The political rhetoric used by the left wing has taken a new approach. Both in the UK and the USA, parties have been making the case for increasing taxes on the rich because ‘monster’ billionaires and ‘crony capitalists’ are responsible for wealth inequality. It is personally an assumption I have never understood. Most notably, Cenk Uygur of The Young Turks, who’s now running for congress in California’s 25th district, campaigns on the very notion that lobbying from corporations is responsible wealth inequality in the USA. He himself suggests that republicans are ‘monsters’ for not backing the economic policy prescriptions of the progressive left and has frequently been bashed for his anti-business and anti-capitalist stances. Heading across the pond to the UK, we find that socialist Jeremy Corbyn has been saying very similar things on the campaign trail for the 2019 snap election next month.
So, why the sudden shift to hating on billionaires? The truth is, it makes a compelling emotional case. People love an underdog. Many people would hail Robin Hood a hero even though what he did was immoral. We live in a time where we supplement our power from victimhood. The more of a societal ‘victim’ we are, the more political leverage we can use to achieve ideological aims. Attacking billionaires is a good strategy on the part of the left wing because you can make billionaires the root cause of all financial inequality.
Checking the numbers
This is something I haven’t been able to get my head around. With a political focus attacking the rich, claiming they have not paid their fair share is statistically untrue. We always hear that the bottom 99% make as much money as the top 1%. So if the notion was true, we would surely see significantly less taxes paid by the 1% right? Not quite. Overall 25% of all of the governments taxes come from income tax. The top 10% pay 55% of the total income tax with 27% of the directly coming from the 1%.
Having established the tax issue, many still use the excuse that billionaires are all horrible and corrupt. I concede that political lobbying and ‘crony capitalism’ does happen as people are looking after their bottom lines by getting favours from government officials. But it is also these people that are responsible with providing people with jobs. The notion that Billionaire CEO’s trample on their staff to get the most profit is, more often than not, far from true. Capitalism works for both the consumer and the worker. Competition for the best employee talent requires competitive wages, negotiations and benefits.
Are Bill Gates and Elon Musk bad people? They have provided innovative goods and services that people want. To get those services to consumers, they have created tens of thousands of jobs provided a livelihood to them. They have been active players in a competitive market system that has provided cheaper, higher quality goods to the western world. I’m not convinced that vilifying billionaires is a correct or just strategy.
Is the solution to tax the billionaires and their corporations?
Those, like Corbyn, who are geared towards a socialist and collective way of thinking tend to agree that their shouldn’t be billionaires. “Who needs to be a billionaire?” they often say. For one, if you extortionately tax billionaires and corporations, they are the ones that have the luxury of leaving the country if they feel the going is getting tough. This shifts the tax burden onto the middle class. Secondly, where is the economic benchmark for being a crony capitalist arsehole? Is it the minute you accrue a billion you instantly become a corrupt individual? Last time i checked, Warren Buffet is an incredibly charitable bloke. Thirdly, is it really moral to attribute motive or actions to people and use to justify taking their money or decrediting them? Calling people Nazi’s, bigots, homophobes or crony capitalists will only mean when something bad happens to them, it’s simply justice. Using this as a springboard into a socialist society is unjust, immoral and incorrect.
Just to finish, how can we take the politicians that bring these claims to the forefront seriously? Jeremy Corbyn is worth $4 million which is double Boris Johnson’s net worth. Earning £162,000 a year is the benchmark to be in the 1% in the UK. Jeremy Corbyn is calling everyone else in his own wealth bracket corrupt and terrible bar himself, which is interesting in itself. But it is left leaning politicians that advocate the stealing of wealth when they themselves sit on a fat load of income having never created a job, started a business or contributed to the economic prosperity of anybody else’s life. Billionaires should not be the targets of abuse and they are not the root cause of society’s problems. Using it to push an immoral socialist agenda is just incorrect.