From Rich to Richer
Forbes Magazine likes to herald its reports on the wealthiest Americans as demonstrating the realization of the American dream: that one can go from rags to riches. For Forbes, the Horatio Alger story is the true story of America.
But careful identification of how Forbes' centi-millionaires and billionaires attained their wealth tells a different account of the plebeian origins of the richest Americans. Half of those on the Forbes 400 list started their economic careers by inheriting businesses or substantial wealth. Of these, most inherited sufficient wealth to put them immediately into Forbes' heaven. Only three out of ten on the Forbes list can be regarded as self-starters whose parents did not have great wealth or own a business with more than a few employees.
The data, then, do not support the assumption that the United States is a true meritocracy where the most able rise to their rightful positions. Nor do they defend the contention that the United States is structured so that authentic equality of opportunity prevails. Inheritances undermine the achievement-reward equation.
In 1995, it took only $340 million to break into to the Forbes 400. In 1996, the hurdle was raised to $400 million. By 1997, it was $475 million. The net worth of the wealthiest of the wealthy is increasing much faster than that of the rest of us.
Underlying Forbes' and others call for dramatically lowering taxes on the wealthy and decreasing or eliminating taxation of capital gains is the belief that we need wealthy people so that they can save, become entrepreneurs and provide jobs for the rest of us who are not as wise, energetic or risk-taking as they are. What proportion of the Forbes 400 established successful companies? Perhaps a quarter. We lack data on employment and other benefits of these enterprises.
Rather than concocting fables about our supposed "opportunity society," the editors of Forbes really ought to be examining the starting-gate advantages that the bulk of the Forbes 400 enjoyed. And while they're at it, perhaps they could delve into a few other questions: Exactly how does the great wealth of a very few benefit ordinary people? Do great concentrations of wealth block out opportunities for others to innovate? Do the consumption patterns of the wealthy distort the values and ambitions of many others? Are materialism and commercialism promoted by the display of enormous wealth? Is the power of big money corrupting political democracy?
In video recordings of conversations, rich people are more likely to appear distracted, checking cell phones, doodling, avoiding eye contact, while low-income people make eye contact and nod their heads more frequently signaling engagement.
Liberals show tremendous compassion in pushing for generous government spending to help the neediest people at home and abroad. Yet when it comes to individual contributions to charitable causes, liberals are cheapskates...
Conservatives also appear to be more generous than liberals in nonfinancial ways. People in red states are considerably more likely to volunteer for good causes, and conservatives give blood more often. If liberals and moderates gave blood as often as conservatives, Mr. Brooks said, the American blood supply would increase by 45 percent.
storybored: I can only conclude from the empathy shown in this thread that......we must all be rich
filthy light thief: You know of Kobe beef, right? The rich are the Kobe beef of people: treated well, and not subjected to the same conditions that make other people tough to chew
In these experiments, class was determined either by educational level or by self-reported perceptions of family socioeconomic status.
The paper ... recounts three experiments conducted among students and employees of a large (unidentified) public university, some of whom had graduated from college and others who had not.
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