This article originally appeared on AlterNet.
Four decades of American narcissism, greed and exceptionalism have allowed the super-rich to dictate the future path of our nation. We're paying the price now, with environmental disasters, nonexistent savings for half of our families, Americans dying because of expensive health care, and a growing fear of blowback from desperate victims of our foreign wars.
Environment be damned
Almost all reputable sources agree that human-caused climate change is killing people, with up to 400,000 annual deaths "due to hunger and communicable diseases that affect above all children in developing countries," and up to 7 million deaths — over a half-million of them children under the age of five — caused by air pollution.
The richest people in the world create most of the pollution, yet are the least likely to feel guilty about the effects of their behavior and the least likely to suffer from the impending environmental damage. This could lead to terror-filled years for the generations to follow us. Even the chance of such misery for their grandchildren should motivate the super-rich to address the root causes of global warming. Instead, they have plans to retreat to impregnable "safe rooms" with food and water, oxygen, medical supplies and all the amenities for a year or more of underground living.
Disdain for the taxes that support society
Charles Koch said, "I believe my business and non-profit investments are much more beneficial to societal well-being than sending more money to Washington."
Beneficial to society? Where is the incentive for Charles Koch, or any other billionaire beneficiary of decades of tax subsidies, to support the needs of average people?
The breakdown in taxes began in the 1970s, when University of Chicago economist Arthur Laffer convinced Dick Cheney and other Republican officials that lowering taxes on the rich would generate more revenue. Conservatives have contorted this economic theory into the belief that all tax reductions are beneficial. It was proved wrong from the start. Several economic studies have concluded that the revenue-maximizing top income tax rate is anywhere from 50 percent to 75 percent. Yet our next president wants to cut taxes on the rich.
There's little doubt that the perverse level of inequality caused by the Koch-like attitude led to the rebellion by once-middle-class white voters that swept a narcissistic misogynist into office. It could easily get worse, with our infrastructure crumbling and AI technology taking over mid-level jobs. Our grandchildren will face the economic terror trickling down from the greedy top.
Profiting from our health problems
Instead of focusing on the likely risks of their product to human health, the sugar industry spent five decades blaming saturated fats rather than sugar for obesity, even paying handpicked Harvard scientists to support their view, while steering Americans to the low-fat, high-sugar diet that now seems much to blame for our health problems. The weight of the average American man has gone from 166 to 196 in the past fifty years. From 140 to 166 for women. The World Health Organization reports on the "unequivocal evidence" that childhood obesity is related in part to the intake of sugar.
Meanwhile, other deadly substances have been pushed on us. In the 1990s the pharmaceutical industry began a massive campaign to convince Americans that opioid medications were effective for chronic pain. Today more people use prescription opioids than use tobacco. Nearly half of men without jobs are hooked on pain medication, much of it deemed unnecessary by the Annals of Surgery. About 75 percent of heroin addicts used prescription opioids before turning to heroin. Deaths related to heroin have nearly quadrupled in the past decade, and a dramatic surge in overdoses has occurred even among children.
These children, our own children and grandchildren, are facing the terrors of drug addiction and obesity-related diseases because of the self-serving corporate demand for profit over human need.
Blowback from our wars
Yemeni resident Baraa Shiban wrote: "On December 12 a bride and groom traveled to their wedding in al-Baitha province, Yemen ... A U.S. drone fired at the wedding procession, destroying five vehicles and killing most of their occupants."
The weapons we sell to Saudi Arabia are destroying villages in Yemen, killing entire families and leveling their homes, and bombing schools and hospitals and even funeral processions. Food lines are blocked at the Yemeni borders, hospitals have run out of medicine, and hundreds of thousands of children are at risk of starving to death. At least 10,000 civilians have been killed or wounded, and more than 400,000 families have lost their homes.
Shiban concluded: "Wronged and angry men are just the sort extreme groups like al Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula find easiest to recruit."
Every American should contemplate the levels of shock and sorrow and anger that we would feel if another nation bombed a wedding procession in the United States. Instead, with little reflection, we tolerate the ongoing slaughter of Middle East civilians, and we disregard the prospect of terror-filled years for our grandchildren. Only the cold hearts of war-profiteering capitalists seem immune to the pain and the danger.