Hey here’s a real dog bites man story for you: a really, really rich guy says to readers of billionaire Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal that he “deeply resents” paying taxes and whines about how the government does things he doesn’t like. This in response to Warren Buffet’s call to ask billionaires to at least pay as much in taxes as their secretaries. Seriously, it wasn’t in The Onion.
Let’s set the stage. Thanks to the “trickle down” policies of Reagan and Bush all the income gains in recent decades have gone to the top few. One in seven Americans and 25% of our children now live in poverty. (43% of our children are “at risk.”) The average family income for “the bottom” 90% of us is $31,244, while the average income of the top .01% is over $27 MILLION. Per year, each year. The average income of the richest 400 Americans was $227.4 million — and those 400 hold more wealth than the “bottom” 50% of Americans combined. Etc., etc. (I don’t have to write about how many are unemployed, do it?)
So with those statistics as background, former American Express CEO Harvey Golub wrote an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal today, responding to Warren Buffet’s call for the rich to start paying taxes again.
Mr. Golub writes,
I deeply resent that President Obama has decided that I don’t need all the money I’ve not paid in taxes over the years, or that I should leave less for my children and grandchildren and give more to him to spend as he thinks fit.
… After all, I did earn it.
Now there’s attitude! Never mind that someone who reached the high position of CEO of America Express doesn’t even seem to understand the system well enough to know that the President doesn’t spend tax dollars “as he thinks fit.” In America We, the People (used to) decide how best to spend our tax dollars, for the benefit of We, the People.
Golub gets to the heart of his complaint, government services like post offices where “no one lives”:
Governments have an obligation to spend our tax money on programs that work. They fail at this fundamental task. Do we really need dozens of retraining programs with no measure of performance or results? Do we really need to spend money on solar panels, windmills and battery-operated cars when we have ample energy supplies in this country? Do we really need all the regulations that put an estimated $2 trillion burden on our economy by raising the price of things we buy? Do we really need subsidies for domestic sugar farmers and ethanol producers?
Why do we require that public projects pay above-market labor costs? Why do we spend billions on trains that no one will ride? Why do we keep post offices open in places no one lives? Why do we subsidize small airports in communities close to larger ones? Why do we pay government workers above-market rates and outlandish benefits? Do we really need an energy department or an education department at all?
Summing Up His Complaint: Democracy
He complains about the inefficiency of providing services for rural citizens because no one who counts in his eyes would live out there. He complains about efforts to help workers displaced by pro-corporate trade policies. He complains about efforts to fight the harm caused by pollution-for-profit. He complains about paying people good wages with benefits. To sum up his complaint in one word: democracy.
Above I set the stage for Golub’s complaint: millions unemployed, in poverty, wages stagnant… Contrast the situation so many of us find ourselves in with the lifestyle if the beneficiaries of the dominant conservative “trickle down” policies. Just imagine the lifestyle of Golub and the rest of the wealthiest few today. Private jets, multiple mansions, servants… (This might help your imagination: Nine Pictures Of The Extreme Income/Wealth Gap.) Did you know that the latest trend is to send your kids to summer camp in private jets?
Now, even as the economy limps along, more of the nation’s wealthier families are cutting out the car ride and chartering planes to fly to summer camps. One private jet broker, Todd Rome of Blue Star Jets, said his summer-camp business had jumped 30 percent over the last year.
… “We have 50 to 60 jets up here in just that one day,” Mr. Kilmer said. “It’s a madhouse because they all leave at the same time, between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m.”
Extreme Inequality Makes Even The Rich Resentful
They say that extreme inequality causes even the very rich to feel poor. They look upwards and feel inferior. They don’t look down; We, the People are literally invisible and meaningless in their lives. They look up and see vast extremes, and feel like they are missing out. And they feel resentful.