Charity or Philanthro-Feudalism?

Twenty nine million unemployed or looking for work, that's the
estimate, and you'd think it'd concentrate the mind in Washington.
Twenty-nine million, or over 16 percent of us, need jobs and services
and help to
stay afloat, to pay mortgages and grocery bills and - sigh - private
health insurers.

With an election coming up, the pundit-class are brow-beating
politicians to look away. The panic in their voice is all about -- you
got it -- deficits. And while they're famously unworried about the
condition of the unemployed, they won't tolerate any talk of new taxes
to solve that problem. The unemployed get lazy when you give them
extended benefits; the rich give back, they say. Except they don't, or
they haven't. As we've commented before. This so called recovery's been
accompanied by tremendous
by super affluent.

Paul Krugman wrote this week, "In effect, a large part of our
political class is showing its priorities: given the choice between
asking the richest 2 percent or so of Americans to go back to paying the
tax rates they paid during the Clinton-era boom, or allowing the
nation's foundations to crumble - literally...- they're choosing the

And just when you might begin think ill of billionaires, headlines
trumpet 40 of them are taking a pledge from Warren Buffett to give half
their wealth to charity. The Oracle of Omaha's getting plaudits from the
investor-invested media, but his timing couldn't be more deadly.

What's the message of Buffett's "greatest givers" plan? Massive
wealth's alright, as long as those who have it share some. Some even
have a word for it: philanthro-capitalism. But it's a face-saver, not a

The wealthiest Americans have seen incomes skyrocket since the 90s,
growing 409% between 1992 and 2007, while their effective tax rate fell
to just 16% -- less than yours and mine. During the same period, two out
of every three
US corporations paid no federal income taxes at
all." Welcome to the root of the shortfall.

If we're going to depend on the goodwill of 40 rich guys to pick who
gets help, we ought to declare Philanthro-Feudalism and stop wasting
money on elections. But we might regret leaving the decision making up
to the mighty and flighty. In New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who's
sitting on an $18 billion fortune, gives to charity, but the transit
system is still hiking fares and public schools are crumbling and
segregated. We saw what T. Boone Pickens' idea of giving was back when
he bankrolled the swiftboaters against John Kerry.

Let's not forget, money donated to charity is tax-free, so giving to
charities actually deprives the government of revenue. Long-term change
will require government, the people's representatives, not the
profiteers' action, growing an economic system that works for more of
us. Instead of urging a pledge to give to charity, world's billionaires
could do some good. Buffett's joined the good fight for higher taxes on
his income. Now he needs to get real about higher taxes on
corporations. We need government which has the might and the revenues to
run a state. Not rich guys with whims and PR dollars.

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