By now you’ve probably heard that most of today’s money is in only a few pockets. Not that many at all. And the rest of us, well–some of us are doing okay, but a whole lot are barely scraping by. There were always rich people but not like this. And they’re really not kicking in the taxes so much anymore. They’re leaving that part of the social contract to us.
I understand how we got into this predicament–the system is rigged twelve ways to Hallelujah–but what I don’t understand is how the rich people got the poor people on their side. So many people wish they were rich that they actually admire rich people, no matter what. There’s something about obscene wealth that makes people think: oh, they totally earned that. Why? They must have, because they have it. We really don’t ask for much more proof than that.
Speaking of the Queen–we’re the same way with royals. They get poop stains in their drawers like everybody else but we think they’re special because of the crown. They’ve got the kit, they’ve got the outfit. Of course, your own daughter wears that stupid princess costume and you might drop her a curtsey once or twice just to play along, but you still expect the sequined little pinkster to do the dishes and clean up her room. We all have responsibilities. You shouldn’t be able to get out of them by waving a scepter around.
We teach our sons and daughters to share. Rich people, though, are to be admired and commended for accumulating just as much as they can, and keeping it to themselves. They shouldn’t have to pony up much for the good of society–that’s commie talk. “I might be rich some day,” ordinary folks say, “and I won’t want my loot taken away, either.”
Sugarcakes? Don’t fret. Nobody’s coming after your Dodge Caravan anytime soon.
Even the crappiest widget-maker on the line thinks she works harder than her coworkers. It’s easy to talk her out of the union; easy to get her to believe her poker prowess will set her up prettier than a dull, plodding old pension plan. It’s a snap to get her to hand over her money to a newly liberated financial sector, operating under newly minimal oversight. So a lot of our richest people siphoned off middle-class cash into opaque financial instruments constructed of pure bullshit. They won the big score, and now they’re set. It’s quite the caper they pulled off.
But aren’t rich people the job creators? Shouldn’t we leave them alone so they don’t get in a snit and quit making us jobs?
Hmm. Let’s see. Some of the most successful players got that way by doing the exact opposite of creating jobs. They arranged acquisitions and mergers and destroyed companies and unions and (by the way) lives.
One of the steamiest piles of money originated through the hard work of a single entrepreneur named Sam Walton, who may ultimately have done more than anyone else to destroy the middle class. He created plenty of jobs, but they weren’t in this country. And three of the top twenty richest Americans got on the list by cleverly also being Waltons, and for no other reason. They made shrewd sperm selections. That’s earning it, all right.
You know who the job creators are? You and I are, if we are so fortunate to have just enough money to buy a haircut, and a latte, and a book, and dinner out. Doesn’t need to be a lot of money, either, just enough that we feel comfortable swapping our dollars around. We don’t have to be rich to be rich enough.
But wait–how about Jeff Bezos, and Bill Gates, and Mark Zuckerberg, and that gang? Didn’t they invent things and develop things and earn their money?
Well paint me red and call me Natasha, but I’m saying no. Not all of it. Maybe the first half billion. Maybe two billion. Draw the line wherever you like, but there’s a number out there it is not possible to be worth. Not really. You get to that number, scoop it on up and enjoy your life. Put it in the win column. We’re confiscating the rest.
Bill Gates and Warren Buffett know this. That’s why they started The Giving Pledge, promising to give away at least half of their fortunes. It’s a start, and it still leaves them plenty of walking-around money. Plus, they’ll even let you wait to give it away when you’re dead. But for most of these luminaries on the Forbes list, the thought of scraping by on a half a crap-ton of money is a real scrotum-shrinker. Right now they’re sitting pretty. They’ve got nothing left to worry about but their souls, and the consensus is that can wait a bit.
How can anybody acquainted with his own mortality hoard so much treasure in good conscience? And if he in fact does not have a sense of his own mortality, is there anything we can do to drive it home?
Don’t make us get our pitchforks.
Is there anything we can do to drive it home??? Bwa-ha-ha! We can bring back the guillotine! The French Revolution only happened because the populace wasn't distracted by TV and smart phones. I think we're screwed, Murr.
I'm an old-fashioned non-violence person, so the French Revolution gives me the heebie jeebies. But you're right. There wouldn't have been a French Revolution if only the royals spent a little more on propaganda.
Some people worked hard and earned their money which then grew to astronomical proportions by smart investments and gathered interest etc, good for them. Others got their riches by shady means, shame on them. More than a few have inherited wealth, lucky them. I really don't care so much anymore how they got so rich, all I know is I want some of that too. I don't want a fortune to rival Bill Gates or Warren Buffett, I just want enough to buy a home of my own, enough that my kids can by homes of their own, enough that we can live comfortably with a holiday now and again and not having to count every cent from one week to the next. If I'd known when I was twenty, what I know now, I would have worked longer, saved more and taught my children the same.
Honestly, it doesn't matter to me how nobly one acquires obscene wealth. I think it's immoral to hoard it, and I wish for tax brackets more like the post-WWII era. I do think I was lucky to grow up with parents who emphasized the habits you mentioned.
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Glad to know we can create so many well paid jobs—waitress, barber, store clerk. You're right too much money is obscene, but we do need jobs that pay more than a minimum in things other than the service industry.
We do. But what I'm referring to is the idea that a whole lot of us can live sharing the same dollar. Also, minimum wage should be a whole lot higher. It should be possible to feed, clothe, and house yourself, however simply, by working a forty-hour week.
And we do create more than just minimum wage jobs (which should pay more). We buy houses, furnish them, buy cars, education, go to doctors, take vacations. And I agree—no hoarding. What is the point of that unless it's just to keep score, which is what I suspect.
And FB tells me that tomorrow is your birthday, Murr! Have a happy one! Mine is today, but I'm an old lady. You're still young.
Yup. Give more money to the rich, and it just sits there with all the other doubloons. More money for the middle and lower income groups, and we spend!
John Oliver (of course) did a great show on this called Income Inequality. It's a trigger for the Faux News gang to start shouting, " Class warfare!"
Did you know the estate tax is only on estates larger than $5 million? But all these people think they are gonna be taxed twice on their 900 share foot house and the 1996 Dodge Caravan.
900 square foot, dammit.
You mean the "Death Tax?" As though anyone is taxed when they're dead–and not the spawn that just had a slab of cash land on their heads.
Well, once again you nailed it. I often think there is some deep black hole in their soul that they attempt to fill with money and those who do not have money, but like them, try to fill their big black hole with hate.
Must be a black hole, because something is certainly sucking.
This piece should be on top of the N.Y.Times editorial page. Good one, Murr!
Oh shoot, I'll settle for 500 views! 🙂
Boy howdy, you hit that nail dead center.
If you've ever seen me try to bang something together, you'd know how unlikely that is.
The 'trickle-down' effect is widely touted here. Give those at the top tax breaks, and their wealth will trickle down the line. Well no. It doesn't. Because the wealthy put a dam in place and keep it for themselves.
Similarly I really can't understand the 'wages' some actors and CEOs receive, while teachers and nurses and the like (who in my opinion do much more important work) struggel to get by. Our priorities are seriously misplaced.
Climbing down from my soapbox now.
I think it's standard for the very rich to empty their bladders upon us mere mortals. Trickle Down? BWAHAHAHAHA!
Soapboxes are welcome and encouraged here, as long as they are arranged squarely enough to not trigger the OCD among us.
I really like how you worked the word 'poop' into this. You are a wizard!
I did do that, didn't I? Swear I don't even notice sometimes. It just, um, comes out.
If you want to get truly angry, take a look at what's happening at the Ingersoll Canada GM plant right now. At least the folks who live and own businesses in Ingersoll know who's in the right in this fight as companies have been providing food and drink to the picketers.
I don't want to get truly angry right now but I will pencil that in for when I want to. I promise.
Like a seasoned jihadist sitting down with a likely recruit, I sense a recruit here……Uncle Karl had a few pithy things to say about this, over 800 pages in one book. Mikel Bukharin had an opinion also that's worth reading.
Wait, I was just having a 1970 flashback, sorry
Nothing in this post is at all original thinking. Myself, I'm not as interested in communism as I am a nice friendly socialist state or at least a form of capitalism that takes into account all costs, environmental and social. Yeah, like that'll happen.
Let's settle for going viral and quoting from it on Jimmy Kimmel, Rachel Maddow and Ellen DeGeneris–AND The NY Times.
Jimmy's been on a roll lately, hasn't he?
I go by McMansions and wonder what they do with all that space. I think we are the only country in the world that has storage places because we have so much stuff.
Gotta admit I got a lot of stuff. Way more than I need. I do believe I've got a post coming up about that one of these days.
And not to digress too much, but when I look at those 3,000 – 6,000 sq.ft. McMansions, I wonder (a) who needs all that space (b) who wants to heat & cool all that space (c) who is planning on having more than 2 children, and (d) who would want to buy a house that is designed to self-destruct/wear out in 20 years? I wonder how we strayed from houses that (a) provided adequate, but not excessive space, and (b) were built sturdy enough to last for more than one generation. Give me a 1,300-2,000 sq.ft. house, built before 1970, and made of brick — any day, over an overpriced cardboard McMansion…….
I'm a big fan of modest houses with good working basements. I think I have hobbit blood. But those basements are going to be really important when it keeps getting hotter. Uh, speaking of digression…
Right on. And I'm using "12 ways to Hallelujah" at least once a day this week.
Yeah, I don't know where that came from.
This topic brought celebrities and pro sports players to my mind. Kim in PA
They earn it, in a sense–they're entertainers and if they aren't entertaining they aren't worth much. Still doesn't mean they shouldn't be taxed.
Some of us, who worked hard and earned it and are doing okay, are still panic stricken that our children are not going to be okay at all. With enough to care for ourselves as we stumble into dotage ( not to be confused with dotard), there still isn't enough to help a musician and an environmentalist into the time when there's no affordable healthcare or housing. Some of us were perfectly happy to pay slightly higher premiums for health care because we saw our children able to get it but I think those were the good old days of the beginnings of AHC, a first good step. Now we're back to staying up nights worrying about who will be able to get insurance for the most prevalent pre-exisiting condition of all: living past 30.
ACA. I rarely comment because my iPad is so old it can't remember who I am and then I have to go searching for that and find I can't remember either. More and more, I find myself as a somewhat chronically anxious and angry citizen. It's distressing out there.
You might need a news break. I mean a break from news. And some beer. And if we had single-payer, most of us would be paying less. More taxes, for sure–but subtract the premiums.
I dunno, I don't have any problem with rich people. Some people have that acquisitive itch: they get into the habit of making money, and then they can't stop. It's our responsibility to structure taxes so that they don't accumulate ridiculous surpluses. They'll be just as happy either way, but you can't really expect them to understand that.
I'm okay with rich people, but they need the hell taxed out of them. For the good of their souls.