103 Comments

This is not sustainable. My wife and I both work full-time, raised three daughters, who are now college graduates, and cost burdened with school debt and barely make it. my parents are in an assisted living that is draining their assets so there will not be anything left for the family. The cost of housing, medical care, and education is destroying the middle-class.

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All politics (as opposed to economics) is local. We have 759 billionaires. The array is pretty much limited to certain states.

According to a 2020 Pew poll (the most relevant and authoritative I can find) Democrats are nearly twice as likely as Republicans to say there’s too much economic inequality in the U.S. (78% vs. 41%). https://www.pewresearch.org/social-trends/2020/01/09/most-americans-say-there-is-too-much-economic-inequality-in-the-u-s-but-fewer-than-half-call-it-a-top-priority/

In most flyover (Red) states there are proportionally few oligarchs. For example, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, and South Carolina only have 1 billionaire per state. https://www.madisontrust.com/information-center/visualizations/which-us-states-have-the-most-billionaires/

Thom and Robert Reich have been on top of this issue. https://www.inequalitymedia.org/how-wealth-inequality-spiraled-out-of-control?gad_source=1&gclid=Cj0KCQiAw6yuBhDrARIsACf94RX2S5Y6LrvxKhXClPmyLcR5dxwBC81FPW8FSz2sNsRwf5BaLwbIn-0aApEyEALw_wcB

If I were targeting change, I'd publish Thom and Robert extensively throughout the red states that have the most income inequality. Offer Thom's article free to every media outlet in those states.

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Watching U.S. television ads with an open mind (as though you were an anthropologist studying an unknown civilization or just landed in a flying saucer) is definitely a different experience then just sitting there absorbing the words.

Personally I like the singing, dancing lady who is excited to have diabetes and then educate her physician about the wonderful new drug she heard about. But then selling prescription pharmaceutical products to patients is a huge business which, when you think about it, really makes no sense. (Of course neither do most political ads, with their endless repetitions of innuendo and fear, something we can look forward to for the next 9 months.)

And to measure how out of whack inequality has become there's the Gini coefficient. Wikipedia explains this well by saying, "A Gini coefficient of 0 reflects perfect equality, where all income or wealth values are the same, while a Gini coefficient of 1 (or 100%) reflects maximal inequality among values, a situation where a single individual has all the income while all others have none." Not surprisingly in the U.S. this has been getting worse over time. The World Bank gave us a number of 0.346 in 1979 and 0.398 in 2020 (some sources put it as high as 0.42 today).

Just for some comparisons, South Africa has the highest number at 0.63, Colombia is at 0.51, Iceland is 0.26 and Norway is at 0.23. We have a long way to go.

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Feb 13Liked by Thom Hartmann

Thom, For thé past two weeks, I’ve been ill with my first infection of Covid. Today, I tested negative.

When I tired of reading, I revisited watching the now famous television series BREAKING BAD shown during the mid-2000s. What I had not recalled but realized immediately, is that the premise of what sent an career high school chemistry teacher into life of crime and a murderous quest for survival at all costs was saving his family from financial bankruptcy because of the costs of his oncology drugs and surgery for his cancer care. Then, his DEA agent brother-in-laws’ medical rehab far exceeded the federal network limits of the doctor’s skill levels that he required to regain mobility. So, his criminal brother-in-law paid the cost of his pursuer’s rehabilitation.

Nothing has changed. The conservatives want to privatize Medicare and Medicaid by luring naive seniors into buying Medical Advantage private medical coverage that puts them the mercy of insurers who promise them more benefits and then deny them that coverage. It is three card monte bait and switch perfected by the likes of Rick Scott and other billionaire thieves who got rich stealing from their policy holders and were protected by attorneys. They now are hiding in the Sunshine State.

Rewatch Brian Cranston in his award winning performance in BREAKING BAD. No one survives the greed of corporate corruption.

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"In the next commercial break, actor Jeff Bridges popped up on my TV screen pitching for a charity called No Kid Hungry. Jeff is a brilliant actor and a great guy, and No Kid Hungry is a highly rated charity, but remind me why we have hungry children in the wealthiest nation on Earth"?

I didn't watch the super bowl so I will assume the ad did not mention the states that refused federal dollars to feed hungry children during summer, or the cuts to the child tax credit, or the states who refused to accept or expand Medicaid leaving Americans of all ages without any healthcare options. The list of billionaire focused atrocities against Americans goes on and on and on with no end in sight.

America can no longer call itself the "greatest country on earth" as long as people of all ages are unhoused, go to bed hungry, have little to no medical coverage and seniors take out reverse mortgages or return to work to be able to pay their medical bills.

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It’s very simple the rich get richer, the middle class struggles and pays the taxes and the poor get the blow back and end up on the streets. I grew up in a past war economy that allowed for my father to have some upward mobility so we had Two cars, a decent house, a vacation once a year, and both myself and my brother earned a college education. My parents had none of these things before. Fast forward to me. I am from a Southern state, unmarried female- one down-Jewish born-2 down-gingered as white-actually Jew is a race as well as a religion-secular, intellectual Ph.D by the upwardly mobile American dream illusion I should be in good economic shape. Now realities not roseate illusions. Graduated with some debt, got a job back home in Miami at a start up university at an absurd salary, became involved in women’s liberation after a Cuban abortion because abortion was illegal and at 19 my first sexual experience hit the jackpot and I was not ready for a child. A typical young woman’s trajectory in the 1960s. Several of my friends died from coat hanger abortions. We marched for civil rights, against nukes, for childcare, against the Vietnam war and so on. I founded some of the first women and art initiatives in the state paid a price for it and managed to get another mediocre job at a college in South Carolina where I was tenured. I earned a Smithsonian and I was discriminated against at my university when it came to gaining leave for my research so I decided to leave. I moved back to NYC where I had gone to school and managed to cobble together enough gig work to survive. I published several books hoping to get a job. But I was not a good enough ass kisser and no Marxist. So I took a certificate in appraisals. Now after 8 decades the sum total of the American Dream. I am as poor as a church mouse, can barely afford my medical expense on a minuscule SS because of being underpaid all the years I’ve worked like all second class citizens who are women. And like all working class Americans my SS is double taxed.

I relate this saga to you only to reiterate Thom’s points about how really ripped off by the failures of American government to give us the bang for our hard earned bucks we pay into taxes. When Dumpf says the system is rigged he is simply fingering the problem that Thom hits on-rigged by billionaires, CEO shills, political candidates who lie, and a criminal class of operators that have brought us to where we are today. Add to this that many voters have given up because of gerrymandering, and other tactics that negate any push back on the part of we the people. The only hope we have is an overwhelming turnout of Democratic and independent voters with a few disgusted centrist republicans to keep what’s left of a reformist democracy

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My sister’s next door neighbors up in Maine just moved back to their home country of Russia. They may have had other reasons (!), but what they told my sister was that they couldn’t live with how difficult it was to get health care in America. A peripheral issue: the part time and gig economy because small businesses can’t take on the health care cost of full timers. Our local Village Board could only take on a part time bus driver instead of the full time one they needed because the health care cost was prohibitive. Beyond absurd!

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Sorry, dear Thom, but the CDC states that we have 37% unintended/unwanted children, and they are very, very expensive. We live on a massively overpopulated planet with millions of migrants escaping less glamorous nations, where they weren't wanted. Yes, trust me, a retired physician, our healthcare "industry" is an abomination and even at its best only extends our often miserable lives, when a quiet painless death might well be more desirable. Basic problem we choose not to face is massive human overpopulation: 3,000 times more of us than our ancestral migratory Hunter-Gatherers, now suffering through the climate collapse our numbers and overconsumption have brought to our door step. Dig deeper. Find the truth. Thank you for your fine work!

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Thanks to the plutocrats, our only good is money, our only virtue greed. Poor white people in particular have been fooled into believing they too can become billionaires with hard work and just a little luck. At this juncture, it may take the impoverishment of enough people that a critical mass decides anything is better, and rise up against their oppressors. They may fail, and millions will die, but it may be necessary to try. Because our institutions are not functional for the vast majority of us. I cannot accept a new feudalism for my grandson. Better he should die and take a few plutocrats with him. That I have lived to come to this position is tragic and painful. I curse the day my earliest ancestors came here in the late 1600’s. I have become ashamed to call myself a citizen of the United States. And I fully expect that November will bring total disaster to us, when the Orange Excremental seizes power again with his small hands and tiny reptile brain.

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What, neoliberalism hasn't created the best of all possible worlds? Don't we owe unfettered capitalism great gratitude for the creature comforts and security we all have? Were it not for the oligarchs/billionaires, who would have a job? Sarcasm of course.

Thom's essay is powerful and spot on. Where's the wide outrage! The shame that should drive us to action. True patriots would be raising voices and taking nonviolent actions to correct these stains on American aspirations.

From another post I just made: The "welfare queens" or "kings" are the unspeakably rich. Yes, persons who work hard, take risks, sacrifice, develop products that improve out well being, demonstrate exceptional management skills, etc., do deserve ample compensation. They've EARNED IT. (Read: Limitarianism by Ingrid Robeyns, for example.) But beyond a certain point, the vast wealth simply is a massive market failure, as I think Adam Smith would agree.

The externalities created by market failures are a heavy tax on the majority of us by passing those costs on to our own backs. Yet most of us direct our frustrations elsewhere.

These distortions of market economics should be heavily taxed and invested in or returned to those whose contributions are the basis for the real economy and to help others who need the safety net for simple human decency and the benefits to all.

BTW, I just read Caste, by Isabel Wilkerson. I highly recommend it for her insights into why our country is as it is. I only wish I had read it sooner. Another great book of insight: "Fluke," by Brian Klass.

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Perhaps the most damning treatise you have authored Mr. Hartmann. I can relate to many of the stark, and pathetic, realities you mention...and some you did not/cannot.

However, of the litany of realities your piece explicates this one is what was most painful for me, as a father and as a member of the human family. It, with brutal precision tells the tale that I continue to tell (though it does nothing for my popularity) and that is that the United States is a vicious nation. Some of us are more aware of this than others; and there will be a price to pay.

“America’s hunger crisis is not due to a lack of food production or scarcity in food supply. Rather, hunger and food insecurity in the United States are symptoms of policy choices and an economic system that prioritizes the needs of corporations and the wealthy over those of the general population.”

Yet, grocery stores throughout the nation have erected fences and locked dumpster bins so that the hungry, the destitute and the homeless cannot get the perfectly edible, and often fresh, food that they throw away by the thousands of tons every, single day.

God bless America.

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"And along comes maga". "MAGA"- A bunch of thugs and losers who think the rich will feed them for protecting their wealth.

Building a democracy without limits on wealth, media ownership, or campaign contributions and without corporal punishment or at least floggings for white collar crime, is incredibly delusional, and could only happen where the majority of the people are delusional. That's where religion and poor parenting always comes in.

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It ain't rocket science. The manipulators of a wide swath of public sentiment have persuaded their (dare I say) weak-minded audience that there is no such thing as the COMMON good and that any attempt to pursue such a thing is, by its very nature, (wait for it) socialism.

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Well I hate to be blunt but many American's vote against themselves . I have never been able to understand if stupidity is involved or just plain old punishment of the left. It is so clear that the Republican party has always believed in trickle down which is the way it was in Europe for centuries. It is a trickster scam to fund those that have enough while others die on the vine. The GOP does not care. It is that simple. Guns...same thing.

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Those who have often look upon those who don't have as much as leeches. The greatest share of those who vote republican are not really wealthy enough to vote republican. They vote that way because they arescared of the so called leeches.

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A country that looks to dominate the world cannot take care of its own. As you and other nationalist liberals pound your chests about Putin and Ukraine, doing everything within your power to ignore the potential for diplomacy by framing Putin as a madman in order to make Biden look like a hero, your hero helps to bomb Gaza and Yemen (breaking yet another campaign promise) to oblivion. Maintaining 800 military bases in 70 countries and having both parties cheerlead wars for profit based on lies shows the merging of the amorality of both political parties into unmitigated morbidity and mortality for the average person here and abroad.

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