Sunday, May 8, 2011

But a billion isn't enough

Let's see, if you were really rich, as in having a billion dollars, what could you spend it on?

A Maybach Landaulet car (I hadn't heard of it either) can be yours for a cool million.

A stay at the Burj Al Arab in Dubai is under $30,000 a night. Stay 17 nights and you've spent just over a half million.

A big yacht could set you back $200 million.

A Gulfstream G550 private jet is only $40 million.

A private island (complete with castle) is for sale for $24.5 million.

A mansion can be had for a piddling $8 million.

It is possible to splurge on a really wonderful watch for $5 million.

Add up all that and the total is $279 million. From your initial billion you've got about $721 million left. That's plenty to pay for staff and upkeep and fatten your retirement account. One billion dollars is enough to really live it up. The really rich (the ones whose income has grown the most over the last few decades) have several billion. They don't pay taxes on it and their using their wealth to harm the rest of us.

Dave Johnson of Campaign for America's Future lists a few ways this extreme income disparity harms us.

People who would normally think of themselves as rich see those at the very top accumulating even more and think they aren't doing well at all. In an attempt to catch up they indulge in risky behavior. That leads to financial collapse (and one of those is enough, thank you).

Those who are at the top need to justify to themselves why they have so much when others have so little. They develop bizarre and cruel explanations, such as they are rich because they are morally better than the poor. Therefore they have a moral right to tell us how to live. Their mental health takes a hit.

The society begins to see that obtaining wealth is a lofty goal of its own.

The rich are using their wealth to buy Congress (several years ago I found out Congress could be bought for $27 million). And that purchase allows them to gut environmental protection, middle class institutions, and assistance to the poor. They become anti-democracy.

Gary Rivlin, in Newsweek, comments on several of the super rich -- Gates, Buffet, Zuckerberg and more -- offering to pay higher income taxes. It's an empty gesture. They don't pay much in income taxes. All their wealth comes through capital gains and that tax rate for that is quite low. And nobody has been talking about raising that tax rate.

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