The Top 1% Of Americans, The Top 10%, And Then; The Rest Of Us

A lot has been said lately about how great the stock market is doing so, to many, this means that the American economy is doing great.  News flash for those who do not already know it, the stock market is not the be-all-end-all that says that the economy is doing great.  It is a part of what determines the health of the American economy but it is certainly not the be-all-end-all indicator of how the economy is doing.  Why?  Because the top 1% of Americans own 49% of stock, the top 10% own 89%, and the bottom 50% of Americans own only 1% of stock.  So, the top 1% of Americans soar, the top 9% glide, and the bottom 50%…well, they do whatever.  In the meantime, the economy just motors along until it finds its way.

After this very brief lesson on the American economy, I cannot resist adding a lamentation on how overall wealth distribution impacts on the everyday American.  I am sure that somewhere along the way during the more than a decade that I have been posting articles to this blog, I must have lamented the special attention paid to the rich by the American government and the waning attention, if not complete neglect, paid to everyday Americans.  With the downward spiral that our government is in right now, I am compelled to again express my frustration with its disparate treatment of everyday Americans when compared to that of the top 10 percent of them.

It is obvious that the rich are given greater consideration than are everyday Americans when it comes to how our government and its great institutions treat one group versus the other.  It is likely that everyday Americans are treated differently from our rich counterparts because the rich have greater access, just one of their perks, to those in power; our elected officials.  They constantly have the ears of these officials readily available to them through their highly paid lobbyists; lobbyists who likely constantly remind these politicians, just by virtue of being there, who their big money contributors are.  Although everyday Americans know that the rich are given special treatment, we have disregarded it: we know that we cannot do anything about it because we have tried and failed so many times in the past.

Everyday Americans use to feel some small degree of comfort because we had, at least, a few senators and representatives advocating for us.  We had a few government organizations in place that were fighting for us.  Even if they were not successful in closing that gap of special treatment, they were continuing to fight to keep it from widening.  They were relentless in their mitigation on behalf of the larger percentage of Americans who are the target of this disparate treatment despite that there are no lobbyists constantly pressuring them on our behalf.  They kept a bright light shining on this unfair practice.  But those days are long gone.  There is no longer any light that illuminates what these money hungry, power-seeking politicians are doing.  Instead, now, the American congress is too busy with the Republicans’ agenda of retribution and fighting about petty issues.  Further, the Republican half of our two-party system of government acts as if it no longer wants America to be a democracy but prefers it to be an autocracy!

To be clear, what prompted me to once again bemoan how the American government is treating the rich and powerful special while virtually ignoring the needs of everyday Americans is the whining of insurance companies about their declining profit margins.  They are whining about how much money they are losing as the result of the claims that they are paying out.  Everything is fine as long as Americans are paying in money and not making any claims: free money!  Yes, that’s great; for insurance companies.  First, they go to the government and talk it into mandating that everyone has insurance on everything from health insurance to car insurance to home insurance and more, then they complain when they must pay out claims?!  But I am getting sidetracked.

The particular insurance company, which is a subsidiary of CVS, that brought on my need to vent my frustration is Aetna.  According to an article in Newsweek, CVS is concerned about its profit margin and has said that it plans to cut 10% of its Aetna health insurance plans in an effort to prioritize its profit margin.  I do not know what the expected profit margin of a health insurance company is but what I do know is this.  CVS paid more than $63,459,882 in salaries and other compensation to five of its executives in 2023.  The total compensation figure for each of these executives likely include stock and stock options.  And I have no doubt that these are not the only CVS executives that are being paid hefty salaries and receiving “other” compensation.

Like any public owned company, CVS needs to pay its stockholders a reasonable return on their investment but maybe they would be better able to do this if they gave their executives less in salaries and other compensation – which again, likely includes stock and stock options.  But, in large part, because the American congress is dysfunctional, corporations are taking full advantage of the situation.  Corporate greed is alive and well and most American companies are fighting hard to make sure that their hand also is in the average Americans’ pocket before we are stretched to our limit and it is too late for them to get their fair share of the plunders.

The bottom line is that these corporations that are swamped in corporate greed need to take a deep breath, take a step back, see the big picture and closely examine it.  The odds are that they will find that everyday Americans are already stretched to their limit.  And even if these billionaires and multi-millionaires who own these corporations find that they cannot bring themselves under control out of (gulp) compassion and empathy for their fellow Americans plight; surely, they will be able to do it when they consider that persisting in gouging them will ultimately bring about the demise of their own lifestyle.  Surely, they will stop gouging them when they recognize that their fellow Americans need to always have a reasonable amount of money to purchase their already overpriced products and goods and that this will not even put a dent in their lavish billionaire and multi-millionaire lifestyles.

Will they do this?  Who knows; we can only hope that they will.  Just like the truth is not agreeable to a liar, perhaps empathy and even the thought of sharing is incomprehensible to the super rich no matter the potential threat to their existing lifestyle.  Most of them are probably far too busy contemplating how to keep what they have and add to it while always fearing that some other super rich person might be successful at taking it away from them.  Be that as it may, one can always hope, right?

Eulus Dennis – author, M2: Street Cop To Top Cop, Operation Rubik’s Cube, and Living Between The Line

Republican Party Forsakes Oath Of Office

All indications are that members of the Republican Party have forsaken their oath of office and turned against the American democracy.  Some Republican members of congress are even publicly repeating Russian propaganda on the House floor.  Further, Republican Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene continues to fight hard to prevent America from providing additional aid to Ukraine in its war with Russia.  She threatened to force a vote on a move to vacate if Speaker Mike Johnson allowed the $95 billion bipartisan bill to be brought to vote that includes aid to Ukraine.

Speaker Johnson allowed a vote on this bill and it passed.  True to her threat, Representative Green forced a vote to remove Speaker Johnson.  It failed miserably by a vote of 359-43.  Although Representative Greene’s attempt to remove the Speaker was unsuccessful, these shenanigans by House Republicans should be of grave concern to all Americans who value democracy and America’s role as the world leader in fostering and preserving it.

Unfortunately, Donald Trump has managed to normalize things like what House Republicans are doing and many other things that, before his tenure as The Donald J. Trump of the United States of America and his time since leaving office, would have set the hair on fire of all Americans regardless of their Party affiliation.  But that is not the case now and that is a huge problem for America if we intend to remain a democracy.

Rachael Maddow said on her May 6th show this week that democracy is mortal; it can be killed.  And she is right.  She said this in her continued effort to help Americans focus on the existential threat to democracy now; and to do something about it now!  She reemphasized that this is not some kind of future threat that we will be faced with but it is already happening.

However, because we have grown numb to Donald Trump’s behavior despite how outrageous, ridiculous, and unacceptable it might be; and have grown weary of trying to correct it so wink at it, we are abetting him in normalizing it.  This is exactly what America does not need right now.  She does not need those of us who want to keep America a democracy to grow weary and quit.  But it is what Donald Trump and the Trump led Republican Party need and exactly what they want.  And they seem to be already getting it when we consider what is happening in real time in the American judicial system.

The United States Supreme Court is considering Trump’s preposterous presidential immunity appeal while slow walking a decision on it, Judge Aileen Cannon has postponed the Trump documents trial indefinitely, and an appellate court in Georgia has agreed to hear Trump’s appeal of Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee’s decision to not Remove Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis from the RICO case he is facing.  And as if all of this was not enough, the Republican Party itself is doing everything that it can to help Trump avoid being held to account and to put him back in the White House.

I explained to readers in articles about Trump that I posted to this website in April, why they should thoroughly scrutinize Trump’s actions and behavior while he was in office – especially leading up to and during the January 6, 2021 insurrection, how he has continued to conduct himself since he left office, and stated that he does not deserve their vote and they should not vote for him.  I also encouraged them to get out and vote in the 2024 election despite all obstacles that they are sure to face.

I reiterate that encouragement in this article because Republicans are obviously putting forth every effort to make it harder to vote: And they are not hiding the fact that they are doing it.  This Trump led Republican Party know that they have done many things under Trump’s leadership that goes against what the majority of Americans want from our government.  They know that this will make it even harder for them to win in the 2024 election and so, therefore, are trying to manufacture an advantage that will help them to win.

Key among the things that Republicans have done is the overturning of Roe v. Wade.  This decision by the Supreme Court conservative supermajority took away rights that women had held for nearly 50 years and, in essence, placed a politician in the room with women and their doctors as regards personal healthcare issues.  It also elicited not-so-veiled threats from some of those same conservatives to take away other rights from, not just women but all Americans.

What is happening in America now is not what Americans want from our government.  We do not want a government by the minority, let alone one person.  Those politicians, whether they wear suits or long black robes, who envision a government under Trump as one that will be worth having because it will allow them to remain in their positions and retain their power are misguided and delusional.  It might allow them to remain in their positions; and that is only as long as they are completely loyal to him and agree with all his policies and everything that he says, but they will not retain their power.  All power will ultimately rest in Trump’s hands and all politicians, again, whether they wear suits or long black robes, will simply be figureheads.

In the end, all of those who are currently humiliating themselves in their effort to ingratiate themselves to Trump but have not yet ended up empty vessels on Trump’s human pile of lost principles, lost dignity, lost honorable legacy, and depleted burned-out souls will ultimately end up there.  No one who willingly enters Trump’s orbit survives; at least, that has not happened yet.  As cynical as this sounds, it is necessary to jolt those off the dime who still believe that someone will come to our rescue.  They will not.

It is on us now and we must save ourselves.  And we can do that if we remain steadfast and continue to fight all the way through the 2024 election.  And if Trump does not win and he and his sycophants cry foul after the election claiming that it was rigged, we must continue to fight until the rot that has penetrated and infected the American government and institutions is isolated and removed.  Only then can we cautiously relax and enjoy some degree of trust in our elected officials to faithfully conduct the business of the American people.  Even then we must remain alert and maintain honorable and trustworthy sentries on the wall of democracy.

Freedom is not free; we must fight for it!  Far too many of us Americans take our democracy and the rights and freedom that we have to the pursuit of happiness for granted.  We have been given what could very well be our only warning to prevent the fall of democracy: the fall of the United States of America; Trump made sure of that.  We must head that warning!  For whom does the bell toll?  It tolls for all Americans.  The need for all Americans to fight for democracy with everything that we have now cannot be overemphasized.  We can fight not only with our vote in the 2024 election, but by getting engaged and staying engaged in the democratic process by always performing our civic duty.

So always remember, whether you are a Democrat, Republican, or Independent, your vote is the most important one of all…unless you don’t use it!

Eulus Dennis – author, M2: Street Cop To Top Cop, Operation Rubik’s Cube and Living Between The Line