Skip to main content

Why are the billionaires always laughing?

Because they know the corporate media will never call bullshit on their bullshit.

Why are the billionaires laughing?

It’s easy to laugh when the corporate press treats you as a glorious success instead of the epitome of a broken social order. Billionaires laugh because they know the corporate media prefers to fawn over them rather than hold them to account.

Today, we ask you to support our nonprofit, independent journalism because we are not impressed by billionaires flying into space, their corporations despoiling our health and planet, or their vast fortunes safely concealed in tax havens across the globe. We are not laughing.

We are hard at work producing journalism for the common good. With our Fall Campaign underway, please support this mission today. We cannot do it without you.

Support Our Work -- Join the small group of generous readers who donate, keeping Common Dreams free for millions of people each year. Every donation—large or small—helps us bring you the news that matters.

"Many 75-year-olds consider themselves lucky to have jobs at Walmart. " (Photo: Paulann Egelhoff/Flickr/cc)

"Many 75-year-olds consider themselves lucky to have jobs at Walmart. " (Photo: Paulann Egelhoff/Flickr/cc)

Six Big Losers in Our 'Booming' Economy

We're approaching third-world status in parts of our nation.

Paul Buchheit

The Dow Jones Industrial Average skyrocketed from 25,000 to 26,000 in just seven trading days, prompting Donald Trump to bluster, "Our economy is booming, investments and jobs are pouring back into the country...We ARE Making America Great Again." Certainly the richest 1% are feeling great. But the stock market is feeding the nation's runaway inequality, boosting the financial wealth of a privileged few while doing NOTHING for the middle and lower classes. The biggest losers are among the MOST VULNERABLE Americans, the people who seem to be reviled by the Republicans in Congress.

Children: While Stocks Doubled, 18% More Kids Fell Into Poverty 

This is shocking and shameful. The U.S. has taken nearly half of the world's new wealth since the 2008 recession, and the stock market more than doubled from 2008 to 2014 (and tripled by 2017), but the number of children living below the federal poverty threshold increased by 18 percent from 2008 to 2014.

Mothers: Highest Death Rate in the Developed World 

The U.S. maternal mortality rate is booming right along with the economy -- out of control and in the wrong direction, as all the other major developed countries have seen a decrease in maternal deaths. 

The mistreatment of women is sure to worsen as millions of Americans become newly uninsured, reversing the health benefits of the Affordable Care Act. We're approaching third-world status in parts of our nation. As writer Alex Henderson puts it, "The Lone Star state, where Medicaid and family planning services have been severely defunded by the GOP, [is] one of the deadliest places for women to give birth in the developed world."

The 1 out of 5 American Adults in the World's Lowest Wealth Decile 

That's 50 million American adults with, on average, negative wealth! According to the 2017 Global Wealth Databook (Table 3-4), they fall into the world's bottom 10% of wealth ownership. These are the households with more debt than savings -- more U.S. households today than at anytime since 1962. Their wages have been FLAT for almost 40 years while health and housing and education have climbed nearly out of reach. 

That's in stark contrast to America's top 5% -- all millionaires; and to the world's richest 1%, which took an incredible 82 percent of new global wealth in 2017.

Families Desperate for Affordable Housing 

As the richest Americans keep accumulating more and more wealth, they need to diversify their fattening portfolios, and that means real estate to supplement all the stocks and bonds. In major U.S. cities -- the only source of jobs for many low-income workers -- high-priced luxury homes and apartments are pricing most people out of the housing market. Most insidious is the Blackstone method: buy up rental properties and foreclosed houses (sometimes with taxpayer subsidies), rent them back at exorbitant prices, skip out on the maintenance, hold the properties till prices appreciate, and then cash in for a big profit. The renters are of little concern to the corporate landlords. The money-making firms carry out their manipulative housing schemes, according to Rana Foroohar "with as little capital or risk to themselves as possible."

Victims of Mental Health Issues: 20 Beds Cut to 1 

While 1 in 5 children lives in poverty, 1 in 5 adult Americans have experienced mental illness. Yet since the 2008 recession states have been cutting billions of dollars in mental health services. Incredibly, over 96 percent of public mental health beds have been eliminated since the 1950s. Over half of U.S. counties don't have a single psychiatrist or social worker. 

So in this age of soaring stocks and new millionaires, where do we put our mental health patients? JAIL. According to the Treatment Advocacy Center, individuals with severe psychiatric diseases are 10 times more likely to be in prison than in a hospital bed.


story about McDonnell-Douglas captures the injustice of America's lost pensions. This is a company that morphed into Boeing, using taxpayer money to help build the world's most powerful air force, but then shredded its employees' most vital safety net. A study of almost 1,000 former McDonnell-Douglas workers found that 1 in 7 had to file for bankruptcy in their retirement years. 

The market solution of individual retirement accounts is absurd in a world where wages have stagnated for 40 years. In our 'booming' economy most American workers nearing retirement age have little or no savings, and Social Security pays an average of only $14,000 per year, which is less than the poverty threshold for an adult with one child. 

Many 75-year-olds consider themselves lucky to have jobs at Walmart.

The Republican Solution 

Even though the economy is 'booming,' we still hear cruel and insensitive and uninformed calls for "entitlement reform," when we should be hearing calls for "tax break reform": 

—The entire safety net costs between $740 billion and $940 billion per year. 

—Tax subsidies, mostly for the rich, cost between $1.15 trillion and $1.5 trillion per year. 

But the people in power let the rich grow richer while the poor keep suffering. 

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.
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)

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

New Whistleblower Sparks Calls to 'Crack Down on Facebook and All Big Tech Companies'

Hours after another ex-employee filed a formal complaint, reporting broke on internal documents that show the tech giant's failure to address concerns about content related to the 2020 U.S. election.

Jessica Corbett ·

'Catastrophic and Irreparable Harm' to Wolves Averted as Wisconsin Judge Cancels Hunt

"We are heartened by this rare instance of reason and democracy prevailing in state wolf policy," said one conservation expert.

Brett Wilkins ·

West Virginia Constituents Decry 'Immorality' of Joe Manchin

"West Virginia has been locked into an economy that forces workers into low-wage jobs with no hope for advancement, and after decades of this our hope is dwindling," said one West Virginian. "The cuts that Sen. Manchin has negotiated into the agenda hurt our state."

Julia Conley ·

'Texans Deserved Better Than This': Supreme Court Leaves Abortion Ban in Place

The nation's high court set a date to hear a pair of legal challenges to the "horrific" restrictions.

Jessica Corbett ·

'Like It Never Happened': Federal Judge Tosses Trump Attack on Clean Water Rule

Denying a Biden administration request to temporarily retain the rule, the judge reestablished "the careful balance of state and federal power to protect clean water that Congress intended when it wrote the Clean Water Act."

Brett Wilkins ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.

Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo