Friday, November 01, 2013

The billionaire sport of accumulating wealth

I remember what I learned in high school about the American Indians - you know - the poor people who were living here first? I remember the stories of how we decimated their populations, took their land and gave them little bitty reservations with casinos to make reparations for our crimes. Yeah, those people.

One thing that I remember about the American Indians is how they didn't let anything go to waste with their killed game. They didn't kill animals for sport. They did it to feed their families. They respected the abundance they lived in and honored their game before the slaughter of same. They only used what they needed.

Most of us, the 99%, work for a living. I'd say that the bottom 80% really have to work for a living. They need that paycheck to feed their families, pay the bills, pay for the hospital bills and send their kids to higher education. If they're really lucky, they can save money, you know, for a contingency fund.

For most of us, if we could take 3 weeks vacation a year, we would. I don't know anyone who gets 3 weeks vacation a year - paid. In Germany they get 6 weeks paid vacation. Dad can stay home for a couple months after his baby is born and not worry about losing his job. Most of us here, we worry about not having a job when we return from Hawaii. Why should we have to worry?

Because the One Percent don't just want us to feel grateful that we have a job working for them. They want us to make them feel like they have leisure time that no one else has. If they really wanted to create jobs, they would create work sharing programs so that more people are doing something useful with a shorter workweek while making roughly the same amount of money. That is what they did in Germany and it worked great. But we're not doing that because it doesn't make the One Percent feel better than everyone else.

The wealthy think we're jealous. Maybe. But what if they want us to be jealous? What if that is how they get their rise in the morning? There's a famous study done back in 1998 that shows that when asked most people would prefer to make $50k a year knowing that everyone else was only making $25k rather than making $100k while everyone else makes $200k. I think that's what this whole inequality thing is about.

It's not that billionaires need more more money. Once they figured out how to do it, it became a game to them. Then they talk with their friends and they play "top this" with each other in the sauna at the club. And so it escalates to the point where the object is to make more money, no matter what the cost to others. It's not about the money, it's about being in the exclusive club, the exclusive car, the exclusive circles that gather at the posh car shows on the coast of California, or jetting to France for that fashion show. All while everyone else is working. Hard.

But if you don't believe me, ask Bill Gross, the head of PIMCO, one of the most successful investment funds around. He's coming clean about the excessive pursuit of wealth at the expense of all of us - at the expense of labor. He's even criticizing his peers (OK, he doesn't have very many of them - that's important) and chiding them for continuing the farce that they call "managing the economy".

At some point enough is enough. We went past that point on September 30th, 2008.
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