The Banksters like stealing candy from little children. No, I’m not exaggerating…they really do. At least according to a new study out of the University of California Berkeley and the University of Toronto. Two teams of researchers discovered that wealthy upper-class Americans are more likely than middle-class or poorer Americans to break traffic laws – lie for financial gain – and yes – steal candy from children.
First – when it comes to traffic laws – people driving higher-end cars like BMWs and Mercedes were seen breaking traffic laws and cutting off pedestrians more often than people driving cars like Camrys and Corrollas. In another observation – wealthier people were three times more likely to lie in a game of dice when a $50 prize was at stake for whoever rolled the highest number. As the lead researcher Paul Piff noted, “Even in people for whom $50 is a relatively small amount of money, cheating was three times as high.”
I guess they just can’t help themselves – but the next study takes the cake. Researchers put a jar of candy in front of someone and told them that the candy was for children in a nearby lab and then left the room. Sure enough – wealthier people took twice as much candy from the jar as poorer people did. Based on these observations – Piff concluded, “It really shows the extreme lengths to which wealth and upper rank status in society can shape patterns of self-interest and un-ethicality.”
My response to this? NO KIDDING! So the rich like to steal candy from children – frankly, I doubt most people are surprised. But what’s really important here is what they’ve stolen from all of us over the last 30 years. Like our money…
Did you know that 80% of all new wealth created in American since Reagan took office in 1981 went to just the top 1% of Americans? Did you know that despite increased productivity – working peoples wages have barely increased? That means Americans aren’t getting the fruits of their labor – and all the money left over from that increased productivity over the past thirty years – trillions of dollars that should have gone into workers pockets – was instead taken by the CEOs and shareholders. The top 1% have seen their after-taxes income go up 275% since 1980 – while the middle-class’ income gains can’t even keep up with inflation. Not to mention – these guys moved $7 trillion of wealth out of the hands and homes of the middle class when they crashed our economy during Bush’s presidency. And they’re not just stealing our money – they’re also stealing our commons.
Corporations like the Corrections Corporation of America are conning state governments into selling off public prisons to be run for-profit – costing taxpayers far more money in the long run. And while they’re at it – they’re stealing our freedom – as those same for-profit prison corporations support candidates who push for harsher and harsher drug and other laws – that throw more and more Americans in prison – making the CEOs more and more money while devastating the working class. As a result, America now has the highest incarceration rate in the entire world, both per capita and in absolute numbers.
On top of that – in Michigan – Governor Rick Snyder who was elected by millionaires and billionaires – signed a financial manager law last year that allows a crony of his to collect a quarter million bucks to take control of a city, and sell off its commons – like public parks and utlilities – to corporate interests at a fire sale price.
They’re stealing our right to democratize the workplace through unions. Since 1980 – union membership has plummeted – beginning with Reagan breaking up PATCO – and most recently Indiana becoming the 23rd state in the nation to pass a right-to-work-for-less law – meaning workers will earn 5,000 dollars less in Indiana than in free bargaining states. They’ve stolen our right to healthcare. Unlike every single other developed nation in the world – the United States doesn’t consider healthcare a basic human right thanks to a massive lobbying effort by the for-profit health insurance industry, which makes trillions denying sick people medical care. They’ve even stolen our peace.
Drive around Virginia and you see gigantic Mansions belonging to defense contractors who lobby Congress for more and more weapons systems whether we need them or not – and beat the drums to war to keep their profits up. That’s why the Defense Budget has TRIPLED since 1997 – and why since around that time – our nation has been in perpetual warfare. And most tragically – they’ve stolen our right to self-governance. The Supreme Court delivered the terrible blow to our democracy with their 2010 Citizens United decision – which lets the rich spend unlimited amounts of money to steal our elections. More than 300 million dollars in outside corporate cash was spent in the 2010 midterms – leading to one of the most corporate-friendly Houses in the history of this nation. And this year’s election – corporate spending will likely top a billion dollars for the first time – meaning our elections are increasingly becoming a game in which only the rich can compete.
Plus, through shadow corporate think-tanks like ALEC – the Koch-brothers-funded American Legislative Exchange Council – rich lobbyists and corporate CEOs are now literally writing our laws and handing them off to state legislators to be passed as is – regardless of what “we the people” have to say. As a result of all this theft – our equality has been stolen too. We now have wealth inequality levels in American not seen since before the Stock Market Crash of 1929. And in return for stealing all this stuff from us – the rich have given us a long list of social ills. As Kate Pickett and Richard Wilkinson at the Equality Trust in the UK discovered – countries with higher wealth inequalities – have higher rates of social ills. The US ranks low in Drug Abuse, Teen Pregnancy, Mental Illness, Violent Crime, Obesity and Mistrust.
I wish the rich were only stealing candy from children – but the truth is they’ve been robbing the middle class blind for thirty years – and now that middle class is broke – flat broke and disappearing. And whether it’s in certain people’s genes to steal and be selfish – which in turn makes them more likely to be wealthy in America – or whether being selfish just comes with the territory of being born into wealth in America – nobody knows yet.
But whatever it is – to paraphrase Jim Morrison – there are 99 of us for every one of them. And it’s time to take back what they’ve robbed from us – and put regulations and taxes back into place that will keep them from stealing from us – regulations and taxes like we had between 1932 and 1980, during the period of the most rapid growth of the Middle Class in American history. Roll back Reaganomics, roll back the Reagan tax cuts, get out of the WTO, and undo Reagan’s war on unions.