Abolish Billionaires?

There are about 2,200 billionaires in the world, about one-fourth of those are U.S. citizens.

Farhad Manjoo recently wrote an opinion piece in the New York Times that engendered more than 1,500 comments. Most simply, he argued, we should abolish billionaires through much higher taxes and related policies.

When it comes to billionaires, I’m of a mixed mind. On the one hand, given rising inequality, I’m surprised more people aren’t agitating against members of the three -comma club. Not just writing commentaries, but taking to the streets Occupy Wall Street style.

On the other hand, as the philosopher Peter Singer points out, some billionaires are giving away the bulk of their wealth to philanthropy. Bill Gates, in particular, plans to give away 99.6% of the cash money I paid him back in the day for successive versions of Microsoft Office.

Of course, as Manjoo points out, we have to analyze whether the billionaires’ charitable giving is having positive effects or not. Anand Giridharadas style. As Manjoo explains, Giridharadas argues that many billionaires approach philanthropy as a kind of branding exercise to maintain a system in which they get to keep their billions. Especially when they put their largess into politics.

“. . . whether it’s Howard Schultz or Michael Bloomberg or Sheldon Adelson, whether it’s for your team or the other — you should see the plan for what it is: an effort to gain some leverage over the political system, a scheme to short-circuit the revolution and blunt the advancing pitchforks.”

Gates might be an outlier, but his giving is so exemplary, I’m less inclined to order a pitchfork from that billionaire with the online superstore.

Gendered Bullshit

I knew what I was going to think about Jennifer Palmieri’s essay, “The Hidden Sexism Behind the Amy Klobuchar Reports” before I started it.

Yes, reports of Klobuchar’s egregious mistreatment of her staff are drawing more fire because she’s female, one person referred to it as “gendered bullshit”, but the remedy is to respond more quickly and effectively whenever men in power abuse their staffs. We should be gender-neutral when it comes to abuse of power.

Ah heck, may as well read it anyways.

I can’t recall doing a mental 180 in a shorter period of time. There’s no such thing as gender neutrality. Palmieri’s argument is this:

“. . . the problem is not that political journalists fail to report altogether on demanding and difficult men in politics. It’s that the reporting on such behavior is presented in a dramatically different fashion than it is in stories about female bosses in politics—as a badge of honor, not a mark of shame.”

I let that phrase, “badge of honor, not a mark of shame” sink in.

Palmieri’s just warming up y’all:

“It is not hard to think of tough male bosses in Washington. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York has a reputation for being demanding; you will find such stories chronicled in the press. The same holds for men in politics with whom I have worked. A Google search of “Bill Clinton” and “purple rage” yields a number of anecdotes about the private temper tantrums we in the Clinton press office would endure when preparing the president for White House news conferences. Profiles of my friend and former colleague Rahm Emanuel are littered with stories of his profanity in the office and warnings by his staff that anyone working for him needs to “develop a thick skin,” write off going to weddings or family vacations, and expect to be available “25/8.”

While the anecdotes about these men are not entirely flattering, they are presented as colorful asides meant to give dimension to the hard-charging zeal with which these individuals do their jobs. Stories about intimidating male bosses are typically not presented as disqualifying, but as evidence of these men as formidable leaders. These are men who should not be underestimated. These are men who should be respected.” (emphasis mine)

Hook firmly entrenched in mouth, Palmieri reels me in:

“Imagine if it was reported that a female politician was prone to bouts of “purple rage” or that she expected staff to skip weddings and family vacations, and be available to her “25/8.” She would not be admired for the hard-charging zeal she brought to the job. She would be seen as unhinged. She would not be considered a formidable leader.”

Damn. She’s right. And not in a subtle, nuanced way, but in a “Wow, I’m not nearly as enlightened as I like to think” kinda way. I’m guilty of the thought process she details, and when it comes to gender relations, I’m much less a Neanderthal than normal. Hence, the systemic nature of the double standard.

To resolve myself of my gendered bullshit, I once again am firmly in the Kobuchar 2020 camp. Or EWarren. Two formidable leaders, either of whom would represent a bit of an upgrade.

Postscript: Also worth reading.

How Not To Video-Conference

As explained in “Ready for Your Close-Up?” in the Chronicle of Higher Education, some institutions can’t afford to reimburse job applicants for travel to their campuses. So for initial interviews at least, they resort to video-conferencing. Queue some funny stories:

“You might think that today’s Ph.D.’s — many of whom have grown up with video as a part of online communication — are already masters of self-presentation on camera. Sadly, you would be wrong. Here are a few cautionary tales from some of the selection committees I have worked with:

  • One candidate allowed her hamster to run loose in her home. During her interview, it ran up the back of her shirt and popped out on her shoulder, next to her collar.

  • During one candidate’s interview, a floor lamp toppled, spraying glass shards. She was cut and bleeding on camera.

  • Another candidate chatted with a committee while sitting on her bed, propped up by ruffled pillows. (Fully dressed, but it was still a little disconcerting.)

  • Then there was the candidate who was seated in front of a firearms-training target that showed several bullet holes grouped around the heart and the center of the forehead.

  • A candidate with a large dog failed to secure said animal in another room, so it came bounding in and leapt onto her lap midinterview, knocking everything over — and howled loudly for the rest of the interview when finally forced to stay in the adjoining room.”

And don’t forget this viral one.

Most Americans Support Warren’s ‘Ultramillionare Tax’

The title of a FiveThirtyEight feature:

“Sixty-three percent of Americans believe ‘upper income people’ pay too little in taxes, according to a new survey from Morning Consult. The poll also found that 61 percent of Americans either “strongly” or “somewhat” favor 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren’s tax plan, which would levy a new tax on households with a net worth of $50 million or more.”

More generally:

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Fund those Roth IRAs friends, like the ocean surface, taxes are going to rise.

“Warren’s tax plan has been described as an “ultramillionare tax” that aims to make the rich pay taxes on accumulated wealth. It would place a 2 percent tax on households whose net worth exceeds $50 million and then an additional 1 percent (so 3 percent total) on those worth more than $1 billion. The plan has faced some criticism, including claims that it’s unconstitutional. Interestingly, however, the support for the plan appears to be somewhat bipartisan, according to the Morning Consult poll: 74 percent of Democrats and 50 percent of Republicans said they strongly or somewhat favor the proposal.”

However, as Paul Sullivan explains here, Warren’s proposal will be very difficult to implement. Just to be safe though, I’m going to do everything in my power to keep my net worth under $50m.

Semi-related. As those who know me even a little can attest, I’ve done a lot of stupid things in my 56 years, but I’ve never threatened the world’s richest person with legal action. That’s next-level stupid.

Weekend Assorted Links

1. The Way Out of Trump Country. Yes.

2. Attack of the Fanatical Centrists.  Three comma club variety (explicit vid).

“. . . Harris or Warren are portrayed as the second coming of Hugo Chávez, so that taking what is actually a conservative position can be represented as a brave defense of moderation.

But that’s not what is really happening, and the rest of us have no obligation to indulge centrist delusions.”

3. What’s It’s Like to Deliver Packages for Amazon.

4. How tax brackets actually work. Double dog dare anyone to provide a clearer explanation.

5. A Beginner’s Guide to Getting Into Podcasts. In case you’re late to the party.