Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Veruca Salt Rules the World

Veruca Salt, you may remember, was the obnoxious little hellion who sang "I Want the World, I Want the Whole World, and I Want it Now!" before she literally flew down the garbage chute to hell in a candy factory.

Imagine, if you will, Veruca Salt multiplied by 85. Then imagine that there are no Willy Wonka governments around to rein in her greed, let alone sentence her to her just desserts.  In fact, 85 nonfictional Veruca Salts* are on a rampage, and they've already sucked up half the wealth of the entire planet. And they've made it perfectly clear that they're still hungry. They won't be satisfied until they've glommed up every last chocolate to put in their pocket. And those chocolates, of course, include entire governments, entire countries, entire gross domestic products.

A stunning report released by Oxfam lays out all the proof we need that there's been a plutocratic coup, and it's far from over:

• The wealth of the one percent richest people in the world amounts to $110 trillion. That’s 65 times the total wealth of the bottom half of the world’s population.

• The bottom half of the world’s population owns the same as the richest 85 people in the world.

• Seven out of ten people live in countries where economic inequality has increased inthe last 30 years.

• The richest one percent increased their share of income in 24 out of 26 countries for which we have data between 1980 and 2012.

• In the US, the wealthiest one percent captured 95 percent of post-financial crisis growth since 2009, while the bottom 90 percent became poorer.

It's no surprise that most of the 85 Veruca Salt clones reside in the U.S., where a new Gallup poll reveals that two-thirds of us are now royally ticked off about all of this gross wealth inequality. It kinda makes you wonder what the other third are smoking.  Hmm... so maybe that's why Barack Obama is suddenly "evolving" on pot legalization. A stoned populace is a malleable populace. A stoned populace won't pay attention as he frantically tries to win fast-track approval for the Veruca Salt Treaty Part III Trans-Pacific Partnership corporate coup.

Like Bob Dylan says, everybody must get stoned. And then you might not feel so all alone, as you join the rest of the Oompa Loompa serfs of the 99% foraging for crumbs and jostling for position for a slide down the factory farm chute.

Meanwhile, two of the biggest Veruca Salt clones of all, going by the aliases "Bill and Melinda Gates," have written an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal to announce that global poverty as we know it will be coming to an end, thanks to their charitable-industrial complex. That is because when Bill and Melinda visited Mexico recently, they didn't notice any poor people on the streets. They gush:
Today, Mexico City is mind-blowingly different, boasting high-rise buildings, cleaner air, new roads and modern bridges. You still find pockets of poverty, but when we visit now, we think, "Wow—most people here are middle-class. What a miracle."

 ( Um... you think it's because the poor Mexicans just up and died from disease, starvation and murder at the hands of American-enabled drug cartels? The Veruca Salt clones either don't know and don't care, or they pretend not to know and still don't care.)

But here's where the real miracle can come into play: when more than two-thirds of the population says enough already and goes all Willy Wonka on the Veruca Clones. Precluding that eventuality, Oxfam offers some helpful suggestions to the greedheads and the goody-grubbers:

Stop dodging taxes in your countries and using tax havens! Stop bribing government officials! Be transparent about your obscene wealth! Support progressive tax policies! Challenge your elected officials to provide a social safety net and universal health care for all the citizens! Pay a living wage to the people you employ! Guilt-trip your fellow elites into compliance with all of the above!

But, since admonitions never stopped those genetically incapable of feeling shame, Oxfam next turns to government officials with another plea: Cut back on the Salt! It is harmful to human health. Regulate, tax, regulate some more, tax some more. Rinse and repeat as needed.

I looked and I looked, but nowhere in the Oxfam report did I see any calls for dissent, revolution, boycotts, pitchforks, or torches.

Perversely, the report is being presented to the very tax-evading elites now converging at the annual Veruca Salt Convention World Economic Forum in Davos. And that includes do-gooder billionaire Bill Gates, who will deliver his neoliberal Prosperity Is Just Around the Third World Corner talk to his peers. (cost per person for the privilege of concern-trolling extreme wealth inequality: $40,000.)

The elites have it all covered. As long as they're minding The Gap in the Swiss Alps, the other gap might as well not even exist because none are so blind as rich people who will not see what lies beneath them. And all is well with their Whole World.

* The Forbes List of the 100 wealthiest people is here.


Pearl said...

Here is another worthwhile article from the NYTimes whose announcement
appeared briefly on the front page and then disappeared into the opinion
section. This is why I urge people to read such articles to support the
better writers in the paper. This series usually involves academic
professionals who do a great job of reporting the issues we are concerned
about. I sometimes miss them because they are whisked away to opinion or
search and I am sure others may never learn about them. Along the right side of the article is a notice 'More from the Stone' whereby you can pull up interesting previous articles as well. I wish this series would get more announcement time on the front page.

The Stone: Fifty States of Fear http://nyti.ms/1aCxr1U

I have also discovered if you press the author's name under the title of the article, you will get a list of other articles they have written.

James F Traynor said...

Yes, I read that article, and still wonder how it got there. It was very good.

annenigma said...

@ Karen

Another good one, as usual. Thanks. Have you seen a list somewhere of the names of those 85 people? I'd like to make them all pen pals. I think the rich don't see the poor because if they haven't killed them off, as you say, then they have driven them out of whatever areas they prefer to visit or live.

I've seen it several times in my own life. The first time was when I was forced to move out of southern New Hampshire where I was born and raised and graduated from college. I could no longer afford to live there after the wealthy Bostonians came up and made the area an expensive suburb. Since then it seems that every time I find a nice place to live, the rich discover it as the perfect place to invest and build their 2nd, 3rd, or 4th homes, pricing me and others of modest means out of the area.


I too have noticed that many good pieces in the NYT all too quickly vanish to parts unknown when we go back to read them later. Yet they keep some things, like chili recipes, on the front page for days, go figure.

I tried your link and ended up with a Google search results listing. Here is another link that should go directly to the NYT piece by Peter Ludlum that you referenced:


I first saw reference to Ludlow's piece on Glenn Greenwald's Twitter page. He often has breaking news of important articles and polls, etc. You don't have to register or 'follow' or anything. Just go to his Twitter page at:


and maybe bookmark it to check on from time to time. If you leave it open in it's own tab, it will indicate a new tweet by a (1) or (3) in the tab heading beside his name to show how many new ones are posted. He provides links to the articles and if he wants to say more about it, he will link to his other pages where he writes more lengthy pieces. I find his Twitter page to be a valuable source of additional articles, just as I do Karen's blogroll which I check often for updates.

Thanks for bringing Ludlow's article back up. I didn't read it the first time but I will now.

Karen Garcia said...


I added a link to the list of the richie riches. Let me know if any of them write back!

Zee said...

What do the ├╝ber-rich do--or not do--with their money?

Well, consider Warren Buffett (net worth: $53.5B). He's got nothing better to do with his time and money than wager $1B that no one will be able to able to pick the "perfect bracket" during the upcoming NCAA basketball championships:


Not that I follow sports of any kind; this story just made the mainstream news.

What else might Buffett do with a spare $1B?

PS: I did find one teeny error in your essay, Karen. In examining the list of the world's 85 richest people, I find only 31 to be American, which is less than "most" of them.

Zee said...


Karen, I misread your words! You said "reside in the U.S.," not "are Americans."

Sorry about that.

Zee said...

On the topic of “dissent, revolution, boycotts, pitchforks, or torches,” has anyone been paying attention to what's happening in the Ukraine?


“At least four people have been shot dead and hundreds injured as demonstrators clash with police over new laws limiting the right to protest in Ukraine, the head of the protest movement's volunteer medical service, Oleg Musiy, told CNN on Wednesday...

'Increased tensions in Ukraine are a direct consequence of the Ukrainian government's failure to engage in real dialogue and the passage of anti-democratic legislation on January 16,' [a U.S. State Department spokesperson] said. 'We urge the Government of Ukraine to take steps that represent a better way forward for Ukraine, including repeal of the anti-democratic legislation and beginning a national dialogue with the political opposition...'

The controversial new protest laws have sparked concerns they could be used to put down demonstrations and deny people the right to free speech.

They include provisions barring people from wearing helmets and masks to rallies, from setting up tents or sound equipment without prior police permission, and from traveling in convoys of more than five vehicles without authorization...

In December, despite weeks of protest by anti-government demonstrators, [Ukrainian president] Yanukovych agreed to a deal with Russian President Vladimir Putin for Moscow to buy Ukrainian debt and slash the price Kiev pays for its gas.

The tumult in Ukraine goes to the heart of its future ties with Russia and the rest of Europe. Ukraine is split between pro-European regions in the west and a more Russia-oriented east.

The protests have unfolded since November 21, when Yanukovych changed his stance on the [European Union] trade pact, which had been years in the making.

The demonstrators say an EU agreement would open borders to trade and set the stage for modernization and inclusion. Ukraine's government says the terms needed to be renegotiated to protect Ukrainians better.”

I don't exactly know how this relates to the situation in the United States, but I find it interesting to try to understand what it takes to drive people to violent protests against their own government.

sixmile said...

Your unequivocal prose is always refreshing and thought provoking. Your positions are uncompromising and cut to the quick. Alas, I am slowed down by the muddy view that very little if not nothing is unalloyed in this world. Except the continual need to make progress.

Mother Jones recently listed some of the companies in which the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation invests whose core values are in direct contradiction to those in the philanthropy's mission statement. But if it is not above reaping handsome dividends from fossil fuel companies and fast food chains and those with less than enlightened healthcare policies, etc., then reinvesting them in programs that aid the poor, and uplift the welfare of disadvantaged children in remote parts of the world, and so on, are we to dismiss these efforts because they fail to achieve moral perfection? It seems we're confronted with choices between the lesser of many evils in a world filled with moral grayness. And this bromide: letting perfection stand in the way of the good.

Nonetheless, your clarity challenges us to do better - for which I am grateful. I take it as a personal prod to think things through more clearly. Maybe Bill and Melinda will, too.