Money and Power

I like my Prius because it melds gas power and battery power smoothly and efficiently. When I’m going down a hill and slowing down, some of the power I got from the gasoline engine getting me up the hill is transferred back into the battery as energy. When I’m going up a hill and want to pass another car, I step on the gas and the battery gives an assist to the motor in giving me the extra power I need to accelerate.

When very rich people in our country pay taxes at a significantly higher rate than the rest of us, then the extra money they are paying isn’t money they would have been paying for food, lodging, and other essentials. They have enough left over, and probably a good bit more, for that. But some of them are ferociously opposed to letting that money vanish down an IRS rathole, dissipated like the energy an ordinary car dissipates when it goes down a mountain. They want to spend it themselves, for power.

Think about it. Money is fungible with power when you have some left over after you have covered the necessities. If you have a little left over after you’ve paid the bills, you support your favorite charities. Move up a bit and you buy recognition. You buy an ad on NPR, maybe, or you support Fox news. If you have a really big surplus you buy into a think tank and help shape the propaganda that shapes how voters votes. Up the scale, you can buy a congressman, or even a senator. Maybe if you keep it up you’ll buy your way into the really big time and get recognized as one of the people who has a voice in the informal inner councils that decide on the most important issues. You may even find yourself sitting next to a bigwig from Goldman Sachs, if you are a true billionaire. This is The American Dream, for some of us.

We need to recognize that philanthropy by the very rich has played a significant role in the making of America. A lot of private money has financed socially useful charities and enterprises. But increasingly in recent years a minority fringe of rightwing zealots has corrupted this whole aspect of the American way of life. Philanthropy for them has become an instrument powered by greed and a quest for power, rather than altruism.

It seems obvious to me that the ferocious Republican Party opposition these days to reversion to pre-existing tax rates for the very rich is based far more on considerations of power than of wealth. Altruism doesn’t enter into the equation. A new surtax of a few more percent on those additional millions in taxable income isn’t something that’s going to hurt them or their families personally, it’s something they need to project themselves into a more exclusive club where they wield power over more important issues.

For the rest of us, when we think of it, we need to recalibrate our definition of greed. The right wing zealots funding the Republican Party these days are not out just to get a whole lot richer than the rest of us, they’re out to dominate us.

Meanwhile their insistence on paying no more taxes than the moderately well off is helping to bankrupt the country. Go figure.

It’s their Achilles heel.

CCoon 6/9/11

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