Hey, gang! Dot-connecting time! Let’s play . . .
Well, then: What image do you see when you connect those dots? If, like me, you envision tall stacks of gas cans for anarchists’ bent on burning it all down, you win a cookie.
I’m no one’s idea of a socialist—hell, I’ve got adult children who think I considered Ronald Reagan an unreconstituted liberal—but what’s going on out there is further evidence that the promise of capitalism is being savagely and thoroughly corrupted.
Overstatement? Let’s see. The great capitalists of the 19th century, John D. Rockefeller, the Andrew Brothers—Carnegie and Mellon—and their like all understood something. And that was, in a nation of farmers scratching an existence out of the land, their enormous wealth could lead them precisely where Louis XVI and his bride were a century earlier: to the guillotine. So they set loose across the land a philanthropic wave that funded libraries, museums, concert halls and other public amenities. Helps keep the masses focused on the entertainment half of the bread-and-circuses dictum.
So how are the descendants of those oligarchs embracing that sensibility? Well, Bezos, the world’s richest man, admirably gave $100 million to Feeding America—and 100 times that much to the Bezos Earth Fund. Some concept of philanthropy: Distract them with a nine-figure gift to charity, then use that cover to lavish coin on the usual collection of grifters, “scientists” and wanna-bes of the sky-is-falling climate mob. The same hucksters who have been shrieking about vanishing polar ice caps since before Amazon shipped its first book (bonus cookie to anyone who knows—no Googling!—the title and author).
Until lately, I’ve never had a problem with the rich getting richer, as long as the pie carved up gets bigger, too. If my income goes up 10 percent a year, I’m not one to gripe that the Donald Trumps of the world double theirs. Each according to his ability, eh?
The thing is, my income hasn’t gone up 10 percent a year. Not since trading in the paper route for my first clock-punching gig. So, no, I’m not particularly chagrined to learn that Carl Icahn took a multi-billion-dollar bath on his 39 percent stake in Hertz by selling at a fraction of what he paid for—ahead of the price spike.
What separates me from the howling mobs of anti-capitalism is, I don’t want to use the power of the courts, the legislative chambers or the pitchfork and torch to strip him of everything else he owns and bring him down to our rung on the economic ladder. I want him to have a conscience. I want him to do the right thing.
The 1 percent have been demonized in this country; there are people in that income bracket who still cut their own grass, for Pete’s sake. Not many, but some. It’s the 1 percent of the 1 percent whose unbridled accumulation of wealth is giving capitalism a bad name. They are going to unleash a whirlwind if those blessings can’t flow to the masses.
If your income is rising faster than one of Elon Musk’s toy rockets, and your philanthropic interests or those who work for your organization are barely reaping marginal increases, you’re part of the problem. You might want to think about addressing that—before the doxxing begins and the mobs show up at your house.
*Published in the June 2021 issue of Ingram’s Magazine