Are more zillionaires joining “renegade” rich guys like Nick Hanauer and Warren Buffett and recognizing the dangers posed by the current gap between the rich and the rest?
A recent article from the Guardian was titled “Patriotic millionaires want to pay more taxes.” Those millionaires didn’t mince words.
If you believe the prevailing philosophy of US conservative ideology, the handful of individuals in the 1% are entitled to every bit of their wealth and power because they deployed their capital wisely.
As businessmen in the 1%, living in a conservative state, we confront this philosophy every day, and frankly, we’re sick of it.
The Republican party’s embrace of the “I’ve-done-it-all-on-my-own” mentality is extraordinarily delusional, harmful, and counterproductive. Collective goods – like a sound infrastructure system, a strong K-12 and higher education systems, and rule of law – are critical ingredients to building both individual and societal economic prosperity.
The article’s authors have joined the Patriotic Millionaires, a group of wealthy Americans “from all walks of life across deep red, deep blue and purple states” who realize that the system that enabled their success, that created opportunity, is fundamentally broken. And they aren’t shy about placing the blame: they write that the system has been ” hijacked by the ultra-wealthy.”
But a substantive and sincere commitment to an evolved form of capitalism requires a few things. It requires us to confront the reality of the climate crisis as the existential threat of our time; and to acknowledge that we are a country founded on the toxic prejudice of white supremacy, which continues to unjustly shape the future of millions of Americans before they’re even born. We must separate money from politics, so that the influence of special interests doesn’t overpower the voices of voters; and shift our financial goals from short-term profits to long-term sustainability.
And it requires economically advantaged folks like us to not only pay our fair share, but also unequivocally commit to and support the policies that will achieve that reality – and to get all of our similarly situated friends and associates to do the same.
It isn’t just the ultra-rich who are (belatedly) recognizing the need for change. Another new group is Businesses for Single Payer.
Activist Wendell Potter has become president of Business for Medicare for All, the only national business organization working for single payer health insurance. This group of the economically pragmatic lends expertise and credibility to the cause of reform at a time when many, including some of those running for the Democratic presidential nomination, question the viability of single payer.
Potter spent twenty years in the health insurance industry, and left to become an outspoken critic of what he calls a broken, dysfunctional and unfair healthcare system. He points to surveys showing that people on Medicare are far more satisfied than people with private insurance, and says one reason is that private insurance has changed significantly over the years. Premiums have gone up while insurance companies have devised clever strategies to avoid paying for care.
In the linked article, Potter enumerates the reasons single-payer systems are superior to our patchwork approach. Most of us could recite those reasons in our sleep, but until now, the business sector has been noticeably absent from both the conversation and the criticism. Why the change?
About three years ago, I was approached by a business leader in the Lehigh Valley of Pennsylvania, Richard Master, who decided to make a documentary on the US healthcare system….
But he began to pay a lot of attention to healthcare costs. He’s got an MBA from Wharton and a law degree from Columbia so this guy’s really smart, has built a very successful business, but he was questioning the sanity of a system in which he has no control over his healthcare costs from year to year….
I knew what individuals and families were facing, but I hadn’t paid a lot of attention to what is happening to employers who are trying to stay in the game in our uniquely American, employer-based healthcare system. It’s abundantly clear that the system has run its course and is just not working for increasingly large numbers of employers.
Potter quotes Warren Buffett’s observation that “healthcare is the tapeworm that is destroying American competitiveness,” and goes on to say that more and more businesses are recognizing the need to change.
We’ve got several hundred employers who are part of our organization. Our goal is to have at least one business from every congressional district by this time next year. We’re growing pretty rapidly and we already have a voice in Washington.
Money talks, for good or ill. If people with money support higher tax rates and a more robust social safety net, Congress might actually listen.