December 17, 1999 (Ira Pilgrim)


This country has mortgaged its future in a joy ride over the road to war. We have done very little in preparation. True, we are making ships, airplanes, and munitions...(but)...with borrowed money. As a matter of fact, we have not yet made one real personal sacrifice. We have merely mortgaged our future.

Earl Warren, 1941

Molly Ivins stated, in a recent column, that the wealthiest 20% of Americans have 80% of the wealth. This doesn't surprise or shock me. It wouldn't have shocked me if she had said that the wealthiest 5% of Americans have a certain immense percentage of the wealth. Whatever the figures, it seems obvious that people like Bill Gates have so much money that even a person who is considered very well off is in a completely different league. It is such a vast amount that spending it is irrelevant. Even Gates' mansions barely put a dent in his fortune. True, most of it isn't in cash, but much of it could be converted to cash in short order.

It is reminiscent of Europe in previous centuries, when a handful of people lived in palaces, most people eked out a bare living, and some starved to death. The big difference is that now a very large number of Americans have all of the wealth that they need or want. Between Social Security and an annuity, I find that have all of the money that I need. I am very content with what I have and I know a number of people who are similarly content. When I see British royalty and their castles, land holdings and finery, I know that I wouldn't want to live that way. There was a time when I could have put a million bucks to good use, but not now . However, at the time I wouldn't have spent the time that it took to get it. I had better things to do.

It seems that now, there are a rare few very wealthy men who have been imbued with a desire to do something worthwhile with their money before they die and to see some of the results before they die. One of these is George Soros, Another is what's-his-name; you know, the guy who is married to Jane Fonda. This is unique, although a few have done worthwhile things with their money after they died. Most rich people left it to their descendants. None have managed to take it with them, although a few have tried.

Now Donald Trump has proposed a one time 14.25% tax on people worth more than ten million bucks. This would raise 5.7 trillion bucks, which would eliminate the national debt and return our nation to financial solvency. I vaguely recall congressman Pete Stark, who is also a millionaire, making a similar proposal many years ago. I dismissed it as a pipe dream. Not because it wouldn't work; it would, but because getting something like that through congress and the president is virtually impossible.

Another unique phenomenon is that the computer world and the entertainment world has created a number of instant millionaires. Athletes, actors and entertainers of all sorts have multi-million dollar salaries. Oprah Winfree gets $125 million per year. After taxes she gets to keep a mere three fifths of it; at least. A 14% one-time tax wouldn't bother her a bit. It wouldn't bother Jerry Seinfeld, who makes twice what Oprah does. It wouldn't bother any of the people with multi-million dollar incomes. That doesn't mean that they wouldn't object strenuously to the tax, and fight like hell to prevent it. It seems that people with lots of money always want more.

I just had a thought that has me chuckling. Suppose someone like Trump said to a majority of legislators, "If you will pass this one-time tax, I will make sure that your campaign coffers have all of the money that they need for the rest of your life." Could financially strapped politicians resist such a proposal? Would there be enough of them to pass the tax?

My regular readers know that I consider the national debt to be a national disgrace which threatens the welfare of everyone who isn't filthy rich. It wastes money on interest that could be better used elsewhere. It threatens the stability of our government should a severe depression occur. It would be an excellent idea to get rid of it. Go Donald!

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