Society loses when it’s all about the money

When people are addicted to drugs or alcohol or food, so that their life revolves around acquiring and consuming, we regard this as a mental illness.

When people are addicted to money, so that their life revolves around acquiring and hoarding, we give them tax breaks.

Why do we deify the hoarding of money? Why do we doff our caps at billionaires, as though they are special and different? Why do we let them play at philanthropy, instead of taxing the crap out of them?

Do we honestly still believe that the myth of trickle down is anything other than hoover-up?

Former New York Times columnist Anand Giridharadas, in his latest book, Winner Takes All: The Elite Charade of Changing The World, offers a snippet from the World Economic Forum, at Davos. Michael Dell, the world’s 39th richest person — personal wealth $33bn — was asked what he thought about a 70% tax on earnings over $10m a year.

The suggestion caused laughter. Actual peals of laughter, from the people who fly in and out of Davos on private jets to discuss climate change and social inclusivity.

Oxfam has said, along with calculating how the world’s richest 26 people now own more assets that the world’s poorest 3.8bn, that a 1% wealth tax — around $418bn — would educate every child not currently in school, and provide healthcare to prevent three million deaths.

Michael Dell, in response to the 70% tax proposal on annual earnings of over $10m, said he and Mrs Dell preferred to give to charity.

“I feel much more comfortable with our ability…to allocate those funds than I do with giving them to the government.”

That Michael Dell and the rest of the mega-rich — who like to be known as ‘high net worth individuals’; it sounds slightly less obscene — can opt for autonomous philanthropy, instead of paying higher taxes, is (a) wrong, (b) insane, and (c) needs to change. Instead of treating their money-hoarding like any other mental illness, we give the mega-rich power beyond control; we call them ‘leaders’, even though nobody has elected them.

As comedian George Carlin says, we don’t have governments, we have owners.

We, like rats and pigeons, are co-operative social beings. We need each other.

We are not lone wolves, despite Margaret Thatcher getting the greed-ball rolling with her assertion that there is no such thing as society.

Yes, there is. And the current society in which we exist, the hoover-up society, involves low wages for workers and low taxes for the mega-rich, despite the ceaseless spray of bluster from their spokespeople — our governments — about empowerment and inclusivity and changing the world.

Yeah, right. How can anything change when governments are owned by businesses owned by individuals who think taxes should remain optional, unless you’re a prole?

This is not a communist manifesto. No, the Scandinavian model would do fine: higher taxes, more social equality.

It might help those poor rich addicts break their hoarding addiction.

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