But Jefferson's warnings were ignored. And now, with the top 1% of Americans owning more wealth than a third of the entire nation, and the bottom 50% of Americans only owning 3% of the nation's wealth, we as a nation are facing inequality levels not seen at any time in American history.
This is the price we as a nation are paying for letting billionaire-funded think-tanks and lobbyists convince us - and Congress - to move to low tax rates, free trade policies, and deregulation (particularly of the financial industry).
This defies both history, logic, and sanity.
Imagine walking into a classroom of kindergarteners and finding that just one kid is in possession of nearly all the toys. Just one kid has thousands of toy cars, army men, and building blocks piled up like Scrooge's money bin, filling half the classroom; one or two of the kids have a dozen or so toys, and the rest of the class of kids have to share just one dinky, old rag doll. No one could possibly think that's a healthy way of distributing toys to a kindergarten class. That one kid couldn't even play with all his toys.
Would we call that kid a toy creator? Would we tell all the other kindergarteners that they can only play with toys when that one student decides to share them?
Of course not. Yet that's exactly what we do with billionaires in our economy. Billionaires who can't spend all the money they have, and are more and more reluctant to invest that money in their workers, their businesses, or their communities.
So what good are they?
It's time to put in place a new wealth tax in America. I propose a 100% tax on all wealth over one billion dollars. If you can't get by on a thousand million dollars, then you probably shouldn't have access to that much money in the first place. There's nobody who can't make it on a billion dollars. So, any wealth over a billion dollars, a hundred percent of it goes to help the rest of the country have a decent life.
That money can lift 49 million Americans out of poverty and move the 46 million Americans on food stamps into the middle class. They will - by the "invisible hand" of human instinct and need - better know how to spend the money and generate economic activity than the billionaire class, which currently has its excess trillions stashed in off-shore bank accounts.
This wealth tax would also break up giant monopolies and open up the market for small businesses. We shouldn't rely just on the Bain Capitals and the Koch brothers to start or buy up new businesses. If the riches of the billionaire class were redistributed (a word progressives should embrace), then more and more Americans could have access to startup capital and earn a living as entrepreneurs.
Trust me, the billionaires can spare it. The total wealth of the average American family is $57,000. Convert that into hundred-dollar bills, and it's a stack about 2 inches tall. The one-percenters, at an income of around $300,000 a year, earn a stack every year that's about a foot high. But the average wealth of the billionaires on the Forbes 400 list is $4.2 billion. Convert that into a stack of hundred-dollar bills and it would reach over two miles into the sky. It would be a navigation risk to aircraft.
It's time to start funneling the riches produced by the American economy to the real job creators: working class people who are spending money. And the best way to do that is to outlaw billionaires with a 100% wealth tax on all assets over one billion dollars.
We can call it the "No Billionaires Campaign," and it just might be our best hope to save the American middle class.
Thom Hartmann is a New York Times bestselling Project Censored Award winning author and host of a nationally syndicated progressive radio talk show. Follow him on Twitter at @Thom_Hartmann.
Sam Sacks is a Progressive Commentator and former Democratic staffer on Capitol Hill. He is currently the Senior Producer of The Big Picture with Thom Hartmannairing weeknights at 7PM EST on RT and Free Speech TV. Follow him on Twitter at @SamSacks.