Hey, Bernie! Billionaires are NOT the problem!
The subject of wealth inequality came up during a recent conversation with some friends, and as I contemplated the subject, a funny thought came to my mind. So of course I had to share it. I cheerfully offered that, “I look forward to the day when we have our first trillionaires.” Admittedly, this could be a ways off. But then again, I’m old enough to remember when millionaires were considered to be really wealthy. Now they’re what? Upper middle class? And that, in a nutshell, is why I sincerely think that it is a wonderful thing that America has hundreds of billionaires and literally millions of millionaires. Make America great again? You gotta be kidding me!
Of course, my friends were a little taken aback by my celebratory attitude toward the trillionaire concept. “I don’t know. That might not be such a great thing.” But why would they react in that way (as I think most people would)? I think it is because we have been taught that wealth inequality is necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes it is, such as in Russia, where a small group of shrewd insiders took advantage of the chaotic post-communist era reforms to set themselves up as oligarchs. I would concede that this sort of opportunism was widespread during America’s westward expansion. But is that a fair description of today’s uber-wealthy? I don’t think so.
Peruse the list of America’s richest individuals, and what do you discover? You see Bill Gates and Paul Allen, who started a company 41 years ago that has grown far beyond the initial vision of a computer on every desk. Even if you are a Microsoft hater, you have to concede that this company has transformed business computing to an almost mind-boggling degree. In the process, they literally spawned 10,000 new millionaires and became a source of widespread prosperity for the entire Puget Sound economy. The point that should be too obvious for anyone to miss is that this wealth literally did not exist prior to 1975. Bill Gates didn’t steal wealth from the static, fictional pie inside Bernie Sander’s head. He helped to launch an enterprise that has generated prosperity to the benefit of millions of people. And what is he doing with all of that wealth? I’m glad you asked. Ever heard of a little organization called the Gates Foundation? It’s pretty hard to hate.
Let’s continue down the list of billionaires. You know. Those people whose hatred Bernie Sanders welcomes. You will discover Warren Buffett, who has taught sound principles of investment to those who will listen. And oh, by the way, he’s also giving most of his wealth away. You’ll find Larry Ellison of Oracle fame. It’s only a company whose database software powers the business systems of the world’s largest corporations. Let’s don’t forget the Walton family, which has helped to drive down retail prices for the masses. Are you an Amazon Prime subscriber? Then you surely can’t hate Jeff Bezos. And who doesn’t enjoy Mars candy? Yup. Another (multiple) billionaire success story. I could go on and on.
I know what some of you may be thinking. “Surely you’ll admit that this kind of success is beyond the reach of all but the elite.” I admit no such thing. Granted, there is a substantial degree of luck involved when someone really hits the business jackpot. But it’s not the kind of good fortune that falls upon those who sit around stirring up class warfare. It falls upon those who boldly pursue a vision, because they see the world as being full of untapped potential. And the benefits spill over onto millions of people who prepare themselves to join the parade; even onto those who are lucky enough to live along the parade route.
I grew up in a little piece of hickville known as Puget Island, Washington. It was (and is) a beautiful place to grow up, but it was not exactly a bastion of great wealth. I won’t bore you with my nostalgic memories, but I want to point out one interesting fact about this place. One of my classmates went on from humble, Puget Island beginnings to become a senior executive with a Fortune 500 company. Her finances are not my business, but I’ve heard enough to conclude with some confidence that her family’s net worth is easily over a million dollars. And her success has definitely been the result of hard work, wise stewardship and personal integrity. I don’t offer this example to suggest that financial success is the measure of personal worth. Of course not. The point is that America is an utterly fantastic nation, and we should never be ashamed of our prosperity.
So Bernie, I just want to say it again. BILLIONAIRES ARE NOT THE PROBLEM! I apologize for shouting, but you shout most of the time, so I figure you might be hard of hearing. And to tell you the truth, when I hear you share your delusional, divisive ideology, I come to the inescapable conclusion that you are extremely hard of understanding. America doesn’t need your zero-sum, Robin Hood nonsense. The future belongs to those who recognize that the 21st century is filled with enough economic potential to make the Microsoft Corporation look like a little hole-in-the-wall business. It belongs to those who remain hopeful and maintain a plus-sum, forward looking perspective.
Ready for a New American Century? (Sorry. I couldn’t resist.)