Sunday, September 21, 2008

Shame on America Sunday: $18 bucks a second.

I hope that all of the people who decry me as a socialist are frantically writing to any elected officials they can, and saying For God's sake, I am opposed to socialism of the type that I decry when The Trouble With Roy espouses it, so please, Mr. Government Official, do not in any way interfere in the marketplace by, for example, bailing out Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and AIG. I'm willing to let all my insurance premiums be for naught because I'm opposed to socialism!

All the "you're nothing but a socialist" types, you're doing that, right? Or are you NOT, because you think government intervention in the marketplace is okay when you want them to do that? If so, then line up with the people who tell me It's their money and that I shouldn't tell people what to do with their money ... yes, yes, over under the sign that reads "Hypocrites."

If you're going to disagree with me about what I write, in Shame On America Sunday or anything else, you should at least make sure you're being consistent. Don't say "It's their money, they can do what they want with it" unless you are also intending to say "it's okay to buy and sell human beings," because if it's their money to do what they want with, then there are no limits. That's what you're saying. if, on the other hand, there are limits, then I'm free to say that those limits should include not wearing a $313,000 outfit and you can't respond that it's their money because we agree that there's limits.

I bring those two points up in advance because I'm going to hear a lot of that today as we look at people who have more money than the law should allow them to have.

The Forbes 400 list came out this week; the big story about that was that for the first time ever, if you have only $1 billion, you are not among the 400 richest people in America.

Only $1 billion. There are 400 people who have more than One billion dollars. That's one of the main stories about the list. There were a lot of stories, but that was one that got the most attention.

A lot of attention was paid to this list, and I followed that attention, and not once did I hear anyone even remotely approach the notion that it is disgusting, it is contemptible, for people to have that much money.

It is contemptible, moreover, regardless of how much the greedy rich person gives to charity.

I'm comfortable saying that, and here's why: Just as there can be limits on how much money you spend on something, there should also be a limit on how much money you need in a lifetime.

Now all the hackles just went up again, as people get ready to tell me You can't just take away their money and they give a lot to charity.

I can, though, just take away their money. Well, I can't. But politicians can, and they should do so. They should do so for the same reason they already do so -- they should take away the money because the greedy billionaires do not need it, and other people do.

The government already takes the money it figures you do not need, and gives it to the people and institutions it thinks do need that money; that's what taxes are. People, too, take money that they do not need, and give it to institutions and people that do need it; that's called charity.

The government should take away most of the Forbes 400's money, and give it to people who need it.

It should do that even though those people may already pay a lot in taxes and may give a lot to charity. They have more than they will ever need, more than they should have, and it does not matter how much they give to charity; it's greedy of them to keep the amounts they have.

The Forbes 400 multibillionaires, regardless of how much they give to charity, are hoarding wealth, hoarding wealth and using it for selfish purposes -- and doing so when it cannot possibly gain them any more in terms of luxury, comfort, or material gains.

In other words, they're keeping money they will never have any need for and cannot use now -- while keeping that money from people who could use it. That's why I say they're greedy, and that's why the government should take it away from them, as much as the government can.

And, as I said, I don't care how much they give to charity. They still have too much. Most people will disagree with that, but I'm right. People will think they can't have too much because it's money. But they can have too much, because they have more than they could ever use and are keeping it from those who could use it. Keeping something that you have no need for, keeping it and keeping others from using it, is greedy and selfish and hoarding.

Let me give you an analogy. Suppose I'm talking about food. Suppose I stockpile enough food in a warehouse for me to eat for my entire lifetime; food enough that I would never be hungry, even if I lived to be 150 years old.

At that point, I don't need more food, do I? I don't need more food stockpiled.

But suppose that I'm the nervous type. Suppose I say what if my needs change, and I suddenly require double the calories each day? Or what if my first food supply gets nuked? So I decide to be safe. I stockpile enough food for three lifetimes, in different locations.

At that point, I don't need more food, do I? Shouldn't I quit stockpiling food?

If I keep stockpiling food, despite having enough for three lifetimes, then that is only justifiable if everyone else everywhere has enough food, too -- because otherwise, I've got three lifetimes worth of food that I will never eat, while people are starving.

Suppose, then, that I keep my three lifetimes worth of food, and keep stockpiling more -- but now I take 1/2 of all the new food I gather up, and give that away. So after a few years, I've given away a lifetime's worth of food, but I have four lifetimes worth of food stockpiled, and there are still people starving.

What do you think of me now? Is it right that I have four lifetimes' worth of food, food I'll never ever eat, while people starve? Is it right even though I gave away a whole lifetime worth of food?

Of course it's not.

That's why it's wrong that the people on the Forbes 400 list have that much money. That's why it's greedy and selfish of them. That's why our country should not countenance that. I'm not against people being rich -- even though nobody anywhere needs to earn more than $200,000 per adult in their household-- but I am against people hoarding resources (money is a resource) and using resources foolishly while others go without.

Let's take the top person on the list. Bill Gates is worth $59 billion dollars. I'm not sure that anyone can really take in the scope of $59 billion dollars, and writing it like that doesn't help.

Here's $59 billion dollars in numeric form: $59,000,000,000. Looks like a lot more there, doesn't it?

Here's how $59 billion dollars measures out over a human lifespan. If a person lives to be 100, he or she could spend $589,999,900 every year he was alive, and still die with $10,000 leftover to cover funeral expenses.

That $589,999,900 per year breaks down like this: That selfish billionaire could spend $1,616,438.08 per day, each and every day of his life from the moment he's born until the day he dies -- and still have $10,000 left over.

That person -- Bill Gates -- could spent $67,351.58 per hour of his existence, living to be 100, and still have $10,000 left over. That's $1,122.52 per minute, with money left over.

$18 per second. That's what $59 billion is, over 100 years of existence, a person with $59 billion can spend $18 per second; $18 per heartbeat... and never run out of money.

In other words, Bill Gates cannot spend all of his money. If he set about trying to do just that... short of giving it away... Bill Gates could not spend all of his money -- and if he even came close, he would either be vastly overpaying for the things he bought, or he would simply be accumulating wealth and things he does not need and should not be allowed to own (like private islands -- which I'll get to someday, but not today)

I don't mean to pick on Bill Gates alone; his hoarding of $59 million is the tops on the list of the Forbes 400, but by no means the only example of a rich, greedy person withholding resources from people when he himself cannot use those resources.

The top 10 people on that list of people who should be ashamed of themselves, and who should hope that the population of the U.S. doesn't listen to me and realize that they could simply vote to take away that money, have together a net worth of $271.2 billion. In numeric notation, that's:


That's just the top 10. The entire list of 400 is worth $1.54 trillion; and again, it looks less evil to write it that way, so I'll write it out numerically:


Supposing-- just supposing, that each greedy billionaire on the list were to simply give away all of their assets except $1 billion. Suppose they gave it all away, but each of those 400 people kept $1 billion for themselves.

That would leave each billionaire with $1,000,000,000. Is that enough to live on? Again, do the math. If you lived 100 years and had $1,000,000,000, you could spend $10,000,000 per year, or $27,397 per day, each and every day of your life.

I think they'd make do. I think a billion dollars would manage to help them muddle through.

Doing that -- having them give it away, or taking it from them, would keep $400 billion in the ranks of the Forbes 400, but would free up ... $1,140,000,000,000.

Over 100 years, the money that would be taken from them would allow the US to spend $11,400,000,000 per year.

Assuming that we didn't invest that money and get some interest, of course. I wonder how much better a place to live the US would be with an additional $11 billion dollars per year for schools and social programs and roads?

Bill Gates has net worth of $59 billion dollars; reducing that to $1 billion dollars would not in any way change his lifestyle, but would help countless people in the United States achieve something a little more than they thought they could. It could, for example, help someone pay for, say, a kidney transplant.

That's what Jay Menhennet III is trying to do. Jay is getting his second kidney transplant, from a kidney donated by his sister. Jay's body rejected the first one; he's struggled all his life with diabetes and has had part of his right leg amputated.

A kidney transplant costs $250,000 (So Bill Gates could buy himself 236,000 kidney transplants! Or he could buy himself a new kidney every four hours for the next 100 years!), and there are additional costs beyond that, costs that are not always covered by insurance. The medications cost $2,000-$5,000 per month (so the average selfish billionaire on the list could use about 3 minutes' worth of his money to pay for a month's worth of medications!)

Jay, and his family and his friends don't have $59 billion dollars. They can't spend $18 per second every second of their lives for a 100 years. Because of that, they have to find a different way to pay for a kidney for Jay. They are trying to raise money to defray those costs; they're having a pasta dinner pretty soon, and they're asking people to pay $6 per ticket (or 1/3 of a second worth of Bill Gates' existence; Bill Gates could treat 9 billion of his friends and have money left over!) to try to help cover the costs, and they've also set up a fund to help, and they've listed him on the website for the National Foundation for Transplants.

They have to rely on donations, you know. Donations for money and time and even for an organ. But luckily for Jay, not everyone is like the Forbes 400; not everyone takes resources that are precious and keeps them from other who need them. There are, instead, people like Jay's sister, who realized that she only needs one kidney, so she's giving Jay her other one. Even one of Jay's nieces offered her kidney.

Total number of kidneys offered by the Forbes 400 to help Jay? Zero. Total number of kidneys offered by people who can't spend $18 per second? Three.

But, then, hoarders don't give up anything valuable, do they? So we can't expect that the Forbes 400, who are so intent on keeping resources they could never need or use in their lifetime, to give up anything they've hoarded.

Lucky for Jay, he's not relying on the goodness of the Forbes 400; he's relying on people like me and you. We may not have $18 bucks a second, but we do have some spare kidneys, and we do like pasta.

You can donate money to Jay -- it's a tax deduction just like the selfish billionaires get -- by sending it to: NFT Ohio Kidney Fund, 5350 Poplar Ave., Suite 430, Memphis, Tenn. 38119.

Read more about Jay by clicking this link

The Fix: The highest marginal level of income tax should be raised to 60% of annual income over $1 million dollars; there should be a federal property tax leveled on property and assets held above $1 million dollars. Those, plus the remedies I advised to keep celebrities from owning 160 cars, would help.

What You Can Do Until The Fix Is Done: (1) Make sure your license okays you to be re an organ donor -- you certainly can't use them after you're dead, and (2) make a contribution to The National Foundation For Transplants to help someone like Jay afford the basic necessities of life (Yes, I'm counting "a functioning kidney" as a basic necessity of life; if that makes me a socialist, I'm okay with that) until such time as voters get their act together and start voting for politicians who understand that it's okay to tax the rich because the rich will have more than enough left over, and (3) voters, get your act together and start voting for politicians who understand that it's okay to tax the rich because the rich will have more than enough left over-- and demand that they do so!

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