All One Percenters Are Not Created Equal

Photo by Maria Oswalt on Unsplash

Wealth and income inequality keeps making headlines these days while COVID plays whack-a-mole with republican-lead states that try reopening their economies, bars, beaches and schools. With so many things causing economic and social upheaval, it’s no wonder people want a scapegoat. For many it’s Trump. For others it’s capitalism. For a lot of middle America and the poor, it’s rich people.

Nick Hanauer was right. Five years ago he predicted that the pitchforks would come out if the one percent didn’t do something about obscene inequalities between the haves and have nots. Combined with BLM’s emphasis on unequal treatment under the law, more and more, the rich and their paid henchmen, the police, are under fire from all angles.

But while many like doing so, we must use discretion when tarring and feathering the rich with our ire.  “Billionaires shouldn’t exist”, “Rich people are evil”, and worse “eat the rich” paint too broad a brush. The rich are human beings. They got rich for all kinds of reasons. Besides, I seriously doubt any poor person would reject receiving $5 million if offered that amount.

So it’s hypocritical to lambast the rich when many in the lambasting masses would be more than ok becoming rich themselves.

There’s nothing wrong with being rich.

More important, there’s as much diversity among the rich as anyplace else. If we’re willing to look, we will see rich people doing what they can to solve problems plaguing our society.

What they’re doing may not be what you’d do, but that invalidates nothing: their action still contributes and, given the wealth and acumen these people have, their influence and impacts are likely more effective than your complaining. Some examples:

  • Abigail Disney: Her activism is well known if you’re paying attention. Her The Daphne Foundation in  New York City funds anti-poverty programs. In 2008, she launched Peace is Loud, a nonprofit organization supporting building cultures built on peace around the world and in 2012, she renounced her share of the profits from the Disney family investment in a West Bank settlement-based cosmetics firm arguing “I cannot in good conscience profit from what is technically the ‘plunder’ or ‘pillage’ of occupied natural resources.” Laws governing investing prevented her from removing her investment stake, so she donated the investments and profits “to organizations working to end this illegal exploitation.” Finally, she is part of the group The Patriotic Millionaires a group of wealthy people who support hiking taxes on the rich. At the 2020 World Economic Forum in Davos the organization sent a clear message to the rich that tax reform was needed.
  • Bill Gates: Despite growing speculation and theories surrounding him, it’s fair to say Gates has done a lot to influence the world’s societies towards the better. He has given large amounts of money to charitable organizations and scientific research programs through the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which itself is said to be largest private charity on the planet. In 2009, Gates and Warren Buffett founded The Giving Pledge, whereby they and other billionaires pledge to give at least half of their wealth to philanthropy.
  • Elon Musk: His personality quirks aside, Musk has done more to move humanity into the future than arguably anyone. He dedicated himself and his wealth to transforming the auto industry, arguably one of the largest contributors of greenhouse emissions, and is succeeding. He is widely acknowledged as moving the auto industry into the electric automobile age. He has said his goals and intents of his three main companies – SpaceX, Tesla, and SolarCity – revolve around his vision to “change the world and help humanity”. His goals include reducing global warming through sustainable energy production and consumption, and lessening the risk of human extinction by establishing a human colony on Mars.
  • George Soros: Worth about $8 billion, Soros uses his wealth and influence behind the scenes to create more open societies. A major supporter of progressive and liberal political causes, Soros donates through his foundation, the Open Society Foundations billions of dollars to various causes. From 1979 to 2011, he donated more than $11 billion and by 2017 he donated $12 billion to support “civil initiatives to reduce poverty and increase transparency, and on scholarships and universities around the world”. He’s regarded as influencing the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe in the late 1980s and early 1990s and his significant political funding has made him an enemy of the right.

These people can’t make sweeping changes that will create something like Copiosis. They don’t see the world through that lens. But they are doing things that are changing society and their results are obvious unless you refuse to acknowledge them.

The fact is, everyone does their part from where they stand. You may want them to do more, but that’s no more your place than it is for some billionaire telling you what you should or shouldn’t do.

None of us are the same. We all have our ideas. We all have our plans, desires and visions. We all do our part. Each part makes the whole that is humanity. Humanity includes a diverse and influential group of rich people who like the rest of us, think and act different, thereby contributing to life on Earth.

Yes, there are billionaires out there doing shitty things. Focusing on them, as the rest of us tend to do, makes it impossible to acknowledge the great things other billionaires are doing to make life on earth good.


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