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What the Narcissists Have Done to Our Jobs and Health

What Trump described this week is the same basic approach as the bipartisan “Gang of Eight” reform bill passed three years ago by the Senate—which immigration hard-liners derided as amnesty. (Gage Skidmore / CC 2.0)
Paul Buchheit / AlterNet

By Paul Buchheit / AlterNet

When Donald Trump blurted out that not paying his taxes “makes me smart,” he was revealing a truth about the American narcissist. Senator Lindsey Graham was being equally arrogant when he stated, “It’s really American to avoid paying taxes, legally…It’s a game we play.”

The game has become very popular, with an incomprehensible three-quarters of Fortune 500 companies stashing profits in offshore tax havens, avoiding over $700 billion in U.S. taxes.

Who Are the Narcissists?

They are people who don’t feel any responsibility to the society that made them rich, largely because they believe in the “self-made” myth. Their numbers are growing. For every 100 households with $100 million in assets in 2010, there are now 160.

Some of the super-rich care about average Americans, and some are well-intentioned philanthropists, but in general, as numerous studies have shown, super-wealthy people tend to be imbued with a distinct sense of entitlement. They believe their talents and attributes have earned them a rightful position of status over everyone else.

The narcissists care less about the feelings and needs of others, become anti-social, less generous with their money, move further to the right, and become less willing to support the economic needs of all members of society. People in rich countries have been found to express less concern about their impact on the environment. And as the wealth gap widens, people at the two extremes become more and more distrustful of each other.

One study showed that those in the wealthy classes tend to behave more unethically than average citizens, especially at the highest levels, where career success has been associated with Machiavellianism—doing anything necessary to get ahead. A recent study of 261 U.S. senior professionals found that 21 percent had clinically significant levels of psychopathic traits, compared to about one percent in the general population. That’s roughly the same rate as for prisoners.

Narcissists Blame U.S. for Collapse of the Job Market

Stunning hypocrisy: Apple claims to be responsible for “creating and supporting 1.9 million jobs” while actually employing 115,000; but the company complains that “the U.S. has stopped producing people with the skills we need.” Yet Apple undermines job creation in its role as the biggest overseas profit hoarder and is a leading tax avoider. Apple CEO Tim Cook said, “We pay all the taxes we owe—every single dollar.”

Apple’s store workers make less than $30,000 per year. That’s typical of today’s jobs, as 7 of the 8 fastest-growing occupations pay less than a living wage. Even the Wall Street Journal admits that “many middle-wage occupations, those with average earnings between $32,000 and $53,000, have collapsed.”

For its part, Congress has done little to restore these jobs, and in fact has gone out of its way to stifle job creation attempts. The narcissists in Congress are preoccupied with their own security rather than the securing of a strong society. As we spend a trillion dollars on the military, Asian nations are spending almost as much on infrastructure.

‘They Will Die’

A Forbes writer summarizes: “Somewhere, right now, a cash-strapped parent or budget-limited patient with a severe allergy will skip acquiring an EpiPen. And someday, they will need it in a life-threatening situation…and they won’t have it. And they will die.”

The effects of greater health spending on the wealthy are becoming clear. The richest 1% of American males live nearly 15 years longer than the poorest 1% (10 years for women).

A lack of empathy on the global scale is confirmed by the Global Forum for Health Research, which estimates that less than 10 percent of the world’s health research budget is spent on health problems that account for 90 percent of global disease.

Billions for One Man to ‘Live Forever’

Amidst all this health trauma, the empathy-devoid focus on self is manifested in the effort by billionaires to prolong their own lives.

According to the Washington Post, “Larry Ellison has proclaimed his wish to live forever.” He and fellow Silicon Valley CEOs Peter Thiel and Larry Page are “using their billions to rewrite the nation’s science agenda,” as some scientists marvel at the “superiority complex” of the big-money men.

100 Million Narcissist-Lovers

Narcissism is defined in part as involving an “inflated sense of their own importance…a lack of empathy for others.” Scary enough with such a man running for president. But scarier yet is so many Americans support him.

A phenomenon called the Dunning-Kruger Effect suggests that uninformed people don’t know they’re uninformed, and so they have no reason to question their misperceptions. In Donald Trump’s case, they are happy to share in the narcissism. Even to the extent of a profanity spouted by Trump himself: “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters.” Like other great narcissists, Trump is a very important man in his own head.

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