality creating misery, ignorance, slavery, brutality, and mental degradation, whether in third-world or “rich” industrialized European or North and South American nations. Class struggle is back in spades in the U.S. and around the world, with workers demanding their share of the global economic pie. The Third World War, the battle between capital and labor, has started, whether in China, Egypt, Russia, North Carolina, Pakistan, India, France, or Illinois. Pitchforks are being sharpened around the world.
John Steinbeck in his Great Depression novel “The Grapes of Wrath” used the Joad family to illustrate the problems of the middle class and poor during periods of inequality. Bruce Springsteen in his song “The Ghost of Tom Joad” followed Steinbeck’s theme:
“Men walkin’ long the railroad tracks, goin’ someplace there’s no going back,
Highway patrol choppers comin’ up over the bridge, hot soup on a campfire under bridge,
Shelter line stretchin’ round the corner, welcome to the new world order,
Families sleepin’ in their cars in the Southwest, no home no job no peace no rest,
The highway is alive tonight but nobody’s kiddin’ nobody about where it goes,
I’m sittin’ down here in the campfire light, searchin’ for the ghost of Tom Joad.”