BRIDGTON — The opioid crisis has shined a light on the chronic problem of addiction in our culture. Punishing and shaming those with addiction issues by incarcerating them has, unfortunately, become the most common reaction from society, rather than implementing compassionate treatment options.

The widening gap between the rich and poor and the tax overhaul that the House and Senate are trying to finalize as quickly as possible should now be forcing us to consider yet another form of addiction: addiction to the acquisition of money. This is not a recent development; humanity has grappled with it for millenniums. But the term “wealth addiction” wasn’t described until 1980, in sociologist Philip Slater’s book of the same name.

The congressional tax measure has been criticized as further (and permanently) unburdening the wealthy of just taxation while giving a modest and temporary tax reduction to the middle class and pushing the increased debt onto future generations. The basic needs of people are ignored by propaganda describing the dispossessed as the “undeserving poor.”

How do the wealthy wrest a great share of resources and power from a majority of the electorate? Political philosopher Noam Chomsky makes the case in his book “Requiem for the American Dream: The 10 Principles of Concentration of Wealth & Power.” Here’s his formula: reduce democracy, shape ideology, redesign the economy, shift the burden, attack solidarity, run the regulators, engineer elections, keep the rabble in line, manufacture consent and marginalize the population.

The drug addict steals to satisfy his habit and causes great harm to himself, his family and the public; the wealth addict steals, too, but is often able to avoid criminal conviction by blocking effective legislation that would protect the public from the tyranny imposed by a small segment of the population. This has a greater negative effect on society than drug addiction. We are seeing it now in the attempted dismantling of government initiatives developed to serve the common good: Social Security, public education, Medicare and Medicaid, public transportation, national parks, etc., through underfunding or withdrawal of funding and demonization of government.

Is there a way out of our current mess? According to George Lakey, sociologist and author of “Viking Economics: How the Scandinavians Got It Right and How We Can, Too,” the situation we’re in here in the U.S. is similar to how it was in Scandinavia in the 1930s. The “economic elite” controlled the government. Citizens were able to seize power democratically so that today the “Nordic model” of economic development has produced a quality of life in Scandinavia that is the envy of the world. In Scandinavia, politicians make promises not to lower taxes!

The wealth-addicted economic elite in our country could benefit from the method adopted by Alcoholics Anonymous. The famous support group’s approach has been replicated by groups of people with an array of problems. The Giving Pledge campaign founded by Warren Buffett and Bill Gates could serve in this capacity. The billionaire members of the group have committed to dispersing a portion of their fortunes through charitable causes of their choosing. Perhaps they could hold Wealth Addicts Anonymous meetings in places that offer opportunities to develop empathy for the dispossessed: Native American reservations, refugee camps, immigration detention centers or maybe some low-lying islands fast losing their struggles against sea-level rise.

We, the people, can help them in their efforts by demanding just taxation with a result similar to that in the Scandinavian countries. Charity is admirable and necessary but not a replacement for justice.

No wonder people pine for the “good old days” in the 1950s and ’60s, when the New Deal collectivist spirit was in full swing, when unions were strong enough to foster the dignity of the American worker, when it was possible to work your way through college and come out debt-free, when the economic elite actually did contribute to the good of the commons through just taxation.

As with people addicted to alcohol, drugs, gambling, sex, tobacco, etc., we need to avoid disgust and revulsion toward wealth addicts, but we also need to stop enabling them. Pressure elected officials to give us government for all the people, not just for the rich and powerful who are causing the vulnerable to suffer at their hands.