What the Wealthy Dream of Doing

By Sam Uretsky

What would you do if you won the lottery? One of the more common answers is “I’d retire.” That may have different meanings to different people – probably not many would decide to head for Florida to play shuffleboard, but a lot would be glad to quit their jobs and do something else, like open a used book store or a restaurant.

Bill Gates left Microsoft and has been devoting his time to eradicating malaria, while Nathan Myhrvold, who had been Microsoft’s chief technology officer, has been working on the world’s most comprehensive cookbook (cover price $625). Michael Bloomberg wanted to be mayor of New York City, although many people in his financial class, or even mere multi-millionaires, settle for the far less onerous job of buying a Senate seat.

Howard Hughes built an airplane and Huntington Hartford built a modern art museum. Charlie Trotter, whose Chicago restaurant has been one of the finest and most influential in the United States for 25 years, is closing its doors, and Mr. Trotter plans to go study philosophy.

Malcolm Forbes made money – and spent it on toy soldiers. The Forbes gallery in New York contains over 12,000 toy soldiers, 500 toy boats, and 12 Fabergé Imperial Easter Eggs. According to ReclaimDemocracy.org “Much of Wal-Mart’s philanthropy (as well as that of the Walton family) has been directed toward promoting anti-government politics, whether by lobbying against high taxes for the rich or contributing to Republican candidates, conservative think tanks and efforts to privatize education.”

Given enough money, most people would probably quit their jobs and find something less lucrative but more satisfying. Unfortunately, most of us can’t do that.

In spite of these observations, the Republican Party continues to try to convince us that if we give rich people lower tax rates, it will induce them to work harder, and make life better for the rest of us. This is reflected in the House of Representatives’ vote in favor of the latest Paul Ryan budget. Rep. Ryan (R-Wis.) proposes to retain the Bush tax cuts, further lower the top tax bracket, including a tax cut of over $200,000 a year for the average member of the 1%. Meanwhile, Mr. Ryan would maintain the military budget, yet claims he would reduce the deficit by closing loopholes. According to several analysis, this would require severe cuts in the already frayed social safety net. The Kaiser Family Foundation has offered three scenarios – in one of them, “... there would be 36.4 million fewer people in Medicaid in 2021 than would be expected under current law, a reduction of 48% ...”

On April 11, Janet Yellin, vice chairwoman of the Federal Reserve, said that the Fed might have to continue its efforts to bolster growth even beyond the end of 2014. This means continued low interest rates on savings. While these low rates may encourage businesses to borrow in order to expand and create more jobs, it also means the elderly must draw on their savings rather than collect interest, that younger workers saving for a house or for college tuition for their children won’t see any growth in savings, and that those who suffer from long term unemployment may never recover from their lost years. The Ryan budget, endorsed by Mitt Romney and the Republican/Tea Party House of Representatives is based on totally false assumptions about human behavior, and is leading us to further long term recessions made much worse by the evisceration of the social safety net.

With the Republicans blocking fiscal stimulus (increased spending and taxation) and limiting efforts to create jobs through monetary stimulus (control of interest rates) combined with proposals to balance the budget by reducing Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security, the future looks incredibly bleak.

On April 13, the US Treasury was still able to sell 5-year notes that paid only 0.86%. With rates that low, the government still has a chance to borrow money to repair our infrastructure and create jobs to revitalize the economy. Unfortunately, our elected representatives disapprove. They would rather give the money to rich people who will work harder to make life better for the rest of us. Unfortunately, the rich people want to write cookbooks and collect toy soldiers. Maybe we should rethink the premise.

Sam Uretsky is a writer and pharmacist living on Long Island, N.Y. Email sdu01@mail.com.

From The Progressive Populist, May 15, 2012


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