WHY THE ONE PERCENT?

Tom Easton

One of the significant trends in recent history has been the increase in the shift of society’s wealth into fewer and fewer hands, those of the “one percent,” who currently own 45 percent of the world’s wealth. This is, in a way, just an extension of the past. People have always sought to get their hands on as much of the goodies as possible. The greatest good for the greatest number has never been a part of their thinking.

We often blame this on plain human greed, but there’s more to it than Scrooge McDuck’s hoarding of gelt. Money facilitates the drive for power, and some people want power more than anything else. But money also represents security, and that may motivate even more people. Certainly security is the heart of the pitch the financial planners throw at you.

Which of these three factors accounts for why the one percenters want all the moneys? Most people might say greed and power, but I suspect security may play a large role.

Consider the recent news from India. According to the World Economic Forum (https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2019/06/this-city-in-india-is-running-out-of-water/?fbclid=IwAR1sgpJgnmGlZ4_dFjbyELfK9p2xjKirDNsQFQ52rqxUP8lOKQUsTIJLgMU), the city of Chennai, home to more than four million people, is running out of water thanks to a prolonged drought, late monsoon rains, and a heat wave with temperatures topping 50 degrees Celsius, or 120 Fahrenheit. In India as a whole, “Around 600 million people are dealing with high-to-extreme water shortages.   By 2030, it’s predicted that 40% of the population will have no access to drinking water–and 21 cities, including Chennai and New Delhi, will run out of groundwater, impacting 100 million people.” Already, thousands of villagers have left their homes in search of water. Crops and livestock are dying. And it’s not just weather. The World Economic Forum points the finger squarely at climate change, or global warming.

Global warming doesn’t just cause droughts and heat waves. It is projected to change patterns of distribution of rainfall, so that while some places get dryer, some get wetter. Right now much of US farm country has been experiencing enough excess rain to delay spring planting. According to the USDA (https://www.agriculture.com/news/crops/us-corn-planting-is-waaaaaaaaaaaaay-behind-usda-says), as of May 20, 2019, “Iowa farmers had 70% of that state’s corn crop planted vs. an 89% five-year average. Illinois farmers have 24% of their corn seeded, behind an 89% five-year average. Indiana has 14% planted vs. a 73% five-year average. In the western Corn Belt, Nebraska farmers have 70% of their corn planted vs. an 86% five-year average.”

We’re not talking floods here. Just soggy ground, that tractor wheels sink into and churn into mud. And while the woes of U.S. farmers this year may look more like bad weather than global warming, if this becomes a pattern, we’ll have a problem. Prices will go up if food supply does down. They could go waaayyy up!

Too little water in one place. Too much in another. Deadly heat waves. These things have been foreseeable for many years. And though most people and businesses and governments are not good at long-range planning, a few people are.

Are the one-percenters among those few? Or are they just smart enough to hire them? If so, then perhaps they have realized that if water and food are going to get expensive, then in order to ensure the survival of themselves, their families, their friends, and even a chosen few employees, it makes sense to get all the gelt they can. Only then will they be able to keep eating steak and lobster.

The rest of us get rice and beans. We also get angrier and angrier.

Is there a solution short of revolution, complete with guillotines? Some people urge a return to the time when the rich “enjoyed” a 90 percent tax rate. At least there is precedent.

More to the point would be tackling the climate problem. The experts are saying we don’t have long, perhaps not even a decade (https://www.forbes.com/sites/jeffmcmahon/2018/01/15/carbon-pollution-has-shoved-the-climate-backward-at-least-12-million-years-harvard-scientist-says/?fbclid=IwAR08hf4Cs8ZI5anthbaDMa_rWE4QCPfDGZYvrHIgpsWIcKU7jsB32r-Vp8A#4d461fa1963e).

If we can’t do that, well, an increase in conflict is another prediction of the global warming wonks. In India, thousands of thirsty villagers are on the march now. In a few years, the thousands could be millions. How will the people already living where they’re heading react?

I can easily imagine a world in which the one-percent dwell in self-sufficient walled estates with armed guards, lots of solar cells, desalination plants, and greenhouses staffed by robots. Outside the walls are the poor, some of them organized into armies under warlords. Guess the direction in which those armies are marching.

Science fiction has played with this scenario before, but it still sounds like a bad movie.

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