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Why are the billionaires laughing?

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It's not surprising that young men in the Middle East and Africa would harbor resentment against a country that takes the great majority of the wealth—especially considering that the most troubled areas of the world have collectively lost wealth between 2012 and 2017.(Photo: DoD/flickr/cc)

Why Do They Hate Us? America Has Taken Nearly 70% of the World's Wealth Gains Since 2012

Exploring the economic incentives for discontent and global violence

Paul Buchheit

America's super-rich are taking not only from their own nation, but also from the rest of the world. Data from the 2017 Global Wealth Databook (GWD: Table 2-4) and various war reports help to explain why we're alienating people outside our borders. 

From 2012 to 2017, global wealth increased by $37.7 trillion, and U.S. wealth increased by $26 trillion. Thus, largely because of a surging stock market, our nation took nearly 70 percent of the entire global wealth gain over the past five years. Based on their dominant share of U.S. wealth, America's richest 10%—much less than 1% of the world's adult population—took over half the world's wealth gain in the past five years.

Wealth in the Volatile Middle East Has DECLINED at the Same Time 

It's not surprising that young men in the Middle East and Africa would harbor resentment against a country that takes the great majority of the wealth—especially considering that the most troubled areas of the world have collectively lost wealth between 2012 and 2017. That's both average wealth and median wealth. 

Although the GWD has limited data about individual nations in the Middle East and Africa, some is available. Median wealth has PLUMMETED in Syria and Iran and Yemen. It has gone down by almost half in all of Africa. Wealth levels are crashing in the areas of the world where we wage war.

We're Bombing Nations That Aren't Terrorist Threats 

An explosion jolted Basim awake, and he could see the night sky through the massive hole in his bombed-out Iraqi house. "Mayada!" he screamed for his wife. No response from her, or from his daughter Tuqa....In the hospital days later, Basim lifted his phone and looked at the smiling images of a wife and daughter he would never see again. He began to sob uncontrollably. 

One would think that a nation monopolizing the world's new wealth would avoid alienating the victims of inequality. But it's just the opposite. The U.S. dropped thousands of bombs on seven Middle Eastern and African countries in 2016. Estimates of civilian deaths by airwar monitoring groups surpass official Pentagon numbers by a wide margin. 

For the desperate residents of Yemen, attacks by Saudi Arabia continue with American weapons, using American targeting data, and delivered by American jets. Power and water facilities have been destroyed. Supply lines have been cut. Hospitals have been bombed, and a cholera epidemic is raging out of control. 

In Africa, the Pentagon is engaged in about 100 missions in 20 African countries. That includes Somalia, which has been the target of a wave of new U.S. bombings in 2017, even though that country is one of the Middle-Eastern states which "are not serious terrorism risks," according to the Cato Institute. The bombing campaign in Somalia is waged with no public debate or Congressional authorization. Since 2001 the Authorization for Use of Military Force Act has been used to justify deadly attacks on any newly feared potential enemy, under the guise of taking aggressive action on any nation that might have "planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks" of 9/11.

Apology to the Troops 

Big money interests have turned America into a financial machine, accumulating more and more tax-deferred wealth through the stock market, and using the media to frighten us with overblown terrorist threats. At the same time, Americans are brainwashed into believing that we're forever fighting a war for freedom. But 'freedom' has become a distorted concept in our increasingly unequal nation. Young lives are put at risk to ensure that a few thousand American households are free to take most of the wealth.


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Paul Buchheit

Paul Buchheit

Paul Buchheit is an advocate for social and economic justice, and the author of numerous papers on economic inequality and cognitive science. He was recently named one of 300 Living Peace and Justice Leaders and Models. He is the author of "American Wars: Illusions and Realities" (2008) and "Disposable Americans: Extreme Capitalism and the Case for a Guaranteed Income" (2017). Contact email: paul (at) youdeservefacts.org.

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