Thursday, September 30, 2004

Self-Made Billionaires

There is no such thing. Every billionaire on this earth has had the advantage of the markets that the laws and government regulations provide and maintain, of the education systems that offer subsidized education to millions of people, including future billionaires and the people who are going to work for them and buy their products, and the police forces that allow the billionaires to keep their gains, whether ill-gotten or not.

According to the most recent evidence, the United States has 313 billionaires now. The total wealth of these people would be enough to buy the gross national products of many, many countries. To be quite honest, I think that there is something extremely distasteful in one person owning so much that a whole struggling nation could be lifted up from poverty with the same amount of money. Any argument that relies on the deserved fruits from the effort of the single individual leaves me cold as for it to apply I'd need to assume that one person could actually be worthier than a whole nation. I also can't see what kind of pleasure one could get from earning another billion on top of a big pile of them: we can only eat and drink and wear so much, and it's not possible to live in more houses than one at the same time. In short, successive dollars are worth less to you the richer you are.

Given this, it's totally mindboggling that Bush is giving these billionaires and others in the top one percent of the wealthiest Americans even more money as tax cuts. This money is not giving them something that they can't already buy, and the same amount could do so much good if it was given to the very poor. But instead:

Bush has reduced the share of taxes paid by the wealthiest one percent of Americans, who control about 35 percent of the country's wealth, from 22.2 percent in 2001 to 20.1 percent this year, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
Meanwhile, the middle fifth of Americans, who control about 15 percent of the pie, saw their tax burden rise from 18.7 percent to 19.5 percent. The wealthiest one percent received an average tax cut of $78,460 this year, while the middle 20 percent's average take was $1,090.

Can you imagine what could be done with the money if every person in the top one percent of the wealthiest decided to give the average $78,460 to some good purpose? I very much doubt that they would ever miss this money, yet if it was used to fund extra school supplies and teachers to the poorest children in this country, wonderful things might happen.

But it's not acceptable to suggest this as it goes against Bush's new slogan of the United States as an ownership economy. As if everybody could become billionaires in this country. As if everybody could own without anyone being the owned one. As if this slogan is anything but a little bit of hot air. Just check whose ownership economy Bush is busy helping.