Inequality in the United States

According to the Guardian Weekly (November 11th) the world’s 1,542 billionaires increased their wealth this year by 17% to $6tn, a return impossible to get on most stock markets and rather a distance from the average interest income of 0.35% offered normal people by normal banks. The IMF has told western governments to increase taxes on the top 1% to reduce the dangerous levels of inequality. Keep trying!

At the beginning of the last century the railroad, oil, steel and banking robber barons were brought to heel by a Republican President Theodore Roosevelt. The chances of a real leader emerging today to do something similar look bleak. The more sensitive of the super-rich 1% are apparently getting anxious about blow-back from beleaguered taxpayers, fed up with the farce. They (some of them) are trying to disperse some of the money by buying art and making it accessible to the hoi poloi (72 of the top collectors of art are billionaires), and buying sports teams (140 of the top sports teams are owned by 109 billionaires). Billionaires also own the US National Basketball Association and the National Football League, and British soccer clubs are not only full of foreign players but most of the top clubs seem to be owned by foreign billionaires. Welcome to the 21st Century, where little British is owned by Britons.

Am I being too negative when I say that patronising art galleries and owning soccer clubs doesn’t quite do the trick. I would rather they paid a 40% tax per annum (that means every year!) and help improve schools, healthcare and other good causes. Because, of course, their clever accountants, helped by sleazy “banks” in Caribbean islands, Cyprus, Jersey etc make sure the huge incomes are tax free. If moderation is the key word in Epicureanism, then no follower of Epicurus can support the current situation. It is unhealthy for society.