The Billionaires Club and Occupy Wall Street: Strange Bedfellows
As progressives nationwide jump on board the Occupy Wall Street bandwagon, I visited the San Antonio "Occupy Wall Street" Facebook page to see what was going on in Texas. One of their commenters had posted a list of "11 Things the Wealthiest Americans Could Buy for the U.S." MoveOn.org has a copy of the same poster as seen here.
The list was produced by United for a Fair Economy (UFE). One of their main projects is called "Responsible Wealth," co-founded in 1997 by Bill "Planned Parenthood" Gates, Sr. They are self described as "advocates for economic justice" with "membership (is) open to those in the top five percent of U.S. income earners and asset holders..." The page also quoted Bill Gates, Sr.:
American society has made it possible for [wealthy] individuals to have an elegant life, first class education, and virtually unlimited options about where to go and what to do. Society does have a just claim on these fortunes, and it goes by the name of the Estate Tax.
You may remember some of the big players involved at the time, as they proudly shared the headlines of the day in their April 2001 newsletter:
The Philadelphia Inquirer called it “The Shot Heard ‘Round the Country Club.” The Los Angeles Times front page headline proclaimed “Drive to Kill Estate Tax Loses Steam.” Every major news organization reported the news: Bill Gates, Sr., George Soros, and several members of the Rockefeller family had joined with Responsible Wealth members in issuing a public “Call to Preserve the Estate Tax.”
Needless to say, Warren Buffett is part of the Responsible Wealth/UFE as well, along with the aforementioned Soros and Rockefellers.
Gates, Sr. and co-founder Chuck Collins spoke with PBS' Bill Moyers about their movement in 2001:
"There's a campaign to restore the inheritance tax. And it's being led, believe it or not, by some of the country's richest people including Bill Gates, Sr., the patriarch of the Gates family who heads the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and Chuck Collins, an heir to the Oscar Meyer fortune who founded the organization called Responsible Wealth."
COLLINS: "We believe that people who accumulate great wealth also have been lucky, have had the benefit of growing up and living in the United States, and have benefited from this enormous public investment.
One of our leaders in Responsible Wealth was standing next to President Clinton when he vetoed the repeal of the estate tax and he said, look, I grew up in New York City, I went to public schools and public libraries and museums. Someone else paid for those.
I went to a college; someone else paid for that. I went into the technology field, a whole infrastructure that had been built with public investment that someone else had paid for. I started a company and I hired professional people who had been trained through a subsidized education system. And I made $40 million. And you're telling me society doesn't have a claim on my wealth? You know... "
Wow, that sounds exactly like the philosophy of Elizabeth Warren. What are the odds?
"I hear all this, you know, ‘Well, this is class warfare, this is whatever. No. There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own — nobody.
“You built a factory out there? Good for you. But I want to be clear. You moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for. You hired workers the rest of us paid to educate. You were safe in your factory because of police-forces and fire-forces that the rest of us paid for. You didn’t have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory — and hire someone to protect against this — because of the work the rest of us did.
“Now look, you built a factory and it turned into something terrific, or a great idea. God bless — keep a big hunk of it. But part of the underlying social contract is, you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along.”
Of course, they both fail to point out that the wealthiest Americans also paid much more in taxes to construct those roads and pay those teachers, but little details like that just spoil the argument, don't they? But certainly, people of their stature would surely be aware of that. Could they possibly have something else in mind besides helping the little people? This interesting exchange between Moyers and Gates, Sr. helps clarify how it would work:
GATES: "You earned it" is really a matter of "you earned it with the indispensable help of your government."
MOYERS: But isn't it true that wealth helps create wealth? I mean, some rich people do very good things with their money. Andrew Carnegie built all of those libraries. I served on the board of the Rockefeller Foundation, they're helping to nurture the Green revolution. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation crusading for public health around the world. I mean, would you be able to do that if your money were confiscated by the government?
GATES: Well, as you know, Bill, that choice is available to everyone. We're not arguing about something that would change that whatsoever. The charitable gifts will be still be a deduction in computing estate taxes. So a wealthy person has an absolute choice as to whether they pay the tax or whether they give their wealth to their university or their church or their foundation.
Ohhh....a foundation. Like the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation? Or Open Society? Doesn't that enable you to avoid paying taxes while manipulating society with your progressive grants to support every global cause that you have deemed correct for society? Wouldn't that cut back on the amount of money you would pay in tax after all? Something's wrong with this picture.
Finally, back to the Responsible Wealth page. Coincidentally, it links at the bottom to Occupy Wall Street; what it is and how you can join. In addition to all of the other progressives promoting a revolution, it looks like the Billionaires Club is on board just as they always are. Some of the protesters out there might find it curious that the fat cats they are protesting appear to be the same people motivating the entire movement. Strange bedfellows, indeed.