When Cordelia Mellon Scaife was born in 1928 she was the world’s “richest baby”. Her grand-uncle, the industrialist-turned-U.S. treasury secretary Andrew Mellon, spent his lifetime squeezing workers and fighting to cut rich people’s taxes. But Mellon’s impact on American life didn’t end with his 1937 death. His heir Richard Mellon Scaife — Cordelia’s brother — spent his inheritance bankrolling the right-wing organizations that funded the Reagan pushback against the New Deal.
Cordelia, the New York Times revealed last month, made an equally destructive impact. She quietly became the nation’s single largest donor to anti-immigrant ideologues, bankrolling the. founding and operation of the nation’s three largest anti-migrant groups.” Her life’s goal: keep the United States from “being invaded on all fronts” by immigrants who “breed like hamsters.” Before her 2005 death, Cordelia Mellon Scaife May exhorted her foundation’s board “to exercise the courage of their convictions” once she departed. Thanks to the Mellon dynastic fortune, that foundation now holds assets worth half a billion, and continues to oppose immigration, particularly from Latin America. And this in a country built by immigrants for immigrants.
One could argue that Epicurus had nothing against people being successful and making money, but he would expect them to do good with it, as well as living comfortably; that is, help those poorer than were and pay a rate of taxation that underpinned a fair and thriving community. He would also expect them to be decent and caring employers. The current capitalist system is based on the idea that if a person is born poor he or she can, with hard work and a good idea, become rich. This is true of a tiny fraction of the population, and the odds against it are growing, unremarked, year by year. One day Americans will realise that the system is loaded against them. How long will it then last?