Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Carnegie would approve

Andrew Carnegie, one of this country's most famous self-made men, believed in giving away his money, and he had a lot of money to give away. He believed that it was his ticket into heaven.

Of course, he didn't want the U.S. government taking his money and distributing it to the poor through social programs. That's what charities were for, and he wrote The Gospel of Wealth to make damn sure everyone knew it.

He would have fit in pretty well with the crowd at the Clinton Global Initiative 2006, or as Robert Reich has described it, Bill Clinton's "second annual tycoon-fest."

If none of you have ever checked out Reich's blog (way at the bottom of my blog links, where a practitioner of the dismal science belongs), you should:

I remember a day when government collected billions of dollars from tycoons like these, as well as from ordinary taxpayers, and when our democratic process (in its own halting way) decided what the billions would be devoted to. In 1960, the moguls of America paid a marginal tax of 90 percent on their incomes (an effective rate, after all deductions and credits, of over 50 percent). In 1960, over two-thirds of Americans trusted government to do the right thing all or most of the time, according to survey research.

Now, the moguls pay an effective rate of maybe 10 percent of their incomes – none at all if they have clever enough accountants and lawyers who park it in tax havens. And they're richer than ever before in history. Today's release of Forbes Magazine's annual list of the richest 400 Americans is made up solely of billionaires -- for the first time.

And what about government? Now, according to surveys, two-thirds of Americans don’t trust government to do anything right.

So nowadays, a few hundred of the moguls devote some of their billions to doing good things, and we applaud their generosity.

Maybe I’m overly sentimental, but I preferred it the old way.


Fistandantalus said...

I think not only is that way oversimplifying, I doubt seriously there is data to backup those statements. As a middle class individual, I pay over 34% of my income in taxes. Those wealthier than me pay much more, including estate and other taxes...

And yet they have the ability to provide for charities as well...

Maybe we should go to a more fair tax, like the flat tax, so we all pay our fair share and quit punishing those who develop wealth...

vikkitikkitavi said...

Fisty, I'm going to assume your remarks are directed toward the bit from Robert Reich. Former Secretary of Labor and current professor at UC Berkeley Robert Reich.

The same basic text I excerpted was delivered by Reich on the NPR program Marketplace. I doubt they would let him present figures he pulled out of his ass, especially since those figures impugn their target audience.

But do you really doubt that the wealthy pay a smaller PERCENTAGE OF THEIR INCOME in taxes than you or I do? Seriously?

C'mon, seriously?

Well, then, I think you should go to Reich's blog and leave a comment there and demand to see proof.

And really, Fisty, "punishing those who develop wealth"? That kind of regurgitated Buckleyesque spew really doesn't fly around here. You've been reading too much WSJ.

Now please go away, and good luck in your lifelong dream to become unfathomably wealthy.

Because only someone who aspires to someday be filty rich would defend those fuckers from paying more of their fair share.

Grant Miller said...

As someone of unfathomable wealth, I read the WSJ quite closely and always agree with its Op-Ed page.

I've never seen Mr. Reich's blog but will check it now.


Chris said...

Anyone who doesn't see flaws with the wealth trends in this country is like Nero and his violin. The U.S. cannot sustain a pattern where fewer and fewer people control more and more of the wealth and, ultimately, more and more of the power. We are on the wrong course. If we were a society in ascent, then the two (the top 1% and the rest) would be converging. The opposite is happening. This is not some class warfare tidbit to be easily dismissed. It is happening. But hey, Mr. Big Stuff, keep buying your mega-yachts and ski homes. You'll be dead before the shit hits the fan anyway, right?

vikkitikkitavi said...

Grant: You sir, are the exception. You shoult not have to pay a dime in taxes. Your mere existence is enough for us, god knows.

Chris: You didn't ask for an amen, but I'm giving you one anyway.