Billionaires are pretty damn sure they know what’s best for you. No more taxes on the rich and none of that Medicare for All is what’s best for you, according to two billionaires toying with seeking the presidency.
Or, maybe, that’s what’s best for them.
One of those billionaires, former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, called Medicare for All un-American. Actually, what is un-American is the fact that America is the only first-world country that fails to provide universal health insurance.
Schultz and Michael Bloomberg, the other billionaire who thinks he should be president, revealed themselves as out-of-touch, private-jet-riding, multi-mansion-owning, gold-leaf-latte-sippers by condemning lawmakers who have proposed raising taxes on the nation’s most obscenely rich.
Bloomberg said, for example, “We need a healthy economy, and we shouldn’t be embarrassed about our system.”
No? It’s not embarrassing that 40 percent of Americans don’t have $400 for an emergency expense?It’s not humiliating that in the richest country in the world federal workers couldn’t afford their insulin during the government shutdown because their low pay forces them to live paycheck to paycheck? It causes no discomfort that 5 million Americans are stuck in part-time jobs when they need full-time ones to get by? Or that so many more are trapped in precarious or contract work without security or benefits, when they need — you know — security and benefits? It’s not shameful that the number of Americans without health insurance increased by 3.2 million in the first year of billionaire Donald Trump’s presidency?
Well, the Americans who are demeaned and degraded by our system, the D.C. cafeteria workers who make so little they live in cars, the people who can only dream of affording a $5 Schultz latte don’t need or want billionaires telling them how to run their lives or how to fix the system that has rendered so many so desperate. They’ve got their own ideas.
They want an American system that fulfills its promise of equality. Not equality of income. No one is demanding that. They want a democracy that provides them with equality as self-determining citizens. They want political equality. They don’t have that parity when they are financially desperate. They don’t have it when they are uninsured or covered by insurance so costly that they can’t afford to use it. They know they are not politically equal to a Schultz or Bloomberg or Trump who can buy themselves hordes of lobbyists to get what they want from Washington, can purchase even the presidency itself, and then, with that power, sustain a system that benefits the very rich at the expense of everyone else.
In recent weeks, several lawmakers have offered ideas to change the system for average Americans. U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren suggested a small tax on the wealth of those worth more than $50 million. U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez proposed taxing at 70 percent income above $10 million. Both of them, U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders and others support Medicare for All. Reducing health care costs for most Americans and increasing taxes on the uber-rich could help fund universal childcare, student debt relief and other programs to ease financial stress on the 99 percent. And that would free them to engage in political activism, to become marginally more politically equal.
These populist pitches to rein in rule by plutocrats left Bloomberg and Schultz gagging. Barely containing his condescension, $3.4 billionaire Schultz called Ocasio-Cortez “a bit misinformed” and her tax plan, “punitive,” as if a levy on ultra-millionaires that would be lower than the 91 percent charged in 1950 would be punitive, but pay so pathetic that full-time D.C. workers are reduced to homelessness is not.
Bloomberg said he knew of no country in the world with a wealth tax like the one Warren suggested. In fact, the number of nations charging such a tax has declined from 12 in 1990, as income and wealth inequality has risen worldwide, but there are still four, France, Norway, Spain and Switzerland.
Bloomberg just does not think the rich should be paying taxes. He said President Barack Obama’s proposal to raise taxes on the rich was “about as dumb a policy as I can think of.”
This is the guy who wants to tax the poor with a levy on soda pop. The $47 billionaire believes that poor people consume too many sugary drinks. He was going to “help” them keep weight off by making pop unaffordable. Rich guys like him can quaff as many $1,000 bottles of Chateau Lafite Rothschild 2009 as they want, with twice as many calories per cup as Cherry Dr. Pepper. But he was going to try to control the lives of poor people.
The rich got their way in December of 2017. At the behest of billionaire Donald Trump, Congress substantially cut taxes on the wealthy and on corporations. They promised that gift to the rich would trickle down on the rest and that corporations would take those big fat savings and invest them in American factories, research and hiring. And, they claimed, there’d be so much more economic activity that the tax cut would pay for itself.
None of it happened. Corporations didn’t invest. A quarterly poll by business economists released this week found the tax cut had almost no impact on investment or hiring. Instead, corporations spent the money on stock buybacks, a scheme that enriches already-wealthy CEOs and stockholders. Buybacks hit a record $1 trillion last year, nearly 50 percent more than the year before.
The Congressional Budget Office said this week that the tax cuts pushed the federal budget deficit up to $900 billion, that they didn’t come close to paying for themselves and that their stimulus effects would wane this year.
To close that budget deficit, Republicans in Congress and the billionaire in the Oval Office refuse to consider reinstating higher taxes on the rich and corporations. Instead, they’re talking about repealing the estate tax charged only to a tiny percent of the nation’s most wealthy and slashing the very programs that non-rich Americans cherish and depend on — Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.
All of this defies logic in a democracy. Nearly 80 percent of Americans want Social Security and Medicare expanded, not cut. At least 56 percent support Medicare for All, not cuts to federal health insurance programs for the poor and elderly. And the vast majority of non-rich people in this country are all for increasing taxes on fat cats. Even a recent poll by the conservative Fox News found that to be the case. It determined that by a 46 point margin, voters want to raises taxes on those earning more than $10 million. It was 70 percent in favor to a tiny 24 percent opposed.
But U.S. workers don’t get what they want. The rich determine which bitter pill to shove down the throats of the 99 percent. And billionaires like Schultz and Bloomberg believe they have the absolute right to prescribe that pill, political equality and self-determination be damned.