Depending on your point of view, wacko rabblerousers in Oakland, Calif., are rampaging around causing mischief, or, police officers with taped-over name badges are attacking peaceful protesters with rubber bullets and making up stories of mayhem to justify the attacks.
Or, it could be that both versions of reality are true, or that neither is.
Similarly, one day, I emerged from a subway station to find annoying protesters chanting loudly, right in front of my neighborhood farmer’s market, about how I should hate the richest 1% with a passion, while I was trying to buy my humble tomatoes and broccoli. And, at the same time, about 200 police officers with noticeable guns and noticeable, giant batons who looked as if they were just dying to crack those annoying protesters on the head.
On the one hand, in a cartoon, where cracks on the head don’t really hurt, I can understand why some might want to respond to the protesters in a less than polite fashion.
On the other hand, in the real world, cracks on the head with batons do hurt, and some of those annoying protesters were friends and neighbors, and the children of the farmer’s market vendors were running around the protesters and heavily armed police officers playing tag.
I’ve also received a well-written, free op-end written by a regular guy, out of the goodness of heart, who thinks that people should stop beating up on billionaires, noting that most billionaires started out without much money.
Well, sure. I love billionaires, especially when they hire LifeHealthPro.com readers to handle their finances, or if they hire me to, say, sit around a pool and look decorative.
But the truth is that many billionaires are billionaires, at least in part, because of all sorts of government-granted monopolies, government contracts, and other types of government intervention.
Bill Gates, for example, is a billionaire partly because he’s a smart guy who was in the right place at the right time. But he’s also a billionaire partly because of government patent and copyright laws, government contracts with IBM, and the many different government contracts and research projects that helped give rise to the modern computer industry.
Similarly, Buffett is a billionaire partly because of his own drive and talent, but also partly because of the tax provisions that have helped the insurance and investment fund industries over the years and partly because of government-imposed barriers to entry in the insurance industry.
Gates, Buffett and many other billionaires also have benefited greatly from the fact that the United States has been a country with a huge, voracious middle class.
Gates is rich because ordinary Americans started buying computers.
Buffett is rich because ordinary Americans have been able to afford to buy cars, car insurance, disability insurance, furniture, and the many other products and services provided by the businesses in his company’s portfolio.
Life and health insurers generally depend heavily on the existence of a large middle class. The countries in Africa and South America that have a few very rich people, massive slums, and just a few people in the middle class have historically been lousy markets for life and health insurance.
My personal experience is that actual rich people understand all of this much better than the Occupy the Known Universe protesters. The Occupy Everything protesters just know that they’re angry; rich people often know what a “Gini coefficient” is.
Most of the rich people I know have no philosophical objection to the idea that they ought to pay their fair share of the cost of keeping the country going. If they object to paying more taxes, or want to pay lower taxes, the reason seems to be more a question of whether the government is spending the money on the right things or spending the money, not because they enjoy seeing middle-income people sink into desperate poverty.
Even Ron Paul is just talking about holding U.S. Department of Health and Human Services spending steady at $69 billion per year, not immediately zeroing it out.