You've heard it all over the news, the "wealth gap" in the US is growing. The margin of comfort between the lower and middle classes to the wealthy is growing at a really fast rate. The poorer class makes up the lion share of tax payers, yet the wealthy, a small percentage of our country are fighting dearly to hold on to the money they have. Elizabeth Warren, Massachusetts Senate candidate, speaking to a mixed audience during her recent "Talking Tour" raised a point that resonates deeply within the issue of personal wealth in the United States:
This video has become a cult sensation as one point of many in countering the views that people who are rich (but not currently investing in the US economy in caution or protest) seem to hold. This video makes a pretty bold statement about the concept that wealth and success are not truly earned on our own merits in the US.
Don't get me wrong here, we made it through the McCarthy Era and scary Communist inquiries by Congress, to see the wondrous glory that a Capitalistic society can bring; the middle class had thrived and fared well until recently, when we encountered the "Greatest Depression Since The Great Depression". A lot of individuals in poverty in the past could hold achievable dreams of making it to middle and higher class status in their life times as it provided comforts idolized by tons of movies from the 80s and 90s. Now, the "middle class dream" has slipped to a point well below desire by the standards of many and a growing majority seek to skip middle class status and hop straight to the "Bentley Zone". On the other hand, being middle class now often doesn't afford us proper health care, and life in a safe neighborhood, and it seems the middle class life is getting closer to being poor. The climb to success these days for the small few that make it too often entails and encourages ruthless business practices and hoarding of personal wealth. This also means forgetting about individual morality and social responsibility.
Today, we have lots of tech gurus, investors, developers and the like that came from middle class backgrounds into serious money. Bill Gates Steve Jobs, and Mark Zuckerberg are perfect examples of this "new money" era. Many new millionaires and billionaires with money, (not held or passed down) by/from their prior generations, operate quite differently than prior generations with their wealth in today's world. Does this mean there's a place in time where we lost perspective on what being truly and ethically wealthy means? Are the current economic conditions sustained by completely new factors in the US today?
Elizabeth Warren's video (above) details, in a few ways, how people who become wealthy have benefited from tax payers, from opportunities that our socio-economic system created in order for them to succeed. I also like to think that success details and requires a good dose of opportunity and even "random luck" provided by others and circumstances in life. Luck and opportunity of this kind should be available to everyone at points in their lives, but they're both becoming shrinking commodities, in the United States of America, according to recent economic reports.
Based on my assumption, would it be unreasonable to think that a lot of the extremely rich people in today's world have forgotten about the weight of opportunity, luck, and understanding about the contribution others have made in creating their success? Possibly so; We live in a society that helps us to forget our personal accountability, morality, and debts... Credit cards often don't get paid off, money we borrow doesn't get repaid, houses are foreclosed upon every day, so why should anyone repay implied societal debts?!? Because they ensure long-term survival and growth, not just for you, but for the system that supports you, that's why...
We are supported by roads whether we drive or not, they are used to ship food, furniture, and even cars and houses into communities that we live in, if we don't pay for roads, the cost of goods skyrocket because someone else has to pay for infrastructure that you use, as Warren stated. We are supported by tax payers even if we send our kids to private schools, because many private schools rely on taxpayer built and maintained roads, subsidized electricity, safety codes developed by State and Federal Governments and many more services all paid for by people who may not even know the school existed. I know that I paid a lot of taxes relative to my personal income last year, and every time I hear an F-16 fly over my house, i'm reminded that I've helped to pay for some of the fuel its burning.
Citing all of this, when a single human being has personal wealth over 1 billion dollars, should they pay the same rate (relatively) tax-wise as me, more, or a flat (percentage) tax? One thing's for sure, a billion dollars is a lot of money:
The current median household income in the US is $49,445. Source: http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&source=w ... rl=http%3A...
Based on this fact, I think its safe to say that the average US family will never see a billion dollars over the course of their lives unless they manage to generate 10 million dollars a year AND live to be 100 years old. Source: http://www.wolframalpha.com/input/?i=on ... ded+by+100+... . so why is it that anyone on this earth needs to hold onto more than one billion dollars in personal wealth?
Forbes top earner, Bill Gates is estimated to be in the range of $46.6... BILLION... dollars. (Net Worth) Source: http://www.forbes.com/2004/02/24/cz_bil ... peed=20000 . And Steve Jobs, over 7 BILLION dollars in personal wealth Source: http://www.forbes.com/profile/steve-jobs/ . There are many individuals listed as top earners on Forbes survey, but yet still, the top earners in the US is comprised of somewhere near to 1% of the entire US population. In a society of 309 million people, this becomes an unbelievable economic divide. With the money the most wealthy individuals hold, they outpace all other American earners at a staggering rate, and we're not even talking about the wealth held by corporations. If the wealthy decide to stop spending their money, the could easily cripple an economy, and organize to shape and influence a government.
Yes, I know, Bill Gates has signed a pledge along with many other top earners in the US to give away the majority of their wealth; and he also has contributed to many charities, including the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation that works diligently to eradicate disease and illness. Based on Gates's philanthropy alone not many can rightfully say anything bad about his net worth, but the sad and undeniable truth about a few people becoming extremely rich in a society with limited resources is that it likely kills opportunities for others by reducing resources for growth. I am not talking about millionaires here, we're talking about a case much larger than a million, or even one hundred million dollars. This makes a person with one million dollars in their account look like a soup kitchen candidate...
If the prior statement offends you, just look at the current state of our economy, jobs are the number one issue. John Boehner, Speaker of the US House of Representatives, during contentious media talks with the US White House, stated that the current job crisis in the us is attributed to a protest of wealthy Americans that do not want their individual and corporate (currently reduced since the Bush Administration) tax rates changed. This protest seems to defy logic to anyone reasonable, because, if they're willing to let the US economy fail to prevent further taxes for individuals, the very financial system that sustains their personal and business wealth will collapse, directly leading to a loss of their secured wealth. We experienced this same jobs shortage prior to tax payer bailouts with Lehman Brothers and AIG. Despite those tax rate cuts not having been changed for those making $250,000 and above annually, jobs have NOT increased over time since our first encounter of recession-like conditions. Furthermore, if the wealthy in America seek to invest in other countries, the very foundation of our economy, the US Dollar will continue in a steep decline, which is part of the equation that is heavily driving the division gap in income classes in the US and downward turns in our markets. Another compelling video on the current state of the economy can be found in this report by Al Jazeera TV, where they detail the income divide and how it can be a driving force behind socio-economic rebellion and eventual economic collapse of a society:
If current economic conditions persist in the US, they are almost guaranteed to lead to a rise in crime, starvation, desolation, gentrification, and many other grave issues like these as we progress through time. US history, as well as in many other empires of the past and current have faced uprising by poorer classes and economic revolt when economic conditions see a vast divide between the rich and poor classes. As stated earlier, this gap is growing in the US. A revolution most always includes a forceful redistribution of wealth and private assets, so preventing uneasiness in our economy should not only be a concern of a few individuals, it should be a concern for us all.
How much is enough for an individual to earn and hold in life?; $10 million, $100million, $1 billion?
What constitutes, drives, and entitles an individual to obtain and hold excessive amounts of personal wealth? Can capitalism survive and/or be sustained at this pace? As an individual, should anyone ever feel entitled to hold onto billions of dollars in amounts of personal wealth? Do they deny opportunity for others by keeping money out of the economy, or only in certain segments? Would bailouts work better if money was given to tax payers to spend?
Is there a moral compass to guide the wealthy on how much reinvestment is enough to repay their debts to society? Is there a balance that can be reached for capitalism to ensure fair amount opportunity for more people, if not everyone? I have personal opinions on all of these matters of course; but perhaps THIS is what the news media, the White House, Corporations, and people in these positions should be talking about now publicly in this point in time instead of "tax payer bailouts" and "tax cuts for the wealthy"? Feel free to comment below...
I understand; the answers to these questions aren't exactly cut and dry. But I'm pretty sure we know that beyond ensuring survival for ourselves and our families, there's a universal good in sharing with others. Knowing physical limits when it comes to your personal wealth may be a key measure of good morals and coexistence within a well-balanced and sustained society. Lets hope the wealthy realize this before we encounter another Government Shutdown Threat, Stock Market Crash or Worse.
How much is "enough" when it comes to personal wealth?: A look at accountability for the "wealthy" class.
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