Saturday, September 29, 2012

"The 'Self-Made' Hallucination of America's Rich"

"The 'Self-Made' Hallucination of America's Rich"
by Sam Pizzigati

"Let's cut Mitt Romney some slack. Not every off-the-cuff comment he made at that now infamous, secretly taped $50,000-a-plate fundraiser in Boca Raton reveals an utterly shocking personal failing. Take, for instance, Mitt's remark that he has "inherited nothing." A variety of commentators have jumped on Romney for that. They've pointed out that Mitt, the son of a wealthy CEO, has enjoyed plenty of privilege — everything from an elite private school education to a rolodex full of rich family friends he could tap to start up his business career. On top of that, the struggling young Mitt had $1 million worth of stock his father threw his way to tide him over until the big paydays started arriving.

Not quite "nothing." But there's no reason to pick on Mitt either. Most deep pockets, not just Mitt, consider themselves "self-made." The best evidence of this predilection to claim "self-made" status? The annual September release of the Forbes magazine list of the 400 richest Americans.

Each year Forbes celebrates the billionaires who populate its 400 list as paragons of get-up-and-go. The latest list, according to Forbes itself, "instills confidence that the American dream is still very much alive." Of America's current 400 richest, says the magazine, 70 percent "made their fortunes entirely from scratch."

Forbes made the same observation last year, too, and most news outlets took that claim at face value. But United for a Fair Economy did not. The Boston-based group's analysts took the time to investigate the actual backgrounds of last year's Forbes 400. They released their findings on the same day Forbes released the new 2012 list. The basic conclusion from these findings: Forbes is spinning "a misleading tale of what it takes to become wealthy in America." Most of the Forbes 400, like Mitt, have benefitted from a level of privilege unknown to the vast majority of Americans. As commentator Jim Hightower has colorfully put it, most of our super rich were born on third base and think they hit a triple.

United for a Fair Economy extends this baseball analogy in its new Forbes 400 analysis. UFE defines as "born in the batter's box" those Forbes 400 rich who hail from poor to middle-class circumstances. Some had nothing growing up. Others had parents who ran small businesses. About 95 percent of Americans, overall, currently live in these "batter's box" situations. Just over a third, 35 percent, of the Forbes 400 come from these backgrounds. Just over 3 percent of the Forbes 400, United for a Fair Economy found, have left no good paper trail on their economic backgrounds. Of the over 60 percent remaining, all grew up in substantial privilege.

Those "born on first base" — in upper-class families, with inheritances up to $1 million — make up 22 percent of the 400. On "second base," from households wealthy enough to generate inheritances over $1 million, UFE found another 11.5 percent. On "third base," with inherited wealth of more than $50 million, sits 7 percent of America's 400 richest. Last but not least, is the "born on home plate" crowd. These high-rollers, 21.25 percent of the total Forbes list, all inherited enough to "earn" their Forbes 400 status.

Forbes, the United for a Fair Economy researchers sum up, has glamorized the myth of the "self-made man" and minimized "the many other factors that enable wealth," including tax breaks and other government policies that help the really rich get ever richer.

The narrative of wealth and achievement that Forbes is pushing, the new UFE study adds, "ignores the other side of the coin — namely, that the opportunity to build wealth is not equally or broadly shared in contemporary society." And many of those who do have that opportunity — like the mega millionaires in Boca Raton who applauded Mitt Romney's bogus assertion that he "inherited nothing" — see absolutely no reason to turn that coin over.”

1 comment:

  1. Trickle-Down economics? Let’s be blunt - and honest.
    You want to know what "Trickle-down economics" REALLY is?
    Trickle-Down Economics is -excuse my language- nothing but
    the fuckin' super-rich PISSING on the rest of us.
    And laughing all the way to their offshore banks.
    Trickle-Down, Trick-Em economics is now, and always has been:
    Crumbs for us -  Cadillacs , car elevators, ten houses
    loopholes & lower taxes for them. That is ...if they pay ANY taxes at all.
    Romney smirks and says TO HELL
    with “47% of America” -- the “losers” and “parasites”
    that he so easily dismisses and disrespects as “dependents”
    -- all of us are struggling to stay afloat, all of us still in the
     middle-class, and all of us hoping to get there. 
    Prince Mitt wants to be King. He doesn’t have enough. He wants it all.
    But did the Big Flipper even MENTION the words
    "worker" or "veteran" in his Republican convention speech?
    This man Romney is SO out of touch ...that it's incredible.
    He abandons the elderly, the students, the hungry, the homeless,
    the helpless, and the hopeless  ...and all the biblical “least of these”.
    Love thy neighbor?  Come on Mitt, let’s be honest:
    YOUR saints are those who have the most money
    ..... those who want to BUY this ELECTION - and this COUNTRY
    ......and TO HELL with the rest of us.
    Bottom line: When THEY get a break - hey, they deserve it. 
    But if WE get a break, it’s a handout. BULLSHIT!
    Tell me - who are the REAL “takers”?  Who are the REAL “makers”? 
    Who are the TRUE workers and builders? Who are the REAL “victims” here? 
    And who’s in the Cayman Islands, trying to avoid taxes,
    and deducting his dancing horses?
    Who gave their LIVES and limbs unpaid and un-needed wars?
    Whose sweat, .....on whose brows, has BUILT this great country?
    Was it the Romney’s of this world ...or
    They try to drown us out with their dollars.
    But WE still have a voice. And it’s called our VOTE.
    Loud and Clear -- we need to just say NO.
    NO to Romney & Company.  NO to what they stand for.
    ‘Cause this is STILL our country. Our children’s country. 
    And we mean to KEEP it that way. Period.
    Romney should “self-deport”  HIMSELF back to Mexico,
    where his grandpa fled to avoid the U.S. marriage monogamy laws. 
    ‘Cause Prince Mitt not only wants to kill the Dream Act,
    but the American Dream as well. 
    We need a President for ALL the people -
    NOT a President of the wealthy, by the wealthy, and for the wealthy.