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by Donald B. Ardell, Ph. D.
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Wellness in the Headlines
(Don's Report to the World)

How Much Is Enough, Already? A Call For Diverting The Wealth of Americans For Good Causes After One Billion Dollars Is Accumulated!

Wednesday May 18, 2005

It would be good if we could do more to educate everyone at much higher levels than today's norm, as well as provide decent housing for all, sufficient food for all, quality health care for all and so on. Besides the difficulty of gaining a consensus on how to do so such things and otherwise advance the common good, such proposals are automatically resisted for one obvious reason: We would all have to pay higher taxes to enable such noble social and other advances. 

What if a way could be found to provide for MORE Americans (and/or give greater aid to underdeveloped countries, increase environmental protections, sponsor more science and exploration, find cures for diseases, motivate everyone to live wellness lifestyles and so on) that did NOT cost 99.9 percent of American taxpayers anything at all? Impossible? Maybe not. A good start, in my opinion, would be to put a ceiling on net worth at one billion dollars. Instead of having the super rich set up their own foundations and create varied havens for extra billions, the government would get the resources for public interest investments.

Of course not all, but maybe some, of the above noted good things could be done were a consensus generated for a ceiling on wealth and funds channeled accordingly. With a one billion dollar value limit, personal wealth beyond that would go to an all-wise, all good, all knowing, representative and marvelously enlightened government agency for distribution in effective ways. (I know, I know-this is ridiculous. There never has been such an agency in all of human history, but humor me on this one, at least for a little while, as I run the idea past you. Thank you.) 

I actually favor such a thing, as do Bill Gates, George Soros, Warren Buffet and many other mind-bogglingly rich citizens, all of whom would be financially affected by such a thing. A recent New York Times article about this movement was entitled, "Dozens of Rich Americans Join In Fight to Retain the Estate Tax." (In the interests of full disclosure, let me make clear at this time that, unlike Messrs. Gates, Soros and Buffet, my resources do not exceed my own wealth accumulation ceiling. What's more, it is not likely that my resources will exceed this figure any time in the near future and, at 66, what future do I have other than a NEAR future? As my Uncle Raymond at 90 was fond of saying, "I have stopped buying green bananas.") 

There is no agreement, of course, about doing any such thing or how it might be done. There is no agreement on a one billion dollar or any other limit. Nobody knows how the government might collect or spend the billions that would be collected from such a scheme. However, these matters are just details, all of which can be ironed out later. Let's look at the basic idea. Oddly, most Americans who are unlikely to ever amass even a paltry million dollars, let alone 1000 million, are adamantly against such a transfer of wealth. Why? Hope springs eternal! 

Any idea why anyone would need more than a billion dollars? How many Americans even know what a billion dollars would look like? For the record, one thousand million dollars has nine zeroes after it. Numerically, it looks like this -- $1,000,000,000.

The idea has serious advocates. Chuck Collins and William H. Gates, Sr. have co-authored Wealth and Our Commonwealth, in which they urge keeping the estate tax on inherited fortunes. A coalition of wealthy businesspeople formed the "Responsible Wealth Project" which offers solutions for America's "deepening economic inequality."

Are you aware of the fact that the richest one percent of Americans own 40 percent of the country's private wealth? That represents more than the collective wealth of the bottom 95 percent of Americans. We are in the second "Gilded Age." The political priorities of the Bush Administration reflect the desires of the wealthy. Policy makers do not sit around brainstorming how to reduce inequality or solve great social problems. Instead, the focus is, "How can we reduce the tax burden on capital?" (Source: Wealth and Our Commonwealth.)

Besides a wealth ceiling and keeping an estate tax, another wealth limit idea being discussed is in the area of corporate reforms (for example, controlling bloated executive compensation packages). It seems very much in the interests of 99 percent of Americans to support such wealth limiting actions. Excessive wealth in the hands of too few threatens democracy, national unity and economic growth. Yet, the best reason is that government needs the money -- to save society and help the rest of the world. 

Be well. With or without a billion or so, always look on the bright side of life. 

Domain: purpose
Subdomain: applied wellness

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