The Forbes 400 Conversation: Reshaping and Reforming Society into One that Prioritizes People over Profit
Billionaires [The #Forbes400], and now possibly a trillionaire [#JeffBezos / #Amazon] 💰💵 🏦, are the byproduct of a system designed for those at the top to survive and thrive, while those at the bottom are relegated to some movement within their socioeconomic lane. Before I address Jeff Bezos / Amazon directly, let’s set the stage.
We live in a culture of a lack of accountability from the highest office in the land, all the way down to average person on the street. Whether it be cops, criminals, corporations, the compassionately-challenged, the complicit, or the complacent, a lack of accountability is pervasive throughout our institutions and culture. Instead of focusing on the what, more often the why is more enlightening and shines the light upon solutions to problems.
More disturbing than the Forbes 400 is tracing the money trail of the major banks and who owns them. That conversation leads to a group of entities far smaller than the Forbes 400, but that’s another conversation.
So why are there 400 billionaires in America? At first glance, 67% of the billionaires inherited their wealth. So, like with the royalty of kings and queens, accumulated mass wealth is primarily generational and has been handed down through the family lines. Let’s table that for the moment. Let’s look at the people and companies who have recently acquired their wealth within the last 100 years.
There are 400 billionaires because we live in a system that was designed to use the people at the bottom to continuously support the people at, or who can get to, the top. The system is not broken. It’s doing what it’s designed to do which is to maintain the status quo. Culturally and systemically, our society still embraces servitude: financial servitude, systemic servitude, criminal servitude, social servitude, etc. We live in a systemic pyramid structure socioeconomically designed for the people on the bottom to support the people at the top.
We our told that the person on the bottom does not have skills in the marketplace beyond a meager wage and that they need to work harder to acquire marketplace value. However, a reasonable opportunity for all to acquire said marketplace value does not exist. More importantly, during the first US surge of the coronavirus pandemic, citizens who allegedly inhabitanted a role of minimal marketplace value, were suddenly boosted to a premium essential status, without premium essential pay.
America’s greatest asset is its people; however, the people are not the priority in our culture and institutions. One of the myriad ways that allows companies to increase their profits is through servitude and unreasonably low wages. Make the minimum wage $25/hr with a mandatory yearly raise that must match the rate of inflation at a minimum.
If you don’t have conservatively a 2% — 3% raise each year, you’ve been getting a pay cut. Because the Federal Reserve inflates the amount of currency in circulation based upon the same ephemeral backing of the value of the US government, the value of the buying power of your dollar decreases by conservatively 2% — 3% every year.
Because we live in a servitude society that embraces a lack of accountability, some will balk at the idea of a $25/hr minimum wage [helping small, emerging, and startup businesses are addressed in my 25-Point Plan to Reform and Reshape Society], because many businesses, large and small, are designed to exceed, based upon unfair wages. Raising the minimum wage this high is a shift in thought and culture.
In our servitude and lack of accountability culture, many companies are not even observing the existing labor codes and are rife with violations. Shifting away from the acceptance of servitude, we need shorter work days, shorter work weeks, longer paid maternity, paternity, sick, and vacation leave, as well as stricter labor codes that prioritize people over profit first.
This is going to sound very big brother, but as we have a culture of servitude and a lack of accountability, we’ll need a robust system of regular investigators to ensure companies are not abusing new labor codes, in addition to creating a system of anonymous whistle blowers, protected under law, whom it would be illegal to terminate, demote, or retaliate in any way against them.
Pensions are a thing of the past, and if a company has a 401K plan, most company contributions are insignificant and some do not provide company stock options. Require public companies to give all of its workers company stock. When the company profits, the people will profit.
The tax code changes every year and is full of loopholes. Creative corporations hire the best tax experts to help them lobby for and exploit these loopholes. Because of these loopholes, some corporations get away with low to no taxes. Post 2008 economic collapse, I read an article where GE not only did not pay any taxes but also got a huge rebate payout for taking advantage of kickbacks for investing in renewable energy. We need something more along the lines of a constitutional amendment barring income tax, then move to either a national sales tax or a flat tax with no loopholes.
If you are very wealthy, you can live primarily off of your investments, and have creative corporate structures whereby your salary is essentially $0 and the corporation pays for all of your needs and wants, which would mean your effective tax is $0. A national sales tax on any type of transaction will effectively collect tax dollars wherever money is spent.
Back to the 67% of the Forbes 400 who inherited their wealth. There is an estate tax, but because of loopholes in the tax code, the tax upon the transfer of wealth varies greatly. If we move to a flat tax without loopholes, that same tax rate without loopholes should apply to the estate tax. Alternatively, with a national sales tax, whenever an inherited dollar is spent, tax comes out.
Bringing the conversation full circle, in a societal and systemic restructuring between people and profits, we can create a system that includes a $25/hr minimum wage, stricter pro people labor codes and enforcement, mandatory company stock options, and a national sales tax or flat tax, among other things, that prioritizes people over profit, instead of maintaining or sprinkling a few more members amongst the billionaire class.
There will probably always be billionaires, but a system designed to prioritize people over profits will allow the person at the bottom of the food chain a realistic opportunity to profit when the company profits, and make it less more likely for an exploitative system to create trillionaires [Jeff Bezos / Amazon]. The sum of all I have written is part of the answer to why we have a billionaire class, and what I have presented are contributions for a discussion to reshape and reform society, in such a way that we can rise above the day-to-day struggles of life today on the planet, and one day grow into an evolved society who can collectively reach for the sky and live amongst the stars.
Christopher C. Odom