Too Rich to Pitch In

Forbes Billionaires 2021

“WEALTH SURGE 
A NEW BILLIONAIRE WAS MINTED EVERY 17 HOURS ON AVERAGE OVER THE PAST YEAR. ALTOGETHER, THE WORLD’S WEALTHIEST ARE $5 TRILLION RICHER THAN A YEAR AGO.” FORBES MAGAZINE

Republicans refuse to raise taxes to pay for what is basically a jobs bill, a bill that fixes infrastructure and opens up jobs simultaneously, although they certainly realize that inequality became greater during the COVID19 pandemic. For many Americans this past year and a half has been the worst time they have ever lived through, even greater than the Great Recession. 

Setbacks in the economy have not hit everyone equally and you don’t have to be a Senator to know this. Millionaires and billionaires might have worried that the bottom might fall out of the economy in 2008, but their lifestyles didn’t suffer one bit, which is very clear if you like to peek at the limited glimpses of the houses of the rich and famous that you are allowed to see without a subscription in the email ads for Architectural Digest. And, as we can see from the quote that begins this article, the pandemic has actually been good for billionaires and most likely millionaires as well. 

But while I am being tempted to subscribe to Architectural Digest and also getting notices of the Forbes list in my mail, I am reading Nomadland by Jessica Bruder. These contrasts are not surprising. We already knew that many Americans were facing financial ruin as they lost jobs, could no longer pay mortgages, had to choose between rent and food, lost their cars, gave up their homes when they got too stressed out trying to stretch inadequate salaries or government aid. 

In Nomadland you hear from those who have chucked their old lives and decided to go on the road in RV’s or just their cars, or small campers and roam from one Walmart parking lot after another, one campsite after another, one low-paying temporary job after another. The ways in which Americans at the bottom of the income scale have had to shuffle their lives around is sobering.

Here an excerpt from the Forward of Nomadland:

“In Drayton, North Dakota, a former San Francisco cabdriver, sixty-seven, labors at the annual sugar beet harvest. He works from sunrise until after sunset in temperatures that dip below freezing, helping trucks that roll in from the fields disgorge multi-ton loads of beets. At night he sleeps in the van that has been his home ever since Uber squeezed him out of the taxi business and making the rent became impossible.

In Campbellsville, Kentucky, a sixty-six year-old ex-general contractor stows merchandise during the overnight shift in an Amazon warehouse, pushing a wheeled cart for miles along the concrete floor. It’s mind-numbing work and she struggles to scan each item accurately, hoping to avoid getting fired. In the morning she returns to her tiny trailer, moored at one of several mobile home parks that contract with Amazon to put up nomadic workers like her.”

“Wages and housing costs have diverged so dramatically that, for a growing number of Americans, the dream of middle-class life has gone from difficult to impossible. As I write this there are only a dozen counties and one metro area in America where a full-time minimum wage worker can afford a one-bedroom apartment at fair market value. You’d have to make at least $16.35 as hour – more than twice the federal minimum wage – to rent such an apartment without spending more than the recommended 30 percent of income on housing.”

“A NEW BILLIONAIRE WAS MINTED EVERY 17 HOURS ON AVERAGE OVER THE PAST YEAR.”

Mitch McConnell and his faithful Republicans who follow like a pack of large loyal old dogs are aghast at the idea of raising taxes on corporations to help pay our way out of this pandemic economy. And small wonder, since the wealthy people he represents have done very well. Of course corporate taxes used to be much higher than they are now and not that long ago. Would we really be raising taxes or just restoring them slightly upwards so that the wealthy can pitch in? It looks like economic recovery may be strong. But it won’t benefit everyone.

Why would rich folks be proud to be citizens of a country where they had to ignore the places where the ‘pixels’ were disintegrating, where the nation was not so shiny and where life is a dire and desperate affair? Will this be something they will allow, having the third world exist right in the middle of plenty. That didn’t used to be America. Will their lives stay peachy as they create economic structures that sequester more and more of the world’s wealth into fewer and fewer pockets? Will none of the rot and ruin ever affect them in the places where they find to escape to? Will escape simply come to seem like exile? The pendulum only swings one way for just so long. At some point the pendulum swings the other way. 

I know I sound grim, but it takes a bit of drama to make a point these days. Senators are complaining that the Infrastructure and American Jobs bill costing 2.2 trillion is too expensive. Compare how spending 2 trillion feels to someone making $7.50 and hour and someone with 161 billion dollars. The billionaires can’t pitch in a little? They don’t want to lift up the entire nation to give them more consumers and a nicer country to live in? They are so focused on the deadbeats who will waste their dollars that they won’t help anyone? These wealthy folks won’t be able to live on their yachts forever, because they will burn too much carbon-producing fuel.

Senators also complain that most of the things the bill will provide stimulus for are not infrastructure items. They don’t seem to comprehend that child care helps women work and therefore helps the economy? They don’t think paying for in-home care in a nation booming with seniors will offer Americans good paying jobs and allow older people to stay in their homes? 

In their very narrow view, only things that require steel and concrete are infrastructure, and yet we have learned that steel and concrete, made the way we produce them now, are adding enormous amounts of excess carbon to the atmosphere, and fueling global warming. They don’t have to know this because they don’t believe in global warming or that excess carbon will kill the planet we live on. It is difficult to believe that people who can amass personal fortunes are this short-sighted. We are seeing signs that they are starting to come around on climate and they are changing the way they make things. So why would they object to helping out their country, which has been so good to them, after an unprecedented pandemic which could, if we are unable to find our way out economically, bring us to that apocalypse that seems so near these day? 

Billionaires, corporations, please tell Mitch McConnell to get his Senate pooches to pass the American Jobs Plan, and that you will be glad to pitch in by paying more taxes. The only thing Mitch listens to is money and you have almost all of it.

https://www.forbes.com/billionaires/

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