Gleefully profiting from vast misery

Okay, so I probably shouldn’t just say, “No shit, Sherlock!” when the newspaper of record ends an article with the following:

The details of the policy mistakes differ, as do the political movements that have arisen in protest. But together, they are a reminder that power is not a right, it is a responsibility. And no matter how entrenched our governmental institutions may seem, they rest on a bedrock assumption: that the leaders entrusted with power will deliver the goods.[1]

In writing those words, New York Times writer Neil Irwin was focused on the economy and what is, from the perspective of most people, at best, a lackluster recovery.[2] Even just limiting the assessment to economic performance, my own judgment is harsher. I have yet to recover from the dot-com crash in 2001. Even with a Master’s degree, I have been unemployed for five years. Now that I have achieved candidacy in a Ph.D. program, I still lack a credible means of finding work.

But my assessment is not just limited to economic performance. I wrote just a few days ago, “If one even wants a sense that the government works for ordinary people, the answer may be found in widening social inequality,[3] domestic spying,[4] militarized police,[5] and civil asset forfeiture.[6][7]

None of these points is a point that shows the elite working on behalf of ordinary people. Each of them is a point showing the elite seeing ordinary people and the poor either as an enemy to be conquered or as a resource to be mercilessly exploited. But the real problem is far worse. In the Neolithic, we, as a species, took a disastrously wrong turn toward an authoritarian system of social organization that is at least unwilling to, and perhaps incapable of, responding to climate change and we may well be extinct within 100 years as a result.[8] The time we have for a proper response[9] is perilously short and I have doubts that there is sufficient time for the best idea I can come up with for a social movement to address the problem.[10]

Our folly affects not only ourselves. We are, it seems, already in a sixth major extinction event as countless species disappear from the earth.[11]

Our planet’s fate will not wait for elite excuses, like “politics being the art of the possible,” or frets about economic impacts in an economic system that refuses to properly account for external costs, or the seemingly interminable wars that our elites see as essential. But there is one step that could ease the burden rather rapidly: A sudden and major reduction in the human population. I’d suggest starting with politicians and anyone making over about $200,000 per year, for they are gleefully profiting from vast misery and destruction.

  1. [1]Neil Irwin, “In Scotland and Beyond, a Crisis of Faith in the Global Elite,” New York Times, September 20, 2014,
  2. [2]Neil Irwin, “In Scotland and Beyond, a Crisis of Faith in the Global Elite,” New York Times, September 20, 2014,
  3. [3]Lee Adler, “Still 1.4 Million Fewer Full-Time Jobs Than in 2008,” Naked Capitalism, September 9, 2014,; Adriel Bettelheim and Jay Hunter, “50 Richest Members of Congress: The Wealth Keeps Growing,” Congressional Quarterly Roll Call, September 13, 2013,; Henry A. Giroux, “Beyond Neoliberal Miseducation,” Truthout, March 19, 2014,; Henry A. Giroux, “Neoliberalism and the Machinery of Disposability,” Truthout, April 8, 2014,; Henry A. Giroux, “Neoliberalism’s War on Democracy,” Truthout, April 26, 2014,; David B. Grusky, “4 Myths About Poverty,” Chronicle of Higher Education, February 24, 2014,; Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson, “What Krugman & Stiglitz Can Tell Us,” review of End This Depression Now!, by Paul Krugman, and The Price of Inequality: How Today’s Divided Society Endangers Our Future, by Joseph E. Stiglitz, New York Review of Books, September 27, 2012,; Elias Isquith, “‘Bloodiest thing the world has seen’: David Cay Johnston on inequality’s looming disaster,” Salon, May 22, 2014,; Paul Krugman, “The Forgotten Millions,” New York Times, December 6, 2012,; Paul Krugman, “The Excel Depression,” New York Times, April 18, 2013,; Paul Krugman, “The Big Shrug,” New York Times, June 9, 2013,; Paul Krugman, “Defining Prosperity Down,” New York Times, July 7, 2013,; Paul Krugman, “Free to Be Hungry,” New York Times, September 22, 2013,; Paul Krugman, “Plutocrats Feeling Persecuted,” New York Times, September 26, 2013,; Paul Krugman, “Rage of the Privileged,” New York Times, September 26, 2013,; Paul Krugman, “Does He Pass the Test?” review of Stress Test: Reflections on Financial Crises, by Timothy F. Geithner, New York Review of Books, July 10, 2014,; Paul Krugman, “Springtime for Bankers,” New York Times, May 18, 2014,; Paul Krugman and Robin Wells, “Getting Away With It,” review of The Escape Artists: How Obama’s Team Fumbled the Recovery, by Noam Scheiber, Pity the Billionaire: The Hard-Times Swindle and the Unlikely Comeback of the Right, by Thomas Frank, and The Age of Austerity: How Scarcity Will Remake American Politics, by Thomas Byrne Edsall, New York Review of Books, July 12, 2012,; Robert Reich, “Tim Geithner and the Wall Street Bailout Redux,” May 13, 2014,; Barry Ritholtz, “Economic Inequality Is Not An Accident, It Was Created,” Big Picture, July 9, 2013,; Jim Tankersley, “As rich gain optimism, lawmakers lose economic urgency,” Washington Post, May 20, 2013,; Matthew Yglesias, “Statistical Discrimination Against the Long-Term Unemployed,” Slate, April 23, 2013,
  4. [4]David Benfell, “We are the enemy,” Not Housebroken, March 23, 2014,
  5. [5]Matt Apuzzo, “War Gear Flows to Police Departments,” New York Times, June 8, 2014,; Rosecrans Baldwin, “Personal Kill,” Morning News, November 18, 2013,; Radley Balko, “‘Why did you shoot me? I was reading a book’: The new warrior cop is out of control,” Salon, July 7, 2013,; Andrew Becker and G. W. Schulz, “Local police stockpile high-tech, combat-ready gear,” Center for Investigative Reporting, December 21, 2011,; Daniel J. Bier, “Overkill: Militarizing America,” Freeman, September 15, 2014,; Center for Investigative Reporting, “Military Equipment for Local Police,” June 9, 2014,; Democracy Now!, “From Dorner to Waco to MOVE Bombing, A Look at Growing Militarization of Domestic Policing,” February 15, 2013,; Justin Elliott, “How the feds fueled the militarization of police,” Salon, December 24, 2011,; Henry A. Giroux, “Neoliberalism and the Machinery of Disposability,” Truthout, April 8, 2014,; J. David Goodman, “Lesson for the Police: Be Careful What You Tweet For,” New York Times, April 22, 2014,; Jens Erik Gould, “A Sleepy Campus in Crisis: Pepper Spray at UC Davis Sparks Online Uproar, Calls for a Chancellor’s Resignation,” Time, November 21, 2011,,8599,2099919,00.html; Matthew Harwood, “To Terrify and Occupy: How the Excessive Militarization of the Police is Turning Cops Into Counterinsurgents,” TomDispatch, August 14, 2014,; Natasha Lennard, “Militarization creep: Texas cops get army tanks,” Salon, September 30, 2013,; Dara Lind, “Why the feds are putting grenade launchers in the hands of local cops,” Vox, June 9, 2014,; Caitlin MacNeal, “#myNYPD Backlash Spreads To Other Cities,” Talking Points Memo, April 23, 2014,; Chase Madar, “The Over-Policing of America: Police Overkill Has Entered the DNA of Social Policy,” TomDispatch, December 8, 2013,; Eric Nicholson, “Dallas County Now Has Its Very Own Bulletproof, ‘Mine-Protected’ Military SUV,” Dallas Observer, September 27, 2013,; Aaron B. O’Connell, “The Permanent Militarization of America,” New York Times, November 4, 2012,; Kyle Paoletta, “Listen up, police officers: Real life isn’t like ‘Breaking Bad’,” Salon, April 13, 2014,; Kent Paterson, “Challenging a Militarized Police State in the U.S.,” Center for International Policy Americas Program, May 7, 2014,; William Rivers Pitt, “Weaponized Cops and the Future of Freedom,” Truthout, April 25, 2014,; Steven Rosenfeld, “How Obama Became a Civil Libertarian’s Nightmare,” Alternet, April 18, 2012,; Fernanda Santos, “Justice Dept. Accuses Albuquerque Police of Excessive Force,” New York Times, April 10, 2014,; Bruce Schneier, review of Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America’s Police Forces, by Radley Balko, Schneier on Security, August 13, 2013,; Naomi Wolf, “The coming drone attack on America,” Guardian, December 21, 2012,
  6. [6]Christopher Ingraham, “You really can get pulled over for driving while black, federal statistics show,” Washington Post, September 9, 2014,; Robert O’Harrow, Jr., and Michael Sallah, “Police intelligence targets cash: Reports on drivers, training by firm fueled law enforcement aggressiveness,” Washington Post, September 7, 2014,; Robert O’Harrow, Jr., and Michael Sallah, “They fought the law. Who won? Many drivers faced a long ordeal in court to try to get their money back from police,” Washington Post, September 8, 2014,; Michael Sallah, Robert O’Harrow, Jr., and Steven Rich, “Stop and seize: Aggressive police take hundreds of millions of dollars from motorists not charged with crimes,” Washington Post, September 6, 2014,; Scott Sonner, “Rural Nevada county settles suits with I-80 motorists; reviewing cash seizures in stops,” Minneapolis Star-Tribune, March 14, 2014,; Sarah Stillman, “Taken,” New Yorker, August 12, 2013,
  7. [7]David Benfell, “Envying the Scots,” Not Housebroken, September 17, 2014,
  8. [8]David Benfell, ““We have found the enemy, and he is us” — and our system of social organization,” March 6, 2013,
  9. [9]David Benfell, “Towards Sustainability,” April 11, 2013,
  10. [10]David Benfell, “Animal Liberation: A Way Forward,” November 30, 2013,
  11. [11]Nafeez Ahmed, “Will the Royal Baby Reach 30 on an Apocalyptic Disaster Zone of a Planet?,” Alternet, July 28, 2013,; Center for Biological Diversity. (n.d.). Human population: A key factor in species extinction. Retrieved from; Dahr Jamail, “Are We Falling Off the Climate Precipice? Scientists Consider Extinction,” TomDispatch, December 17, 2013,

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.