Being Rich Does Not Make You More Generous. It Makes You Meaner.

Yves here. Too many who ought to know better depict charity by the rich as a viable alternative to a decent level of social services and safety net. The sorry record of late Soviet era America should scotch any such delusion. Our average height, a measure of population-wide nutrition levels, used to be tops in the world. No longer. From Vox in 2016:

Recently [Mariachiara] Di Cesare [a public health researcher with Imperial College London], along with several hundred researchers around the world, compiled data from surveys in 200 countries (in a some cases, they mined military records when no such studies existed). The data set, recently published in the journal Elife, spans a century and contains data derived from 18.6 million people born between 1896 and 1996…. In the early part of the 20th century, Americans were some of the tallest in the world. Now we rank 37th for men and 42nd for women.

The US also was once in the top rank for life expectancy. Again no more. From Our World in Data:

Why do Americans have a lower life expectancy than people in other rich countries, despite paying so much more for health care?

The short summary of what I will discuss below is that Americans suffer higher death rates from smoking, obesity, homicides, opioid overdoses, suicides, road accidents, and infant deaths. In addition to this, deeper poverty and less access to healthcare mean Americans at lower incomes die at a younger age than poor people in other rich countries….

In the 1970s the US didn’t stand out at all, it does so now because life expectancy increased much more slowly than in other countries. At the same time health spending in the U.S. increased much more rapidly, particularly since the mid-1980s. The consequence of these two exceptional developments is that the US followed the much flatter trajectory that the chart shows.

The unequal development over recent decades led to an inequality between the US and other rich countries. In the US health spending per capita is up to four times higher, yet life expectancy is lower than in all of these countries.

Elon Musk exemplifies what is wrong with the rich around the world. ProPublica used him and Jeff Bezos as poster children of super-wealthy grifters, by virtue of getting boatloads of government subsidies yet paying effectively nada in Federal income taxes on a long-standing basis. Elizabeth Warren used Musk’s dubious designation as Man of the Year to call out his welfare queen status (in nowhere sufficiently impolite terms). Musk could resist the opportunity to act like a spoiled child. From Bloomberg:

On Monday, the day Elon Musk was named Time’s Person of the Year, Senator Elizabeth Warren took to Twitter to comment on the tax code and its relationship with the CEO of Teslaand SpaceX.

Elon Musk responded Tuesday by tweeting a Fox News opinion piece from 2019 about the claims regarding her Native American ancestry.

Warren won the first round of the Twitter war by getting way more retweets and likes than Musk did, so he doubled down by calling her Senator Karen. Charming.

By Richard Murphy, a chartered accountant and a political economist. He has been described by the Guardian newspaper as an “anti-poverty campaigner and tax expert”. He is Professor of Practice in International Political Economy at City University, London and Director of Tax Research UK. He is a non-executive director of Cambridge Econometrics. He is a member of the Progressive Economy Forum. Originally published at Tax Research UK

As the Guardian notes this morning:

Approximately 344,000 highest earners who received more than £175,000 before tax accounted for 17% of the UK’s pre-tax income, including capital gains, over that period but made just 6% of all charitable donations.

Bening rich clearly does not make you generous: instead it makes you mean.

And this is getting worse:

Incomes of the healthiest have risen, as other evidence also shows. 

However, charitable giving has fallen.

As Thatcher’s children have come to be the rich, and get richer, so the country gets meaner.

No wonder we get people like Rish Sunak arguing that new covid boosters require the imposition of austerity. This is simply indicative of the self-serving thinking of the very rich in our society.

And it is because of the harm that these people cause, and the impact that their wealth has on growing inequality that we must tax the multi-millionaires more. We do not need their money to pay for public services. What we do need is to stop the power that they have to destroy wellbeing in our society.

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  1. H. Yoshimoto

    I can’t stand Musk or Bezos. But this is vulgar Marxist class warfare at its finest which I despise even more. Congratulations.

    1. Eric Anderson

      Yes. I agree.
      And we vulgar Marxists will cease all class warfare resistance just as soon as the ‘elite’ stop waging it.
      Thanks for stopping by …

      1. Pate

        The Oracle of Omaha speaks:

        Buffett, the fourth-wealthiest person on earth, told The New York Times in 2006 that the rich had leveraged their wealth and power to secure a favorable tax code: “There’s class warfare, all right, but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.”Oct 7, 2020 › news

          1. Jokerstein

            There is nothing in that statement that indicates he wants to lose or stop the war. Or am I missing something?

        1. John

          1a : lacking in cultivation, perception, or taste : coarse
          b : morally crude, undeveloped, or unregenerate : gross
          c : ostentatious or excessive in expenditure or display : pretentious


          1. Soredemos

            That’s not what it means in a Marxist context. In Marxism it means only considering class and ignoring totally any other variable.

            Which isn’t Marxism. Marx’s point was that the foundation that undergirds everything else is the material conditions. Everything else flows from that. But that doesn’t mean those lesser factors can’t themselves also take on genuine importance.

    2. Geo

      “Higher social class predicts increased unethical behavior”

      Excerpt from the studies:

      In laboratory studies, upper-class individuals were more likely to exhibit unethical decision-making tendencies (study 3), take valued goods from others (study 4), lie in a negotiation (study 5), cheat to increase their chances of winning a prize (study 6), and endorse unethical behavior at work (study 7) than were lower-class individuals. Mediator and moderator data demonstrated that upper-class individuals’ unethical tendencies are accounted for, in part, by their more favorable attitudes toward greed.

      1. flora

        I had to laugh at that excerpt. That’s what’s known as the old practice of horse trading, and both sides know it, or else one side is a newbie. It’s also the reason for strong regulations in important areas. But of course, in neoliberal land we’ve done away with regulations and/or their enforcement. sigh…. (And yet, they leave referees on the sports fields and do not trust players and coaches to always follow the rules in play without the threat of enforcement from referees who can issue meaningful penalties. Funny that. )

        “Where large sums of money are concerned, it is advisable to trust nobody.” -Agatha Christie

        1. Geo

          Yeah. It seems like something even a toddler would understand.

          Side tangent: It amazes me that so many somehow grew up thinking Scrooge McDuck, Mr. Burns, and so many other words wealthy characters were the protagonists of the story. Or, maybe they were all comic book fans raised on Tony Stark and Bruce Wayne being heroes because they are rich? Of course, it says a lot that those heroes are only “heroes” because they have stronger weapons. Makes sense that our most popular modern media is dominated by such mythology now days. Have a foggy memory of Duck Tails retconning Scrooge into a lovable character too. Disney knows how to craft a narrative!

      2. eg

        Similar studies have shown that wealthier people treat others around themselves more poorly than average, and opportunistic demonstration of selfish and antisocial behaviour.

        Our “betters?” Not so much …

    3. bulfinch

      I don’t understand how the above analysis comes within even a mile of vulgar. Besides, it’s too early in the morning for tying off comments with unsophisticated, passive-aggressive barbs. What you or I personally despise or don’t despise from one season to the next isn’t at all important. Ok? Let’s just read, reflect and maybe keep our minds at least ajar…

    4. Harry

      I’m fairly rich, and pretty damn cheap with it. But one should probably define one’s terms.

      I’m also quite sympathetic to Marxist analysis. They use to teach it at my old university. Was considered an important element in an economic education. Its funny how often people confuse Marx the economist or philosopher, with Marx the social reformer and occasional advocate of revolution.

      The classes definitely have disparate interests. Why would one think they would not pursue their self-interest in a way which is consistent with their class interests? It would be downright anti-utilitarianism to think class interests were not pursued. Does that mean you hate Bentham AND Marx?

      I don’t understand what there is to despise in a mode of analysis. And I’m not much clearer on how one might despise others political views, without accepting that one’s own political views might be considered equally obnoxious.

      1. Christopher Horne

        “One’s political views might be considered equally obnoxious”
        Three cheers for Humanism.

      2. FKorning

        Some have the luxury of espousing socio-economic views. Others are stuck in quotidian life-and death struggle. That’s the difference. Most readers of NC are probably yet not in the second. This does not one cannot show solidarity. The fact is the middle class is creeping down into paucity every day the robber barons extract more rent.

    5. John R Moffett

      All of the vulgar class warfare throughout history has been waged by the oligarchs and their minions. Marxists point out their class warfare, which is not the same as waging it.

      1. JBird4049

        Marx and Engels created a way to analyze and understand class and wealth, much like how the scientific method was developed by people like Roger Bacon as a tool to study the world.

        I think that Marx and Engels would be horrified, much like Bacon, at the worship of their tools and the evil done using the tools’ existence as an excuse; they probably would not be surprised at the vilification of both themselves and their tools because blaming and smearing the messenger is old, old way to avoid unpleasant facts.

        A lot of money has been spent on this vilification by the wealthy, which might explain the hatred.

  2. MP

    Couldn’t agree more. Growing up in a suburb that was the consequence of post-war white flight and wealth generation via property values, then attending a university with very wealthy people and then moving back to NYC, I’ve seen it in all stripes. I think the biggest thing is just the total kind of loss of humanity as you climb that ladder, that all that’s left is consumption and yourself, what you have, and what more you can have to consume more. The people in NYC and elsewhere where I’ve seen the most genuine humanity and connection to others have basically nothing. That isn’t to glamorize poverty, but it’s to say that having the “essentials” with an actual safety net would make those aforementioned give up something (consumption), but they don’t even realize what they would actually gain non-materially.

    1. Tomonthebeach

      I too grew up in Whiteflightburbia, west of Chicago. Everybody in our poof-doink 1949 neighborhood was the same age so the place was crawling with kids my age. The cultural expectation was to go away to college, land a high-paying job, make as much money as you can, then retire. At 13, playing on my mom’s religious convictions, I escaped to a seminary prep school near Holy Name Cathedral where, ironically, I was baptized. It was worth the brutal commute – very liberating. Most of us did volunteer work after school in Chgo ghettos supporting sports programs and tutoring while the kids’ parents were still at work. At 74, my HS classmates still reunion every 5 years and I am still in weekly touch with a couple dozen. We all became overachievers, but almost nobody went into corporate America. We became physicians, psychologists, teachers (lots of those), scientists, government officials, and several were ordained as priests. In contrast with my playmates who stayed in the burbs and conformed to their parents collective cultural expectations, most became well-off Kens and Karens whose biggest joy in life seems to be bragging about what they own and where they vacation. The majority assert pulling themselves up by their bootstraps even though most had their bootstraps pulled up by their late parents. A second distinction is that we do not toss our money at the needy. We still roll up our sleeves and help hands-on too.

  3. KD

    I would hazard a guess that the decline in charitable donations is correlated to the decline in religious participation. In other words, a societal trend toward “Godlessness,” rather than 1% trend toward meanness.

    1. Geo

      A large percentage of religious charitable giving it to churches. If you remove donations to religious organizations/churches from the equation charitable giving from the godly and godless is about equal:

      “There is little difference among self-identified atheists, Protestants and Catholics in the percentage donating to charitable groups. However, atheists are substantially less likely than Protestants and Catholics to report volunteering their time to charitable organizations. 85% of atheists say they have not volunteered with a religious charity in the past 12 months, while nearly six in 10 Protestants (58%) say they have.”
      “Bottom Line: Donations to religious charities have declined along with Americans’ membership in churches and synagogues, but overall charitable activity has been high and steady.”

      Makes sense that non-religious people wouldn’t donate to religious charities.

      It’s hard to find quality stats but here’s a few more:

      “The top three causes for most Americans revolve around feeding the hungry, supporting religious institutions or programs and protecting animals, followed by health and education charities.”

      – Within the U.S., faith and religious services receive the most donations, more than twice as much as Education, which came in second (Giving USA).
      – 29% of charitable gifts go to faith and religious services (Giving USA).
      – Between 1990 and 2015 the share of overall donations going to faith dropped 50%.

      Lastly, in my experience doing pro-Bono marketing work for charities over the years I’ve found about half to be mostly vanity projects for their organizers and not of much help to the communities. The other half did wonderful work so I don’t want to discount the work of those. But I’ve seen NYC socialites and southern evangelicals alike use “charity” as a means to stuff their egos and their pockets.

      So, TL;DR: not all charitable giving is alike.

      1. upstater

        But I’ve seen NYC socialites and southern evangelicals alike use “charity” as a means to stuff their egos and their pocket.

        How about this one:

        But I’ve seen retired democrat and republican elites alike use “charity” as a means to stuff their egos and their pocket (cf Clinton Foundation)

    2. Anthony Stegman

      I guess as a society we have all become rather dirty. After all, cleanliness is next to godlessness.

  4. flora

    How times have changed. Rich is a relative term, and with that said, when I grew up the town’s ‘rich’ alway donated to local charities, supported youth organizations, (hated paying taxes of course, but who doesn’t hate paying taxes), and had a spirit of nobless oblige – at least in mild form. Doing very well made it incumbant to give back some portion to the community as a matter of pride or be thought of as a miserly old scrooge by one’s local economic peers. Today’s Musks and Bezos would then have been thought of as an Old Man Potter – a character in the movie It’s a Wonderful Life.

    When the Rich Said ‘No’ to Getting Richer

    The difference in outlook between Mitt Romney and his father George is a mirror to what 40 years of neoliberal ideology has done to outlook among the rich. We have a generation now of Old Man Potters.

    aside: George Baily turns down Old Man Potter.

    1. griffen

      Well done on the analogy to Potter from the above film. Now we are ruled by an entirely full slate of Potter(s), who deem themselves fully worthy of all that hard work and fortune have lavished upon them. And not just a kitty to last one generation of wealth but enough to last several generations into the future.

    2. mistah charley, ph.d.

      It’s A Wonderful Life – The Final Scene

      Potter’s personal health care attendant (the man who pushes his wheelchair) bursts into the party at George and Mary Bailey’s house. The mood, which had been festive (just a moment before, we saw the arrest warrant being torn apart and thrown on the pile of contributions from “so many friends”) changes immediately, as the tale of Potter’s purloining of the disappeared bank deposit is told. At first incredulous, the people become increasingly angry as the depth of depravity of the twisted, misanthropic millionaire becomes clear.

      Next we see the crowd carrying torches as they approach Potter’s mansion – it is like the evil twin of the house that George, Mary, and their kids have filled with love – equally large, but almost all in darkness, and without any sort of holiday decoration, neither Christmas tree, menorah, or solstice wreath. Ernie drives up in his cab, and siphons some gasoline from the tank into a large metal can. We see him and Potter’s former health care attendant splashing the gasoline at the entrances of the house, including the wheelchair ramp. Uncle Billy ignites the flammable liquid by throwing his torch into it, and the rest of the crowd follows suit. The volunteer fire department arrives, but Burt the cop keeps them from coming up the long drive.

      Inside the house, through the windows, we see Potter desperately going from room to room, trying to escape, but it is useless. Uncle Billy watches with grim satisfaction, and we see the flames of the house reflected in his glasses as he mutters “So long, you old so and so.”

      Clarence the angel, no longer in civilian clothes, but rather in his magnificent new robe and wings, watches sadly from treetop level. The camera pulls back and we see the house beginning to collapse as the flames leap higher. The final scene pans upward from the burning house to the starry sky, and we see in Gothic letters the following Biblical quote: “I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life” (Deut. 30:19).

        1. Dwight

          Sounds like part of what the angel showed George would have happened without him. That wasn’t the very end of the film.

      1. Richard Burt

        That is a hilarious alternate ending. And it is incredibly well-written. Have you thought of writing screenplays? Or a pseudo-documentary called The Film Capra Never Made? About the original but suppressed ending? Anyway, thanks for writing and posting.

  5. jim truti

    I thought democrats were going to finally tax the rich.
    Then they went ahead and restored the SALT deduction, which is mainly a tax paid by the rich.
    Taxes are for the little people, dont kid yourself.

    1. Christopher Horne

      In case you haven’t noticed, the job of the Democrats is to protect the left
      flank of the Republican party against Socialism.

      1. jsn

        Bald faced betrayal is the only trick that still worked in this election cycle.

        Lambert has illustrated it nicely in three acts today.

        Its so glaringly obvious and brutally direct, one can only speculate where they’ll find rubes to vote for them again.

    1. griffen

      That was a fascinating* article, thanks for the link. It also ties into a previous article linked a few months ago, about the indulgences of the Anheuser Busch family fortune.

      *In the mode of enlightening to more detail, and history.

  6. Questa Nota

    On a somewhat related topic, have you watched the series Succession? To many in the provinces, that show seems like Wall Street or master of the universe porn. The show gives some glimpses, however stylized or fictionalized, of the venues, rhythms, appearances and world views of a distant environment. Given your former interaction with so many in Manhattan and points beyond, it would be interesting to get views on the topic.

    1. Basil Pesto

      I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if some of the writers had ended up here once or twice, or at least on NC-adjacent venues. It is sharp (episode a few weeks ago had oblique references to the Eric Holder ‘investigation’ of Uber and Jesse Eisinger’s ‘The Chickenshit Club’, I’m pretty sure). Season 1 writer and now exec producer Lucy Prebble wrote the similarly sharp play, Enron.

      1. Terry Flynn

        I speak as a big fan of Succession. The show’s creator – Jesse Armstrong – got his big break with “Peep Show” (UK comedy) – one of the greatest comedies ever which had a deeply subversive take on neoliberalism from the first episode around 2003.

        I recently watched a YouTube video dissecting and admiring the cinematography of Succession. I was puzzled. Why was this so “revolutionary” to most viewers and commenters. Then I realized how his style was honed on a UK Channel 4 comedy that, though popular, never IMHO got the kudos it deserved (particularly in North America).

        They’re are loads of C4 shows that North Americans miss – Graham Norton’s early stuff was on there and is much better than his sanitised stuff for the BBC and hence BBC America).

          1. Terry Flynn

            Thanks – yes I loved them too! I know that with modern streaming any contemporary TV show or film is likely to get eyeballs across the world but I remain disappointed that so much 1990s/early millennium non-BBC stuff has not got more attention from the global streaming platforms.

            You do get to see the evolution and experimentation of techniques and story telling that generate these YT videos purporting to show the originality of techniques in shows like Succession when this corner of the world recognise it as brilliant but also merely the culmination of experimental techniques we have seen on C4 since circa 1995.

            And a fair proportion of Graham Norton’s EXTREMELY edgy early material (hosted from the then wild west of the internet) did not come from his own researchers but was memorably revealed to have come from a touching and brilliant online friendship he had with the (at that point probably in frequent manic or hypomanic phase) brilliant Carrie Fisher RIP. She was diiiiiiirty!

        1. Basil Pesto

          I find Succession way closer to The Thick Of It in tone and style (written style), which Armstrong also wrote for.

          The cinematography thing is a bit weird (although I’d rather flay myself than watch ‘video essays’ on YouTube) because it’s seemed quite akin to that Adam McKay (who is an EP, and directed the pilot iirc – he was on Useful Idiots once and was also pretty switched-on for a Hollywood guy) style – handheld with punctuating zooms (but the zooms don’t milk it as much as they do on The US Office – they’re often complicit, knowing zooms in The Office (even with Tim in the UK one) but with Succession they’re candid. It’s very similar to The Big Short (which McKay also directed). It works well for the kind of show it is but I find it can be a bit repetitious.

          The title sequence, though, is beautifully done.

          1. Terry Flynn

            Agreed. If you think of Peep Show as trying out a new method, Succession is the ultimate in knowing how to use the method cleverly and sparingly in amongst “traditional” shots, with the (succesful) intention of helping draw in the viewer even more.

  7. Carolinian

    “Behind every great fortune there is a great crime”? Is it really a surprise to anyone that the rich often become rich by being more selfish?

    Religion is generally in decline but give Christianity credit for having some pretty good ethics while also providing an escape hatch for believers. And the Bible often doesn’t think much of rich people. Marx would call this mere opium for the masses but some of us think “all are sinners” is surprisingly good psychology.

    1. Soredemos

      Marx’s point was a sociological critique. He was actually praising religion as something that gave people with no other recourse comfort. In his view however a better path would be for those people to organize and seize political power so as to better their own circumstances in the here and now, rather than seeking solace in a hypothetical afterlife. This isn’t much different than Nietzsche’s thoughts on ‘slave religion’.

      History isn’t made by ‘good psychology’. It’s made by power. Giving up power to a rich minority and than hoping they’ll be instilled with good moral values and won’t be too mean to you is a very poor strategy.

  8. Mr. Rogers

    Although this was not a deep dive into the subject, I’m always glad to see the edges of the philanthropic-nonprofit-industrial complex emerge around here for discussion. The attitudes and mentality of philanthropists and those running the raft of nonprofits they sustain are such an important half of the brain in the neoliberal hive-mind. We (I run a small NPO) in many ways serve as the conscience of capitalism. There is nothing forcing Musk, or any other billionaire to give. There are of course calculated, cynical reasons for the very-wealthy to give. Charitable giving is often referred to as an ‘investment’… the dividends being good PR, social capital among other elites, and political influence… all of which tend to further opportunities to increase wealth and or power… its a positive feedback loop.

    The remaining driving forces are largely psychological. Charity appeals to feelings of personal freedom (in a way that taxation does not), personal expression, and the furthering of pet causes (as laudable as some of those may be). All this while compensating for other sins, in a sort of moral bargaining over the right to capitalist excess in a world where half the population has almost nothing.

    Since giving is not based on achievable material goals, it is no surprise that overall giving has decreased. Giving can go up, down, stay the same…. its not like it is tied to actual societal needs… its tied to the inner drives, calculations, and feelings of the giver.

    What strikes me is the unwavering admiration shown toward those who are able to give ‘generously’. I have been amazed by some of the self-congratulatory things said by people in the foundations we rely upon… and even comments of praise from folks on our board, etc… They all seem so enamored by the success of the wealthy people…. the starry eyed worship of those who have “made it”.

    The fact is, down here in the real world of a long suffering and deteriorated inner city, the receivers, not the givers of charity… we (NPO’s) are totally dependent upon the wealthy to prop up our work and spend at least half of our staff time pandering to them. The foundations we cater to, the grants we write, the appeal letters we send…. we are all desperate for the Musks and the mini-Musks of the world to keep us afloat.

    I am always on the lookout for those that are trying to make a deeper analysis of this silly system for delivering a social safety net.

    1. Noone from Nowheresville

      Charity appeals to feelings of personal freedom (in a way that taxation does not), personal expression, and the furthering of pet causes (as laudable as some of those may be).

      Charity recycles money into relationships whether it’s religious, educational, purely social connectivity, or finding yet another way to tip the scales to gain more wealth as opposed to simple money. But money is also pleasant all on its own. Plus added bonus more favors to be collected at a later date.

      Taxes destroy money so no wealth building opportunities there unless one could do some PR stunt or rewrite the tax code to get the lesser rich to destroy more of their money, and by extension wealth, via federal taxes. Then one could get a step up in the wealth game by virtue of taxes.

      Relying on federal taxes to fix the original distribution of new money creation and its ability to create debt, the granting of priority access to global resources (infinite extraction possibilities even if the resources are finite) as well as the redistribution of money / resources upward through purposeful policies is like trying to bail out a sinking rowboat with a leaky bucket.

      1. flora

        Sightly different opinion about charity in the local giving, less personal giving that personal decency as defined locally:

        Charity giving is part of local the well-to-do decency on the part of local support-the-community successful people. I suppose that’s a local relationship, although, an indirect one. Local giving is often anonymous or is waved aside, as in a “my wife wrote the check, and you know wives, gotta humor them”. Except no wife would write the check without knowing the hubby agrees privately. Large gifts to local charities would be waved away as unremarkable by local donors, seen as mere decency by same, not something to publicly remarked upon. My 2 cents.

    2. Christopher Horne

      One year in Seattle, I gave a few thousand to the Pacific Northwest Ballet.
      There were three immediate effects.
      1) The organization called me as many as 5 times a day, asking for more
      2) As a result of my generous donation, a brass plaque with my name on
      it was put on the inside of a dancer’s locker (presumably so they could
      throw their sweaty leotards across it. O the Joie!)
      3) I was invited to a garden party at a private mansion where I could
      meet, mingle and talk to the dancers, male and female.
      Many other charities, including those for serious diseases, invited me
      to galas, where I could eat, drink and party with others in my swim.
      Partying tax free- and wheeling and dealing with the fellow wealthnauts..
      Such a deal!

  9. Susan the other

    RM’s last paragraph is the best diagnosis. We don’t need to tax the rich to “pay for the poor.” We can do that easily with sovereign spending and jobs. We need to tax the rich so they don’t privatize the entire planet, the water and all the oxygen. And then profiteer from it and in the process demand that society, especially the poor, must suffer austerity to maintain a certain “balanced budget” in order to keep the sovereign currency valuable. What unmitigated nonsense. Keep the currency valuable? That’s gotta be code for keeping asset prices high. (Can’t let the whole fantasy crash.) And keeping prices high just exponentiates the illogic of profiteering which exponentiates suffering and poverty. It’s not rocket science. The balance we desperately need is not an austere, balanced budget; it is the elimination of poverty, which tends to somewhat eliminate unsustainable wealth.

    1. eg

      I would only add that another reason to tax the rich is to prevent them from continuing to buy off our governments.

    2. James Simpson

      And the rest of the world without their own sovereign currencies and which have to buy oil and other necessities in dollars can do… what, exactly? MMT is a fantasy, a conglomeration of old ideas.

  10. t

    Isn’t this why honor-system and pay-what-you-wish vendors never put their bagel baskets on the C Suite floor?

  11. lyman alpha blob

    It’s been known for years now that the rich give a far smaller percentage of their incomes away than the poor and working class do. Thousands of years actually – see Mark 12:41-44

    Here’s a somewhat heartwarming anecdote that gets to the point of the article. My better half works in fundraising for nonprofits and last year her organization got a completely unexpected gift. The man who donated it had died recently and left the money in his will. The executrix of his estate met with my wife and told her that he had no college education (and I’m not sure he ever finished high school), had worked installing HVAC and I think ran a small company. I’m guessing based on that he was not born to a wealthy family. He had two surviving relatives that he explicitly wrote out of his will and left his entire estate to be divided up equally between my wife’s and three other non-profits dealing with environmental and healthcare issues.

    He left $10 million.

  12. dday

    I’m a firm believer in the secular tithe, that is, 10% of my income each month goes to a group that is working to improve the human condition. I favor groups that raise hell by litigation and organizing. I don’t give to public tv or the United Way. I also don’t follow the principles of “effective altruism” which advocates for malaria nets and lives saved per dollar. I much prefer groups like WildEarth Guardians, Nuclear Resister, et al.

  13. Appleseed

    Earlier this week in Counterpunch: How Do We Fix Abuses of Donor-Advised Funds?

    Right now, an estimated $160 billion is currently stockpiled in DAFs, and that amount is increasing every day. DAFs have been the fastest-growing recipients of donations in the nonprofit sector for the past twenty years, and are now the largest recipients of charitable giving in the United States.

    This means that each year, disproportionately more and more charitable revenue is being diverted into DAFs while nonprofits on the ground struggle harder for funds. According to a recent analysis, the explosive growth of DAF giving has led to the diversion of $300 billion from working charities into intermediaries such as DAFs over the past five years alone.

    Wealthy donors reap significant tax savings from DAF giving, and these savings are subsidized by the rest of us through the charitable deduction and other tax reductions to the tune of up to 74 cents on every donated dollar.

  14. Anthony Stegman

    Silicon Valley (Santa Clara county in California) historically has had very low rates of charitable giving, despite being one of the wealthiest counties in the country. The county also has high rates of poverty and high rates of food insecurity. I won’t mention the homelessness (yes I will) that has also increased over the years. Wealthy techies can be very mean, and nasty too.

    1. phichibe

      I was in SV from 1984 to 2003, and worked in the heart of the Internet/Dot-Com bubble (ex Cisco, 3Com). When I’ve tried to explain the SV mindset to outsiders, I always cite the episode of the SV United Way charity going bankrupt in 1997, because so few SV stock optionees felt the tug of charity. SV’s motto should be Homo Homini Lupus.

    2. Christopher Horne

      I have read several studies linking autism and it’s attending lack of empathy
      to very intelligent people. I do not claim to be a genius, but being a
      ‘very bright’ person, I have somewhat noticed this effect in myself. I think this could be part of the
      problem with the techies.

      1. anon y'mouse

        Empathy is a muscle.

        If you don’t use it, you lose it.

        Many techies have hardly ever been called upon to do the former.

  15. orlbucfan

    The late Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis came from a wealthy family. He is famous for a comment he made that he supported progressive taxation cos it reined in out-of-control human greed. He was right. World history backs him up. Slime molds like Musk, Bezos, Zuckerberg, Gates and Buffett are nothing new. They represent a human mindset that has been a curse on our species since the start of recorded human history.

  16. Peter Falk

    “The things we admire in men, kindness and generosity, openness, honesty, understanding and feeling are the concomiants of failure in our system. And those traits we detest, sharpness, greed, acquisitiveness, meanness, egotism and self-interest are the traits of success. And while men admire the quality of the first they love the produce of the second. (Cannery Row)”

    ― John Steinbeck

  17. wendigo

    A chart using average diameter of adults and marginal tax rate would show where America is winning instead of these vulgar marxist charts.

    1. Alice X

      Why do we allow the wealthy to donate their money to whomever they please (perks, kickbacks etc.), when that money could go to the public purse?

      Tell me please!

  18. Maritimer

    All charitable donations are not created equal. Many NGOs, for example, just do more bidding of the Entitled and distort/manipulate the social agenda. So, most of the Elite, even if they do “give” do so to organizations which will serve their purposes. See Bill Gates.

    Most of the Covid Alternative organizations I have seen do not have charitable status and, if they did, the hostile Governments would be clamping down on them. Just another of the many ways the system is rigged.

  19. The Rev Kev

    There was a study done in Oz about twenty-thirty years ago dealing with who was giving to charities. It was found that not only were poorer people giving a larger percent of their income to charities than richer ones, but in actual amount of dollars, that more dollars came from poorer people than richer.

    About this time I was reading an article by this women who was involved in the Silicon Valley set. She saw a severe aversion to paying any taxes at all and yet at the same time, they had no problem using the roads, water, electricity, police, firefighting and everything else paid out of taxes. They literally could not see the connection between the two ideas. Not wouldn’t, couldn’t.

  20. Sound of the Suburbs

    One of friends has done very well for himself, and acquired the status symbols to match.
    We still often go out for a drink together, and I could always imagine the mini cab drivers approaching his very impressive house, thinking they would be in for a good tip here.
    It was never going to happen.
    He’s not actually any worse than he used to be, it just looks worse as he now has so much.

  21. Momo

    Brings to mind some lines from Grapes of Wrath which go something like this:

    They’s a fella,
    newspaper fella near the coast, got a million acres — ”

    Casy looked up quickly, “Million acres? What in the world
    can he do with a million acres?”

    “I dunno. He jus’ got it. Runs a few cattle. Got guards
    ever’place to keep folks out. Rides aroun’ in a bullet-proof
    car. I seen pitchers of him. Fat, sof fella with little mean eyes
    an’ a mouth like a ass-hole. Scairt he’s gonna die. Got a mil-
    lion acres an’ scairt of dyin’.”

    Casy demanded, “What in hell can he do with a million
    acres? What’s he want a million acres for?”

    “I dunno,”
    “Guess he’s crazy. Mus’ be crazy. Seen a pitcher of him. He
    looks crazy. Crazy an’ mean.”

    “Say he’s scairt to die?” Casy asked.

    “That’s what I heard.”

    “Scairt God’ll get him?”

    “I dunno. Jus’ scairt.”

    “What’s he care?” Pa said. “Don’t seem like he’s havin’ no

    Casy said, “Seems like that’s the way. Fella havin’ fun, he
    don’t give a damn; but a fella mean an lonely an’ old an’ dis-
    appointed— he’s scared of dyin’l”

    Pa asked, “What’s he disappointed about if he got a mil-
    lion acres?”

    The preacher smiled, and he looked puzzled. He splashed a
    floating water bug away with his hand. “If he needs a million
    acres to make him feel rich, seems to me he needs it ’cause he
    feels awful poor inside hisself, and if he’s poor in hisself,
    there ain’t no million acres gonna make him feel rich, an
    maybe he’s disappointed that nothin’ he can do’ll make him
    feel rich— not rich like Mis’ Wilson was when she give her
    tent when Grampa died. I ain’t tryin’ to preach no sermon,
    but I never seen nobody that’s busy as a prairie dog collectin’
    stuff that wasn’t disappointed.”

    Why does an image of the elderly Rupert Murdoch swirl before by eyes?

  22. cgregory

    Here’s a little something from Michael “The Big Short” Lewis’ essay, “How Wealth Destroys Your Soul”:

    “Or even a happy one. Not long ago, an enterprising professor at the Harvard Business School named Mike Norton persuaded a big investment bank to let him survey the bank’s rich clients. (The poor people in the survey were millionaires.) In a forthcoming paper, Norton and his colleagues track the effect of getting money on the happiness on people who already have a lot of it: A rich person’s getting even richer experiences zero gain in happiness.

    “That’s not at all that surprising; it’s what Norton asked next that led to an interesting insight. He asked these rich people how happy they were at any given moment. Then he asked them how much money they would need to be even happier. “All of them said they needed two to three times more than they had to feel happier,” says Norton.”

  23. Xman

    Can we all just decide that enough is enough and decide we need to overturn citizens united? Isn’t it painfully obvious to those of you who arn’t totally deluded by greed that too much money in one place is dangerous? What is wrong with everyone? You all keep infighting when we can resist the real ruling class. The rich and the ultra rich. Money is not speech and we have a sacred duty to protect our democracy. Once we overturn citizens united we can decide to do other things, one at a time, and eventually we all get what we want while musk throws a temper tantrum.

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