Homeless man near Wall Street (Charina Nadura/Moyers & Company)

This is what happened to the United States:

The barbarians broke down our doors, robbed us blind, poisoned millions of us, and put the rest of us to work in chains.

More than 9.3 million Americans lost their homes to foreclosures or short sales between 2008 and 2015. That represents more than 12% of the nation’s estimated 75 million homeowners. According to the St. Louis Federal Reserve (FRED), the U.S. had more than 16,727,000 vacant homes in December, 2017, a decline from the peak of 19.1 million vacant houses in January, 2009.

Total U.S. net worth (as calculated by FRED) reached 98,745.54 billion (97.7 trillion) in December, 2017. As extensively reported by every media organization for years, these wealth gains are shared only by the top 1% in America. Middle-class households saw their net worth decline by 1/3 as of 2014. It has since deteriorated further.

The Boston Globe reported in December that the net worth of African-American families in Boston is $8.

But money isn’t everything.

Let’s talk about health. CNN reported that 2016 was the deadliest year of the opioid epidemic, with more than 63,000 overdose deaths recorded: officially eclipsing the number of women who died from breast cancer.

More than half a million people have lost their lives to the opioid epidemic since it began in the 1990s.

The U.S. has the worst rate of maternal deaths in the “developed world,” according to NPR. NPR’s report also noted that “only 6% of block grants for maternal and child health actually go to the health of mothers.”

Suicide rates are up. Colon cancer rates are up.

Your feelings about the right to bear arms mean little to the more than 30,000 people who die from gun violence each year (yes, Virginia, this includes suicides and gang homicides … little 6 year-olds just should not have been coloring in their living room when the gangbangers drove by). The violence is simply used to sell more guns. Fear takes additional lives.

For the first time since health statistics have been recorded, life expectancy in the United States is declining. The primary causes are drugs, alcohol, and suicide in mid-life adults. My former partner Alan Rodgers, an award-winning NY Times bestselling author and editor of Twilight Zone Magazine, died in 2013 after a series of devastating strokes at age 53. The strokes were caused by many years of alcohol and tobacco misuse.

We don’t hear so much about the obesity epidemic any longer. It’s not that the problem is solved. People can’t afford to buy expensive diet products or pay onerous and inescapable gym fees any more [I was requested to write about L.A. Fitness’ unscrupulous, borderline-criminal tactics to collect cash from any available source and I might].

More than 78 million American adults and 13 million children battle obesity daily, according to the American Heart Association.

Opioids take the lives of 91 people a day, diabetes takes the lives of 200 people a day, and heart disease kills over 1,600 people each and every day.

We all have to go sometime.

Every one of the top causes of death in every age group is a so-called “disease of civilization,” from opioids to diabetes to alcoholism to heart disease and cancer.

If we just work hard enough we can make a difference in all of these devastating health, social, and economic problems!

We are a hard-working people.

It wasn’t Donald J. Trump, but rather Jeb! Bush who drove a massive nail in the coffin of his Presidential ambitions in 2015 when he said “Americans need to work harder to earn more money for their families.”

Source: OECD 2014 World Factbook: chart encompasses all employees, including part-time.

As of 2014, the average full-time U.S. employee worked 47 hours a week. Salaried, natch.

If you just work hard enough, you’ll be successful!

There’s a common pattern at play. I call it marketing and separation. When individual con artists did the con in the past, it has been called the “Money Box” scheme, or salting the mine. The opioid epidemic is real — it started with Pharma companies making the drugs and heavily marketing them to doctors, who then prescribed and marketed them to patients. Now, with so many dead and a growing awareness, the most and smartest money is thought to be in emergency antidotes: the Narcan scheme [yes, the Clintons are still at it, pushing Adapt Pharma’s product to colleges and universities].

Work harder! You will be successful and have the American Dream!

In simpler times, the con encompassed products like cigarettes, which are made from tobacco — containing one of nature’s most addictive substances, nicotine. Did you know that at one time, doctors made commercials for Camel cigarettes? Not isolated commercials: ones on television constantly. And when the doctor wasn’t hawking cancer sticks, Lucy and Ricky, John Wayne, and the Flintstones were.

It’s been long since proven that the tobacco companies knew their products were addictive and added chemicals to make them even more addictive and also painfully obvious they didn’t care what happened to their customers after they could no longer afford a pack of smokes. The same heavy-handed marketing pitches the teens react to with horror take place each and every day for:

Toxic corporate food

College degree programs that all come with hefty loans

Guns

Let’s not forget diet and weight loss! They start selling sugary foods to expectant mothers to pre-addict children in the womb.

Home ownership (until you are foreclosed — the bank/Warren Buffett doesn’t care how many sit empty. There’s always that reverse mortgage for end of life expenses).

What passes for “entertainment.” Mind-numbing, low-brow, undemanding, vice-encouraging.

Each of these fiefdoms — toxic corporate food producers, the insurance industry, the finance industry, the corporate “health care” industry, and of course, the violence purveyors — relies upon a level of product placement that no upstart entrepreneurial online voice can combat.

And like the proverbial con man selling a fake money machine or Bernard Madoff making off with billions of rich people’s money, these fiefdoms don’t add value to anything.

The value comes from you. If you didn’t work an average of 47 hours a week, none of these people would have any money. They would be the ones without a home, eating food that’s slowly poisoning them, working themselves to death and medicating from the stress with pills, booze or smokes.

This is a war against a clever enemy who is ultimately dooming himself.

The old adage is “Crime does not pay.”

Is this as untrue as “If you just work hard enough, you can achieve the American dream?”

We do need to work hard. Harder than any of us could ever imagine, I think. But we don’t need to work for these people any longer. We need to work for our selves: our genuine well-being. Not in terms of money, in terms of quality of life and value.

We already know how to do without many things and we are already accustomed to taking care of our own health. We don’t need their products: their products are the things that have been killing us, their lies are the things driving us to despair.

We are at war. It’s a glorious war for genuine freedom and life.

It’s not me, it’s we. Us.

We need to be entrepreneurs for our selves. But not the way these criminals have always done it.

My suggestion? Give up 30 minutes a day to working in solidarity with others for health, peace, honesty, decency, the health of our planet, and an overall better life. Work for your own health and well-being first. Then, get together and work with others. We can do it.

We can be a new startup nation. We can startup and move to the next edition of humanity. Most people can’t wait.

According to Harlan Ellison and my grandmother, “You’ll go far Amy, because you have heart.” Author of 40 books, former exec., Nebula Award nominee, Poor.