It’s Not the 1 Percent; It’s the 0.01 Percent . . .


By Dennis Boone


The filthy rich in America are giving the run-of-the-mill rich a bad name. And history tells us, that’s just not going to end well—for any of us.

Hey, gang! Dot-connecting time! Let’s play . . .

  • If the reporting is to be believed—big “if” these days—your pal and mine in eCommerce, Jeff Bezos, has commissioned construction of a $500 million super-yacht. The good shipbuilders in the Netherlands, we’ve read, are hard at work gilding the bidets even as this is written. This monstrosity is more than half the length of my old man’s aircraft carrier back in WWII, and requires—get this—a separate support ship, and $60 million in annual maintenance costs. Well-played, Jeff!
  • A bankruptcy judge in Delaware, evidently born without a conscience but with a hugely oversized sense of humor, has green-lighted Hertz to issue $1 billion in new stock. As the company is going through bankruptcy proceedings. Once it gets to the end of that process, everyone holding shares on the day of the judge’s May 7 ruling will be entitled to precisely . . . zippo. Nada. As will anyone fool enough to think the judge’s order is a buy signal for these new shares, or that the recent run-up in price is a sign of corporate turn-around.
  • By the second week of May, The Wall Street Journal informs us, the aggregate value of the world’s cryptocurrencies, which essentially didn’t exist a decade ago, had exceeded the sum of all U.S. dollars in circulation. That may say more about the value proposition of the American dollar than it does about crypto’s explosive growth, but still—$2.25 trillion? For something that, as Warren Buffett has noted, has produced no product or service, but just … is?  Somebody is getting way rich without reason.

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

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