News shocker: less than one-third of Americans with $3 million+ fortunes think "the wealthy have a moral obligation to share their good fortune with those less fortunate," a new U.S. Trust survey reports. Imagine two-thirds, then, of plutocratic, yacht-sprawling Scrooges: "Who else earned our treasure, fair and square, in the open market? No one 'shares' our loot -- except brainy managers who protect our assets. Only saints give away hard-won fortunes to less deserving, 'less fortunate.'" Modern misers apparently scoff at Andrew Carnegie's wisdom, "The man who dies rich, dies disgraced." Or that robber baron's concept of sharing "surplus wealth."
Will yawning inequality, let alone crushing, downward mobility, get reversed until voting majorities turn against the entrenched avarice that betrays good morality, economics and democracy? Dumbed down by Paul Ryan's austerity playbook, such self-serving defenses delink excessive profits from millions of hard workers hardly awarded the same "free time" by the "free market." Billionaires, after all, know far more about amassing (and spending) money than about the countless backs which "tote that barge and lift that bail" so they can live high on the hog.
Caught in this mix, the impoverished, agonized single parent faces the mirror: "working hard and persevering isn't enough. Something beyond my control is broken or fraudulent." Yet the super-rich, gazing into the glass, see only heroic masterminds who deserved to "strike it rich." Who makes the "it" if not the multitudes who turn resources into products and profits? Did miraculous modern appliances emerge from the heads of Edison, Ford or Chrysler, or from numberless hands on the aptly-named "mass production line." If no man is an island, that goes triple for billionaires -- whose fortune and life-styles depend on everyone else all the time.
Super-Rich, Waiting to Be Thanked
Among today's most corrupt big lies, this whopper deserves ceaseless debunking: that collective affluence answers solely to a band of elite masterminds. This upside-down fairy tale pals around with other delusions, like "every man a king" because "you can be a millionaire." Behold the debased Gospel of Wealth, now regurgitated with this perverse twist: The anointed elite do God's work and "create" wealth so that dependent lower classes, if they don't act up (read: rebel), get pie-in-the-sky. And maybe crumbs on the way.
Which is exactly how one Goldman Sachs CEO famously embarrassed himself, declaring banks do "God's work" by fulfilling "very important" roles that produce general affluence: banks loan money to growing companies that "create wealth" which, in turn, allow "people to have jobs that create more growth and more wealth. It's a virtuous cycle." And immensely lucrative cycle, too, for oligarchs who just spread prosperity.
What's unnerving, despite the exposed viciousness of this circle since '08, is not enough voters banish the slavish assumption everyone's modest family fortunes still trickle down, like liquor drips from a still. Sure, taking creative risks, working feverishly, and inventing something new, better or cheaper deserve generous rewards. But not over-the-top, super-lottery payoffs that only reinforce the corrosive, primitive equation of great wealth with great knowledge and judgment, even wisdom (did someone say "Donald Trump"?).
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