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July 17, 2011 - Ray Hall (Archive)
The United States is teetering on the edge of a great darkness and I worry for my children and their children’s children. Deliberately strangled by years of relentless tax reductions favoring the rich—a “starve the beast” concept emanating from President Reagan’s supply side economic theorists—the Federal Government has amassed an enormous debt that must be borne by succeeding generations.

Today we are constantly confronted by Republicans who believe efforts to “starve the beast” is a stunning success. The object of “starve the beast” was to shrink the size of the Federal Government by denying it necessary tax revenues to offset spending and ultimately drive the government so far in debt that it could not pay its bills.

They point in mock horror to the $14 trillion dollar government debt and have tied it to the Congressional vote necessary to pay off last year’s bills—to raise the debt ceiling. A large contingent of Congressional Republicans, primarily Tea Party freshmen, is willing to drive our economy and our country over a cliff. They would intentionally plunge us into a deep depression just on the chance that the President will be forced to reduce the size of government by reducing spending by as much as forty-five percent.

However, the $14 trillion debt is not something that I am worried about. Sooner or later, later if the Tea Party prevails, something near full employment will take care of the debt. No, this federal debt will only be a footnote on the pages of history. That which Americans ought to fear is the rapid concentration of wealth into fewer and fewer hands.

Although the harmful effects of this narrow concentration of wealth is strewn across the globe few Americans are aware of just how few people control most of the wealth in the United States. (Norton & Ariely, 2010) The statistics are startling:

According to Professor William G. Domhoff wealth in the United States is highly concentrated in a relatively few hands. His study shows that “as of 2007, the top 1% of households (the upper class) owned 34.6% of all privately held wealth, and the next 19% (the managerial, professional, and small business stratum) had 50.5%, which means that just 20% of the people owned a remarkable 85%, leaving only 15% of the wealth for the bottom 80% (wage and salary workers).” (Who Rules America-Professor G. William Domhoff-University of California at Santa Cruz-updated January 2011)

We have just seen how England’s government can be corrupted and the reputation of Great Britain’s most venerated law enforcement agency—Scotland Yard be sullied by one man who controls most of that country’s printed press.

Americans have lived through “too big to fail” bailouts and we have also seen how the price of a barrel of oil has driven up gasoline prices in the United States. Part of the reasons everyday Americans are paying more to drive can be attributed to wealthy speculators who have dumped millions of dollars into oil markets. Market experts claim speculators are directly responsible for driving up the price of gasoline by as much as thirty-percent.

As if we didn’t have enough to worry about the Associated Press recently reported that very wealthy non-farmers are buying up America’s farmland at an amazing pace. They see money not in the land but in the food crops that land will grow. Recently a 120-acre farm In Iowa sold for nearly $1 million and a 430-acre farm in Minnesota sold at the jaw-dropping price of more than $4 million.

Non-farmers who are buying America’s farms are aware of higher food prices around the world and look at their multi-million dollar purchases as a good investment. Many of the buyers have never farmed before but plan to become “gentlemen” farmers who plan to hire others—sharecroppers—to plant and harvest high priced food crops.

These farmer-speculators will not till, plant or hoe but sit in air-conditioned offices in distant locations manipulating crops to match world scarcity always searching for crops that will fetch the greatest return. Corn prices could double and soybeans and wheat could be deliberately withheld from the market stored in silos until farmer-speculators get the price they want.

Poor countries that are struggling to feed a starving population will become even more desperate and America’s best bargain—food—will be held hostage by speculators as surely as speculators have made gasoline a necessary luxury.


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