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Billionaires help have nots get what haves have

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By Doug Gardner
Columnist

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Talk of income inequality is in the air this fall.

The gap between haves and have nots is said to the biggest ever.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts, favors a 70 percent income tax and a 1-3 percent wealth tax on top of that.Sen. Bernie Sanders, D-Vermont, wants an 8 percent wealth tax at the very top.

“Billionaires should not exist,” declares America’s 21st century Robespierre. With over a year left before the election, Sanders still has time to add the guillotine to his platform. “Off with their heads!”

I’m glad that Sen. Sanders is back on the campaign trail again after his cardiac incident. He had a couple stents put in his clogged arteries, allowing him quickly to resume his criticism of billionaires. Those stents likely were developed and produced by Abbott Labs, whose founder, Dr. Wallace C. Abbott, made his family billionaires.

You’re welcome, Bernie.

Too many Americans believe that medical miracles like this, plus products, services and conveniences that make our lives better, have always been here and automatically will continue, regardless of tax policies and the regulatory regime. Pro-growth tax rates and light regulation, combined with the invisible hand of the free market, go a long way to assuring our American lifestyle. They have a fragile shelf life.

Your life may not have been saved by a billionaire, but chances are it is made better by one.

Perhaps you saw Netflix’s production, “Inside Bill’s Brain,” a docu-series of William Henry Gates, one of the world’s wealthiest men. Gates earned his first billion at Microsoft before he was 30, putting a personal computer on anyone’s desk who wanted one. An estimated 12,000 of his employees are Microsoft millionaires. By his mid-forties, Gates “retired” with his billions to run the Gates Foundation with wife, Melinda. Teaming with Rotary International, they have almost wiped out polio on the planet.

Gates has other teams developing inexpensive, scalable sanitation and water systems aimed at eliminating the scourge of diarrhea. He’s even designed a meltdown-free nuclear power plant to replace the 1960s-70s models in operation today.

Gates has been replaced recently at the top of the world wealth heap by Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon. Bezos got rich enabling you to buy anything you want, whenever you want it from home and have it delivered there, free. Sen. Sanders proposes to tax Bezos $9 billion annually on top of regular income taxes, all the better to halve his wealth in 15 years, according to Sanders’ platform.

The vulgar billionaire who occupies the White House is labeled a racist, among other epithets. Isn’t it a strange kind of racism that would drive black unemployment to its lowest level ever during Donald Trump’s first three years in office?

Charles Schwab, who made his billions bringing inexpensive Wall Street services to average American investors, just announced commission-free stock trades. You can now trade like a 19th century robber baron for nothing.

Closer to home, Diana and I have developed the cruise bug. Earlier this year I chatted with a young fellow working out in the ship’s gym, assuming, incorrectly, that he was an off-duty crewman. Not at all. He was a forklift driver for Walmart in one of the company’s Pennsylvania warehouses! Didn’t he know that the billionaire heirs of Sam Walton have their boots on his proletarian neck?

Mickey Arison, the billionaire entrepreneur whose family founded Carnival Cruise Lines, is preparing to launch next year the Carnival Mardi Gras with the first roller coaster at sea. Mardi Gras will be 80,000 deadweight tons of Philistine pleasure for the huddled masses. It is one of more than 100 ships in the Carnival fleet. Passengers on the Titanic could not dream of the amenities Arison has packed on this boat at prices accessible to the hoi polloi.

If you’ve flown on a U.S. airline lately, you’ve noticed that they are full of ordinary Americans, jetting to and fro across the fruited plain and to exotic foreign locales.

Drive around our poor, Tier 1 community and tally the number of nail salons (19 in the city limits). Was a time when manicures and pedicures were a perk of the wealthy. Today you’ll see schoolteachers and state employees, truck drivers and farmers getting their hands and toes tended to.

Many of these salons are operated by immigrant families from Asia and South America. They aren’t billionaires, or even millionaires. But they were attracted to our town by the promise that they could succeed like no place else on the planet.

Let’s keep it that way.

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