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Lovely people within the 1%

 
paul wheaton
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Last night I heard a summary of a talk where the 1% was mentioned repeatedly.

First a couple of bass lines: my understanding is that in the United States to be in the 1% means that you earn $200,000 per year or more. Globally, you would earn $24,000 per year or more.

So, there have been years in my past where I was part of the 1%. And I really don't like the things that people have said about me. During that time I was working two full time jobs in an attempt to be able to buy land for what I called my cows and chickens plan.

At the same time, I have seen people on television like Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. I am certain that they are part of the 1%. And I think that they have also not earned the awful things that are being said about the 1%.

What about Michael Pollan? I don't know his exact finances, but I feel very confident that he is in the 1%.

I bet Joel Salatin and sepp holzer are in the 1%.

I think there are a lot of people doing lovely things that are currently earning, or have earned more than $200,000 in a year.

The only point I'm trying to make here is that when people rail against the 1%, I think they are throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

I remember being 18 years old, extremely broke, and very hungry. I remember the imbalance, some people had so much more than I did. And that is part of what inspired me to work harder and smarter.

I might be the only one who thinks that going after the 1% is a poor choice. I wish to see all of that effort being spent to go after the bad guys. People who are broken laws or are corrupt or are doing horrible things.
 
Chadwick Holmes
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I agree that going after the 1% is the wrong attack, but I misunderstood, I assumed these people were mad at the system that creates 99/1 not the actual 1%?!?

Maybe I am just naive!
 
paul wheaton
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I always thought that people were angry at the people who had millions or billions of dollars that they got through wickedness.
 
Ann Torrence
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The phrase is so catchy, so much easier to shout at rallies, than the .3% or .01% or whatever. Most people don't bother with (or can't do) the math. The doctor making $200K might be sitting on $150K of med school debt. That isn't living the dream.

In a different thread today, I posted a link to this article that states how much money most people (don't) have. The table is worth summarizing:

$0 in savings 28%
no account 21%
$ min balance 9%
<$1000 13%

(this adds up, according to the headline to 62% with <$1000 in savings, although there must a rounding error in the chart because these numbers add to 61%)

$1K-$4,999 10%
$5k_$9,999 5%
≥$10k 14%

I think about what the long-tail of that 14% must look like. It's a long long way from a GP or a local entrepreneur running a couple Subway franchises to get to people like the Koch Brothers, the dot.com billionaires, but they are all lumped together in that 1%. But if you don't have $1k to fix your car, someone with $10K in the bank looks rich. Kind of like our parents did when we were kids and saw bills in their wallets when the allowances were getting doled out.

What I really don't get is this: to win an election in the US, you need to get 50% + 1 vote. That's it. What is the appeal to those in the 62% bracket looking at the political landscape today to side with the ones who represent the top .01%? That side needs to peel off about 1 in 5 of those voters. Maybe the 62% don't vote proportionally, but they still have to get some of them. Or maybe both sides really represent the top .01% and we are being snookered.
 
Fred Tyler
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While I do think all of the people you mentioned are indeed lovely people, I don't think you or they would qualify for the 1%. This is what Google says: "The latest numbers from the IRS—based on just-released data from 2013 tax returns—show what it takes to be among the top 1% of income earners: At least $428,713 of adjusted gross income." That is after many deductions, I'm sure, so their actual income could be much higher.
 
Tyler Ludens
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http://inequality.org/income-inequality/

 
Casie Becker
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paul wheaton wrote: People who are broken laws or are corrupt or are doing horrible things.



This almost manages to say what I think people are actually upset about, Broken laws doing horrible things.

I have to wonder if this is another area where people are being paid to control the message. As long as people keep saying "the one percent" instead of "a tenth of a percent" it continues to divide people that are in the same boat. Money is power, and both the m oney and the power has clearly come out of the hands of the common 99.9% If .9% (plus all of use who respect the hard work it takes to make it that far in life) can be turned against the remaining 99% in these arguments, then we've been successfully distracted away from the actual issues.

I know people who do work at least 100 times harder than the laziest person I know. You would have a hard time convincing me that anyone is working 10,000 times harder than even the laziest person. Combine that with lobbying, legal rules that can't differentiate between people and businesses and a political system where people cannot gain power unless they accept massive donations of money and we've got a government that has little voice for the poor, or just average.

Still not entirely happy with this post, don't know if I should be saying more or less. I don't think I said anything I didn't mean to, so I'm going to stop at this point.
 
paul wheaton
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How about Elon musk?

I think being angry at the 1% isn't going to work. Mostly because it is not a 100% issue. I'm poking holes in it, and this is an area I don't really know very much about.

I think the real problem is people that are breaking laws. Or even worse people that are pushing for evil laws: laws that give them a competitive advantage. And the lawmakers that are corrupt enough to facilitate it. Rather than directing anger to something so vague as the 1%, I think it would do a thousand times more good to laser focus on even just one bad guy doing these bad things.

As for somebody who is doing 10000 times more work then the laziest person. I would say that such a person might possibly be doing 100 times more work than the laziest person, and a hundred times smarter than the laziest person. I've seen people work 100 hours a week and accomplish almost nothing.

I do agree that there should be some kind of change. But I think that the request for change should be rather specific.

I I did not see very many of the Colbert shows - but I did see something where he took on super PACs very directly. He created a super PAC, then took in a whole lot of money. Was able to do crazy things with it that seemed utterly inappropriate, and then after the election he showed how you could take all the money and put it in his own pocket. This seemed very direct and it exposed a very serious problem. And made it very easy to understand how the problem worked.

I think it might be fair to say that this is a tool of the 1% that the people are concerned about.

I guess my concern is that going after the 1% is a bit of a red herring. People will expel a lot of energy and that energy ends up doing nothing. But if that same energy can be focused on real problems, then there can be real change.
 
Casie Becker
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First let me clarify that I have a long, clinically tested pattern of viewing things from a slightly different angle than most people (yes, usually than 99%) so I can't even begin to argue that most people involved in these issues are feeling angry. I feel more that we have pinpointed a problem. Our system is set up in a way that allows .1% of our population to exert massively disproportionate influence over the laws and lives of the other 99.9%. I'm not running around feeling they need to be punished, I just feel we need a system overhaul to prevent this kind of bottle neck.

And yes, this anger directed to a nameless percent is counterproductive. That's part of why I suspect it has been induced by exactly the people who making it problem. We woudn't even notice the bottle neck if they abuses weren't piling up.

I stopped following politics because when I did follow it, it was so completely full of obvious corruption, abuse, and frequently just stupidity that watching it was actually making me ill. I've italized a list below that are specific problems off the top of my head. You can probably save some stress by just skipping it.

Yes, super PAC's are one of the problems. So is the religious right making their religious doctrine law (in effect if not actual wording). So is a system that gives tax refunds to corporations, while they make record profits, remove jobs from the local communities and cause massive environmental catastrophe. So is the dumbing down of the education system, with a white washed history (Texas printed a whole lot of text books, that are being used, that refer to slavery as "forced immigration" just recently). So is overriding a citizen elected government to gain control of a city's assets. So is trying to make it illegal to document police abuse. So is having a system of litigation that is nearly impossible to provide recompense to victims while making it very easy to be abused by frivolous lawsuits (I have personally witnessed someone get a massive settlement which I know they had no grounds for) So is a criminal system that is run for profit.

I don't have all day, but I could go on all day if I did. I think there are too many problems to take on one at a time. I'm honestly afraid that I'm going to see a violent revolt in my lifetime. Things sometimes feel like they're falling down around me, and I'm seeing more and more violent responses to it. I still tackle the little bits that I can work on, and just try not to lose my mind angsting over the rest. I can only hope that it will turn out like I expect carbon sequestration to; by the time the our government actually tries a meaningful response, thousands of individuals will have already implemented their own effective solutions.
 
paul wheaton
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Even if we narrow it down to the 0.1%, now the evil entities are Oprah and JK Rowling. Granted, JK Rowling is not in the United States, but I think my point still valid. The subject line for the full thread could be changed from 1% to 0.1%.

Rather than the 1%, maybe we need a new label for the bad guys within the 1%. Or, probably more accurately, the bad guys within the 0.1%.
 
Casie Becker
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We don't need a label at all. I'm actually pretty sure we agree here. Debating about labeling is exactly the kind thing that diverts attention away from looking for solutions.

I'm fairly sure that almost all of our problems actually boil down to, we need safeguards against power accumulating in the hands of just a few people, regardless of who they are. I even think elections were supposed act as that kind of safeguard. Someone starts abusing power, don't give it to them. Doesn't work as well when money and power are synonymous.
 
Casie Becker
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Before I edit that last post... again. I'm not even saying that people shouldn't get as much money as they can, provided they're not exploiting people or common resources. I'm saying them having a lot of money shouldn't mean they can make personal decisions about my life. We've got a lot of laws (especially if you're female) that dig way too far into our personal business.
 
Chadwick Holmes
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For me personally, I don't care what percentile you fall in, You can become a person whom I wanna punch in the teeth while being poorly paid.....

( I really don't wanna punch people in the teeth very much, but " I don't wanna be your friend" doesn't carry the same wieght)

The most evil thing for me is the corporate uncaring, treating people like numbers and non thinking profit banks, employees as replaceable scum.

The next most evil thing is the millions of non thinking profit banks, and replaceable employees, that prove them right everyday by showing up to buy trash and showing up for a job that is not what they believe in, and have no passion for.

 
John Suavecito
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I think one of the biggest problems is striving to become the 1%. People who work 80 hours a week doing something they hate, making the world a much worse place, helping a corporation do harm. There are literally millions of them. Do they want to work "only" 40 hours a week, doing work that helps the planet/society, spend time with their family, grow some food, join some fun exercise/adventure group and read a book? No, they want to work 90 or 100 hours a week trying to make $200, 000, then $300, 000. It is not good for them, for us, their families, or the planet. They need to take expensive anti-depressants which don't work to justify their horrible lives. Our culture (USA) is trying to trick people into thinking this is a good way to live. It is not. It helps no one. Then their children grow up to have even more problems than they do. And we all suffer for it. Now we are trying to infect the planet with this problem. In older healthier cultures, they aren't subject to this disease because their culture is a more established, more important part of their lives.
John S
PDX OR
 
evan l pierce
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I think the "everyone in the 1%, (0.1%, 0.01%) is evil" claim is a strawman.

Furthermore, I think a focus on income inequality, per se, also misses the point. One can hold wealth attained from ill-gotten gains, and as long as that wealth isn't currently increasing, a focus on income doesn't necessarily address the injustice.

A more precise term might be economic inequality, but even the degree to which that is so severe is just a symptom of a deeper problem.

The root problem, of which widespread and severe economic inequality is but a branch, is the inequality of authority.

And by saying this I do not mean to imply that I am advocating mere legal equality, or equality under the law, whereby the rich as well as the poor are forbidden from sleeping under bridges, or that women as well as men be subject to the injustice of conscription to fight wars of aggression. A deeper and more meaningful equality would be equality with the lawmakers.

The inequality in authority of legislators, judges, policemen, and presidents over individuals who do not hold such offices is the more profound problem. That some individuals are perceived as having the right to subject other individuals to their wills by threat of force is the more radical problem.

It is through this inequality of authority that indigenous peoples and peasant farmers are forced from their land and rendered dependent wage laborers in sweatshops and factories. It is through this inequality of authority that the holders of patents and other intellectual property monopolies are able to forcibly exclude competitors from utilizing their own tools and knowledge to produce goods that would benefit humankind.

Inequality of authority is what enables a privileged few to externalize their costs onto society while privatizing the profits from their unsustainable actions.
 
nancy sutton
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I think the Occupy Wall Street effort did a priceless job of getting the "1% vs 99%" meme into the general population. It's not the minute accuracy that counts (except in programming ;)...it's the 'picture' of the actual reality that a very few people control an obscene amount of power (through all the various means accurately detailed in this thread).

That reality has been very deliberately obscured by a corporate media, rightwing thinktank propaganda (see the 'Lewis Powell Memo'), highlighting the few 'bad apples' in the 'clean barrel' not! ;), etc, even the twisted distorting of faux Christianity. When competition and amoral profit (i.e., more cancer equals higher GDP) drive the economy, versus cooperation and social welfare (see Gross National Happiness, etc.), we have a society that worships, truly worships, Mammon (thank heavens for Pope Francis ;)

Re: the nice zillionaires, even a sizable number of the 0.01 % (Nick Hanauer, Tom Steyer, et al - see Naders' 'Only the Super Rich Can Save Us' for more) campaign for a change in the 'System' that plutocracy has created out of 'our democracy'. But, zeroing on individual 'nasties' is a great way to distract from the 'system' ... the corrupt, fraudulent, rigged System.

I recommend respected economist Piketty's 'Capital in the 21st Century' for a detailed historic presentation, from around 1700, when modern capitalism was 'born', on how the the typical 0.01% has achieved such control, with inevitable eradication, of democracy. The facts don't lie (but Margaret Thatcher's TINA slogan did... There Is An Alternative!, in fact, many of them, including Permaculture, with it's sharing principle.)

Thom Hartmann interviewed folks in Denmark for his radio show once, and asked one of it's richest men if he resented the high taxes...his reply was, 'No, because I don't want to be a rich man in a poor country." Says it all for me ;) (but Nordic countries don't have the US scar of racism on their psyches.)

Which makes me wonder...does anyone else think there is the possibility that the plutocracy (thinking of the 0.01%, now) contains a higher-than-average % of sociopaths, because they have an advantage with their total inability to feel empathy ?
 
John Suavecito
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I think there have actually been studies on personality disorders of the extremely wealthy. Autism, asperger's, Sociopathic tendencies, etc. I can't cite them though. I went to high school with a high proportion of wealthy people and they have just as many problems as anyone else. Many are much lazier than poor people, because they can be. There is more cocaine addiction, for example. Chris Rock said that if poor people had any idea how rich the very rich are, they would start rioting in the streets immediately, and Chris Rock is one of the very rich.

Evan hit it pretty well with the power differential. In the US, they can do so much more than anyone else. It's like they get 100 votes for one of our votes. Some of the very rich are positive, but even the ones that are trying to do good, like Bono in Africa steering people toward glyphosate and GMO's and BIll Gates forcing schools to do EVEN MORE TESTING! They end up doing the wrong thing because they frankly have no idea what regular people's lives are about. There are probably 10 of them donating to make sure that there are marble and granite offices in their alma mater, or that there can be no limits on campaign contributions a la Citizen's United Supreme Court decision, for every one that actually does some good.
John S
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nancy sutton
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Here is a whole list of studies that support the 'difference' of the wealthy...
http://www.dailykos.com/story/2014/1/16/1269980/-The-rich-really-are-different

BUT it's not the wealthy, nor those who live to get rich, nor the sociopaths, that are the problem, I don't think. It is that our political/economic/financial SYSTEM has been manipulated (even designed, going back to the Bank of England's establishment in 1694) to give them every advantage...at the expense of everyone else. I happen to think that any candidate who stands up and repeatedly says this out loud is a rare gift ;)
 
Joe Braxton
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I'm not sure the 1/.1/.001/10% can control you unless you let them. There are many who have worked out how to control themselves, either through earning enough to drop out or earning so little that dropping out was a natural result. One way uses the system as built, the other ignores the system entirely. The trick is not to get caught in the middle. Many people cannot imagine anything other than working for their entire life.
 
John Suavecito
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Well, let's suppose that you eat food. I am going to suppose this about you. Let's suppose that you have a family and a job, because you weren't born rich. Let's suppose you don't have acreage, and that your parents (like mine) knew absolutely nothing about gardening. You have to figure out which cans have BPA in them. You have to figure out if you should eat fish that have mercury in them. You need to decide if you're going to eat CAFO feed lot meat. If you're not rich, pastured meat is very expensive and so is organic produce, if you haven't figured out CSA's and how to drive out to one and get back with your kids in tow and how to cook all sorts of bizarre vegetables that you will get. You have to make it reasonably appetizing so your family will learn to eat it. Most people don't hardly cook at all. In other words, probably 98% of the people haven't achieved that yet, even if they are aiming to, and most aren't, they don't even know about it. To say, that they won't control you unless you let them is a very theoretical construct that doesn't apply to the vast majority of actual people. I don't live in a theoretical world. I live in a real one with real people.
John S
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Richard Gorny
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A group of people that would fit into a single bus (top 63 richest people of the World) own as much as 3 billion of the poorest. The real issue is not that they own so much, but that they influence everything on this planet. This needs to be addressed.
 
Mick Fisch
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Quit playing their game.  Plan your exit carefully, but start buying and growing locally.  IT ISN'T THE INDIVIDUALS IT IS THE SYSTEM, SO QUIT FEEDING THE SYSTEM.  By cutting out the middle men, growing your own food or buying from someone local who is, you cut into their profits.

Of course they've set up the system to favor them.  They would have to saints not to.  Lets quit that game and play a new one, permaculture!  I regret to say, it's not going to change the world in a day or a year, maybe not in a decade, but we can change our little corners, and eventually the individual raindrops will have an effect and it WILL change the world!
 
Mick Fisch
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Going back over this thread I realized that there is a tendency in our society to either castigate or consecrate the very rich.  I guess the reason for that is because, as was noted, their potential influence either for good or bad is generally greater than some individual poor peon.  

The statement in the US Declaration of Independance "... All men are created equal...." is a political, maybe a spiritual statement.  It is not a statement of abilities or potential.  A better description of our physical/mental abilities would have been "...All men are unequal, with differing abilties, talents and drives...".  Some succeed because their greater abilities or drive. There are lazy or foolish people who insist on creating their own personal hells.  Who am  I to deny either group the fruits they have worked so hard to create?

There are three componants that it takes to become very rich.

1.  LUCK (this may take the form of winning the ancestral lottery, with parents and/or grandparents who were very rich and you inherit)
2.  GREAT ABILITY (not recognized, but inherent ability is also luck)
3.  WORK YOUR ASS OFF

These three componants add up to 100% of why some people become very rich.  Every rich person will tell you that they are rich because they worked their ass off.  This may or may not be true.  Lots of people are working two jobs, giving it all they have and barely squeeking by because they didn't have enough luck or ability.  I read a while back that the percentage of people moving into or out of the top .1% is about what it was in 14th century England.  Not sure if that's true, but the very rich tend to be born there, or move from just  below that level into that level.  The numbers who move from real poverty to great wealth are very small (yes, everyone can name a few, but only a few).  For most it's a generational thing, dad or granddad pulls himself out of poverty to wealth, you go from just wealthy to very wealthy.

Once your immediate needs are met,  rich and poor is strictly a comparison between what we have and what our neighbors have.

The top .1% (very rich people) have many of the same problems we have.  Some of these people are very good, most are somewhere in the middle, some are very bad, many who try to do good are actually doing bad because their thinking is flawed.  Often this is because they are being manipulated by others who are bleeding them for their own benefit.  Most of us from the US, Europe, Australia or New Zealand would be seen as very rich by many people from some other parts of the world because we have clean water, access to sufficient calories to satisfy the hunger cravings, access to education and chances of potentially fatal confrontations with armed groups are vanishingly small.  We even have what looks to them as a lot of folding money in our pockets.

All that said, I don't think anyone can argue that our system is not a rigged game.  Those in power have actively tried to adjust the rules to their advantage and to their kids advantage.  I don't really think that's too unusual, it's what most people would do.   (I had a boss tell me once, "the system works fine!  I'm your boss, that shows that the system works because I'm better than you and I should be your boss!")  As I said in my last post, it's the system, not the people.  The only problem is that the system, in most peoples eyes seems like the only game in town.

The answer is to shrink the system down to human scale.  Try to bring control down to local levels.  Bad things will still happen because people are still people.  (anyone who thinks village life is always perfect is living in an unusually good village or hasn't lived in a village).  Even so, a large part of the problem is simply scale.  The bigger the system, and the more top down control the system has, the greater the tendency towards oppression, mismanagement, and great inequality.  This is true whether you are dealing in capitalist USA, communist Russia or China, or the feudal Turkish empire (I am not trying to attack any of these groups, just using them as examples).  If my neighbor, who I deal with daily (even if I don't particularly like him) is short on food, I'll make sure he and his family can eat.  If it's someone on the other side of the world, I will say nice things, but I won't take much action.)  

I have realized that I can trust individuals, but I can't trust an organization, because an organization is inherently soulless and is kind of like a very small, hungry baby.  It is focused solely on it's own needs.  Even if those in charge want to help, they are constrained by the demands, rules and needs of the organization.

Trying to take things down to local levels means buying and selling from individuals, permaculture, bartering, recycling, doing what we can to take care of our own while minimizing our dependance on, and contributions to, the larger system.  Vote!!!   If we can create a locat alternative to even part of the system, then people will see that there is a choice, otherwise they will do what people have generally done, which is follow their nose down the rabbit hole and hope it doesn't turn out to be a dead end.  A network of small, village sized organizations might eventually be seen as part of the solution.  I notice the government isn't going after the Amish or Mennonite communities, so it isn't as if there isn't a precident.  The trick would seem to be "harmless as doves, but as wise as serpents" to avoid becoming seen as a threat.
 
Chris Kott
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It is a systemic issue. I have addressed a few of the things I see wrong in this thread. Basically, politics gets in the way of governance, which has less to do with this thread, but money controls politics, which is very much in this vein.

Basically, I propose getting the moneyed, and money, out of politics, setting hard, individual contribution caps, based on the financial ability of the poorest members of society, banning corporate donations of any kind, setting hard spending caps for candidates, and ensuring that, while those employed in governance are well-paid enough to counter corruption, that government and politics should be regarded with the same lust as jury duty.

I also suggest that decorum be forcibly returned to politics, with fines and eventual dismissal for conduct unbecoming elected officials.

This might enable us to fix broken systems.

I like what I'm hearing with regards to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's Green New Deal, including the 70% income tax over whatever amount earned in a year, and the wealth tax being discussed in Democratic circles. The former addresses the issues of ongoing accumulation of wealth, and the latter addresses the issue of hoarded wealth. Smaug won't be happy, but I bet 99.9% of us will, generally speaking.

-CK
 
Mick Fisch
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I like what I'm hearing with regards to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's Green New Deal, including the 70% income tax over whatever amount earned in a year,



I'm not a great fan of Ms. Ocasio-Cortez, but in her defense, my dad has mentioned to me that her top bracket 70% income tax is actually lower than the top tax brackets they had in place in the 40's and 50's.  He told me that one year Clark Gable (a big movie star and someone my dad really followed) made millions, but only ended up with $50,000 after paying his taxes.  (Of course, back then, $50,000 was a hell of a lot more money than now, average income in the US in 1950 was $3,300 annually).  

The real problem I see is that we are relying on the political class to fix the problem of corruption in the political class.  That's a good example of asking the fox to watch the henhouse.  They normally either exempt themselves from laws and create loopholes for themselves.  For example, they have a govt. fund just for paying off sexual harrassment claims made against members of congress (they've had it for a couple of decades, it's paid out millions and is used every year, many times).  They, of course, made sure that the govt paid for their health care cost increases from Obamacare.  They are exempt from any insider trading laws.  There are a lot more examples.

This is just a more visible example of what I was talking about.  People tend to adjust the rules to favor their own interests.  The more powerful and more entitled they are (as in they've been in positions of power for a long time) the more likely they are to feel it is just and proper behavior.
 
Victor Skaggs
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Robert Reich has created a video which admirably addresses this issue.

The bottom line is that as soon as Reaganomics took effect, the disparity of wealth took off like a rocket.

Correlate tax rates on the upper brackets with the skewing of wealth, and what do we discover?

1. trickle-down is a con game
2. the rich spend a lot of money to con the non-rich to vote for policies (and politicians) which favor only the rich
3. our system now equates more to "one dollar, one vote" than "one person, one vote"


As bad as many of us thought things were in the 50's-60's-70's, the current situation makes that time seem almost utopian.
 
Mick Fisch
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I read something the other day that rang true for me.  The writer ( I don't remember who, sorry) was saying that all -isms (communism, socialism, capitalism, monarchy or democracy, etc) all quickly turn into oligarcies, where a small number of people actually control the power and generally set things up for the benefit of themselves, with the vast majority left in the cold.  

I have been thinking about it.  It seems to me that the real challenge in whatever system you have is to fight this concentration of power/wealth (the two go together).  The obvious way to do this in my mind is keep your units as small as you can and concentrate the power in the local units.  In the US, it started out with a great deal of local control, but over time and especially in moments of crisis (civil war, depression), the higher levels of govt took more and more power.  
 
Eric Hanson
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The 1% is the most stratified portion of the population.  Let me explain.

Using Paul's original definition for 1% (reasonable enough), it should be pretty clear that just about everyone actually knows someone living in the 1%.  Doctors, dentists, lawyers, accountants, etc. all generally meet this criteria and while they are generally living comfortably, they are not super rich either.

In fact the term 1% has become something of a misnomer for super-rich.  And this is not an accurate description of the entire group.  Actually 1% is not an especially exclusive group.  The term is used as a (usually pejorative) term to mean the super rich, but most of the people in the "1%" are in fact better described as living in the upper middle class.  This is not to say one should feel sorry for them by any means, just that most members are not super rich either.  A look at the school I teach at should be instructive.  The student population is about 1100.  This means that about 10-15 of these students are living in the 1% category.  But I know not of a single student in my entire career of teaching who would follow into the category of "super rich."  And those doctors worked awfully hard to get their jobs and in my mind are fully justified in earning $200,000.

Really, we need a different term.  Something like the 0.001% would be closer to what people are actually thinking.  That is one out of one million, a far more exclusive group.  And just because they are extremely high income earners does not by any means make them evil.  Being rich is not evil.  What one does with one's wealth is what makes one good or evil, and that metric can be applied to people of any income bracket.  I have to wholeheartedly agree with what Paul said in his first statement.

Way to go Paul

 
Marco Banks
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Victor Skaggs wrote:Robert Reich has created a video which admirably addresses this issue.

The bottom line is that as soon as Reaganomics took effect, the disparity of wealth took off like a rocket.



Yes, like a rocket, as did the overall economy and average income.  Job numbers?  Up like a rocket.  Unemployment?  Dropped like a stone.  Interest rates?  Fell through the floor.  Retirement savings?  Up like a rocket.  From my clearly subjective perspective, Robert Reich has a skewed perspective on the Reagan years.

So yes, the wealthy did get richer.  No question about it.  But on the macro sense, the economy added millions of jobs and average wages went up considerably, particularly in comparison to the stagnant economy under Carter.  Does anyone else remember when mortgage rates were 19%?  NOBODY was able to buy a house.

My father was fond of saying "Capitalism is the worst economic system EVER, with the exception of every other economic system".  It would seem to me that if you don't want to make the Uber wealthy any richer, stop buying products off of Amazon (Jeff Bezos), stop using Google (Larry Page & Sergey Brin), stop using a Microsoft operating system or software (Bill Gates), and kill your social media platforms (Zuckerburg, Systrom, Krieger, et. al).  
 
Mick Fisch
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I heard a story once about a county extension agent who came buy to tell a farmer about a class they were starting to teach farmers the latest and greatest methods.  The old farmer heard him out, but finally interrupted.  "Hell, I already know how to farm twice as well as I'm actually doing."

We have only so much time, energy, attention and other resources.  We use them as we think best, or sometimes, the best that we feel like doing at the time.  

It's a funny thing, if I put my mind too it, I know exactly how other people should spend their money.  I also know how they should raise their kids.  On days I am particularly all-knowing I might even say what they should eat and drink.  No one quite measures up to what I think they could be doing.

On the other hand, I righteously resent anyone telling me how to spend my money, raise my kids, or what I should eat and drink.  It's none of their business!  

I prefer not to pay too much attention to what others are doing.  I've got enough problems just fixing me!

Money gives you the opportunity to do more.  More Good!  More Bad!  Maybe just more stupid!

It doesn't make you any better or worse.  It brings more opportunities, what we do with those opportunities reveals who we are.

I have a problem with those who want to mean mouth anyone who has more than them.  I've known a lot of people who do that, and there is a certain self righteousness and judgmental mindset that I find singularly unattractive.  I think usually they are just jealous.

A big reason the uber rich have become so much richer, is the base of the pyramid has gotten so much broader.  If I have several hundred customers, I'm comfortable.  If I have a million customers, I am rich.  If I have several hundred million customers, I become uber rich.  It's not really that complicated.

I agree capitalism is less than perfect, but I challenge anyone to show me a better system overall that has been proven on a large scale.  
 
D Nikolls
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It seems to me, that the uber-rich really benefit from the public perceiving them as being the '1%'.

It is popular for the governments of some countries to enact laws that are quite detrimental to the top... 1-3%?

This catches all sorts of people who do have substantial income and resources, but generally have worked and are working quite hard for them.

One can argue about the reasonableness of this tax rate or that exemption, but that's not the core problem IMO.

The thing is, it doesn't necessarily catch the 0.0001. They can afford to use loopholes that are not available or cost effective to the rest of the 1%, let alone the 3%. More, they can afford to create those loopholes by purchasing lobbyists and through them politicians..
 
John Suavecito
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The problem is not that the rich are rich, but that they have so much more power to run the system than the rest of us.  We used to be very socially mobile. It used to be that poor people in the US had a much better chance than other developed nations to have a prosperous life.  Now it is harder in the US than in other nations. Why? The inequality is so vast that the entire culture is run by the rich to keep them in charge, and keep the poor out of power.  We have less vacation time, bigger ghettoes, worse health care, more violence, more guns, more video games, more processed food, more expensive education, worse family leave, more polluted food, and more unequal educational quality than other wealthy countries.  In other words, the more unequal we have become, the less value the culture has put on the quality of poor and middle class lives.  The poor are worth nothing, and the middle class are only valuable to the extent that they work too many hours and strive desperately to become rich.  The vast majority will never become rich. Nor does the culture want them to become rich.  The people in charge of our culture want middle class people to be unhappily striving to become rich.  Then they are easier to control.

JohN S
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Rufus Laggren
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What's the point here? Who cares how filthy rich anybody (else) is?

Do we here really begrudge somebody else for being super lucky or whatever?

I don't. I _do_ begrudge others for destroying things that matter to me. And there's a lot of that going on.

So who's doing it, let's nail them!!!  Kill them Off,  Stop'M'Dead!!!    Who's doing it?    Well, it really kinda looks like all us first world types sucking down some huge percentage of EVERYTHING are likely culprits. A few hundred godly rich certainly don't consume enough themselves to be a problem. But our population of consumers that floats their rich boat - that _does_ impact.

Oops.

Of course, there's those BILLIONS of hungry mouths (and more and more popping open every minute)  in all the 3rd world countries. That can't be helping anything, just by the calorie demand.

All the destructive stupidities and aberrations that human beings have always practiced don't really matter much until the population gets large and meets shrinking world resources. Either virtually large, like the First World multiplied by our energy and resource gluttony serviced by our armies and tech, or really actually large, like the 3rd world.

So...   So is shooting down the lucky and pillaging their "excess" going to help anything?   Really?

Mick Fisch above passed along the observation that "[everything] always turns into oligarchies". Yup, wasn't me that said it but I sure agree. How does one push back against the evident lust for servitude that drives people to suck up to warlords, politicians, heroes, preachers, gurus, various demigogs and all the other golden calves we turn our lives over to?

Or maybe that's the wrong question, given it's patently hopeless. How about: Who's going to bell the cat when it comes their turn?  I doubt one can truthfully seek this role out - doesn't work that way. The New Testament tells the tale of one guy who accepted the job, but he only did after trying for all he was worth to get out of it. How about Ghandi?  Ceasar Chavez?  MLK?  Joe Hill? Christine Blasey Ford? These people and doubtless many others struggled not against persons or even organizations, but against whole cultures and societies and even against human nature. Against arch types.

I don't think those fights get won by figuring out and planning or organizing. Those all may be good for getting and being ready when/if the moment comes. But solutions to these issues don't get "figured out" or "discovered" or "implemented". They evolve in the fortunate confluence of disparate lives when, miraculously, people choose to change thier "normal" "natural" behavior a little.

With luck maybe it'll happen, sufficiently, before nature rings down Darwin on the human species. In the mean time, virtue begins at home. As John Suavecito said above, we live in reality, not theory - pretty busy and demanding reality so cleaning up ones own act could probably fill any normal person's date book. Coming down hard on others kinda looks like a waste of resources.


Cheers,
Rufus

 
Catherine Windrose
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I don't feel that the Bezos and Gates of the world control my life.  They don't know I exist! :)  

I feel individuals have far more power, it is just not used as much as could be.  I think being human, and trusting, and optimistic, and hopeful, kind of leads many individuals astray thinking 'someone else will do it'.  As if a subject is discussed enough, that alone will manifest appropriate action.  Not knocking discussion at all.  More like the incessant buzz of a chronic topic that has nowhere to go because it is so nebulous.

Government was planned so the most power was in the hands of 'the people'.  Buuuut, as local, and some not so local, though probably mostly local, individuals gained respect and / or authority, things got out of hand while too many individuals busy with struggling with daily living, or perhaps not really caring who was in charge as long as things go well enough overall, did not keep power and authority in check at the local level.

When I lived in Ashland, Wisconsin on Lake Superior, for example, a massive pig CAFO wanted to plop a 26,000 pig facility in an area where waste, smell and blood and remains in tailings ponds would impact land in  two counties in addition to the Red Cliff Band's reservation, and the glorious Lake Superior which already has (had?) 16 superfund sites.  The two counties put their heads together and decided to solicit support from the community to quickly establish restrictions on the size of pig farms in each county.  And it happened.  There was controversy for several years.  When push came to shove and it looked like the CAFO business was about to get a foot hold, local individuals came out of the woodwork to support those restrictions.  That is how keeping authority in check is supposed to work.  That Iowa based pig CAFO keeps getting shut out, town by town, and still at it:  https://www.apg-wi.com/spooner_advocate/free/proposed-m-concentrated-animal-feeding-operation-stirs-up-debate-in/article_1976a49c-6697-11e9-baab-4ff6792ac574.html

Another example is ceded Indian land that Enbridge was trying to take over by force.  Concerned individuals read small print in agreements being discussed, and discovered that as long as a handful of people lived on the land as they had prior to an older agreement. simultaneously providing an educational benefit to the community described in a newer agreement, Enbridge was paralyzed.  Heavy equipment was parked.  Threats were issued brazenly and regularly.  Still, as long as criteria for both agreements were met, Enbridge was done for in that area.  

When we choose not to own our power, that is when a fail occurs.  

Having mentioned Indians' involvement with Enbridge, I will add that elders were split between adapting to go with the flow and fighting back to prevent losing more land.  A deal had been on the table for Enbridge give twice the land used in return for the particular area Enbridge wanted.  Considering the loss of rights that comes with a new agreement, the only option was to support those who lived in a hand made shelter all year round (-20ish to -50ish there in the winter).  We brought them water, extra food, crafting supplies and tools, transportation, washed their clothes, donated money so they could get to a hotel not too far away to shower and take turns taking a break.  All so they could hit the pavement running with meeting educational requirements by crafting to put on public display.  Winters there last a good 7 months or better.  It was no small thing to ask anyone to do.  So 100% support came from all over to help them stay on the land to keep Enbridge from going forward.  It worked.  No doubt other things have happened since I left, but that worked.  And as mostly white as that area is, the unity and teamwork that grew however briefly between Indians and non-Indians and locals and non-locals to shut Enbridge down, was an amazing experience to watch unfold.

There are so many examples.  This is a topic I could write about non-stop with similar examples.  It is less that power is taken away.  Less that we are exploited.  Less that money makes all the difference.  It is way more about taking appropriate action.  Learning the rules enough to stretch those as far as they need to be and check authorities getting too big for their britches.  It is individuals not exercising individual power that allows other more aggressive, bullyish individuals to mow over rights and pretty much the Constitutions (that's a separate story).

Our elections have too many of us spending valuable time and energy to support state and federal authorities, when there should be more putting up a fuss and cleaning house at the local level.  Not everyone is corrupt.  But the handful who are not corrupt don't get much help.  They are leaned on heavily.  Perhaps it's felt they are in a position to do something that a group of non-politicians think they cannot?  With certain things yes.  But as with the pig CAFO referenced above, the few locals who got wind of what was happening chose not to be paid off.  There was a town meeting so huge it had to be held outside in a field.  And they explained what was happening, what we could do, and that that was all they can do.  The rest was up to us.  So, despite a lot of grumbling and negative vibes, there was no other alternative and people got moving to make it happen.  This is how change is manifested:  exercising individual and personal power.

This is not to say none of us contribute, or that individuals in these forums are not doing what they can.  It's more about not having enough people to do what we are.  And not expecting the relative handful of non-corrupt authorities to pull rabbits out of their asses ^.^  They are human too, with human limitations.

As for the ambiguous .0001%(?), who has the time to fucking care what they do?  If we stop buying their stuff, wow!  If we stop working for them, wow!  What are they gonna do then?  That is why when I saw what Paul and Jocelyn are doing, I decided to dive in and not look back.  Because real change is happening at Wheaton Labs.  It's a process.  Takes a minute to grow food forests, yeah? :)  So, what I'm trying to say through sleepy eyes, is so much focus and energy expended on discussion about billionaires and what they do... I can't be bothered with it.  Other than to butt in with my uneducated, apolitical, middle of the night nonsense.

Apologies for yet another tl;dr.  I've been following the discussion and couldn't sleep.  Started making notes about it to post tomorrow (today now).  Still couldn't sleep.  So here it is, typos and all because I can barely keep my eyes open :)  Now I can sleep.  Good night all :.)
 
Jay Angler
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Mike Fisch wrote:

In the US, it started out with a great deal of local control, but over time and especially in moments of crisis (civil war, depression), the higher levels of govt took more and more power.  

I'm not going to exactly disagree, but I think that part of the issue is that we have had too much focus on "civil rights" compared to "civil responsibility". Unfortunately, when people have a lot of money, they frequently are much more visible, and if the "civil responsibility" meter has too low a charge, the media gets involved and too often irresponsible behavior gets glorified or at least publicized, rather than the rich being expected to "smarten up and fly right" as they say.
Please do *not* take this as me not believing that women's rights, black rights, the right to free speech, social justice rights etc aren't very important, just that without the responsibility part getting an equal focus, particularly at the top, bad things happen. Mike's observation that things would work better if under much more local control has historical backing, and some modern backing. But it all comes down to, "how do we teach moral behavior"? I read somewhere that at least some of the Business programs at Canadian Colleges and Universities have included a "morals' unit, and my son in Engineering had to take some sort of course like that, but I don't know how widespread the practice is, and am suspicious from what my son said that it's pretty lame. How do we do better?
 
Artie Scott
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It is always interesting to me how easy it is to paint the “other” with a broad brush. If the 1% called the 99% lazy and stupid, imagine the howls!  

Yet, it seems easy enough to call the 1% selfish and awful and bad. And it is clearly not true, to Paul’s point.

Like all stereotypes, it is a convenient but inaccurate label that just doesn’t advance the problem solving.

Bad guys and gals?  Yep, we got em, at all income levels. Good guys and gals? Yep, got them too, at all income levels.

Maybe ignore the bad folk and encourage the good folk?
 
John Suavecito
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This is not theoretical.  Mitt Romney, among many others, has publicly stated that half of the 99% are lazy and don't want to improve their lives.  There weren't a lot of howls.  The media predictably chose to ignore it.   I don't think it's helpful to have us guys vs. those guys arguments usually.  I think that many times, improvements can be made on many levels.  Understanding the culture of different segments is helpful.  When I am in an urban, low income situation, I often am reminded of how important the sense of community is as a cultural value, and not  to leave people behind.    When I am in a more suburban area, I am reminded about a sense of individual responsibility.  In a rural area, I am often reminded or traditions.  They are all important, but they can all be important at the same time. If we understand how strongly some people feel about issues that we don't feel as strongly about, we are much more likely to work cooperatively with them and create a sense of unity of purpose.

John S
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Catherine Windrose
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Jay Angler wrote:... I think that part of the issue is that we have had too much focus on "civil rights" compared to "civil responsibility".

How do we do better?



How many individuals are familiar with what our civil responsibilities actually are, and how to effectively execute those?  Perhaps one reason groups of people mill around in contemplation, is because they don't know where to start.  Understandable! ^.^  I think that is similar to building a fence.  At some point, someone has to get a shovel and start digging the first hole, then step-by-step repeat the process until a complete fence is in place.  Finding the starting place can take awhile unless the factoids that require consideration are generally known.  

What are the ABCs of civil responsibilities in a permaculture lifestyle?  

- A starting place might be succinctly and clearly laying out, in the way of universal principles, what can apply to anyone, anywhere?  Permaculture lifestyle commandments? :)

- After that, then environmental perspective might be appliled.

- After that....

Something that turned out to be an excellent set of lessons:

A self-advocate group, I started several years ago had only one rule:  "Don't make rules necessary."  The only way to avoid spending time with moderating was to eliminate the need for it.  "Don't make me make a rule or you can go elsewhere because you can't stay here.! :.) " is how I welcomed every member.  Continued..." Each member has a medical concern and zero time or energy to deal with nonsense."  There was a brief comment directing members to search online to learn netiquette if they were unfamiliar with those guidelines prior to posting.  Then a quick "About" using an online dictionary reference to define "self-advocate".  Done.   That was important because though there were medical professional in the group, providing professional anything was not why they were there.  They were there because most of them practiced conventionally and I was interested in introducing orthomolecular practices so they could experience the value and share as they were inclined.  So, the last comment in the About was to suggest medical professionals not introduce themselves as such and to refrain from giving advice because that would undermine the self-advocacy focus.

When someone joined who was obviously experiencing severe issues of some kind, I would say I understand some of what you seem to be going through and this group will not serve you well.  Try going here for now and we'll keep in touch if that is ok.  Directed them to professional and let it go.  I didn't want to exclude anyone, however when an individual posted gibberish few or no one could parse, the group was not serving them - they needed other help first - and they were weighing on other ill members.  Those who left, I followed up with if that suited them.  And some did return :.) *happy dance*!

The group was created as a self-serving medical research pool with the perspective, 'we're in this together while each is doing for theirself'.  All went well for a few years and a lot of people helped theirself and each other through networking and posting about what they learned.  Degradation began when the effort required to self-advocate tired a handful of people.  In PMs and outside the group they had begun quietly becoming co-dependent.  Not in a mean spirited way at all.  Everyone in the group was ill or taking care of someone else.  That's a 24-hour job.  Learning how to help yourself when your head feels foggy and the rest of you is limping along rather sadly, is extremely challenging.  When I realized what what was happening, I wrote a post explaining that the group seemed to have outlived its purpose and would be no more.  Information files would remain available for about a year at which point the group would be completely dissolved.

One big win, was the group did well from beginning to end without a single rule.  This was not an attempt to practice anarchy of any kind, to be very clear.  I think anarchy can sound good until it's attempted, at which point the necessity for rules quickly becomes clear :-)  In the midst of struggles and chaotic times, there is an inherent, sometimes desperate need for structure, focus, and order.  It was unexpectedly gratifying and interesting to experience and appreciate that  a primary focus could be so important to each member that no rules were ever made in that group.  There were only spammers and occasional trolls that required use of the block feature.
 
Travis Johnson
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Some of this is what I call the "Vortex of Nonsense."

That is when there is a set of circumstances that are imposed upon a person that keeps them from excelling in life.

An example of that is a person gets x amount of money in governmental food and health care because they do not make enough income. A lot of time this is people without jobs. YET, if they do get a job, it is just enough to disqualify themselves from the food and health care costs, but yet the job does not pay enough to pay for the loss. This is the vortex of nonsense. To spin out of the vortex, a person has to get a job that pays quite well. That often requires a college degree, or a in-demand job skill.

What really makes me upset is that people like Mitt Romney and others, look down their noses and say, "Half of the people are lazy, and will not work themselves to a better spot."

The truth is, a lot of people can't work themselves to a better spot. The government has set up this situation where it is actually better to stay in poverty and receive services, then work, and be unable to pay for necessary services with a low paying job on their own. These people are not lazy, they just are not dumb. Why work you butt off when most of the money made ends up going to child care? I do not blame any parent for wanting to be with their child!

Yet society needs these lower paid jobs to function too.

The Mitt Romney's of this world, or the Nancy Pelosi's do not get this because they have always been privledged. It is far easier to say "the poor are lazy" when really it is the vortex of nonsense at work. And who do they hire for their gardens, lawn care and child care? The illegal and legal immigrants that they are able to exploit. They are not paying living wages in the hopes they they "improve their lives", no they want them in place for their own needs.
 
Mick Fisch
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I've made a few comments on this forum over the last few days as I've been reading and thinking.  I think I've come back to the beginning, in a way.  

Really, the answer is not to slam the rich.  Watch for groups trying to do bad things and do your best to stop them, but that is only a stop gap.

The real solution is...... as you should have guessed......... PERMACULTURE, at least as a major part of a shift in world view (call it what you will, philosophy, lifestyle, religion).

A big reason the super rich are super rich is because they have been able to funnel the money/resources through pipelines that they can suck off a profit.  

What would happen if a majority of people started implementing permaculture principals.  Homesteading, backyard gardens, reusing and hitting garage sales, buying used, buying local, reducing energy needs, alternate power, giving and receiving gifts, swapping.  All of these things remove you in small and large ways from 'the pipeline' that the rich and powerful are dependant on.  The rich wouldn't suddenly become broke, but their influence would suddenly be reduced.

It won't happen quickly, and there may be attempts to stop it when it starts effecting the uber rich, but it IS the answer, or at least a practical part of the solution.  But permaculture gives you a lot of your own power back.  They won't be able to stop it.
 
Just put the cards in their christmas stocking and PRESTO! They get it now! It's like you're the harry potter of permaculture. richsoil.com/cards
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