By JT Haines, December 22, 2014
Peggy Noonan’s “The Most Memorable Words of 2013” in today’s Wall Street Journal is is pretty incredible. Check it out:
- “The most arresting words heard this year? A billionaire of New York, in conversation: ‘I hate it when the market goes up. Every time I hear the stock market went up I know the guillotines are coming closer.’ This was interesting in part because the speaker has a lot of money in the market. But he meant it. He is self-made, broadly accomplished, a thinker on politics, and for a moment he was sharing the innards of his mind. His biggest concern is the great and growing distance between the economically successful and those who have not or cannot begin to climb. The division has become too extreme, too dramatic, and static. He fears it will eventually tear the country apart and give rise to policies that are bitter and punishing, not helpful and broadening.”
Fair enough, and not a bad start actually. I’m glad to hear that billionaires of New York are concerned about the appalling and anti-democratic wealth gap in this country – whatever the underlying motive may be. Interesting anecdote, at minimum.
The “analysis,” however, is worthy of a group hug. Take it away, Peggy:
- “This year I came to understand, at meetings and symposia, that this has become an ongoing preoccupation of the wealthy. They are not oblivious, they are concerned. And though they give away hundreds of millions of dollars to charities, schools and scholarships, they don’t know what can be done to turn the overall economic picture around. Globalization isn’t leaving, industrial manufacturing isn’t coming back as it was, technology will continue to give jobs to the educated, and the ever-evolving mischief of men and markets won’t change. They are worried. They are right to be. They are trying to think it through, trying to find any realistic solutions, and words.”
Whatever do we do? I mean, we gave a bunch of tax-deductible money to our alma maters. We went to symposia. We’re trying to think it through! What do you want from us?
As many have continually noted for anyone paying attention, there are plenty of ideas laying around for addressing this very issue, and have been for decades. Stuff to try is not the problem. Willingness to try the stuff is — particularly for the billionaires who don’t want to pay taxes while they exploit public resources for their own gain at the planet’s peril, i.e., the people for whom Peggy seems to feel the need to apologize.
If Peggy really wants to help, she doesn’t have to know what the possibilities are, or even understand them. We have lots of awesome people for that. (If you want to know who I think are awesome people, I’ve listed some of my favs here. I’m sure you have your own list.) Peggy could start by getting over her own ridiculous and self-satisfied attitude that the powerful are simply powerless in the face of having too much money compared to other people.