The Rich Are Different: They’re Richer Than Us And Far Greedier – OpEd


F. Scott Fitzgerald is famously said to have once remarked to his pal Ernest Hemingway, “The rich are different from you and me, Ernest,” to which Hemingway is said to have replied, “Yes, they have more money.”

Fitzgerald had it right. Particularly these days, when the wealthiest people in the US are not millionaires, or even people worth hundreds of millions of dollars, but rather are billionaires, with some, like Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk and Warren Buffett having total assets in excess of $100 billion, the rich are not just quantitatively but qualitatively different.

There are 664 Americans today who are billionaires (that’s 1000 times $1 million in assets). That number is 50 people, or families, higher than it was a year ago.

Remember that those 50 people joined the billionaires’ club during the current pandemic crisis when US unemployment was at record levels, 700,000 people were dying of Covid. countless small and mid-sized businesses were folding because of the pandemic, and the nation as a whole was suffering mightily. Over that same fraught period, the wealth of all US billionaires actually grew by $1.3 trilion (a trillion is a thousand billion).

Who are these people?  They live separately from the rest of us in palatial mansions, fly around the globe at a whim in their own private jets, adding perhaps 1000 times the global warming carbon to the atmosphere of the average American —  perhaps massively more than that.  Worse yet, most of them treat their working-class employees (the people actually creating their weals) like shit. Look at Jeff Bezos, until a recent surge in the value of Tesla stock, and his wife’s divorce in which she got half his assets,  stock the world’s richest man:  He expects his stressed and overworked Amazon delivery drivers to relieve themselves in the backs of their trucks in bottles, so he doesn’t have to pay them to slow deliveries by driving to a public restroom and take the time to park the van, lock it, and go inside a building before getting back on the job again. For that matter, look at Musk, who’s company just lost a racial harassment suit by to a black elevator operator at his Fremont Tesla Plant who was awarded $137 million in damages because of how for years he had to endure facial taunts from othe employees and supervisors without the company doing anything to stop it.

This is not unusual. The nation’s corporate elite consider their employees to be “labor costs” or “labor inputs” in their economic planning, not human beings to whom they, the owners and bosses, owe a huge debt of gratitude for diligently producing the surplus value that has so enriched them and company shareholders to such obscene levels.

Now, as the current Biden Administration considers a trivial increase in the income tax rate on the wealthy — raising it from a current 37% on marginal income over $454, 000 for a single person or over $509,000 (more than half a million a year!) for a married couple, to 39.6%, we see how incomprehensibly greedy these heartless and egocentric scum are.

Oh, the horror!  One tax advisor to the rich says that $400,000 is not a lot of money to many of his clients, who have high expenses (like big mortgages for oversized mansions on large acreage in toney neighborhoods), but the truth is that for the truly rich, every extra dollar they can hang on to is important.

An article in the Wall Street Journal reports on Oct. 3, under the remarkable headline “Democrats’ Tax Plans Worry High-Income Business Owners,” explains, high-income business owners are concerned that they’ll be hurt by the proposed increase in their taxes, as well as the businesses that have made them stinking rich.

Just by way of example, the raising of the top rate by 2.6 percentage points means that a family that was making $800,000 a year, would have $297,000 of that princely sum taxed at 39.6% instead of last year’s 37%, and would end up socked with an additional $5200 in income tax.

Does anyone, poor, middle income or rich really think that amount of extra tax for a family making $800,000 in a year is something to whine about or even think about?

It’s ludicrous!

The same thing applies to the Biden plan’s raising of the capital gains tax. Biden is proposing eliminating the biggest tax giveaway to the rich — the ability to take their income as “capital gains” which are taxes at 20%, close to the lowest income tax rate, even if they are making so much money they would be paying 37% on their earnings if it was in wages like the rest of us (or 39.6% under the new proposal. Instead, no matter how rich they are, they have been getting away with paying 20%.  The argument for this outrageous and longstanding loophole is that it is supposed to encourage business owners and shareholders to make productive capital investments in their companies or to support such investments in the companies in which they hold voting shares. In fact, sleight-of-hands accounting tricks are used to simply raise stock values, which are then worth significantly more and that, when sold, enrich the seller who is then taxed at just 20%, the same rate paid on extra income by someone earning $40,000 who gets a raise or overtime, and ends up having the extra income taxed at 22%!

Yes, the rich are different from you and me. They simply don’t think they should be taxed.

Grumbling about taxes is as American as the Boston Tea Party, which was actually a tax revolt by colonists who didn’t want to pay taxes on imported goods. But what the rich are doing isn’t just grumbling about paying the taxes. They’re pouring money into the campaigns of Republican and right-wing Democrats who promise to kill tax raises on them, or even yo lower their taxes further.

What’s mind-boggling is that so many millions of ordinary struggling Americans for whom just putting food on the table, making the rent payment, or trying to save up the down payment on a modest home, is an almost unmeetable challenge, continue to support candidates who are backing low taxes for the wealthy and the obscenely wealthy, including even greedy pigs like Bezos, Musk and their billionaire ilk, while making average Jane’s and Joe’s pay the country’s bills.

All you need to do to realize what is happening is look at how the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour has not been raised since 2009, while the dollar has lost 24% of its value over that span of time. All you need to do is see that Congress has used stealth in the form of a deliberately inaccurate consumer price index to reduce the value of Social Security benefits by 30% over the past 20 years without never actually cutting them. The impact has been even worse because Congress has never adjusted up the income level at which Social Security first gets taxed. This means that over the decades more and more poor elders have ended up seeing a portion of their Social Security benefit checks subjected to the income tax. Few people are left who remember that until 1983, Social Security benefits were tax-free, as the whole purpose of that money was to help the elderly to survive.

Such crimes against ordinary Americans only happen because the public is kept in ignorance or is led astray by extraneous issues of much less importance.

It’s time for the American public to wake up! There is a class war raging, one that’s being fought by the ruling class of billionaires and millionaires against the rest of us. And the rich are winning!  They’re winning because they know where their interest lies:  in getting richer and hanging onto their ill-gotten gains. And they’re winning too because our side is sleep-walking, lulled by the diversions of entertainment media, the fundamentalist religion of the free market, and non-economic dog-whistle issues like abortion, immigration, crime, Covid vaccines and terrorism.

Dave Lindorff

Dave Lindorff is a Philadelphia-based journalist and columnist. He is a founding member of ThisCantBeHappening!, an online newspaper collective. Lindorff is a contributor to "Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion" (AK Press) and the author the author of “The Case for Impeachment” (St. Martin’s Press). He can be reached at [email protected]

3 thoughts on “The Rich Are Different: They’re Richer Than Us And Far Greedier – OpEd

  • October 9, 2021 at 6:24 am

    Well Dave, I appreciate your opinion but I am one of those high earning American workers who’s taxes will go up. As a business owner I prefer to decide how to spend the hard earned dollars I make and not the politicians of our government. So to me any tax increase is no good because how it is spent. But I am also a white collar worker who is paid nearly the same as I was in 1995. So I also understand the issue with the ever declining value of our wages. But taxing workers and billionaires will not solve the problem. You could take all the money the billionaires have and divide amongst all of our population and in a couple years it would be gone without solving a thing. The issue in my opinion is the America is no longer the greatest nation on earth. (Ref jeff daniels you tube). It once was but since the 80s we are in rapid decline. It’s corruption from the lowest levels in government to the highest office and I don’t care what party. It has inflitatrade everything. And like cancer keeps spreading , so by promoting class warfare as your article does all you are doing is making matters worse. So let’s take one aspect you talk about and that is the general population was unemployed in 2020 yet billionaires made huge dollars. Well the general population was also getting 1000 dollars a week from the government plus they didnt have to pay rent and instead of investing their gains what dId they do with the money? They bought things to the point where inflation has gone wild. They like anyone else could have doubled the money they invested. As for me I worked double the hours and invested. I worked double the hours because the other workers wanted to stay home. Elon musk works over a hundred hours a week and has invested every dime he had in his ventures which 10 plus years later have finally paid off. I highly doubt he promoted what happened with the elevator man or even knew that happened. Yet the rhetoric your article promotes drove the lawsuit to be worth a 100 plus million dollars and you don’t think that is excessive? Or maybe why didn’t we reward the relatives of the criminals bonnie and clyde when they we finally gunned down. We need to acknowledge that America has a problem and class and race warfare is not the solution.

  • October 9, 2021 at 7:33 am

    This reads like a marketing piece… strategic and without actual passion (ironically). The world is more complicated than the black and white narrative painted here. This is just an aimless complaint about powerful, corrupted people, as if removing them somehow brings a more benevolent force?

    See this peice for the cog in the machine it is.

  • October 9, 2021 at 10:16 am

    Dave pass the the Crack pipe would ya. The downfall of America is not because the Ruch don’t pay enough taxes. It’s the fact that everyone is not paying taxes. Too many people have limited skin in the game and thus continue to elect those that give them more “free” stuff. I am not rich by any stretch and have worked for 40+ years but managed to live in an expensive area of the country put my kids through school and fund some of my retirement. I stress not over increasing the taxes on the rich but on the money wasted by our government. Too many people on the government payroll and not enough people doing real work. How about a flat tax so the pain is equal and everyone is contributing at the same rate.


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