Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Entitlement of Wealth

The Entitlement of Wealth

Mayor Bloomberg has launched a Super PAC to intervene in various elections across the country.  The mayor has many well-known views on social and economic issues, and he’s using his Super PAC to foster the candidacies of people who share his views.  So far so good, and his activities are certainly within the spirit of the Citizens United case.  Mr. Bloomberg raised concerns about both President Obama and Governor Romney in an interview with the New York Times[1].  One particular statement about President Obama’s proposal to increase taxes on the wealthy caught my eye.

 “This business of ‘Well, they can afford it; they should pay their fair share?’ Who are you to say ‘Somebody else’s fair share?’ ”

Wealthy folks have all kinds of views and gigantic microphones.  We get a steady diet from the likes of the Koch brothers, Warren Buffet, Donald Trump, Steve Forbes, and Robert Rubin.  While these people disagree on a variety of issues, they share a common characteristic with the mayor.  They tend to believe that their opinion is entitled to more weight in our public policy debate, and that they are entitled to steer our country in matters of war, economic policy, and taxes.

Salvaging A Small Fund Family (2009)

Reread the last sentence of the mayor’s criticism.  Here is a man with billions of dollars.  He has all the material options in the world.  He can buy just about anything he wants and has virtually complete control over his economic life.   However, the mayor also wants control over the question of how much he contributes to the tax coffers and the operations of our democracy. 

What nerve.  What about the rest of the country?  Don’t they have a voice?  Isn’t the setting of our spending priorities and tax policies an exercise in representative government?  It’s up to our elected officials, representing all of us, to propose these policies and decisions.  As it is, the poor have hardly any voice, and in the mayor’s view of the world they are supposed to be thankful for his beneficence and willingness to support programs that meet their most basic needs.  This is the feudal system at the heart of Wall Street.   The kings are all-wise and get to decide how taxes should be levied and whether they want to pursue public purposes through government programs or their charitable works.  I guess the middle class is supposed to defer to the wealthy financiers and aspire to reach their level of material fortune.

Many of these wealthy critics have pinned the word “entitlement” to all kinds of programs that benefit the rest of the country, and yet no one acts with a greater sense of entitlement than the rich financiers, like the mayor.  The billions spent by the wealthy on financing our political campaigns are corrupting.  However, their sense of entitlement is even more disturbing.

[1] http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/21/nyregion/tough-criticism-of-candidates-by-bloomberg.html

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