Apr 30, 2010
There are signs that some super-rich are revolting against their "wealth
fraternity." Last fall, mega-billionaire, Warren Buffet, traveled to
Washington to meet with Democratic Senators and urge them to raise taxes
on the wealthy like him. He pointedly said he pays at a lower rate than
The liberal Senators were either bemused, or moved away from him as if
he had a contagious disease. Buffett is not deterred. Earlier in this
decade, he joined with a thousand other rich Americans led by lawyer
William Gates, Sr. and Chuck Collins (founder of United For a Fair
Economy) to successfully block the repeal of the estate tax (applied to
2% of wealthier decedents) by a Republican-controlled Congress.
Just last week, Mr. Gates, father of Microsoft's Bill, Jr. launched an
initiative campaign in Washington state to impose a progressive income
tax on the wealthiest citizens (over $200,000 income) and roll back
taxes on property and small business revenues. Initiative 1077 would
net $1 billion a year for education and health care. Unlike most states,
Washington has no state income tax at present. Any later downward
expansion of such a tax would have to be decided by a vote of the people
themselves, stipulates I-1077.
The "yes" on 1077 Initiative organizers have to collect 241,153 valid
signatures by July 2 to get on the November ballot. This is a huge
hurdle for a relatively small state, but when the super-rich are on
board, the money will be there for the petitioners.
Last week, several megamillionaires held a conference call with
reporters to express their desire for high taxes on people like them. "I
would with pleasure sacrifice the income," declared Jeffrey Hollander,
CEO of Seventh Generation. Eric Schoenberg, possessing investment
banking riches, bewailed his "absurdly low tax rates."
According to the Washington Post, paper-mill heir Mike Lapham said that
"We're calling on other wealthy taxpayers to join us, send the message
to Congress and President Obama that it's time to roll back the tax cuts
on upper-income taxpayers." He was referring to the Bush-Cheney tax
cuts which saved the then-White House rulers hundreds of thousands of
dollars, personally, over the near decade of cuts. At the time, I
requested Bush and Cheney have the decency to exempt themselves from
their own tax cuts, but they declined.
According to a Quinnipiac University poll in March, a solid majority of
Americans favor raising taxes on those earning more than $250,000 a
Then there is Dieter Lehmkuhl. Last October, he delivered to German
Chancellor Angela Merkel a petition signed by 44 rich Germans urging a
5% wealth tax for two years to fund economic and social programs to aid
Germany's economic recovery. The petition asserted that "the path out of
the crisis must be paved with massive investment in ecology, education
and social justice."
Megabillionaires in our country are encountering their peers here and
around the world to commit fifty percent of their estates to "good
works." They will grapple with the definition of "good works" as to
whether that means charity or justice.
The difference is important. For example, soup kitchens are a necessary
and human charity. Whereas justice goes to the causes of why rich
economies have any hunger at all.
With some super-rich thinking about moving from soft philanthropy to
advocacy, or to shifts of power, I hope my recent work of political
imagination -- "Only the Super-rich Can Save Us!" will spark their
interest. Drawing on seventeen wealthy Americans in fictional roles, led
by Warren Buffett and including George Soros, Yoko Ono, Bill Cosby, Ted
Turner, Peter Lewis and others of an advanced age and broader
perspectives, a massive, fast, well-funded campaign is launched in
January 2006 to galvanize millions of Americans to restore their
sovereignty over their government and the large corporations that have
captured Washington, D.C.
One of the inspirations for this book was the history of the
abolitionist movement against slavery-ably funded by rich Bostonians and
New Yorkers-and the early civil rights movement in the Fifties and
Sixties-significantly funded by rich people like the Stern and Currie
Justice movements need a lift, a shoehorn, resources to pay for
organizers, facilities, transportation, litigation and media.
Today, with corporations able to amass trillions of dollars to advance
harmful corporate interests, a small number of enlightened mega-rich
elders putting their money and smarts behind broad redirections in our
country supported by majorities can generate very compelling dynamics
for a functioning democratic society.
If you want to see what I mean, just read my book (visit onlythesuperrich.org)
and see if you agree with Lesley Stahl of CBS' Sixty Minutes who read
and found "Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us!" "engrossing, creative and
funny."Lesley, I'll take all three.
Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.
We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.