17 August 2011


Here's an interesting phenomenon ~ one of America's wealthiest individuals, Warren E. Buffet, calling for increased taxation on the rich. His reasoning is sound. "While the poor and middle class fight for us in Afghanistan, and while most Americans struggle to make ends meet, we mega-rich continue to get our extraordinary tax breaks. Some of us are investment managers who earn billions from our daily labors but are allowed to classify our income as 'carried interest,' thereby getting a bargain 15 percent tax rate. Others own stock index futures for 10 minutes and have 60 percent of their gain taxed at 15 percent, as if they'd been long-term investors.

"These and other blessings are showered upon us by legislators in Washington who feel compelled to protect us, much as if we were spotted owls or some other endangered species. It's nice to have friends in high places."

Buffet goes on to establish how the current widening chasm between America's privileged few (who control nearly all the nation's wealth) and the disadvantaged and suffering remainder (who control a tiny percentage of the nation's wealth). He suggests an obvious fix, one which most conservatives resist ~ increase the tax burden on the rich and super-rich. Stop coddling them, and require that they pull their weight. The twelve members of Congress who will soon begin negotiations to reduce the 10-year deficit by at least $1.5 trillion, could easily start right there, increasing revenues without placing an undue burden on those already struggling. It remains to be seen whether common sense and bipartisanship are even possible in the toxic atmosphere of Washington. But at least one wealthy individual is calling a spade a spade.

David Brin turned me on to this article in The Atlantic ~ The Consumption Economy Is Dying ~ Let It Die. Brin suggests that "We must focus on production, not consumption. This essay decries emphasis on consumer confidence and debt-fueling buying sprees that shift jobs overseas. We need to invest in science, cutting-edge technology, infrastructure and human capital. Beware 'supply side' voodoo. The real key? Innovate, educate, protect IP and stay rich enough to hire the world." Another point of view.

Finally, on last night's PBS Newshour, Warren Buffet made a brief appearance on Paul Solman's financial segment Land of the Free, Home of the Poor. Solman examines the distribution of wealth in this country, and compares that distribution to several other nations, using unlabeled pie charts to see whether ordinary Americans can identify the distribution in their own nation. Most chose the chart which actually represents Sweden, driving home the point that they'd prefer to live in a much more equal and still prosperous country. A country which the U.S. is not. You can see the segment and read the transcript here. And you can test your own perception of American wealth distribution by taking the Wealth Quiz (including those colorful and surprising pie charts) here. Prepare for a few surprises.

No comments:

Post a Comment