It's been a while since I wrote an article on billionaires. I
think about them almost every day, as I watch the news, as I go
through cities like NY, Philly, DC and Chicago, so it's time for
another article that brings some of my thoughts about
-There are over 1400 billionaires identified on the planet,
over 300 in the US. There are probably more who are purposely under
-Billionaires are dangerous. There may be a small percentage
who are good people with good intentions. That is not enough a
reason to hold back from the calls by me, Thom Hartmann and others
to make it illegal and impossible to be a billionaire.
-billionaires are freaks of nature. In nature, giants are
bizarre, freakish anomalies, and they don't survive long.
Billionaires should be treated the same way. They are malignant
symptoms of civilization. Before civilization, indigenous cultures
would treat billionaires as hoarders who were insane. They'd even
through them out of the tribe or force them to behave and share.
For most of the millions of years humans and our predecessors have
walked the earth, sharing-- what libertarians and right wingers
call socialism-- was the way all living people lived.
-No-one needs a forty or one hundred million dollar home. No
private person needs to own a piece of art work that costs over one
hundred million dollars. No-one needs a one or five hundred million
dollar yacht, and there is no business reason for owning one
either. When I see such displays of wealth, I am disgusted.
We need to change our culture so that people who engage in such
spending are treated the way people who wear fur are treated. We
need to have street theater and messaging that tells the filthy
rich that their spending is pornographic and despicable. Of course,
we really need to change the unsustainable consumer culture that we
have now. That's a bigger project, but part of what really needs to
That's a private yacht, not a cruise
ship, at Charleston marina! by sailn1
-Even the good billionaires have so much wealth and power they
are dangerous. Some people think that it will take billionaires to
save us. Ralph Nader wrote a novel based on that idea. I was
excited about Ebay Billionaire Pierre Omidyar's plans to
develop a new news business with Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras and
Jeremy Scahill. I still am. They are brilliant, courageous, heroic
people. But we can't get into thinking that billionaires will save
us. We must embrace the ideas of Paulo Freire-- that we need to
wake up the oppressed and help them to help themselves.
Billionaires won't do it for us-- not George Soros, not Pierre
Omidyar or anyone else.
The likelihood that a billionaire is a sociopath is higher
than in the general population. But even if a billionaire is not a
sociopath, the power a billionaire wields to affect other people is
far too great. In addition, billionaires share their power with a
lot of people. Those people are also dangerous. Neutering
billionaires, by taking away their money, will also de-fang their
-A lot of billionaires are criminals who believe they are
above the law. Glenn Greenwald wrote about in his book, Liberty and
Justice for Some. When I interviewed him
"... we've created this kind of shield of
immunity for elites, we have built up the world's largest prison
system and one of the harshest and most merciless systems of
punishment for ordinary Americans and this kind of two-tiered
justice system where you receive total immunity if you are an elite
and commit crimes but extremely harsh and merciless punishment If
you are an ordinary American, is really the antithesis of what the
rule law was intended to be."
That interview was in October 2011. Things have gotten worse.
The billionaire trolls have crawled out from under their platinum
plated rocks and, with the freeing effects of Citizens United,
throwing around their money to influence elections. Some of them do
it in highly visible ways, like casino billionaire, Sheldon Adelson
(the guy is a despicable idiot, but his worth, over $27 billion,
makes him even more dangerous.) Others, like the Koch brothers,
build multi-layered organizations and shell operations to cast a
veil over their predations and mechanations.
Someone should develop an on-line database on every
billionaire-- a database that looks at how they attempt to
influence and that looks at their commercial and political
interests. Since much of the billionaires operations are done
THROUGH their many corporations, databases like opencorporates.com
are valuable. if you know of others,
please share them in the comments.
Forget about the two corporate parties-- Democrats or
Republicans-- doing anything to get rid of billionaires. A head on
clash is not going to work.
We need to develop strategies that undermine and erode he
ability of billionaires to become billionaires and to stay
billionaires. Here are a few:
No More Dynasties: One early step should be a campaign
to end American dynasties--- by putting very high taxes on
inheritances, so the children of billionaires are not allowed to
inherit any more than a fraction, say $25 or $50 million, no matter
how big the estate. The details and loopholes would have to be very
carefully attended to. This would have to include stock in
companies founded by the parents. We don't want or need more
Waltons or Pritzkers.
Discourage Bigger Companies: One way companies get
bigger is they acquire other companies-- to get access to
technologies or markets, for example.
The USS must invest in developing business models that provide
alternate approaches, so smaller companies stay independent, so
bigger companies don't swallow smaller companies. Jobs are lost
when companies merge. Why not pass laws that recognize this and
encourage other ways to enable big companies to work with smaller
Track Billionaire's Money Better: If a company has more
than 50 or 100 employees it is subject to different regulations
than smaller companies. Why not apply the same approach to the most
wealthy people, who are far more likely to attempt to hide
their money, their income and their assets to avoid taxes. If
you have more than $10 or $50 or $100 million in assets, you are
required to declare and make transparent what you have and where
you put it.
Publicize broadly any lawsuits billionaires are involved
in: Elites and plutocrats usually use their powerful
connections to get out of trouble. They get judges to silence
critics and seal cases. Make it a law that the wealthiest people do
not get special treatment, and, on the contrary their cases cannot
Tax Corporations for paying outrageous sums to execs:
Tax corporations for amounts equivalent to executive pay for any
salary or other forms of remuneration, including tax options, etc.,
over the pay rate the president of the US gets-- $400,000 a year.
So, if a CEO earns ten million a year, the company must pay
taxes of $9.5 million. There are too many big corporations that are
giving huge salaries to execs and paying no taxes. If they can
afford to pay big pay, they can afford to pay taxes.