How Much Is Never Enough?

How Much Is Never Enough? Ask A Multi-BillionaireThis svelte young swine and multi-billionaire knows something that you
and Bernie Sanders do not:  That way too much is never enough.

 

An American Hero of the employed and unemployed American citizen, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont recently asked, “How much is enough?”  His rhetorical? comment was directed at the nation’s comparatively small handful of multi-millionaires and multi-billionaires, amidst the context of their Republican lackeys’ now successful efforts to further line the silk purses of their corpulent Overlords with more currency;  in many cases, a lot more.

So let’s take a couple pennies worth of time to get a sense of just how wealthy a few people really are.
A thousand million is, in the terms of the “short scale” method of naming large numbers, a “billion.”  A billion dollars therefore is a thousand million dollars.  A lot of money you may be thinking, and, an amount largely beyond the comprehension of the average American, who in 2009 had a net worth—  the market value of property and investments minus mortgage, credit-card and other debts— of— wait for it— $175,600;  that’s right; according to data collected by the Fed and the Commerce Department.  That’s up 5.7% from the end of 2008, but still well below the peak of $218,650 in 2007.

Many people, at least in America, although they have no frickin’ idea how much a billion dollars actual is, know how much a roll of a hundred pennies is, and they do have some idea how large a typical yellow school bus is— roughly 41 feet long, about 11 feet high, and 9 feet wide— so they can at least begin to fathom the image below:

One Billion Pennies
Imagine five stacks of pennies, each 41 x 9 x 11 and you’ve got an idea of how much physical space a billion pennies* takes up.

Even so, when you multiply that by say, 10 billion, the stacks take on truly humongous proportions:

A football field is 360 feet long and a 160 feet wide; our stack 'o pennies has grown to 205 feet in length, still 11 feet high, and 90 feet wide; (we've omitted the enormous fleet of armored cars it would take to assemble it all.)
A football field is 360 feet long and a 160 feet wide; our stack ‘o pennies has grown to 205 feet in length, still 11 feet high, and 90 feet wide; (we’ve omitted the enormous fleet of armored cars it would take to assemble it all.)

I can hear you wondering:  How many people actually have ten billion dollars??  Not very many.  You can find them on an ignoble document known as the billionaires list.  But the current folderol over the continued tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires has begun to revive the debate over the concept of economic fairness in the United States, which now boasts the greatest disparity between the haves and the have-nots in the entire world.  In 2007, the top one percent owned more than a third of the nation’s wealth— while the bottom fifty percent had to make do with just two and a half percent.  And Congress— yes, our motherfucking public servants— just voted to continue that trend.

Every area of the economy is still about taking wealth from the great mass of people and putting it into the hands of a few. If you don’t have a economic democracy, you don’t have a political democracy.”

— Dennis Kucinich

President Andrew Jackson is generally credited with establishing an important principle of American-style democracy— that we should measure the health of our society not at its apex, but at its base. Today, that “base” is increasingly underemployed, unemployed, and virtually penniless.  The “collapse of the middle class” can no longer be dismissed as the hyperbole of “bleeding heart liberals”;  it has become a stark reality for nearly 80% of our population.

Which brings us to the moral underpinnings of Bernie’s question: “How much is enough?”  Economic necessities tie man up with reality.  But it is only personal religious experience which brings this same man face to face with the far more important eternal realities— the potential reality of an ever-expanding and progressing cosmic citizenship in an eternal universe.

Most of us are unfortunately, increasingly loathe to recognize the indispensable role of true religion in our financial morals and our dealings with the various groups of man we call the wealthy, the middle class, and the poor.  But true religion is the only power which can lastingly increase the responsiveness of one social group to the needs and sufferings of other groups.  And these times of exacerbated economic unfairness not only threaten our democracy, but also our spiritual well-being as individuals and as a people.

Yes, it’s a welcome development to see some billionaires pledging large proportions of their fortunes to various charities and other organizations.  But what is desperately needed now is an equitable distribution of wealth back to the collapsing middle class.  For killing the middle class will inevitably kill America.

* Original Graphic found here.

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