(Photo: ario_)First introduced here, the #NoBillionaires Campaign just received its biggest boost yet: harsh criticism from Fox so-called News, the network owned by billionaire Rupert Murdoch.
Last week, Murdoch employee Greta Van Susteren and the Weekly Standard’s Steve Hayes (a magazine that got its start thanks to a generous grant from billionaire Rupert Murdoch) feigned outrage over the campaign, devoting six minutes of television to trashing the idea.
“I usually try to be respectful of people who have different views, but there is no way to respectful of that,” Hayes said. “It is a completely idiotic argument that has no basis in economic theory… We have 425 billionaires in the United States…if you confiscated all of their wealth…it would do nothing to solve our long-term fiscal problem.”
To begin with, the No Billionaires Campaign isn’t about reducing the deficit. We don’t have a debt crisis in America, we have a demand crisis. Which is why we also have an unemployment crisis. Average working people don’t have enough money to spend, so goods and services aren’t in demand, and therefore businesses aren’t hiring any new employees to make things because nobody can afford to buy them.
The No Billionaires Campaign address this demand crisis head on – instead of trying to go after the phony debt crisis. The campaign meant to redistribute wealth from those at the very top, who can’t possibly spend all the billions they’re hoarding, to working people whose new disposable income, when spent, will power the economy and generate wealth for everyone.
As billionaire Nick Hanauer has repeatedly said, “There can never be enough super-rich Americans to power a great economy.”
Though billionaires have millions of times more wealth than average Americans, they do not buy millions more groceries, or shoes, or cars. Simply put, the 400 richest American billionaires just don’t have the purchasing power of hundreds of millions of working-class Americans with a solid middle-class income.
That’s why it’s a lie to call billionaires “job creators.” Working people spending money is what creates jobs, not rich people, whether their billions are sitting in Cayman Island bank accounts or in the stock of Microsoft.
Hayes and Van Susteren then dismissed the campaign as “not serious” and a “radio shtick.”
Perhaps that’s wishful thinking on their part. Imagine if the American people did finally wake up and recognize billionaires for what they really are: parasites on our economic body? But it is a serious campaign. And it’s a campaign that was seriously pondered by our Founding Fathers.
Thomas Jefferson explicitly suggested that if individuals became so rich that their wealth could influence or challenge government, then their wealth should be decreased upon their death. In a letter to Joseph Milligan on April 6, 1816, He wrote, “If the overgrown wealth of an individual be deemed dangerous to the State, the best corrective is the law of equal inheritance to all in equal degree…”
Also in 1816, Jefferson wrote a letter to Samuel Kerchival explicitly laying out the dangers of an entrenched aristocracy, as today’s billionaire class has now become. Jefferson wrote, “Those seeking profits, were they given total freedom, would not be the ones to trust to keep government pure and our rights secure. Indeed, it has always been those seeking wealth who were the source of corruption in government. No other depositories of power have ever yet been found, which did not end in converting to their own profit the earnings of those committed to their charge.”
And no, Greta, that wasn’t Jefferson’s “radio shtick.”
Nor was it Ben Franklin’s “radio shtick” in 1783 when he wrote about how the “we the people” have a right – the obligation – to confiscate excess wealth and property from others, since most of that wealth was created by “we the people” in the first place.
He continues, “All the Property that is necessary to a Man, for the Conservation of the Individual and the Propagation of the Species, is his natural Right, which none can justly deprive him of: But all Property superfluous to such purposes is the Property of the Publick, who, by their Laws, have created it, and who may therefore by other Laws dispose of it, whenever the Welfare of the Publick shall demand such Disposition.”
Franklin then turns his attention to those, like Van Susteren and Hayes, who work for billionaires and, thus, are outraged by this idea. He writes, “He that does not like civil Society on these Terms, let him retire and live among Savages. He can have no right to the benefits of Society, who will not pay his Club towards the Support of it.”
So in this emerging battle over the No Billionaires Campaign, the employees of billionaires Rupert Murdoch have staked out their position – and it’s on the opposite side of our most celebrated Founding Fathers.
But the two billionaire-lackeys went on.
“It’s not like they’re sitting around eating chocolates and watching money and doing nothing and counting their money,” Van Susteren said, “A lot of the billionaires are taking their billions and doing fine things around the world.”
Hayes agreed, “Whether they are doing it for charity or reinvesting in their own company, developing new technologies, and employing more people – all of that is doing some good.”
Actually, no. As economist David Cay Johnston recently uncovered, the billionaires of Corporate America have made a calculated decision to not re-invest their money in new technology or new workers. Currently, American companies are sitting on more than $5 trillion in cash, hoarding it like mentally ill people hoard newspapers or cats.
And when they do decide to spend it, more often than not they’re spending it overseas to hire foreign workers and open up foreign factories. The Wall Street Journal reported that, over the last decade, America’s biggest corporations – headed up by America’s wealthiest billionaires – have fired nearly 3 million Americans from their workforces, while hiring more than 2 million new workers overseas.
And what exactly are Van Susteren’s and Hayes’s responses to those billionaires who are choosing to fire their workers or at least reduce their hours rather than comply with the new Obamacare mandate to provide health insurance for these same workers?
And what are their responses to the enormous gulf that’s developed between worker productivity and workers’ wages in America? As a direct result of the billionaires’ greed, Corporate America has pocketed virtually all the increased profits from their workers’ increased productivity.
The typical hourly wage for an American worker increased just $1.23 over the last 36 years, after accounting for inflation. Meanwhile, the top 1% has seen their incomes increase by 275% since Reagan’s election. Today, workers’ wages as a percentage of GDP are at an all-time low. Yet, corporate profits as a percentage of GDP are at an all-time high.
So this idea that our economy rests on the shoulders of benevolent billionaires is a total fabrication. To the shock of Ayn Rand and the employees of billionaire Rupert Murdoch, if the billionaires one day finally shrugged and left town…nothing would happen.
Finally, Hayes tried to justify the enormous wealth inequality between billionaires and working Americans by saying, “One of the great things about the country is that the people who find themselves in the lowest income quintiles are more likely to be in an upper income quintile ten years down the road…but we don’t hear those stories told nearly as much.”
In reality, the rise of the billionaires and the wealth inequality they’ve wrought has destroyed this once “great thing about the country” that’s called “economic and social mobility.”
As the New York Times reports, “At least five large studies in recent years have found the United States to be less mobile than comparable nations.”
The Pew Research Center found that 2/3 of Americans born in the top quintile stayed in at least the top two quintiles. Also, more than 2/3 of American born in the bottom quintile stayed in at least the bottom two quintiles.
And as researchers Kate Pickett and Richard Wilkinson have proven with their groundbreaking work at the Equality Trust in the UK, there are direct correlations between high wealth inequality and low social mobility. Which the United States now has, thanks to the billionaires who’ve fattened their own wallets at the expense of their workers, their community, and their nation.
So it’s really no big surprise that commentators at Fox so-called News are outraged by our No Billionaires Campaign. After all, their paychecks – like everyone else’s at Fox News – depend on towing the line for their billionaire boss and his billionaire buddies.
But it is interesting that Corporate America’s favorite news network hates the idea so much. It means we must be on the right track. Join the #NoBillionaires Campaign at www.nobillionaires.com.