We Are So Poor Because They Are So Rich by Dariel Garner

Buzzword Bingo: Inequality

Image by Ron Mader via Flickr

by Dariel Garner
Guest Writer, Dandelion Salad
April 24, 2016

One day, my business partner leaned over to me and said, “Remember, we are so rich because they are so poor.” That is how he patiently explained to his younger partner why our workers should not get a raise above minimum wage. He could just as well have said, “They are so poor because we are so rich.” We were farming thousands of acres, had whole communities that worked for us and were making money faster than we could have ever dreamed. The plight of the workers just didn’t matter. What was important to my partner was that we lived in houses with marble floors while our farmworkers lived on dirt.

He said that thirty years ago, and the ugly truth is that economic inequality is even worse today. People are becoming miserably poor while the wealthy are becoming incredibly rich. Meanwhile the middle class standard of living is becoming even more precarious.

Wealth and income inequality are reaching extremes last seen in the Gilded Age and the Great Depression. Warren Buffett says it best, “There’s class warfare, all right, but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.” The rich are winning; the game is rigged – but the war is not lost unless the people give up.

Three new reports highlight how unequal the economy is becoming: Oxfam has just revealed that 62 people own as much as half the world and that 1% own as much as all the rest of the world combined. Credit Suisse reports that 50 million Americans count as part of the poorest 10% of the people in the world, and the Institute of Policy Studies calculates that just 20 Americans own as much as 152,000,000 Americans combined. The USA is the most unequal of all the developed nations.

What is the effect of this great amassing of wealth? Columbia University researchers report that one American dies every 36 seconds of poverty-related factors and a team from Harvard calculates that 1 in 3 Americans will die of income inequality. These studies just look at dying; they don’t talk about the pain of living as a poor person.

How can it be? The game is rigged. President Jimmy Carter was right when he told Oprah that the USA is “now an oligarchy instead of a democracy”. He is backed up by Martin Gilens and Benjamin Page, whose ‘Princeton Study’, demonstrates that we, the people, have had absolutely no say in congressional decisions for decades. No say, that is, unless we happen to agree with the wealthy elite who controls public policy-making.

For decades, the rich have made all the laws and regulations, chosen the judges and the regulators, and written the 76,000 page IRS Tax Code. Occasionally, we agree with the rich, but even when we agree with them, it is because their radio, television, books, movies and newspapers have shaped our thinking to their liking.

As bleak as the situation is, there is great reason to have courage that change can happen. The ruling elite are learning that they must reform and the people are realizing their power. There are many ways that we can organize and refuse to cooperate with a system that is producing dizzying inequalities.

Individual members of the wealthy elite, like Nick “The Pitchfoks Are Coming” Hanauer, are stepping forward and major institutions such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank are all moving to recognize the detrimental effects of the concentration of wealth. Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders is bringing knowledge of wealth inequality to the center of political discussion and helping empower millions of people to seek change.

Most importantly the people are learning that, in the last thirty years, there have been over fifty regimes booted out of office by strategic nonviolent civil resistance. Many of those governments were far more brutal and dictatorial than ours. The people are learning that deep systemic change is not made by voting for a single candidate or by waving flags in the streets, but by educating and building mass support, by creating new alternatives to the existing structures and by taking strategic coercive action such as boycotts, strikes, blockades, and literally hundreds of other kinds of nonviolent actions that withdraw the support of the people from the hurtful and unfair system. And, they are learning that nonviolent action wins twice as often, works three times faster, and incurs only a tiny fraction of the casualties compared to violent change.

We do not have to live in a world where we, the 99%, have to say, “we are so poor because they are so rich; they are so rich because we are so poor.” We can educate, organize and win – and we will win because we are many and they are few.

This, by the way, is exactly what happened to me and my business partner … the people formed a union and went on strike.

Crossposted at Popular Resistance


Dariel Garner was a member of the wealthiest 0.01 of 1%. He is the inspiration for Billionaire Buddha, a novel by Rivera Sun about a man who had incredible riches, turned his back on wealth and found everything worth living for. He speaks, holds workshops on wealth and income inequality and blogs at riverasun.com. You can reach him by email at dariel@riverasun.com.

from the archives:

Breaking Through Power: Historic Civil Mobilization Now by Ralph Nader

Translating the Bern Internationally by Todd Chretien

The Lesser Evilism of Bernie Sanders by Sean Petty

Chris Hedges: The Revenge of the Lower Classes and the Emergence of Fascism

Awakening the Movement of Movements by Rivera Sun

Plutocracy: Political Repression in the U.S.A. (must-see)

20 People Now Richer Than Half Of America by Dariel Garner

Nick Hanauer: Income Inequality

Richard Wilkinson & Kate Pickett: Why Greater Equality Makes Societies Stronger (must-see)

see also:

Oxfam Report, April 12, 2016

The reality of poverty in America: A reply to Obama’s “frustration” over social discontent By Niles Niemuth

35 thoughts on “We Are So Poor Because They Are So Rich by Dariel Garner

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  9. Excellent article with several key references, Dariel, many of which are my favorites! I’m very glad to see you doing this work and glad to see the support from Lo at Dandelion Salad. Keep up the good work; I strongly support it and you serve as a good role model. Give my best to Rivera Sun too.
    —-Thomas Baldwin

  10. Thank you all so much for your discussion. Wonderful. Amazing

    For me, the hardness of the American culture grows simply from a belief in self separate from other, leading to self-centric over holo-centric behaviors that eventually manifest themselves in fear, greed, belief in scarcity and societal structures such as private property, capitalism and war. I have also found the abused leading to abuser as a powerful promulgator of all this.

  11. We shouldn’t *want* the oligarchic monsters to “reform”. We should want them and their whole system of rotted corruption to vanish from the face of the Earth. Their “Reform” is not something that has *any* good for The People in it.

  12. “Ruling elite are learning that they must reform”??? Pure fantasy. They’re staging WWIII as I write this. Read John Pilger’s latest essay.

    • The ruling elites are never of one mind, that is what makes coup d’etats possible.
      Currently the concern amongst global elites over income and wealth inequality is growing enormously . A world Economic (Davos) Forum focused on it. The heads of the World Bank, IMF and the Federal Reserve have all spoken out as have very rich people like Warren Buffett and even Lady Rothschild.
      That doesn’t necessarily mean they are taking action, a few are to my knowledge, but many, many more must. There may be some in the war industry but I am not aware of them.
      Inviting them to give up all or a portion of their wealth, to rejoin humanity, is a much needed strategy we are developing. Likewise the development of strategic nonviolent civil resistance targeting income/wealth equality is critical.

      • Dariel, thank you for your valuable contribution and excellent article. I am intrigued by your gifting strategy, but also a tad skeptical. After all, surely it must be a question of both scale and proportion ie “prudence” and “discretion?”

        What I mean is, how do we keep it real? After all, a benefactor is, ideally, someone who has a heart; but they may also have an agenda. What one might call a pressing need to launder their conscience ~ like a mafia don distributing largesse, by endowing an art gallery or museum for example.

        Wouldn’t most “financially responsible” individuals advise honest but prudent investment rather than divestment?

        For example, although without such means, I am an enthusiastic supporter of the Campaign for Real Farming here in the UK, whose principle patron is Peter Kindersley (formerly a publisher and then owner of Neals Yard cosmetics etc. and the Sheep Drove Organic Farm Trust…)

        http://www.sheepdrove.com/How-it-all-began-pg53.aspx

        Their work is carefully localised, exceptionally well managed and also interconnected through charitable network organizations like

        http://www.greenfunders.org/whos-involved/ & others like

        https://www.slowfood.org.uk/projects/campaigns/10000-gardens-africa/

        and of course http://www.campaignforrealfarming.org/

        So my point is this: when we are talking about astronomical budgets like the Gates Foundation, isn’t it well nigh impossible to keep our focus on proportionate and appropriate micro-schemes that will really benefit people, without corrupting or disempowering them at the grass roots ~ by creating alienation and resentment among those who may feel excluded or under-endowed?

        In short when you start to give away “wealth”, doesn’t it risk generating a “feeding frenzy” of potential opportunism? Wouldn’t we be better advised to follow the example of the Grameen Bank perhaps, or underwrite the progressive ideas of a lucid economist like Ellen Brown?

        • PS I forgot to add…

          “The ruling elites are never of one mind, that is what makes coup d’etats possible.”

          …what a brilliant observation! An invaluable and radical truth we should all take to heart…

        • A very complex question David.
          For me the answer evolved over more than a decade as I examined and drew my own conclusions as to the nature of financial wealth. Eventually I saw it as produced by a system, not by me as a “self-made man.” As such I could not see that I had any rightful claim to the money, indeed as a consequence of that, I viewed it all as ill-gotten. Built from the toil of others I had no better right to it than anyone else and I had to renounce it.

          Over the decade of introspection my relationship to wealth went through many phases from giving large grants through my own foudation, to not caring and losing money, to lavish spending (imagine $10,000 USD for a dinner for three) to bundles of cash to people. But eventually I came to the conclusion I could not be free until I gave it all away.

          I can’t imagine that I could ever be happier than I am now, being poor.. (One exception to that,.. the USA does not provide health or dental care for it’s citizens…that would be comforting).

          Many may not come to the same realizations that I did, nor take the actions I did. But many if not nearly all wealthy people question why they have so much when others are starving and why they feel uncomfortable letting others know they are rich. To those people my advice is “Give it all back.” and not through traditional or directed charity but through a community trust over which the donor has no control..

          Realistically, most will not do that, but any amount of giving, even ego driven giving, will breed more giving and eventually through education and caring by the society, that may lead to a true heart based giving.

          Rivera Sun’s novel Billionaire Buddha is inspired by my search during those ten years and has quite lovely sections on capitalism, wealth and philanthropy
          .
          My current work is to make new invitations to the wealthy to give, to rejoin humanity, part of an integrated framework of constructive and obstructive strategic nonviolent civil action to create democracy and equality
          Great Fun!

        • Superb Dariel, especially the community trust idea that is indeed a heartfelt revolutionary strategy, and one with which I resonate deeply along with the principles of a stewardship/gift economy.

          Are you acquainted with the work of Schumacher College, Satish Kumar and Resurgence/Ecologist magazine? I’m sure you must also have encountered the work of Charles Eisenstein for example and other like-minded radical, activist thinkers.

          I live in Hartland, N Devon (UK) where Resurgence is published…

        • Resurgence has been doing wonderful and important work for ages. Just by chance a few hours before I saw your post Satish Kumar’s name came up. My partner, Rivera Sun, is in Europe in October, speaking and teaching strategic nonviolent civil resistance and the sponsoring group wanted to be sure she meets him..

  13. I find it deeply ironic, that the United States, purportedly the most religious of nations, is also the most destructive. Brick for brick, bang for buck, the US is a demolition enterprise, and has wrought hell on Earth during its brief but accelerated rise to hegemonic dominance.

    We can all quote scripture and gnash our teeth in lamentation, but until American citizens reject the policies of violence that have characterized the ascendancy of their insidious and murderous corporate kings, the world will continue to languish in ruinous despotism.

    There is no excuse for ignorance or inaction in an epoch of total knowledge, forensic evidential fact, and quicksilver communications.

    I recently revisited a film made in 2002ce that predates the catastrophic genocidal M-east chaos we are witnessing today, called ‘In Whose Interest’ ~ a very helpful short summary of the heinous and inhuman war-crimes perpetrated and engineered by the US post-WW2. Also, please watch ‘The Occupation of the American Mind’ ~ a powerful wake up call.

    Politicians lie ~ because “they can….” At best, it is all “self-deceit.”

    The time for wishful thinking and apologetics is long past. The present crisis of global governance is a crisis of International Law & Enlightened Stewardship; not an argument about partisan opinion or imperial prowess ~ it is a life-and-death and species-survival issue, that compels us to invoke enduring Planetary Intelligence and prioritize our incipient moral sense of Universal Ecology.

    Be as religious as you want, but be sure to allow for others’ ethical sensibilities and spiritual instinct(s;) especially those sentient creatures who have no power to speak our language(s,) who merely exist, that just are, and do not judge us corrupt humans ~ we, the Architects of this world who have the gift of Reason (!) and ought to aspire to its Guardianship, its protection…not to persecution; to relentless and gratuitous cruelty; destruction; degradation; impoverishment and squalid misery ~ all “on tap.”

    http://www.occupationmovie.com/
    http://www.bullfrogfilms.com/catalog/iwi.html

  14. Regime Change is the mode these Days in the application of US Power.

    Few Christian Leaders in the US expand on the unfolding Revelation of “regime change” to this world’s system, implied upon the return of the Spirit of Christ, and the letter, in James 5 in every Bible.

    Bernie Sanders is talking about it, without attributing the ideas and perceptions to what was already spelled out in James 5 some 1600 years ago.

    Even secular people have some vague notion of Christ’s teachings about the materially rich, but Spiritually poor people of this world. The parable of the rich man and Lazarus is one, it’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven; and many other related perceptions, sprinkled throughout the Old and New Testaments of The Bible.

    It was only with the distribution of Bibles from Gutenberg’s printing press in the mid 1400s, and the common people had access to it, not just obeying dictates from the pulpit, marked the beginning of the end of Absolute Church Rule under the Pope in Christian Europe.

    In my view, that momentous event in 1454, was much like the introduction of the Internet for this Generation, that is so instrumental in changing people’s perceptions of power and this world, these Days.

    Just the fact the “1%” is being identified and recognized these days, as they were during the French Revolution of 1848, long after the beginning of the wide distribution of the Bible 400 years earlier, when “Off with their Heads” was more commonly practised than ISIS does these Days, is a “sign and leading indicator” this world has arrived at the Spirit of this Letter active in this MATERIAL WORLD TODAY, portending to REGIME CHANGE to come:

    Go to now, you rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you.
    Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are moth eaten.
    Your gold and silver is cankered; and the rust of them shall be a witness against you, and shall eat your flesh as it were fire. You have heaped treasure together for the last days.

    Behold, the hire of the labourers who have reaped down your fields, which is of you kept back by FRAUD, cries: and the cries of them which have reaped are entered into the ears of the Lord of sabaoth.

    You have lived in pleasure on the earth, and been wanton; you have nourished your hearts, as in a day of slaughter.
    You have condemned and killed the just; and he does not resist you.

    Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waits for the precious fruit of the earth, and has long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain.
    You also be patient; establish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draws nigh.

    Grudge not one against another, brethren, lest you be condemned: behold, the Judge stands before the door.
    Take, my brethren, the prophets, who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example of suffering affliction, and of patience.
    Behold, we count them happy which endure. You have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy.

    But above all things, my brethren, swear not, neither by heaven, neither by the earth, neither by any other oath: but let your yea be yea; and your nay, nay; lest you fall into condemnation.

    • I wholeheartedly agree with your comments re the comparison of the internet to the Gutenberg press except that I would go further and extend the comparison to the written word and possibly even spoken language. The internet is a simultaneous net linking the people, cultures and the knowledge of the world (or at least a good part of it). The real trick will be to evade the same sort of suppression the Gutenberg press was subjected to.

  15. Outlaw Corporations

    Anyone who believes a CEO can “earn” $20-200-500 million dollars is delusional and part of the problem.

    These CEOs jump from one corporation to another and regardless of the bottom line success of that company the CEO receives increases in all compensation and when they do jump to another corporation, they get a golden parachute, millions of dollars just to walk away, even if the corporation lost billions, and the CEO laid off thousands of workers, he still gets filthy richer.

    We all can work and provide our goods and our labor productively without any CEO or board of directors or regional or district or store or assistant store managers.

    A simple working model and one week of educational training and one week of hands on training and anyone can do any job, without twenty or one hundred managers and corporate executives watching over us and sitting in their offices obsessing over every little cost saving or profit increasing detail.

    Eliminate all corporate management jobs and all executive and CEO positions.

    All workers of all companies will be the owners and divide the profits equally without kicking all the profits up to the managers and executives and CEOs.

    Then eliminate the corporation completely.

    Outlaw corporations.

    No more stockholders, because there will be no more stock certificates for greedy investors to buy or own.

    When a person starts a business, they go to a money lender and borrow the needed start up money and pay it back at an agreed upon fee.

    No more investors buying stock in a company.

    If someone wants to gamble, go where the government says it’s legal and put your money down on any company you want just like betting on your favorite sports team.

    If the company does well, you win the bet, if not, you lose.

    But the bet on the company will be completely separate from the daily operation of that company.

    The bettor has no connection to the company and the worker of the company has no connection to the bettor.

    Outlaw corporations and the buying and selling of stock in the corporations.

    Give it a try, the old capitalism system is not working too good…
    For most of us, only for a few rich powerful greedy cold hearted capitalists.

    Peace.

  16. The thing is, anyone who thinks carefully about these issues can grasp the essential logic of a coherent, social ecology embedded in a planetary reality. So why is it so difficult to change the prevailing system? Must it always be about haves and have-nots?

    I’d say the core principle that needs to be thoroughly deconstructed is interminable repetition; the habituated mantras of “power” that condition and condone the deleterious mindsets of “specialised” control. People are expected to defer to these “experts,” but it is sheer hoodoo ~ total “juju,” sophisticated “witchcraft”, black magic and evil mind control.

    Of course, we always need highly experienced and practiced individuals, duly qualified professionals with proper training and knowledge. So why the problem?

    I’d say the most likely reason that so many alleged “authorities” literally get away with murder, abuses of power, fraud, deception and daylight robbery, is the capacity of cunning string-pullers with specious qualifications to exploit “the gaps” in public credulity for personal gain ~ for ideological superiority and aggrandizement. It is the missing discourses in moral consciousness that allow such false privilege to enjoy the free ride that perpetuates totalitarian abuse.

    Power is a relative concept, associated with the magnitude and strength of popular support, but also directly to degrees of coercion and the violent techniques it deploys. We all die eventually, so why do these institutions of control not die when their architects and practitioners drop off their perches?

    The simple answer is conditioning. Another, is of course deference masquerading as duty, whilst another is indifference ~ or simple desperation. Not everyone can afford the luxury of critical thought. If your main preoccupation in life is eking out a marginal existence, there is precious little energy or capacity for resistance, time for creative reflection; let alone pragmatic substitution, self affirmation or the option of heuristic experimentation in social organization, education and training.

    So what to do? What are the best strategies for real change, qualitative improvement, enduring sustainable resilience, prosperity, due process and success?

    The formal foundation of all true work must be empirical & methodologically sound, ie (scientifically) testable and “falsifiable” experiment. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. The operating systems we propose to deploy have to be inclusive, not selective; or preferential, biased and exclusive. Dogma is unhelpful. Experience is what counts. Sharing our knowledge is the most important weapon we can wield.

    Ideas alone are insufficient, albeit profoundly necessary ~ what we need are living examples; actual tangible models, capable of integration, & sufficiently strong to withstand the potentially hostile pressures of enforced modes and competitive currents.

    The WWW aka the Internet is our principle engine of change now, we need to engage this opportunity wisely, robustly and with supreme confidence. To challenge our inherited assumptions, we must evaluate “visionary” hypotheses, by exercising multiple intelligences. We need to stay aware and awake to the dynamic environment in which we operate, whilst retaining a healthy admiration for real hereditary wisdom, whilst rejecting prejudice.

    We ought to remind ourselves that truth and wisdom do exist, that creative energy manifests in many ways, & what is genuine has not been lost but is conserved in our very beings from time immemorial. For those who cannot discover or claim the luxury of free thought, it is enough to listen to their own instinctual integrity. We all have the capacity to heed the spiritual recognition of the indestructible force of life.

    For those who are genuinely interested in the way profane power exercises control through influence and persuasion, I strongly recommend a new film, only recently released ‘The Occupation of the American Mind’ …..”obligatory” viewing in my estimation.

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